The Amish: Shunned- Your thoughts? (View full film here)
There was interest in sharing thoughts on the new PBS film The Amish: Shunned, after it aired, so I thought I’d set up a post where you can do that if you like (here are my comments on the film). So if you saw the film last night, what did you think?
If you did not view The Amish: Shunned and would like to, PBS has made it available online for a limited time at their website. I’ve also embedded the full film below.
I thought it was a very good show. I liked that there was a variety of situations for leaving the Amish shown not just focused on one reason only. I would like to see more about the Edwards family. I think that would be an interesting story. I do think that there is more to it then what was said about Paul Edwards leaving the Amish. I think they captured the peoples emotions very well on film. You could almost feel the way theyt were feeling just by the looks on their faces and their actions. Overall it was a very good show and would watch again and would recomend that anyone who has an intrest in the Amish or just has questions about shunning watch this show.
Tom said almost EXACTLY what I intended to say; so I’ll just leave it at that.
Only other comment is that I ran out of steam with about 30 minutes left in the program and had to go to sleep; this was right after Paul discussed being shunned after missing a meeting. I agree with Tom; there probably was something more going on there. Who knows what all that was though?
I do look forward to watching the rest of it, so I am glad erik posted a link.
Paul did not explain what the “meeting” was for, and that is a very important part of the story.
There was a lot of the Paul Edwards story that was not told. The divorce, the custody battles over the four children, the chasing of the first wife to forcibly take the children away which was shown on 20/20 many years ago, the convincing the second wife to leave the Amish to marry him, the first wife leaving the Swartzentrubers for New Order. And that just the parts I know of that they did not tell!
It was probably a good thing my blood pressure was not checked during that show. I found it very stressful to watch.
The Edwards story
I know little of the Edwards story other than what I’ve seen in this film and found in other media. As Lance suggests you’re probably only getting part of what sounds like a complex story.
For what it’s worth here are a couple of articles I found last week after watching The Amish: Shunned, written in the mid-90s after the Edwards had left their Amish church:
There’s also this one from last week about Jan Edwards:
I also went back and re-watched the 20/20 piece Lance mentions on the Edwards last week after watching the screener copy of this film. There are a lot of criticisms that could be leveled at the 20/20 production including the condescension of the hosts and the almost comically dark tone evoked around the Amish.
However it’s worth noting that the 20/20 piece also reveals that the children, after being taken from Elizabeth Edwards, displayed fresh bruises which the boy says were from a whipping given by his mother for working too slowly. Psychologist Elvin Coblentz appearing on the show considered them to be indicative of abuse and suggested should be reported to child services.
This is another thing that leads me to believe there is a lot to that story that we aren’t going to get in a documentary in which Edwards is one of 7 main characters.
Here’s the link to the 1997 20/20 piece on Youtube–the clip has very low picture quality but you can still follow along:
The news twists everything..
My sister is married to one of elizabeth and Paul’s children. And elizabeth is the sweetest woman you could ever meet. If her children did have bruises it was probably because the Amish discipline their children with more than a slap on the wrist. And one of the boys is a slacker so he’s probably the one who said she whooped for “working too slow”. But he is still lazy to this day. And around the Amish you need to pull your weight. Also it’s none of the worlds business where the children are today or their relationship with either of their parents. They are all very happy people.
Ripped apart & Healing
Families are ripped apart by their belief systems. So difficult to watch this documentary– yet I found myself realizing that as Christians we are to be Christ in the world and for each other. In mainstream culture and Amish culture we separate ourselves from God and each other in so many painful ways. Joe is the one who seemed to get at the question that was bothering him– salvation. He sought the answer and when he realizes it, he can no longer stay in Amish community. He takes that information and builds another community of healing for others who leave behind family, Amish culture, and the only memories one would have.
I was unprepared for how I would feel as a woman– watching Ann carefully place each piece of Amish clothing on. With each layer of placed headwear, straight pin, and somber moment– tears ran down my face. All I could feel was the choice she was making– of layer upon layer of oppression in her culture. Yet she knew she had to accept it with each straight pin she carefully weaves into her black dress.
The joy of salvation does not feel like that and the love of God does not shun people from community.
