Could ‘Amish Mafia’ characters become Amish church members?

Over the weekend a number of readers sent me a Lancaster Online article which happens to be the best behind-the-scenes look at the ‘Amish Mafia‘ program, and reaction to it, that I’ve read.  Some highlights below.

On main character Lebanon Levi, from an Amish-raised man who knows him:

“He’d rather sit back in a corner than go after somebody,” the man said, claiming he’s hung out with Levi several times at “hut parties” — one portrayal on the show that, in his opinion, is accurate.

Other local Amish men said they know Levi to be “nice” and “average,” saying his character on the show is just that, a persona.

Stoltzfus’ former attorney, Barry Goldman, called him a “perfectly courteous client.”

On the response of some Amish to the show:

Most local Amish folks recently interviewed said they aren’t overly offended by the show.

“I got a big kick out of it,” the elder said. “I don’t think it cuts the Amish in half.”

The elder, like many other Amish men interviewed, said they appreciate the show’s depiction of the rural scenery, including sprawling farms and horse-drawn buggies on area roads.

But, like the officers, they don’t buy the story lines.

On the program’s authenticity:

In reality, Echternach said, “What I see is between 1 and 10 percent truth.”

Local Amish residents identified what they saw as genuine truths on the show, including cover-charge hut parties.

Residents said the parties happen when someone rents a home or apartment for a weekend and host friends — many Amish, some English — for gatherings. The building will have cable television, telephone and Internet services.

“If we want to watch football, we actually rent a place,” the 28-year-old said, adding that he’s seen Levi at such parties.

The characters — at least Levi, Alvin, John and Esther — are real people. But their stories are embellished or created, according to people who know them.

Back to the fold?

I think at this point the premise of this program has been pretty well discredited (though as noted, individual events depicted may be based in fact).  The article gives us a little more insight into the people on the show, none of which is that surprising.

Lebanon Levi Mug ShotAccompanying the piece are mug shots of four of the show’s characters, along with listings of their criminal offenses, which include multiple DUIs, disorderly conduct, and hit-and-run.

The grab bag of transgressions the four have racked up are not typical of Amish church members.  And as one might guess, none of them belong to an Amish church (though the Amish-behaving-badly angle, real or not, is probably responsible for much of the show’s appeal, writes David Weaver-Zercher in a recent opinion piece).

This leads to my favorite part of the article.  If you’re an “Amish mafioso”, the church has something for you:

However, the arrests or their association with the show won’t keep any of the characters from being able to join the Amish church.

“The door’s always open,” the elder said. “They’ll be accepted if they come into our beliefs.”

Some might find this surprising, but it fits the picture of an Amish community which forgives.  It’s not likely that the people on this show will ever become members of an Amish church, but at least it’s possible.  I’m not sure what you have to do to become an irredeemable black sheep among the Amish, but “reality” TV apparently isn’t it.

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    1. I could see the whole house party occurring with the Amish youth, especially in the larger settlements before they join the church. And perhaps some young Amish entrepreneur could discover that entertainment can be sold, so the idea of organizing a paying party is similar to what some American college students do. Just a thought.

    2. Linda Northern Illinois

      The Amish Mafia show is just that. Where the person has their five minutes of fame for the world to see. Me; Me; Me.
      This is what the world has come to. Selfishness.
      And what good has come out of this. Nothing.

    3. New York State of Mind

      I never watch the Amish Mafia, I think it was a lot rubish just trying to make money on the Amish. I did watch the movie Amish Murder. I had read the book and one to see how the movie went with the book.


      1. Jean Junkin

        An Amish Murder

        I also watched the movie An Amish Murder. I am thinking of buying the book Sworn to Silence. If you have seen the movie and also read the book, is it worth it to have seen and read both?

    4. Katie Troyer

      I appreciate this article.

    5. OldKat

      Not surprising.

      I watched about 3 to 4 minutes of this farcical non-sense one day. It is a joke plain and simple. Anyone with even a pea sized brain could see right through this drivel.

      Two things about this show really bother me though: 1) there are people that watch it and ACTUALLY believe it. & 2)a lot of those same people vote. Yikes!

      1. I think “Discovery” still has a respectable-enough imprimatur that people will believe what the channel presents as reality. I don’t know how much longer that will last though.

        1. OldKat

          My pea sized brain ...

          can’t process 50 cent words like “imprimatur”!

          However, if that means anything like CREDIBILITY, yeah you are probably correct. In fact I was thinking just the other day that Discovery, which was formerly one of my “go to” networks for the little TV that I do watch, has essentially become a poor shadow of its former self. Too bad … there used to be some really good shows on Discovery.

          1. Oldkat, yes I think that is about what I meant :)…there probably still is some decent programming on Discovery but having a lot of programs that diverge radically from whatever benchmark of quality was there before would probably hurt the brand of the network over time.

            I don’t know how far along Discovery is in that process but at least with you it sounds like it might be at that point. TLC (home of Breaking Amish) and Discovery are actually in the same family of channels…maybe they have simply gotten too big and now have to focus on mass-market appeal and thus the turn to ‘reality’ and general dumbing-down.

    6. Ed

      >>And as one might guess, none of them belong to an Amish church <<

      That's all we need to know about this "Amish" "reality" show.

      My "favorite" scene from the first episode involved them claiming that a shop was selling cheap Chinese made furniture as "Amish". They drive around trying to locate "where this stuff is coming from." That cracked me up. I wanted to tell Levi and his crew — guys, Chinese furniture comes from a place called China. You won't find China anywhere near Lancaster county.

      In a warped way, the show could be rather humorous. I wish it would drop its claims of "reality" and "Amish" and just present itself for what it is — the embellished misadventures of a couple of small-town losers.

    7. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      You know that fellow, Mose, who did a documentary about leaving or being an ex-Amish that Erik wrote about? I stumbled on his blog, at least I think it’s his blog, and he has a rather vocal opinion on Amish Mafia, I’d suggest looking it up and reading the entry on Amish Mafia.

    8. Michigan Mary


    9. Greg Stutzman

      Ice Ice Amish

      Have you seen the latest offensive “Un-Reality” invasion of the land of my birth? – Holmes County, Ohio? I would like to think that the Amish there are only victims of this shameless profit-driven horror. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that. Not for a second.

      1. Well, someone had to agree to the filming for this to be able to happen. I know Vanilla Ice has a past history in a different incarnation than what he seems to be in now, but have no idea what new leaves he has or has not turned over.

        I wonder what family/group/affiliation has agreed to the filming and what their motivation is. Could be seen as a way of outreach if it is a more mission-oriented Amish church. Also wondering if it is even a horse-and-buggy Amish group.

    10. Sadie

      I’m not sure how I missed this post when it was posted!

      I just am adding — I think it’s wonderful that the er “Amish Mafia” *grins* would be welcomed should they … drop the Mafia act and embrace the beliefs and etc of the (an) Amish church(es). I personally can’t quite imagine that happening, but I think it’s nice.

      And Greg, I have seen articles and photographs from the “un-reality” program to which you refer — this one managed to surprise me, even after the whole “Mafia” thing. I haven’t read the article you posted yet, but am about to. Amazing.