I’m a documentary nerd. I’ve been known to spend an entire weekend watching true stories about topics spanning from American History to Zoroastrianism. This weekend, I watched two films about an Amish family that was excommunicated by its community and faith after committing several seemingly harmless infractions.
What were the charges against them?
Well, the Amish have strict rules about the Bible. Amish Bibles are written in German, and they are required to use those German Bibles even though an overwhelming majority of the population no longer understand the language. Amish people who dare to read the Bible in English are in violation of the rules. The Amish are also not permitted to attend church with non-Amish people, and are prohibited from having significant contact with people outside their faith. They are also not permitted to sing hymns in groups without the greater congregation of Amish church members.
The three gentlemen upon whom these documentaries are mostly based are guilty of these infractions and several others. However, they did not begin their rebellion alone. They began to break the rules after coming into contact with Evangelical Christians who, as we learn in “Leaving Amish Paradise,” had a mission of evangelizing Amish people. Those Amish who accept the Evangelical message also begin to accept that they have been sheltered from English translations of the Bible, which in many cases are in stark contrast to Amish church teachings. The Amish defectors learn that they have accepted as “Scripture” what mostly amounts to a system of traditions, and they become disenchanted with their religious faith. For many, the desire to live Biblically (yes, I understand how problematic “Biblical” living can be, even among the Amish) outweighs the perceived benefits of maintaining faithfulness to tradition.
I invite you to watch these documentaries about the religious journeys of Amish people who have been impacted by Evangelicalism. I found the documentaries fascinating. I hope you will as well.
Part 1: Trouble in Amish Paradise
Part 2: Leaving Amish Paradise