Loyalty in family
I was also overtaken with emotion when Joe describes his father’s sitting on the porch every night for a month and fasting as he prayed that his eldest son (Joe) would come back to the Amish community. As a public school teacher, that is in such contrast to parents who can’t find time for a 10 minute conference or to be there for their kids. The modern culture could take notes on family loyalty and care within the family unit.
That whole story was just moving.
Mary, That left a lasting impression on me, also.
WOW, I very much enjoyed this program and thought it was well thought out and portrayed. I was very moved by the emotion in those that have left, especially the young lady that became a nurse and the young lady that lived with Saloma. I could see the struggle in their face and hear it in their voice. This reaction re-affirmed in me how important family is, especially in the Amish community. I give all the credit to those that made this film possible.
I think the statement that had the most profound affect on me was when Saloma said (paraphrase), “When you love someone, you hug them. But part of hugging requires you to open your arms and let them go”.
"Let them go"
It’s a phrase most of us have probably heard before in some form, but really struck me at that moment.
Saloma, despite–or maybe because of–her own experience with her Amish upbringing, I think took the right tack with Anna–even though she probably had some seriously mixed feelings.
Finding Our Way...
@Eric/AmishAmerica on your comment; Saloma, despite–or maybe because of–her own experience with her Amish upbringing, I think took the right tack with Anna–even though she probably had some seriously mixed feelings.
Each time I hear and see Saloma I admire her more. I think she took the best of Amish culture and incorporated it into a life that would work for her. She has done so with thoughtfulness, understanding and compassion, here so seen with Anna. Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to let go of something you love and to let go of someone you love is even harder. It’s an ultimate selfless gift to do so, to set another person free to find their way in this world.
Great, informative, beautiful cinematography.
I was pleasantly surprised at the respect for the Amish. I began watching on the defense because I have watched T.V. shows on the lifestyle that I found offensive. (I’m not Amish – but have great respect for their God centered, strong community living.) I think having Amish people speak gave credibility. I would still have liked it to have been made clear that the guidelines for shunning is at the descretion of the bishops so they vary. The show brought out the saddest fact to me about the Amish teachings – that they have no assurance of salvation here on earth, which I believe is Biblically incorrect.
Amish & Assurance
Thanks for your thoughts on the film Bert. Just to add a little FYI, assurance of salvation is supported doctrine in some Amish churches, New Order Amish churches in particular, and you may find unofficial support for it in some non-New Order churches as well.
Hi Bert, I hope the explanation below will give some insight.
The Amish believe in the promise of assurance of salvation, for this the Bible does promise the believer. What the Amish don’t accept is the statement that one can claim to have knowledge of one’s salvation. i.e. to know that one is already saved, to link being born again with the assurance of personal salvation.
This is because the Amish believe, as is Anabaptist teachings, that one can lose one’s salvation.
Thus until the day one dies, one has the danger of losing one’s salvation by rejecting Jesus. To claim knowledge that one has salvation, would require a knowledge of what the future holds. Calvinist are quick to claim that what has been born cannot be unborn. That one cannot lose one’s salvation irrespective if one rejects Jesus in the future. The Amish answer – true, what is born cannot be unborn, but what is born can wither away and die and thus one can lose one’s salvation.
This is why shunning is so serious, because even if a person has salvation before being shunned, shunning cuts them off from the community and the life giving spiritual waters found in Christian community, therefore they could wither away spiritually on the outside and lose their salvation.
Another reason that Amish do not admit to having salvation here and now, is because the Bible states that Jesus will be the judge of whom is saved and whom is not saved. Either Jesus will say on judgment day, enter My true and trusted servant, or depart from Me I know you not.
As judgment day has not arrived yet, how is it possible for people to declare that they are saved or not when that prerogative belongs solely to Jesus. How can they speak before Jesus has spoken?
Like students who declare they have past an exam before the teacher has even graded it. Sadly they may be in for a rude shock come judgment day. What arrogance.
Thus until we die we do not know if we shall remain faithful or not, therefore we do not claim salvation today which tomorrow may prove to be a lie. How many potential Anabaptist martyrs when faced with death, recanted their faith and turned from the truth of Jesus Christ, rejoining their Catholic and Protestant churches? Once more accepting the falsehood of infant baptism and war.
Until Jesus has declared us saved on judgment day, what right have we to make such a claim?
Mat. 7:21 speaks of such foolishness and the Bible commands us to be wise and not foolish.
