Many–most?–people who know a little about Amish view rumspringa as a time when the Amish church condones, if not encourages, young people to live it up and sow their wild oats, get the world out of their system, to see if they really want to join the Amish church or not. This false view is undoubtedly propounded by the “Amish fiction” genre of literature, as well as a TV documentary or two.
Saloma Furlong effectively dismantles this understanding. Anyone serious about understanding Amish culture needs to listen to what she says here. This section was particularly good–
The expectation that Amish parents and elders have is that their young people will become baptized members of the church. Parents are told that if they raise their children right, they won’t leave the Amish. The parents are also told that it is better to lose a child through death, than to lose a son or daughter “to the world.” Children are taught from the time they can understand the concept that because they were born Amish, God wants them to stay Amish and if they leave, all hope of their salvation will be lost. In other words, they will go to Hell if they leave. This belief is reinforced with fire and brimstone preaching in church.The guilt trap is set — for both the Amish parents and the young people.
The “choice” Amish people have about leaving the culture is much like the one about committing suicide — we know our whole lives that we have that choice, but the only time we think about it is when we are tempted to do so.
So, if you see an Amish young person blatantly defying Amish rules know that these are acts of rebellion — a far cry from being granted a free choice. I can assure you the parents or elders of the church are not encouraging this behavior.
I would also point you to a recent, excellent book, Growing Up Amish. I’ve encouraged our folks at Orwell Bible Church to read it, very good.