In Amish society, there is a period during adolescence called Rumspringa (or Rumschpringe)—a Pennsylvania German term for “running around.” It’s the common name for a period in the late teen years when some young Amish try their wings—perhaps engaging in rebellious behavior or defying the community norms.
Oh, there are those among the Amish—as in the rest of society—who never stray far from the fold. Some young people, though, use this period to experiment with alternate lifestyles: wearing make-up or nontraditional clothing (known as dressing “English”), driving vehicles other than horse-drawn vehicles, drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs, even engaging in pre-marital sex. They may choose during rumspringa to stay away from family prayer.
With their newfound freedom, a few Amish youth redirect their lives during rumspringa and separate from the community. At the end, though, most of those who had a taste of contemporary American culture—with its emphasis on sex, drugs and rock and roll—will ultimately return to the Anabaptist Christian movement, the Amish. When they return, like the prodigal son they will be welcomed with open arms; and it is then that they make a permanent commitment to the community and are baptized as adults into the Amish church.
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I thought about rumspringa as news broke again this week about Hollywood starlets acting badly. In December, the entertainment news was filled with stories about Miley Cyrus, caught on tape with a bong. This week, troubled diva Lindsay Lohan, fresh out of jail and still on probation, was caught pilfering a $2,500 necklace from a Venice, California jewelry store. Paris Hilton captured headlines for drunk driving, a DUI arrest which resulted in jail time, possession of cannabis and cocaine. Britney Spears was treated for drug dependency. Kim Kardashian was featured in a pornographic sex tape with then-boyfriend, R&B singer Ray J.
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All of this debauchery among the glam teen crowd is one more challenge for harried parents who are striving to raise upstanding citizens for the kingdom of God. The high-profile antics of Hollywood ingénues are reported with no more than a wink by an admiring press. As style-setters for high school society, the young headliners skate through legal hassles and romantic trysts, seemingly without paying the price of a decline in popularity.
But there is a steep price for delinquency, even for the Hollywood set. During the teens and 20s, young people should be solidifying their values, emerging as adults with a sense of responsibility and a love for God and for mankind. Without the practice of virtue in the early years, it will be ever more difficult to rebound and to become the men and women God intended them to be. And despite their wealth and their notoriety, they too will stand before God to give an account for how they have used the gifts He has given. Let us pray that they will, by that day, have redirected their energies toward His service. Let us pray that our own teens and young adults, rather than being smothered by the barrage of Hollywood trivia, will find strength and love in Christ and will live their vocations with grace and wisdom.
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There are three Bible verses which encapsulate cultural attitudes in the Amish community. This verse, Romans 12:2, is the hallmark of the Amish lifestyle; and likewise, while our manner of dress may be less severe, may we all take it to heart—even as we strive to live within the confines of the larger society.
“And be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)