To the Amish, for people to run around claiming themselves saved is pure foolishness. What they should rather strive for, is to claim obedience and submission to God.
But what use have the self-declared saved for obedience and submission? Which explains why those who don’t claim salvation are obedient to the Gospel commands and why those who claim salvation are disobedient and do as they please in their self-declared foolishness. They have forgotten, not my will be done, but Thy will.
And for those who would claim that they are free in Jesus – yes, free from sin, but not free from obedience. 2John 9.
You are asking for opinions about the show~VERY WELL DONE! I have other opinions that are difficult though. They stem from the pain the children experience and carry around for a lifetime, as I’ve struggled on a *very* lesser scale with “shunnings” from legalistic Christian groups. I have always respected the Amish, and I still do~but this was hard for me.
Well done but a bit confusing
I thought the show was well done except that I wish they would have started at the beginning with an explanation of what shunning is and how it is enacted (like not being able to eat at the same table, etc). It was my understanding that in each community the concept is a bit different and some do not shun if the person leaving the community was not baptized versus those who had joined the church. I’m not sure why we are all so facinated with the Amish way of life but I admire both those who stay and those who leave for living true to their convictions.
I can certainly try to imagine the pain this brought up for you, Sandi – I think the pain of being torn between family, close ties and another lifestyle came across strongly, but well. I can’t imagine having to make this sort of a decision. And good point about some Christian communities which also judge and “shun”. I’m thankful for the ones I have been in that were amazingly strong Biblically and had loving to all. That’s where I received the healing for the pain I felt from my childhood and I’m very thankful.
Enjoyed the show….it helped me to understand shunning a little more though I think they could have explained more as too why they were being shunned. I was a little confused as too why some were shunned. I think it more or less showed that being Amish is a cult and I’m not sure I like that, that was my feelings anyway. I have never thought of the Amish as a cult until seeing this show last night, because of them being so strict and having control of everything they do.
Lanire, clearly you have not read the Bible from cover to cover, else you would have found that the Bible is full of rules and regulations that govern and control how one lives, thinks and behaves.
But this is no different to any other society with its rules and regulations, nor in fact to any sports team, military group, schools, corporate offices, social clubs, fraternities, etc. that has rules and regulations that govern the conduct of its members, along with punishments and expulsion for those who transgress.
Thus all human affiliations are legalistic and by your definition a cult. Why would you expect the Amish to be different? They are not anarchists.
I enjoyed the show too. It has to be hard for the parents also. They still set a place at the table for the child as if they were still there. Locking the doors when the child comes to visit, so neighbors will not come and find them there. Wow, that’s a lot of control the church has on these families. It’s not like the child is living at home and not following the rules. It would be awful to think your child has left home and you would never see them again. It almost doesn’t seem fair. I am looking forward to seeing more shows about the Amish. I hope they don’t wait too long to produce something worth watching on tv.
A similar thing happens in the secular world when a child or adult breaks the rules. They get set to prison and are also separated from their families.
Difference with shunning is that the shunned person holds the key to open their ‘jail’ door. All they have to do is ask forgiveness and repent, then they are free to once more fully join in.
It is often their own pride that holds them prisoner more than the shunning does.
–I thought it ridiculous that shunning was compared to stoning. Huh? Stoning was meant to KILL the person. As far as I know, there has never been a death associated only from shunning. I found that to be far fetched, even in a figurative way.
–The young man, I don’t remember his name…he seems like…he just needs to grow up. (Not saying that sarcastic!)
He said he left because he got caught with a radio.
He knew the consequences if he left but he still seems like he doesn’t quite “get it”. “I don’t why they won’t talk to me much, I don’t know why they don’t write to me much, I don’t know why they aren’t proud of me…”
Well, why doesn’t he know???
He knew he was breaking their hearts,(because he saw what they went through when his brother left) and chose to do it anyway.
I loved though that he said he knows they love him.
–I think if they were going to keep mentioning about going to hell if they leave, they should have mentioned that Amish do NOT think Englishers are doomed to hell. If you are born English, it is OK to be English… And (the ones that I know, at least), don’t actually think leaving itself is going to send you to hell…but when you start heading in the wrong direction, things get dangerous rapidly. (and that’s true!)
