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.