“The Amish” on PBS

The documentary film “The Amish” airs on American Experience on PBS tonight (8pm EST). I was able to preview the film at the Young Center while in PA last week.  One big challenge for the filmmakers was creating a documentary featuring the Amish when no Amish appear face-to-face with the camera.

However numerous Amish did agree to be interviewed for the documentary, and their voices fill the film.  The Amish commentary adds much to the story, which over its 2-hour length ranges from Amish history to customs and beliefs to the Amish place in contemporary American society.

Adding to the Amish commentary is that of various experts and scholars of the Amish, as well as some former Amish.  Though no one was interviewed in front of the camera, there is also quite a bit of footage of Amish themselves, often taken at a distance or in unposed situations.  For instance a Pennsylvania farmer agreed to be captured on film, and the goings-on at his farm appear throughout.  Youth meetings are filmed along with numerous shots of schoolchildren and church gatherings.

One thing that strikes you is that “The Amish” is a visually captivating film, an aspect enhanced by a beautiful musical score.  The cinematographers did well to capture the natural beauty of Amish environs, and the film is quite artistically done.  You can make a good film on the Amish without the stunning visuals, but having them adds a lot to the experience.

“The Amish” is also commendable in its geographical breadth.  Rather than focusing on only one or two settlements, it covers a range of communities.  Besides the PA-OH-IN Amish heartland the filmmakers’ reach extends to settlements in the Northeast and West.  On a personal level I got a special kick out of recognizing some of the speakers and locations and to the filmmakers’ credit at one point I felt like I was almost visiting with friends again.

I also really appreciated a segment following a family inspecting land for a new community.  It brought home the implications of uprooting your family to try to make a go in a totally new area, not knowing if enough families will even join you for your venture to survive.  The Amish story has been one of migration and nowadays with new settlements popping up everywhere that is as true as ever.

The main quibble I had with “The Amish” is that I feel there is a bit too much devoted to the ex-Amish experience (perhaps 3 or 4 minutes too long).  I feel like the second (male) ex-Amish speaker could have been cut and Saloma Furlong’s experience probably would have been enough to cover that aspect.  That said it is a minor complaint and it is good they present voices from this side of the Amish experience as well.

PBS has done quite a good job on “The Amish”, and if you have the time it’s well worth viewing this evening.  I believe the film might also be available at some point online (PBS makes a lot of the American Experience series watchable on their site, though I haven’t heard confirmation PBS will do that with “The Amish”–UPDATE–the film is now available in its entirety online via the link below the video player).

Also, you can now watch the opening segment of the film below (the segment below is different from the Nickel Mines segment which I previously shared last month here- PBS American Experience Amish film).

I’ll be looking forward to hearing what you think on this film.

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    1. Richard from Amish Stories

      I have this one on my “must watch tonight” list Erik, and i have a note on my refrigerator reminding me that its on today! Richard

    2. Jessica M

      Also looking forward to this tonight!

      Do they cover the many different groups of the Amish (Like those who drive cars, for instance)or do they stick with only horse & buggy?

      1. Hi Jessica, it’s primarily a horse-and-buggy Amish film.

      2. Brenda Nixon

        Yup, I agree with Erik. The producer emailed me (I met her while they were filming in Ohio this summer) and said that it’d “confuse viewers” if they tried to tell about the different Orders, sects, sub-sects, variances in rules, etc. But, you are very observant to realize there are many different Amish just as there’s a strata of American society.

    3. Betsy Thompson

      I have looked forward to tonight since you first mentioned it on your blog. Like Richard, I taped a big note to my refrigerator so I don’t get busy and forget! My daughter and I are going to enjoy homemade whoopie pies while we watch.


      1. tiffany rangier

        to betsy thompson RE:whoopie pies

        may we share reciepies?I can foward some fish reciepies in exchange for these whoopie pies.
        -tiffany rangier

    4. Karen Pollard

      American Experience

      Erik, I don’t understand why some Amish don’t mind photography and some do.
      Katie Troyer, an amazing photographer, regularly posts pictures of the Amish and Mennonite folks in Pinecraft on Facebook. These folks don’t seem to mind being photographed whatsoever. When I asked about it, she said they don’t mind having their pictures taken, to just not ask them for permission because then they have to refuse.

      1. Amish consenting for photos

        Hi Karen, Katie does have some great photos. What she told you about asking permission is the way it often goes. As a recent illustration last week an Amish friend said it would be “no problem” to take some photos of a carpentry crew extending his barn, but *not* to ask first.

        The issue is consenting to be on camera and when you are doing a sit down interview it is obvious you have consented. When the camera is filming from a distance that is not necessarily the case, so it is “cover” in a sense.

        That said some Amish do not want even that. The Pinecraft people Katie photographs are generally going to be less conservative and traditional than others and less likely to mind.