–The Edwards family I found fascinating and irritating at the same time. I’ll start with Paul. His facial body language showed very clearly he has a chip on his shoulder in every interview. He was trying to sound victimized, but it wasn’t working for me.
If she was not convicted in the manner of plain dress, headcovering, etc, she really should not have joined at all in my opinion. This happened with a family recently who ran a blog, joined the Amish, were only Amish for about 6 weeks, quit again, then went right back to makeup, jewelry, etc. I can’t figure out WHY they thought they wanted to join when they didn’t even believe in the basic doctrine. It doesn’t surprise me the Amish are skeptical about outsiders!
Ann saying shunning isn't like stoning.
I was born Amish parents were killed by a drunk when I was 4 and mom and day were 33 and 36 respectively.
You need to walk a Mile in some ones shoes that have been shunned before making such a broad statement. I will leave this comment short. I had two uncles and a cousin that committed suicide because of the treatment by the Amish.
You have many cases of young people not Amish today committing Suicide because of bulling, shunning is the worst kind of bulling I know I have seen it for 73 years. Jesus never taught lifetime shunning In the case of a man having sex with his fathers wife, they were told to restore such a one (2 Corinthians 2:7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.)
Please put yourself in their place before making comments.
Ann, if I may link stoning to shunning with the following explanation.
A Jewish child is born a Jew because of blood heritage, it is a physical thing. Thus when a Jew transgresses, the punishment was physical. Stoning was reserved for punishments that required the death sentence, an act that would physically cut the person off from the community through physical death.
A Christian is born a heathen and becomes a Christian through accepting Jesus and being born again spiritually. This new birth is declared publically through baptism. As with Judaism, when a Christian transgresses seriously enough to require a death sentence, it is carried out not through the physical act of stoning, but through the spiritual act of shunning.
Both the physical and the spiritual act have the same effect, a person that is dead, cut off from the community. Thus the shunned person, as the spiritually dead, cannot associate with the living in the manner of the living, such as in sharing a meal together, engaging in conversation or in working together.
God’s rules have not changed, just the application of the punishments defined by either a physical or a spiritual birth. The OT carries the physical expression and the NT the spiritual expression of God’s punishments.
This is why shunning is only reserved for the baptised who have come to spiritual life through Jesus. As one cannot stone a dead person to death, likewise one cannot shun an unbaptised spiritually dead person.
The Edwards Story
So far I have only seen the first hour (TERRIBLE computer problems with our new computer!) so we will finish later today.
I have met and spent time with Elizabeth Edwards, Paul’s first wife. She told me the entire story of what happened with Paul leaving her for the other woman, he had known before meeting her. I guess it wouldn’t be right to tell all that here, but I will say it is quite difficult for me to imagine her beating her children-she is one of the most cheerful, Amish women I have ever seen and that is why I went out of my way to meet her (and clueless of who she was!) and I drove for her and chatted with her on telly phone. She had the most amazing testimony, that she shares in a most unusual way. Not only that, she showed me photo albums with picture of her children that she has a good relationship with now that they aren’t forced to be with Paul, they are grown. The tables have turned and it was difficult for me to watch him, knowing her side of the story.
Other than that, I feel like I WISH the Amish would share more about why they have the rules they do-I know they basically could care less what we think of them, but it would help to explain-since I read a book about it by an Amish man, it helped the rules seem like they were really only for their benefit to enter in through the straight and narrow path.
I will watch the rest later, thank you for providing it online Erik!
Valerie said, “I feel like I WISH the Amish would share more about why they have the rules they do.” I agree.
When questioned about the rules, I’ve heard/read Amish being quoted, saying “Because it has always been done that way” or saying they did not know.
It would be an interesting mental exercise to think up some good rationales to justify each Amish rule. I suspect it could be done for many, though not all, of the Ordnung rules.
Hi other Erik, to find the biblical rational for the rules one must look to the writings of the early founding fathers of the Anabaptist faith.
For example – hooks and eyes are used because handmade buttons during that time period were a source of pride as only the wealthy could afford them. Also many buttons were engraved with images or crests and were made of expensive materials that would have been used to make jewellery. Like bronze, silver, gold, ivory, etc.
Today, plastic mass produced buttons have masked the original motivations against buttons, but the ban still exists. Thus at least three spiritual reason supported the founding elders decision to ban buttons. Pridefulness, graven images and the wearing of jewellery like items. Not to mention the Bible’s warning against becoming like the world, following the ways of the world and the injunction to remain separate from the world.
