I watched the documentary Devil's Playground yesterday. I'm sure all of you know what movie I'm talking about, but just in case you've forgotten, here is the premise. When Amish teens turns 16, they have the opportunity to be part of "english" culture: movies, cars, fashion, and lots of drinking, smoking, drugs and sex. At the end of this period, called Rumspringa, which can last any length of time, they can choose to commit to the Amish church and be baptized. Like church of Christers, the Amish don't consider you saved unless you've been baptized.
I did not know this about the Amish. Almost everyone they interviewed said that at the first party they went to at age 16, they got drunk. One of the main "characters" in the movie was an 18 year-old guy that used and dealt drugs. He knew he wanted to become Amish, but wasn't ready.
As I was watching the movie, I wondered what kind of retention rate the Amish church has now. I'm sure decades ago it was much harder to get a hold of the alcohol, cigarettes an drugs. Would the teenagers prefer that lifestyle and not want to give up their freedom or would more teenagers miss the simple life? Turns out the retention rate is 90%, the highest since the founding of the Amish church.
I also found out that the Amish church began when they split from the Christian churches in Europe because they didn't believe in baptizing infants. They thought being Amish should be a choice, thus the Rumspringa period.
They talked about being a chosen people, being the light of the world, being known by their good deeds, living a simple life to focus more attention on God's creation and each other. Those are things all Christians believe in or strive to achieve.
One of the girls that was joining the Amish regretted a lot of what she had done during Rumspringa. No one gave an opinion of whether they though Rumspringa was a good idea or not, probably because they don't question tradition. One guy did say he thinks they have this period so they can experience the outside world just enough to not be tempted later in life, and feel like they had a choice in how they lived their life. And once they are baptized into the Amish church, they are expected to adhere to all the rules, for lack of a better term. They didn't really address how many Amish stray, but it seemed like once they made the commitment, they were happy with their decision and maintained the Amish way of life.
The Amish situation is different because they are raised in isolated communities. The rest of us live in the world and are exposed to what the Amish only experience during Rumspringa all of our lives. For us it's a juggling act. Each person decides for themselves how much they can be in the world without being of the world. Do you watch R rated movies? Do you go listen to a band you like in a venue where everyone is drunk? Do you drink a glass of wine with dinner? Do you watch TV during dinner or sit around the table together with your family?
What do you think of this Rumspringa period? Do you think we would see less hypocrisy in our churches if everyone experienced the temptations of the world and then choose to give that up? Technically that's what we do, but I would guess the majority of people raised in the church didn't experience everything that was out there before they made the decision to give their life to Christ. Do you think you have to experience something to decide if it's something you want or not?
Before you think I'm having a crisis of faith, these are just the things the movie made me think about, so I thought I would put them out there for you to think about as well.