        The best explanation of Amish and photos is in “The Amish and the Media”, a chapter by Dirk Eitzen called “Reel Amish: The Amish in Documentaries”. Here is also a little discussion of the Amish photo issue:


      2. Brenda Nixon

        Karen's question

        Erik’s got it right here, my former Amish son-in-law told me that he was instructed to say, “No” if English asked to take his picture – even if he didn’t mind – but if they didn’t ask, then he cooperated.

        FYI, since there’s such interest here about the PBS TV special, I’d like to share a bit of the behind-the-scenes action. The film crew spent a year researching. They were in Ohio this summer where I met director David Belton and producer Callie. Both a kind, sensitive, and respectful. They helped us celebrate Levi’s (you’ll see him on camera) 19th birthday later in the evening but kept the cameras off. I imagine it’d be quite the challenge to cut so much footage into only 2-hours.

        Among the stricter (or lower) Orders here are some of their rules:

        Birth control is prohibited.

        Divorce is forbidden, although, over the past few years, more couples are separating; remarriage is never allowed within Amish culture (unless one is a widow or widower).

        Human sexuality and pregnancy are never discussed between parent and child. I once asked my “adopted” nephew if anyone even said the word, “pregnancy.” No, he said, explaining if he saw a woman in that condition he was just to figure it out himself.

        Children do not become of age until they reach their 21st birthday.

        Note: All income from working outside the home goes to the parents until the son/daughter reaches age 21.

        Work weeks are Monday – Saturday. Spending money, working, or traveling long distance on Sunday is banned.

      3. tiffany rangier

        karen polard RE photagraph

        for the ones who dont care much for photagrahing there are artists.
        and it may be a little expensive.but artists should use their god given talent to serve gods children.

    5. Lin


      This is an Associated Press article, “Stunning Images from new film ‘The Amish'”.

    6. Theresa


      I saw the previews for it the other night & told my mom that I would be watching that!! I’m glad we get the channel, we had the satilite shut off due to lack of funds, so now we just have 2,4,7,56,20…like the old days much to my hudband’s dissapointment. Oh well I’d rather have a roof over my head than pay for t.v. BTW Erik, do you have a good recipe for paczki? I’ve heard Hammtramik Mi no longer has the good ones. Thanks Theresa

    7. We made a very Plain decision years ago, and have no television. Although we have internet and electricity, they get limited use – living far out in the wilds of Canada, we have so little bandwidth that we can’t watch netflix or even 5 minute youtube clips!

      I wonder how this PBS event will colour popular views of the Amish, though. What new perceptions will emerge from it, and affect Plain life? As we are planning to relocate to the midwest ourselves this year, I’m sure some of that will influence how we are treated in a new community.

      For those who don’t know us, we are Plain but not Amish.

      1. J

        That must be pretty interesting to live out “in the wilds” of Canada! If you don’t mind my asking, what Plain faith do you practice?

    8. The Amish

      Great post Erik. It looks like a beautiful and interesting film.

      1. PBS Amish film experts

        It is Margie, I think this is going to be the standard for film representations of the Amish.

        Its strengths include the significant Amish participation as well as the expert commentary from many sources. In addition to Kraybill, Nolt, Weaver-Zercher, Johnson-Weiner and other familiar names, I liked that Gertrude Enders Huntington also has a part–she was a contemporary of Amish-raised scholar John A. Hostetler though not as much in the public eye lately. She has a pretty rare perspective having studied the Amish for over half a century.

        The film is also anything but dry which makes it a pleasure to watch.

    9. Robin M.

      I have been looking forward to this for the past month. Thank you for including the trailer. The photography is beautiful and content so interesting. I have been fascinated with the Amish since I was about 6 or 7 years old, over 50 years. Do you know if this documentary will be available on DVD? I would love to purchase one.

    10. Lois Klobucher

      I have it all set to tape tonight it really sounds interesting

    11. Margaret

      I can hardly wait to watch it tonight! We’ve planned our evening around it.

      Over the weekend we went to a home show here in Colorado, and the Amish that are furniture makers were there (from Westcliffe). We had a great chat with the 2 young men manning the display. Great visit!

    12. John Wiehn

      The Amish - DVD

      If you go to Amazon.com they are already taking orders for the
      PBS Amish DVD so I would imagine it will be available right after
      the showing tonight.

      I would bet PBS will be offering it during the showing tonight
      for sure.

      Have my DVR set to go for this as well!

    13. Nancee

      The Amish

      I am so excited to have the opportunity to watch this film tonight. I have been traveling to northern Indiana for well over 25 years because I have found such peace being among the Amish. I’ve come to know some of the Amish women in the Shipshewana area, and I admire their commitment to their past. They are a beautiful people.

    14. Kevin Lindsey

      I put it on our calendar when you first mentioned it here, and am glad that you posted it again as a reminder to all about it coming up. I am looking forward to it.