Everything the Amish do is established in scripture, even if they have not learnt why, at least they are obedient to teachings some 500 years old, established by past elders of profound spiritual and biblical insight.
My question is – on what grounds do other Christians not live as the Amish do? If God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, then why are modern Christians following different teachings?
Has God changed from 500 years ago that NT teachings should have changed?
For example – 1Cor. 11:1-16. Does the NT teach head coverings? If it does, then why are Christians not doing it? If it does not, then why have Christians been doing it for over 2000 years?
This is the key to understanding the Amish and similar groups, if that is the way that it has always been done, then that way must be the right way, else the wise elders of past generations would not have required it. For someone to want to change something would be like spitting in the eye of generations of past elders, that one person could suddenly have more wisdom and insight than generations of past elders, unheard of. Best they leave, along with their arrogance, pride and delusions of grandeur.
“I still love the lifestyle, but I can’t accept some of the trade-offs. So it leaves me in between, lost between cultures at this point.”
The last person on the planet I ever expected to be a kindred spirit with is Paul Edwards III, for I have to deal with his quote from above, everyday. That is my life too.
Yes Lance, it is something that the worlds, Amish and secular, can never understand, the pain of being trapped in a twilight zone, unable to go back and yet unable to go forward.
All one can do is take the best lessons learnt from both worlds and forge a new path, always to be misunderstood by both worlds yet richer for the experience.
As Paul said, when in Rome I act like a Roman and when in Athens like a Greek, but despite this, always for Christ.
I suspect that for you as an ex-Amish convert it is even one level harder, in that the born ex-Amish don’t accept you as one of theirs either. Like an albatross, constantly in flight with no where to land.
Like I said, peace lies for you in forging a new path, or in finding a path that has been already forged by a twilight child, Mose Stoltzfus of Ephrata Christian Fellowship comes to mind.
Perhaps there you will find peace. Personally I like the Beachy Amish. Close enough for comfort, yet far enough to breathe.
Much in Agreement
I have read some of your posts to my son, Mark. He appreciates your views and is much in agreement with them and how you explain yourself.
It would be nice if someday you could meet my son. I’m sure you would have a lot in common to talk about.
You ought to write him sometime.
Here is his address:
Mark S. Curtis
9417 County Road 101
Belle Center, OH 43310-9589
I’ll leave the rest up to you.
I thought the film was very well done.. Being an empath, I could easily feel the pain of each & every one who were portrayed.. as well as those who were not shown but spoke..
In the end, we each have a choice to make where & how we traverse these human roads.. not always easy, but hopefully worth the trade off we all must pay, no matter who we are and where we land.
I thought the program was very well done. What I especially appreciated was that there was an age range and that there were older members who left among the group. IF I’m correct, only those who have accepted baptism are shunned if they leave the community.
My heart went out for Anna (?), the girl who left at age 23. She accepted baptism at 18 so she could be married. However, by 23 she was not married and with only 1 man in her community available to her and the inability to associate with other Amish communities near her, she was considered an old maid. It’s a catch-22 situation. She did return after 7-8 months? of disassociation. It’d be nice to know what happened upon her return.
I love the sense of community and will find ways to strive to help its return in our “English” community. From what I can tell, shunning is the basic means of maintaining the community’s “purity” and the individual accepting submission to its rule. It’s somewhat understandable from that perspective. Nonetheless, as has also been pointed out, perhaps there is a witness that can also be made as described by Joe. I also imagine that English culture and economic activities make it harder and harder for Amish communities to stay as isolated:there are more and more technologies, e.g., computer, smartphones, etc. that challenge the ability of the Amish community to stay at arm’s length.
Sandra, this is the story of when Anna returned home:
I have 2 questions.
1. If Pennsylvania Dutch is their first language, why was the one letter from home written in English?
2. Did you notice how it was mentioned that in the English world that one could not be an “individual” and in the Amish world, one could not be an “individual”? The same complaint was lodged against each culture.
Because Pennsylvania Dutch or as we used to refer to it as simply “Amish” is a spoken language only. We always wrote all letters even to other Amish in English.
