"During a divorce, you need to be able to rely on the support of others, and while no one would ever wish to disrespect the religious and cultural customs of a community, families of the individuals experiencing life outside of the community need to be able to lean on their families to comfort them in times of turmoil without the fear of repercussion."
In many religions and communities within the United States, divorce is a taboo subject that is discouraged, even in the unhappiest of marriages. Seeking to end a marriage can create conflict within families and among neighbors alike. One of the most recently highlighted communities to display this is the Amish community.
About the Amish
In the Amish community, divorce is forbidden and not sanctioned in the Amish church. If a member of the community violates this, they are violating their vows that they took during their Amish baptism, which takes place between the ages of 18 and 22 years old, according to National Geographic. It is only then, after their baptism and 18-week instructional period, are they allowed to marry.
The marriages are dependent on if they are between two members of the Amish church or a member and an outsider of the Amish church. The decision to marry a person outside of the Amish church is one that comes with a decision to be made by the person in the community, but before they are baptized by the church. If they choose to be baptized, than the non-Amish person would have consider joining the Amish church.
If any of the vows are broken by disobeying the regulations of the church or the authority of its leaders and refusing to confess the error, excommunication can occur, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College. The church teaches that its members should shun ex-members to remind them of their disobedience in hopes of winning them back. Different communities and sects of the Amish practice the behavior differently, and it is not the end of social interaction overall.
Differences and remarriage
Separations do occur within the Amish community. For example, there are an estimated half a dozen separated couples in the large Holmes County, Ohio alone, according to Amish America. In addition, members of the Amish community are allowed to remarry after their spouse passes. Widows sometimes garner financial assistance from their families or the church and may even find work outside of the home, according to Amish America.
There is a gender imbalance that occurs between widows and widowers within the Amish community, due to the facts that men tend to die earlier and that men also are more likely to remarry. The courtship in an Amish remarriage also is very private and can be done through the mail, out of respect for the deceased spouse.
In the last few years, Amish culture, as it pertains to marriage and divorce, has been depicted on the TLC television show, “Breaking Amish.” According to reports from The Daily Mail, cast members from the show were revealed to have not lived as strict Amish lives as previously advertised. Many have experienced divorce, pregnancy before marriage, domestic abuse, premarital sex, and public intoxication charges.
Many of these people found themselves leaving and returning to the Amish community in secret, attempting to conceal their past mistakes from the show, and more importantly, the community. The social stigma of experiencing these aspects of life creates a black cloud that Amish community expects to inspire a desire for forgiveness. However, these members of the community, in particular, would rather conceal many of their transgressions, such as divorce, rather than face the shame of the community and the church.
This does not only speak to how the Amish community views certain behaviors, but rather, how society views certain behaviors as stigmatic acts of defiance against the norms. Divorce and even, having children outside the confines of marriage, still are acts viewed as behaviors that go against the grain of convention.
While the Amish customs and culture is one to be respected, creating an atmosphere that uses shunning and shaming to keep members of the community in line does not seem to be an act rooted in the health and interest of the members themselves.
Divorce already can create physical, mental, and emotional issues that can take time to resolve. Having your church and community that you grew up in and spent your life in shun you as a disgraced member that needs to ask for its forgiveness just adds to the pain of the experience. During a divorce, you need to be able to rely on the support of others, and while no one would ever wish to disrespect the religious and cultural customs of a community, families of the individuals experiencing life outside of the community need to be able to lean on their families to comfort them in times of turmoil without the fear of repercussion.