    15. Loretta

      Tuesday Evening

      Aw, will miss part of this, as I am meeting with some of my graduating class for dinner this evening. Since I haven’t seen most of these folks for umpteen years, I am looking forward to that. However, when I hit the door back home, you can bet I will be watching.

    16. Jane Reeves

      I have been looking forward to this ever since you first mentioned it.

    17. rhea

      Can’t wait to see it!

    18. Tom

      I too, have the DVR ready to go.

    19. Gordon C. Bjorkman

      Erik, am looking forward to tonight's PBS Presentation

      I just watched the Introduction Film you did, and quite enjoyed it. My heart is really with these people, as they have contributed, and given us so much hope in this world.

    20. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Out of luck, maybe (I hope not)

      I really hope this is a mistake, apparently Western New York’s WNED is showing something called “Catholicism” instead of “The Amish”, I’ll tune in anyway hoping against all hope they show The Amish.

      1. Amish and Catholics

        Shom, yikes, I hope we Catholics haven’t thwarted the Anabaptists again. Hoping you’ll get to view it. On that topic I had a very interesting Catholic/Amish experience over the weekend.

        In a nutshell Amish friends of mine got some exposure to the Catholic faith in a couple of venues. They were surprised as to how Christ-centered what they experienced was, as like others I think they thought Catholics worshiped Mary (which on some level I can understand where that idea comes from) or weren’t even Christian. In any case I always appreciate hearing Amish perspectives on other faiths which I’ve found to be typically (at least with Christian faiths) humbly non-assumptive.

        1. Debbie Wang

          Amish and Catholics

          Hi Erik:

          Like everyone else, I can’t wait to watch “The Amish” on PBS this evening.

          I would be interested in hearing about your Catholic/Amish experience. I split my time between Lancaster and Corpus Christi Texas and have many close Amish friends. I always enjoy sharing my Catholic faith with my good friends and they are always pleasantly surprised by how much Catholics and Amish have in common (salvation by grace through faith and works, the Bible including the seven books, etc.). In fact there are Catholic groups who dress like the Amish!!

          Keep up the good work.

          1. Carolyn B

            Question for Debbie Wang

            Ms Wang, Would you please elaborate on Catholics who dress like the Amish? Being a Catholic convert and an admirer of the Amish myself, I found your observation very intriguing.

            I think that might be a perfect combination.

            Erik, thanks for the reminder of tonight’s show. Like the rest of the Amish America community, I can hardly wait.

            1. Debbie Wang

              Carolyn, if you google “Plain Catholic” or even “Amish Catholic” you’ll be able to find some information and websites. There are many people, especially Catholics, who are wanting to dress plain. So much so, I had my Amish friend teach me how to sew Amish dresses. I now have a small business selling authentic Lancaster-style Amish dresses.

              God bless and enjoy the PBS show.

              1. Kathie M

                Question for Debbie wang

                I would be very interested to connect with you re: the possibility of having an authentic, Lancaster style dress made. I keep returning to Lancaster county to feed my spirit and to understand more about my roots. Each time I return, my life keeps becoming plainer it seems. I have been looking at patterns and resources on-line, but it would be nice to work with someone on a more personal level. Since you mentioned having a small business, is there a way to reach you to talk more?


                1. Debbie Wang

                  Kathie M

                  I would love to make a dress for you. I really understand the desire for a simpler way of life. Lancaster is such a peaceful place and when I am with my Amish friends I am joyful. The Amish are a very delicate people and so uncomplicated. It is very refreshing.

                  Erik, can you give Kathie M. my email address so she can contact me directly?

          2. OldKat

            @Debbie Wang: I was raised Catholic, but am now a non-denominational Christian. I am currently re-reading “Amish Society” by the late John A. Hostetler and in one brief paragraph he mentions the Amish belief that salvation does not come through faith alone. Can’t remember exactly how he worded it, but he said something like: The Amish understanding is that salvation does not come by grace through faith alone & instead emphasize obedience (to the Word of God, which is equated with the rules of the church) and self-denial. The fruit of this obedience and self denial is not assurance of salvation, but rather what the Amish know as the German term lebedige Hoffnung or a living hope of salvation.” I was struck by how similar this is to what I remember being taught as a youngster in catechism.

            BTW: If you are in Corpus you are only a short drive from the Borntrager’s near Beeville. Do you ever make it up there to visit with them?

            1. Debbie Wang

              Amish and Catholics both believe in the “hope of salvation.” We are redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. As St. Paul said,” work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).

              Oldkat, I’ve been to Beeville several times. I was just up there in November buying a rocking chair for my husband’s birthday. I brought a friend with me who is very interested in the Amish and it was her first time seeing an Amish in the flesh. She had many questions and Mr. Borntrager (one of the sons) was very nice and answered them all. I read somewhere that they are supposed to be 100 Amish living in that community. When I was there I only saw one of the sons and his father-in-law who was visiting from Dover. He said his two daughters live there and he likes to get away from the cold. Anyway, there were about five or so houses all kinda unfinished except for one. Mr. Borntrager said it has been tough these past 10 years and he hopes their community gets bigger. I would love to put up a post about this community. What do you say, Erik? Are you interested?