1. If Pennsylvania Dutch is their first language, why was the one letter from home written in English?
Pennsylvania Dutch is not a written language – Yes – It is their first spoken language, but they do not read or write in PA Dutch.
Thank you for the link. I do not have a television and saw this on my phone. As we saw these families and how close they were I don’t think shunning would be such a bad idea for English families. To be a part of a group is so very important in this world of ours. Thank you. Danke
The Amish: Shunned transcript
For anyone interested, here is the full transcript of the film: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/transcript/shunned-transcript/
I enjoyed the film; very good producers and writers. I was surprised by two things: the depth and breath of grieving that occurs when people leave that culture and the fact that they never really leave it. As you all noticed, they socialize with other former Amish, they never let go of many aspects of the culture and incorporate them into their new lives. They remain deeply religious despite any new interpretations of Christianity. I always wondered why some Amish didn’t just move to a less domineering sect but learning that they don’t know about the other groups was also a surprise. And, of course, all cultures have degrees of shunning, from getting kicked out of a club for noncompliance to getting kicked out of school for disobeying the rules.
I had forgotten to look for this week’s episode but was blessed to turn the channel just a few minutes into the intro.
I enjoyed watching it even as tired as I was ….and I did struggle to stay awake during the whole show.
Erik, could you point me to links to re-read Saloma’s story please? I had it in my head her dad died when she was young and that’s why there was so much trouble with older siblings. In the film, Saloma said she attended her dad’s funeral with her husband. I simply want to reacquaint myself with the real facts. Thanks!
I am not Erik, but you can google Saloma. She has a blog on the internet. She has written two books, Why I left the Amish, and Bonnet Strings.
Carolyn if you are referring to the interview we did with Saloma, you can find that here: https://amishamerica.com/saloma-furlong-why-i-left-the-amish/
In it she discusses her home community and growing up years. As Marcus said, she has two books as well. It’s possible we’ll have her again here on the site soon.
Marcus Yoder and Erik, thank you both for your kind, informative responses. I intend to read Erik’s column on Saloma right away and find her books once Spring hits and I can drive again.
I read Saloma’s first book and I can easily understand 1. why she left the Amish & 2. how such a familial life situation can end up as hers did. I have a very high regard for her and I enjoyed her book, even though.
Would it have been better as a mini-series?
Because public TV does not have commercial interruptions, it was a couple hours of non-stop viewing.
I haven’t been in a movie theater in many years, so I’m not accustomed to focusing for that long!
If they had broken it up into multiple episodes, it might be hard for the viewers to remember what happened in previously aired episodes. Perhaps PBS could have started episodes with recaps.
As other comments hear suggest, the show could have explored the people in more depth, so there should have been plenty of material available for the producers to create a mini-series.
I felt sorry for those being shunned. Especially the young lady who the Amish community considered an ‘old maid’ at 23.
What a huge loss to those both within, and without he Amish community. It may be hard for some of us, ‘English’ to understand since most of us do not spend as much time with our families as they do. The loneliness was tangible to me.
I was, however, happy to see the folks out there willing to assist those who are being shunned in any way they can. They are a huge blessing to the Amish outcasts.
I watched it and I was mesmerized. I immediately downloaded “The Amish” and watched that too. I spent the last two day re-watching each and going to several web sites for more information. Having read all the comments on almost all of the bogs on this site I’ve come to some realizations. First, what is attractive to the “English” is the simple, structured, uncomplicated way of life and the strong family and community fellowship. These, fundamentally American attributes, especially for older baby boomers, has a very strong attraction. I think this is because many “boomers” may remember a time at Dad’s or Grandpa’s farm, I know I do. But, what most fail to recognize is that are strings attached to being Amish. Listening carefully to the commentary by the Amish speakers in the films and you will discover that there is a deep, unwavering belief and conviction that their “ways” are the narrow path to salvation. They are convinced that this time on earth is but a second of eternity and worldly items are a deterrent to living a Christ like life. This belief and conviction is instilled in them from birth. Call it indoctrination, whatever, it works. And to enforce the “ways”, they have the fear of shunning. This keeps about 90% of them in the system. There is no questioning or negotiating with the church. You must be totally subservient and be committed totally to it. All decisions on how to run your life are essentially made for you by the community, the church. As long as you are obedient to the ordnung, the rules, all will be good. And that, in my honest opinion, is an extremely hard line for outsiders “English” to understand and even harder to accept. This is why so few have successfully join the Amish. One must be totally committed to leaving their “English” ways and world. And I’m not talking about your beliefs here. The other thing is when born into the Amish life you have an established home and family, lots of family that you’ve grow up with. So there is an existing fellowship and structure there already. And that is very powerful. And I still felt that Soloma feels that draw, that pulls on her when she went to her fathers funeral. The Amish community is very powerful especially if born in it, and is something I suspect we all long for. I film also left me yearning for strong family, being part of a Christ focused church, living a simple, humble and self sufficient life stile. But I could never become Amish and I can buy my own farm, emulating the Amish ways and then focus on living a Christ like life.
