This nation was formed in the last two hundred years, and has steadily grown in both land and power. It includes the southeastern corner of the state called Pennsylvania, from the Blue Mountains to Delaware Bay, all of Delaware and Maryland, and the coast of Virginia. The mountains, and the fierce, clannish people who live there, prevent Pennsylvania from spreading west into West Virginia, and north into the rest of old Penn state. The area that was once New York City is taboo territory, as the Pennsylvanians believe great evil dwells there.
The people of Pennsylvania, and their religion, are descended primarily from the Amish and Mennonite communities that populated a large portion of the old state. The area is slowly developing into a powerful Theocracy, much like Mormon. The government is comprised of a council of Elders, the highest ranking religious leaders of the separate communities that make up the Nation. These communities are called Cloisters, and are also governed by a local council of Elders comprised of the Cloister’s clergy men.
Religious practices are strict, and obedience to the Elders is instilled in every child from the moment of birth. Families and communities are extremely close-knit. A common saying goes something like: In life, God is the Soul, the family is the heart, and the Cloister the body. This reinforced social tendency makes punishment for crimes a simple matter.
The Cloister’s Elders hear a case, and make their decisions based on evidence presented. For violent offenses – murder or rape – punishment is clear: Banishment. The offender is escorted to the edges of Pennsylvania territory and never allowed to return. For non-violent crimes, punishment is based on the “three strikes you’re out” principle, and punishment is based on the concept of shunning. For the first offense, the criminal is given a warning, offered help, and Shunned by anyone from outside the Cloister until he corrects the infraction and/or makes restitution. For the second offense, the criminal is warned, offered help, and shunned by all except the clergy and his own family until he corrects the infraction and/or makes restitution. For the third offense the criminal is shunned by everyone, including his own family, until he corrects the infraction and/or makes restitution. Infractions range from serious, such as theft or assault, to minor, such as wearing inappropriate clothing. Repeated infractions that cause damage or threaten a life may result in Banishment. For a society centered on family and community, this system of Shunning is very effective, and crime is almost non-existent.
A definition of Shunning
To shun a person means to keep away from that person, to avoid him. In Pennsylvania, Shunning is an all-encompassing method of behavior modification. A man (or woman) who is Shunned is effectively invisible, a non-person. No one will speak to him. No one will look at him. No one will offer him food, clothing, shelter, or help of any kind, even if he is dying. Not even his wife, his parents, his siblings or his children are allowed to acknowledge his presence. The Shunned man is given a one-room home on the edge of the Cloister, and the Elders will make sure he is clothed and fed, but no one else is allowed to assist him. Anyone who breaks the code of shunning will also be shunned, cut off from all others, including the church. The people of Pennsylvania believe that to be cut off from the church – its clergy and services – is to be cut off from God. This total isolation is what makes Shunning so effective for controlling and modifying the behavior of Pennsylvania’s citizens.
A man who is shunned has only to confess his sin and correct his behavior, and he will be welcomed back into the Cloister as if nothing ever happened. That doesn’t mean one can repeatedly steal goods, admit it, make an apology and go on as normal. In the case of theft, the stolen object(s) must be returned or replaced, and the thief must prove that he will steal no more. That usually results in a period of Shunning, the length of which is set by the Elders of the Cloister. If, during that period of Shunning, no other thefts are made then all is forgiven and forgotten. If the thief steals again, another period of Shunning is begun, longer than the first.
The Council of Elders that governs Pennsylvania makes general rulings, which all the Cloisters abide by. But each Cloister also makes its own rulings. Therefore, what constitutes a crime in one area may not be a crime in another area.
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.