              1. I do think we’d enjoy that, Debbie, thanks for suggesting. Shoot me an email whenever you get a chance.

                1. Debbie Wang

                  Thanks Erik. I will do that

        2. Tom

          I too am a catholic, and have had many lively discussions with Anabaptist groups, but one sticks out the most. A old order Mennonite man that I know enjoys such discussion, so much so that I gave him a catechism to read, he was a bit surprised at how much common ground was shared in terms of doctrine. Of course there are differences but the realization of what Catholics truly believe and not what many assume has had a impact on our discussions, it appears that we both have developed a greater appreciation for both belief systems ( Anabaptist and Catholicism) and can at least agree to disagree and still enjoy a nice cold soda together on a hot summer afternoon.

          1. OldKat

            What a great idea; good for you Tom. I like ecumenical outreach in the Christian community and what you are doing is exactly that at the most grass roots level.

        3. Adam

          In that case, the Amish don’t sound that different than the Southern Baptists where I live. I think both Amish and “English” can use our interactions as a learning experience. In many places, Catholics, and Non-Amish Protestants live adjacent to the Amish. I think that we can use these times and places to explain what unites and divides us. To me, that’s a form of Evangelisation, and whilst it is unlikely I’d ever get an Amish to become Catholic (though I know of a few Mennonites that have), I’d still appreciate learning about our separated brethren amongst the plain people. I actually have great admiration for the Amish, they work very hard. If only we Catholic laypeople, Protestants, Orthodox etc did the same.

    21. Galen

      Thank you, Erik, for your synopsis of the film and for reminding us that it is on tonight. I am looking forward to watching it.

    22. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      I’ll see it eventually

      Well, I am going to have to keep an eye open for when WNED will show the film. The Buffalo, New York station isn’t showing it tonight, but apparently the Erie, PA affiliate is, and my cable company doesn’t include it for me.
      Luckily though, WNED does seem to show programs like this eventually, maybe not always on the premier night, but eventually.

      The first hour of “Catholicism” wasn’t bad though, mostly a faith based academic telling of Christ’s life (the host is a Priest), which is always interesting.

    23. Joan Sheldon

      The Amish on PBS

      I did get to see most of the show, tho’ ironically I missed the beginning because my Amish friend’s daughter had to go to the doctor. I agree with Erik that the ex-Amish segment was a bit long but definitely enjoyed Saloma’s part. I thought overall the show was well done.

    24. Vanessa

      Very neat!

      I caught half of the late night rebroadcast and I have to say I found myself delighted to learn so much. We shop at a local Mennonite store in our county and I have already met so many nice folk there. I hope the world continues to embrace their cultures in a positive light.

    25. Kevin Lindsey

      We watched it last night too, and found it very good. And I agree with Eric and Joan that the ex-amish part was too long, and could have just included Saloma’s part. She spoke well and eloquently and that would have been enough to add balance. I was also very impressed with the filming of the show-they took great care in filming it, and often found very interesting vies angles to shoot from.

    26. I thought it seemed to be balanced & apparently Ira Wagler did too.
      Indeed as I study my Bible I see Amish obedient to much scripture-
      However, is this a legitimate question to ask?

      The woman who said she married an abuser. She finally gathered the strength to go to her ministers. Her ministers told asked her what SHE was doing to be abused???

      What if YOU were that woman? Would that be the answer you would want from your minister?

      Is there anyone that can answer whether this would be a normal way of handling spousal abuse or was this an exception to the rule?

      All the authorities speaking on the Amish in this series, didn’t say one word about this part yet to me it is no something that should be glossed over amongst all the good we see, is it?

      1. Vanessa

        Not out of the norm

        Many indigenous cultures hold the same question before those asking for help from abusive situations. I don’t think they necessarily mean harm by it, but instead to cause the accuser to contemplate if it was serious or if they are being sensitive. It’s not something to throw about lightly IMHO. Many churches in the “English” realm used to ask the same thing. I once knew a pastor who actually told a woman to go home and make a better meat loaf… didn’t work lol. But, he meant well.

        In all honesty, the church could step in and the woman could choose to return to the abuse. Statistics have proven it takes about 7x for the woman to leave and stay gone. But, ultimately it’s her decision. Many groups hesitate to get involved because in the cases where the women return to the negative relationships it makes things in the community worse and awkward.

        (Just from what I have witnessed over the years not Amish specific, but people are people so I can imagine some of my point staying the same.) Hope that helps a little.

    27. Carol


      I was of the impression that the Amish frowned upon anything other than unison singing. Yet, there was certainly some harmony in the background singing. ??

