Shunning as an anti-dote to anti-social behaviour

If you have the good fortune to visit an Amish community, you will be immersed in a time fractal of a bygone era, organic and clean agricultural practices and clean air, aside from the fumes from your own motor vehicle.  As we read headlines today we are struck by stories of domestic violence as police that now resemble storm troopers, pepper spray, taser, arrest and occasionally shoot individual caught up in the web of our increasingly violent society.

Is there a way communities can take back control of their lives and implement methods to deal more peacefully with community members that disrupt the peace and cause strife for the majority of people wanting to live simple lives?

Perhaps we can borrow from the wisdom of the Amish Church and adapt some form of in-house behavior control and management that has the potential to negate the further creep of state police into our lives. For people that habitually harm others are no doubt injured souls that can themselves benefit from the process afforded by shunning, deep inner reflection and silence enabling them to contemplate the hurt and the damage they are doing, a pathway toward healing founded on living life upon the sound doctrines of the church, or any set of agreed principles that can provide peace and happiness in communities large or small.

This is not to say that traditional Amish shunning protocol can be adopted wholesale, however the principle of isolating wayward community members is far more humane than allowing perpetrators to continue unchallenged until serious damage occurs, placing these people into state prisons which is a costly and dire outcome that can be avoided.

Let’s take a look at the Amish world and see what gems may be available for loan and which may be useful for communities looking for peace and a better way forward.

Amish practice shunning as a means of enforcing an individual’s commitment to God, made along with the Amish congregation.  Amish see a Biblical basis for shunning.

Passages often cited in support of shunning include Matthew 18; 2 Thessalonians 3:14 (“And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed”); 1 Timothy 5 (…”Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure”…); 2 Corinthians 13:10 (“Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction”); and numerous others.

Amish practice shunning out of “tough love” in order to get a deviant person to see the error in his ways, change behavior, and re-affirm his commitment to the church.  Without rules and shunning, the integrity of the Amish church would rapidly disintegrate.

From Pauline Stevick’s book called Beyond the Plain and Simple we are provided some guidance to improve our non Amish world:

It was written as follows:

We realize that not everyone is cut out to be one of the Plain People.
Many have not the opportunity.
But here is a challenge.

If you admire our faith—strengthen yours.

If you admire our sense of commitment—deepen yours.

If you admire our community spirit—build one.

If you admire the simple life—cut back.

If you admire quality merchandise or land stewardship, then make quality.

If you admire deep character and enduring values—live them.

Beyond spiritual guidance we can also learn from Amish economics and how they protect their local cottage industry, of quilt making. I had the great opportunity of visiting farm after farm to admire the hand made quilts before making a final decision. What struck me as unique was that no matter what farm in the Lancaster County I visited, the quilt price was the same – $450 and in this the community was protecting it’s trade from the worst aspects of the market economy.

There is no evangelizing the Amish faith as the rise of technology has also seen an increase in crime rates apparently, however, there is still much to be learned from societies that have resisted the change that is wreaking havoc throughout the modern world.

Perhaps this brief look at the Amish world is a reminder that there are paths to the more simple life and looking back in time may give us hope again and inspiration to continue to build safe and thriving communities.

Cover image sourced from: