Amish

Amish: Out of Order

I just finished watching two episodes of Amish: Out of Order on the National Geographic Channel.  To be perfectly honest (which I am), I’m not certain how to feel about it. 

Let’s start with the following: I am afraid that people will watch these episodes and judge the Amish on what they see from this one man’s perspective. Frankly, the Amish were not depicted in the way that I have experienced them over the past 25+ years (longer if you count my excursions as a child with my grandparents). 

When we see these shows, we have to remember that the goal of the programmers is to sell advertisements and the only way to sell advertisements is to increase viewership. If every episode focused on the happy, peaceful, and loving families that I have encountered and been blessed to live with, no one would watch for very long and the advertisers would pull out their campaigns. 

To put it in the words of Katie S., my elderly Amish landlady and good friend: “Ja, we have problems just like everyone else. But our community is smaller than yours so the problems appear larger.” 

A fan wrote to me and asked me to write about the abuses within the Amish community. It’s something to consider (although I much prefer not to write about such things–this is truly not something that I can speak about from experience). The underlying message from the fan was that child abuse runs rampant in the Amish community. I disagree with that. I’m not saying that there are NO Amish children who experience the terrible scars of abuse. Perhaps it’s a similar percentage as what we have in our own society. But there are many, many, many more children who enjoy happiness and peace that we will never be able to experience because we are, indeed, too wrapped up in the pursuit of worldly pleasures. 

I will always remember the laughter of little Linda as she played with the kittens on the driveway of the Lapp farm (and, for the record, it’s not the same Lapp family as in the show…although I did catch my breath for a moment when Mose visited Steve Lapp in Lancaster, PA…the farm sure looked familiar!). I will remember little Abram throwing a ball to his dog, laughing as the dog jumped into the cow muck to retrieve it. I will never forget Lillian and Rachel and Sylvia…their willingness to accept me, their jokes, their spirit of fun. Even the men, with the exception of the church service, were always open, fun, and pleasant.  At church, of course, they were a touch more…serious in nature. 

I’ll have to think about this a bit more. I like the fact that people are learning about the Amish culture but I wish it was presented in a way that created a more holistic picture. I’m too afraid that many viewers will not think to learn more about these wonderful people, their religion, and their way of life. It would be a shame if they based all of their opinions on the unfortunate experience of Mose Gingrich from the show. 

0 thoughts on “Amish: Out of Order

  1. Sarah, I share your concerns regarding the programs based on the National Geographic series – Amish: Out of Order. I’ve been visiting the Shipshewana, Indiana Amish area for close to 30 years, and over the years I’ve made friends in the area, Amish, Mennonite, etc. We who love the Amish and Amish fiction see the beauty in the Amish way of life, simplicity, peaceful lives, hardworking families, and a warmheartedness that we Englisch far too often don’t share. I’d really like to see National Geographic do a series on the other side of the story. There is one that should be told. Thanks for being candid regarding this series.
    Fondly,
    Nancee

  2. Thank you for this post. I watched a couple of episodes and totally agree with you,
    I know some people who have left the Amish, and this was nothing like their stories.
    Reaching the maximum viewers, presenting controversial and one sided views to rake in ratings and revenue is the opbject of most programming, not presenting all sides so viewers can make informed conclusions.
    I fear that presentaions such as this will prejudice many and they will never understand what a contribution the Amish make in our society.

    1. So well said, Sarah. It’s sad to see that they are only showing the sad cases which I know exist, but as you said there are many other cases where Amish have left the Plain life, and have not suffered those same consequences..

  3. You know I am going to disagree! I have Amish in-laws and am very involved with former Amish. Yes, the Amish DO have troubles. It is not in their best interest to admit there are troubles (how many of we Englishers go around telling people we have family troubles–especially abusive troubles–no one wants to tell acquaintances things like that!) To believe otherwise is to pretend these people are not human. I hate to say this, but I know over 2oo former Amish and they are usually very nice, happy people, too, but most all of them HAVE experienced some unhappy, and sometimes, very dysfunctional times as Amish. They do not sit around and gripe about their past troubles, though. They are not bitter for the most part–just honest.. What you are seeing in this program is REAL. We English need to learn to admit, and not be defensive, when someone suggests that the Amish groups are human beings with human problems. They are not statues with cute clothing on to entertain us. That said, there is nothing wrong with loving them–realistically and honorably, Why do we need to treat them like play things to help us feel happy about life? That English attitude has to irk them, too.

    1. Dee, I also agree with many of your comments. Amish fiction readers and tourists to the Amish communities have a fairytale image of the Amish as a whole because so much of what we read in Amish fiction, and see in our visits is good and wholesome. The Amish are NOT exempt from the problems that all cultures exerience. We all have problems. All cultures abuse children, shun family members for various reasons, and commit the abominable.

      Awareness is a powerful tool when used properly, and this series is exposing facts that exist. I have watched the series Amish: Out of Order in the past, or a series related to it, and initially I was concerned about what Mose was doing with former members of the Amish community. Initially I thought he was encouraging young Amish people to leave their communities without just cause. Now that I’m watching the series for the second time I see serious problems. Healing NEEDS to take place for those who have suffered tremendous abuse and loss, the same as it has in other cultures. As painful as it is to watch portions of the series, awareness is taking place as I am viewing these events.

      I highly respect and admire Mose for putting himself in this EXTREMELY painful position to bring about awareness regarding the former Amish who have suffered as Mose has. He’s baring his soul, and laying his life out there for all to see, and is using his life as an example in order to help others who have suffered the same or similar experiences. His objective to help others like himself is admirable.

      Unfortunately, many uninformed people may view the Amish as hardcore abusers as a result of the series. As a precursor, or in addition to the series it would be helpful for those who ARE uninformed to know the positive aspects of the Amish community.

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