      1. Dave in Vermont

        Unison singing and 2-part harmony

        I was of the same opinion as Carol in that singing harmony was frowned upon as it could be interpreted as some being “better” than others i.e. showing off a talent. I definitely heard some 2 part singing. The only conclusion I came up with is that during church services you only heard unison. Maybe the harmony was when there was singing in the home by just the immediate family. Can anyone straighten me out? Thanks

        1. Joan Sheldon

          Unison and harmony singing for Carol and Dave

          In the Old Order community services and singings I attend, the singing at the morning worship service is always unison so people can concentrate more on the words and the meanings. The afternoon or evening singings are done in parts/harmony. Hope this helps.

    28. American Experience delivers Amish Experience

      Here’s one more comment I would make. Last night I put my finger on it watching the second time–I think the film is very “experiential”. Through its cinematography and voices I think it places you in a wide range of situations in Amish society and does the best job of letting you experience Amish life as a 3rd party as anything I have viewed.

      Watching again last night I felt I was walking into church or bumping around inside a barn at 4am. I think it brings to life the dry facts of Amish life in a powerful way. There were goosebump moments.

      No 2-hour film is going to give you the complete understanding of the Amish–a friend who emailed me thought it would take a 10-part miniseries of 2-hour programs to do that–but I think someone with an average understanding on the Amish is going to come away with a pretty decent comprehension of why the Amish do what they do, both today and in the past–and will probably be interested in exploring any of the many avenues the film presents (in a related point this site got its highest level of traffic ever yesterday, lot of searches for things like Amish Ordnung and Amish electricity).

      For anyone who has studied Amish life mainly from afar (ie books and websites) and maybe knows more than the average person, it brings factual driness to life. I touched on this above in the main post but it hit home viewing it again.

      As an aside, my local PBS affiliate ended up showing an old Barbra Streisand concert at 8pm. The Amish film was bumped to 2am. And looks like that’s the only showing (at least for the rest of this week). I couldn’t quite figure that out–maybe the local PBS donors demand Barbra, and the Amish, not so much 🙂

    29. Lin

      Thanks to Wm. Justice, I am copying what he wrote on Feb. 27 on a different post:

      After it has aired.


      1. Wm Justice

        Naomi and all,

        It is already available on the American Experience website.


        1. Naomi


          Saw it, and really enjoyed it!

    30. lanore

      I had a note on my computer for over a month so I won’t forget to watch this.
      I learned alot more about the Amish but still don’t undrstand why they don’t beleive in Salvation by Faith. As I was watching this last night they beleive in Salvation by works. I’m I right? And yet they beleive in God. They do so much and it seem they have a great faith in God and yet they don’t see Salvation as we do. Maybe someone could explain it too me. Thanks so much.

      1. Lattice

        There are many Amish, just like mainstream society, who simply go through the motions. They give little thought (or no thought) to the hows and whys of their ways…However, many do.

        I have never met an Amish person who believed they could ever be good enough, or do enough good, to earn their salvation. Those who are serious about their faith, and not just “going through the motions,” absolutely know that it is only by God’s Grace that they might someday have a home in Heaven.

        Many Amish strive to live their faith daily, not just on Sunday. They believe that “faith without works is DEAD” (James 2:17). They also believe that through their good works they glorify God (Matthew 5:16).

        Yes, there are Amish who take very little interest in the spiritual message behind their religion, and there are also many examples of poor spiritual leadership. For that, my heart breaks. But many Amish have REAL faith, and live it daily. They are the REAL DEAL. Their lives and their lifestyles are just as Godly as they appear from the outside.

        Remember the woman who described in eloquent detail her salvation experience as she walked along the road?

        1. OldKat

          @ Lattice: Wow! What a great post.

      2. Lanore

        There is a clear answer as to why the Amish do not “see salvation as we do.” (Assuming the “we” means typical Protestant American.)
        The Anabaptists (of which the Amish descend) never did accept Luther’s new definition of the word justification. In this point, the Anabaptists and the Catholics were in agreement. (There you go, Erik. 🙂 )
        Here is a quote straight from the Catholic Encyclopedia, which Amish would agree with: “Only such faith as is active in charity and good works (fides formata) possesses any power to justify man (cf. Galatians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 13:2), whilst faith devoid of charity and good works (fides informis) is a dead faith and in the eyes of God insufficient for justification.” (And to be fair, Luther originally thought this way too, but it seems by now his ideas were changed later, either by him or his followers.)
        The Protestant Reformers ended up changing the definition of “justification” to mean that God only “declares” one to be just. Up until that time, the word justification meant (in theology) that God “makes” a person just, by changing his life.
        The difference is also that Amish believe that all men will be judged by how they lived on earth. Thus, an upright life is necessary to enter heaven. Most Protestants, whether they say it or not, seem to think that they will be judged by what they believed. Thus if you simply believe the right things, it doesnt matter so much how you live. Check your New Testament where it talks about the last judgment to see which is right. 🙂

        1. Carolyn B

          Thank You, PC

          Thank you, Primitive Christianity, for that excellent explanation re: the different definitions on justification. I absolutely have to see if I can copy/paste your comment & send it to my email to share with others.

          Good job as always, Erik!

        2. Lattice

          The Protestant pendulum has almost swung so far as to allow believers to “test” God’s love and grace (recall I Corinthians 5). But Jesus says in Matthew 25 that at the Judgement, the sheep and the goats will be separated. How? Based on their good works during their lifetime. To the goats, regardless of how much grace they think they’ll be getting, He’ll say, “I never knew you.”

          Why are 90% of the young adults who have been raised in the Protestant Church leaving it? Many churches are no longer teaching obedience to God laws. Many are denying the promised consequence. Many are embracing a false (partial) doctrine because it feels so much better than the complete one.

          Sorry. I realize that this forum is not the place for this discussion.

        3. lanore


          Thank you so much. Think I understand it a little more. Always have and alway will find the Amish People very interesting. <3

    31. Margaret

      We watched it last night, and thought it was very good. Naturally, I wanted “more.” They could have gone into more detail with why people stay in the faith, instead of over-focusing on those who left the faith.

      I wanted to see more about their day to day life — quilting frolics, weddings, woodworking, baking, . . . the list just goes on.

      I agree with the suggestion that they should do a mini-series of sorts on the Amish life. This particular group has its problems, but I think we all would benefit from their perspective being better shared.

    32. PBS Amish film now available in full online

      Just to reiterate what Lin posted above, you can now watch the film in its entirety online here:


      I’m not sure about countries outside the US; I’ve heard it’s not immediately available in the UK for instance.

    33. Nicole

      I have always been fascinated by the Amish, but I also can speak to being raised in a sect with many Anabaptist traits. Sure, it looks whimsical, delightful and pristine, but, at the same time, many would be shocked to see the harsh internal policies put into practice–including that of shunning. Because serious and even criminal issues/offenses are dealt with internally among the Amish and other extreme Anabaptist/similar sects, how does this jive with citizenship and accountability to the laws of the land? With female submission being a primary theme in these sects, how does this way of dealing with serious matters internally, out of the eye of the law, translate into addressing/prosecuting crimes committed against women and children in these sects? Are we turning a blind eye to very real Human Rights issues while we consume the Shoofly Pie? There is nothing whimsical or beautiful about shunning or any other aspect of Anabaptist extremism including the known and reported cases of abuse. The tourist-trap experience of the Amish life, while externally appealing and entertaining, can, in fact, be quite deceptive.

    34. Valerie

      It was said, that 90% of the youth decide to stay & join the church. Compared to what evangelicals are saying currently, that we are losing approx. 90% of the youth who were brought up in the church, to the world & no longer attend church-
      What kind of conclusion can you draw from that?
      If it was all that bad-I can’t imagine 90% making the decision to stay. Even if it meant losing their family. Another thing I heard on the show that is contrary to what I’ve heard from a couple former Amish-is lack of affection-the girl on the show who decided to join the church mentioned how her dad gave her a hug & was so happy for her decision-It seemed a blanket statement made that Amish do not show affection from others I’ve known.
      Maybe, there’s different things taught in different sects of Amish regarding showing affection to children-maybe it varies from family to family, as I’ve known many outside of Amish who claim their parents didn’t show them affection-so am not sure if it’s an Amish trait or not? To not hug their children?

      1. Lattice

        Attempted to reply here, but it posted above. Oh well…

      2. Stacy

        they lack the tools to leave

        Reply to: Slightly-handled-Order-man
        You asked why so many of their children return to the faith if the Amish life is so awful. I can give you some ideas. For one thing it is very difficult to live in modern America with only an eighth grade education a new social security card. Not every ex-amish child will have someone to help them as the people in the shunned documentary did. How many Amish children would choose to stay if they had access to a normal education and to mainstream media like television or music or movies? In mainstream America if a child does not have internet access they are considered to be deprived and unable to get a education that will prepare them for modern life. Here we have a group of people deliberately depriving their children of the ability to live a modern life and then we say ‘oh look most of their kids stayed. It must be great there!’ It’s not that the kids necessarily prefer the Amish life to outside life it’s that they are unequipped to living outside the sect because their parents have opted to deny them that opportunity.

        My personal opinion is that if you the only way to keep your children in your religion is to deny them an education and cut off all contact from the outside world then perhaps there are serious problems.

        I watched the American Experience documentary and I’ve been watching Leah Remini’s series on Scientology and I have to say I don’t understand why we consider one of these groups to be awful and the other one to be cute and quaint. Perhaps it’s simply that the Amish are Christians so their core beliefs are more in line with those of mainstream America. However if you take away the specific doctrinal beliefs you end up with an awful lot of similarities in terms of hierarchical control, disapproval of questioning any aspects of the faith, and shunning of those who leave the faith.

        Both groups will make family members disconnect with their loved ones if the loved ones leave the group. I think forcing a family to disconnect or shun is cruel no matter which group does it.

        1. AJ

          The many Amish children in Holmes Co. who attend public schools, get GED for jobs, have internet access through school, smart-phones, and libraries and are given leeway to dress English, drive cars, travel, go to movies, ballgames and all that and who still remain Amish might disagree with you, Stacy. I’ve worked with Amish kids who are really in tune with what is going on in mainstream America and in the Holmes Co. area children are NOT shunned for not joining the Amish church or for joining a progressive Mennonite church. Your comments might be applicable to some situations, but not to that huge group of Amish. Shoot, I work with an Amish girl who has done more traveling than I ever did and certainly knows her way around Netflix better than I do and she is planning to join the Amish church her parents belong to!

    35. Char

      I enjoyed the PBS special too. I don’t have cable, but purchased it online and received it the day before the broadcst. So, I watched it last night along with you all! My PBS station also has the Barbara Streisand special. [probably the same station – mine is in Raliegh, NC!]

      I [ahem] noticed that Erik Wesner was listed as a resource in the credits. I look forward to more published works for you, Erik! I think it is apparent to anyone doing serious reading on the Amish that you are much more than a blog editor!!!

      I enjoyed seeing Saloma, and have enjoyed her book [and blog] also.

      Levi [the ex-amish young man] attends a Bible study during the film. Was that with Joe Keim from Mission to Amish People [MAP]?

      Also, when the young lady mentioned being married to an abuser, the bishop’s reaction, etc., I was waiting for the narrator to say that divorce is nearly unheard of [or similar words] among the Amish. I was surprised that statement didn’t come.

      All in all, a good overview, better than most.

      1. Thanks Char, I noticed that too 🙂 Though I’m not sure how much I contributed. I think this site may have been useful for them at some stage.

        Looks like we are in the same Barbra-zone of PBS coverage 🙂

        1. OldKat

          Barbara Streisand 1 – Amish 0. Too bad, I always found the Amish interesting. Barbara S; not so much.

      2. Valerie

        To Answer Char

        Char, yes that was Joe Keim of MAP you saw in the Bible Study with Levi. Him & his wife pour their hearts and souls into those that have left the Amish & I’m not sure if I know anyone that works harder, with a heart for people like they do. He tries very hard to reach & teach them & mentor them in their faith. Relentlessly.

    36. Ed

      Thank you to Primitive Christianity and others who have explained how Amish theology is distinct from Evangelical Christian theology on some matters.

      Evangelical Christianity has become so pervasive in our American society one can at times be mistaken for thinking that Evangelicals speak for all Christians. While I don’t wish to turn this into a debate on which theology is correct, I do find it refreshing that some Christians live their faith in ways that are quite distinct from others.

    37. Jessica M

      One of the main differences on the salvation message of the Anabaptists from the Evangelical groups is the question of works.

      Evangelical Christianity teaches that you say a prayer and are saved, period. They will also say that you should do works as gratification for your salvation, but even if you never do a thing, you will still get into heaven because of the prayer you said.

      Anabaptists believe that a person who is saved has no choice but to do works, because of the change the salvation (through santification) makes in a person’s life. Works are the result of the salvation process. If someone doesn’t do works, then they were never saved.

      I hope it’s okay, Erik, to include a link here… If you want to discuss more on the faith and practice of the Anabaptists, there is a messageboard at http://www.MennoDiscuss.com The board is for Mennonites and those curious about the Anabaptist faith. The members come from all backgrounds… those who left the OO Amish to OO Mennonites to the more liberal MCUSA group. I think there are even a couple Hutterites and a brethren or two. The rest is made up of curious non-mennos and some who have made the transition into the Anabaptist faith, like myself.

    38. lanore

      Thank you Jessica

      I may just go and check out the site you put up, I find all this very interesting. =-D

    39. lanore

      @ Debbie Wang,
      We as Christian believe that when we accept the Lord as Savior, that right than and there we are saved and will go to Heaven No matter what happens after that. I mean a person on his/her death bed can accept the Lord and will than go to be with him, with no works.
      Yes Faith with works is part of being a Christian, but we don’t hope for salvation. I guess that is what is throwing me off. I love that we can talk and it all has helped me more understand it all. Thanks =-D

    40. Debbie Wang

      Hi Lanore:

      Not all Christians believe that accepting Jesus as savior is all you need to be saved. Catholics and Amish for example.

      It is great that we can discuss all this. We can learn a lot.

      God bless!

    41. Valerie

      To the thief crucified on the cross next to Jesus, it was as simple as him saying “Lord, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom”. And Jesus said to Him “Assuredly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise”. (Jesus knew his heart, for he acknowledged his sin)

      Many Christians believe scriptures such as Romans 10:9,10: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mounth confession is made unto salvation”.

      It depends on which scriptures Christians focus on (or have been under the teaching of)for their understanding of salvation. Christians that believe the above PLUS others (Epheians 2:8: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”) believe in the assurance of salvation. This is what I was taught-and if it was our works that saved us, there was no need for Jesus to be crucified.
      It’s good for us to understand each other!
      And rightly divide the Word of Truth-

      It’s been helpful to me to hear the understanding of the Amish explained for salvation. Especially since I’ve been exposed to people that don’t believe they know the Gospel message. This has helped me put the pieces together I was missing! Thanks all for your contributions.

      We (in my fellowship) believe in the above scriptures for salvation, and that our works are evidence of that faith-
      and the hope of hearing from the Lord “Well done, my good and faithful servant”

      1. @Valerie and anyone else

        This isnt the place for a full-blown theological discussion, but here is just one section of verses that show a different perspective than your typical Evangelical “Romans Road” salvation. These, by the way, are from Romans 2. Notice the capitalized words:
        Who will render to every man ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: To them who by patient CONTINUANCE IN WELL DOING seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and DO NOT OBEY the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, TO EVERY MAN THAT WORKETH GOOD, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law [are] just before God, but THE DOERS OF THE LAW SHALL BE JUSTIFIED.
        Anabaptists also believe in salvation by grace through faith, but they have different definitions for salvation, grace, and faith than what Protestants do.
        For a deeper discussion of these things, I suggest Robert Friedmann’s book, The Theology of Anabaptism. It is a pretty academic approach, but at the moment I cant think of a better reference. Or, if you would like an early church view, Origen’s Commentary on Romans.

    42. lanore

      PC &amp; all

      Thank you all for the insight on this subject. Will put it to rest. Thanks everyone.

    43. Valerie

      Thank You PC

      I appreciate the recommendations (Have also gained alot from reading your publication & listening to the messages of your circle) By the way, Rick Leibee did excellent message on Romans on 1/8 & 2/26 in case you didn’t catch it.
      It just helps us all understand each other which is beneficial IMO, & would be awesome if Jesus prayer in John 17, that we would all be ONE would be more evident.

      Some people at work saw the special-it sure kicked up a spirited conversation!

    44. Nelson

      listen to the youtube Robin Mark “When all is said and done, there is just ONE thing that matters.”

    45. Katrina

      To Magdalena, Slightly Handled… and others who may have missed the program on the Amish: Please check with your local public library to see if they have a copy. I don’t get the TV channel that it aired on. When I checked with my local library, I was very pleased to learn that they had 15 copies of this program on DVD available for borrowing. They also had a waiting list of 19 people, so I am now on the waiting list as well.

    46. Rachel H

      PBS link to watch The Amish

      If anyone is interested in seeing this piece, it’s currently available for free viewing on PBS at this link: http://video.pbs.org/video/2200745636/

    47. Dave

      The Amish

      The show was well; organized, comprehensive, enjoyable to watch, and beautiful to listen to. There was a great deal of Christian & Amish wisdom. Id buy a copy, but I’ll wait until the price hits $20. I wish they spent more time on Amish forgiveness & grace via Nickle Mines.

      He Eric, how did you earn your credits?

    48. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      I watched "The Amish" finally

      After waiting from February 2012 to May 2013 I finally watched “The Amish” on DVD.

      I have to say I enjoyed the show. I liked how the participants provided the narration instead of a separate narrator. I thought it was interesting how the film was sectioned off into two cycles of seasons; I thought that that was rather interesting. I also liked how certain facts about the Amish or their history was written out on screen and then related topics where discussed by experts and Amish.

      I thought that the ex-Amish where represented well, I know that Erik/AA expressed a little concern about the length of the focus on the 20-ish young worker who left the lifestyle, but I thought it was interesting to see two experiences, his and Amish America’s friend Saloma Furlong, as similar but different., seeing him discussing first hand the difficulties of leaving as a young man and her discussing from a point of view, sorry if this simplifies it, of been there done that. I also found that this was well rounded off by the interviews with the daughter joining the church and feeling so happy and loved, also, the related “ban” of the woman who was abused by her husband and how she did what she was asked to do to return from the “ban” was quite thought provoking, and also emotional, and I thought quite unexpected, her story anyway.

      I think, and I may be wrong, but although the different Orders of Amish were not talked about to great detail, to a degree, they where shown, at least I think they where, and I feel that in the film filming at various locations they did touch non-verbally on the diversity of the religion. A solution, after the fact, might have been to have occasional captions that noted “Old Order” “New Order” etc, because they did show different styles of dress but they didn’t say which subgroup they belonged to, but adding another caption may have cluttered the screen.

      I found the film to be well done. I was not bored and did not fall asleep in the middle of it, which I have done with other PBS documentaries that I have borrowed in the past from my library system, but then I have been anticipating watching this film for more than a year. I have other thoughts about the film now that I’ve seen it, but I’ll leave them for now to form better in my mind. I have a few days while I have the DVD at home and I will probably watch it again, and will probably borrow the film again at a later date.