Great insight Derek, yes an Amish person molds/shapes him/her self to the church, whereas the secular person molds/shapes the world to him/her self. A totally different mindset that many who join the Amish find impossible to do.
Excellent documentary–powerful, allows for all perspectives (and the certainties and doubts within each) to come across. No “winners” or “losers,” “right” or “wrong” subtext. Complexities and trade–offs.
A different picture
I would so want to document a different story of the Amish. I long to sit down with them, like I do without cameras, and portray the very good stuff the Amish have to offer. In no way do I agree with everything about their lifestyle or belief system, but there is so much that I do admire. And that is what I’d like to portray. It’s really too bad we don’t get to film that due to their beliefs about being in front of the camera.
That being said, I have a good amount of friends who left the Amish and their experience is very different from what was portrayed in this documentary. That makes me wonder what Amish ‘group’ these people came from (Schwartzentruber?). My friends found the shunning rather painful, of course, but most of them are in good contact with their direct family like parents and siblings. Now, they do not sit and eat at the same table, their family will not take anything from their hands, but they do eat meals together and are in touch in a sweet way. I just wanted to mention that shunning happens a lot like that. I do not want to diminish the pain of shunning, it is painful always. But not in all cases it means losing your background or family.
PS. Eric, I wrote you an e-mail. Rick V send me your way.
The Edwards Story/by Valerie
Yes, Valerie, there is lots more to Paul Edwards; I live just only a short distance from his place, have had more than my share of knowing him in the last several years, though he technically does live there at present. Paul Edwards may or may not be a liar, but he is very gifted at twisting the truth around to benefit his own cause. We have heard his side of the story, but not his ex wife’s side, but we tend to believe her side even though we have not spoken to or met her. The directors of this documentary need to seek out more people that can give more light.
P.S./ The Edwards Story
I viewed the 20/20 report on the amish and the account of Paul Edwards; how disgusting. 20/20 or the directors of this latest PBS report need to come to TN and interview his children, where they are now, and how they get along with their dad. Why wasn’t Paul’s 2nd wife he has now interviewed in the 20/20 document or PBS’?
You are right — there was a lot of history & information left out of that story. Amish people familiar with the case were disappointed that very important facts were left out of the story. We know the family personally.
The news twists everything...
Personally, I know Elizabeth Edwards and she is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. My sister is married to one of Paul and Elizabeth’s children so I know this first hand. But if any of her children had bruises on them it’s because the Amish actually believe in discipline other than a smack on the hand. Also, one of their boys has always been a slacker and still is to this day, so that is most definitely an explanation to the boys reply. And in case you didn’t know you pull your weight in the Amish when it comes to work. Also, I don’t think it’s any of the worlds business where their children are today or what their relationship is like to either of their parents. I will tell you though, they are ALL happy.
Just saw the movie last night. But was confused because not everyone in the movies was baptized. How can they be shunned if they were not baptized? My cousin’s family in Kansas as an example: Husband is a deacon, they have 8 grown children. Half are Amish. One son and his wife, baptized, joined the church, married, 2 children, left the church about 10 yrs ago, still live in the community. This is Old Order Amish, and I am English, never have been Amish, but my grandparents were. We all eat together and no one is shunned in that family. Why is it different? Another of their sons (and his second wife, he was divorced) is a VP of a bank. We all get together regularly when I visit every summer. Are the rules different in each community?
Amish churches do not all practice the same things. They are actually quite diverse, and not just with shunning. Some Amish churches will turn over a banned person to their new church(assuming it is acceptable, usually something Anabaptist), once that person has had communion twice in that new church. Upon such a turn over, the Amish church releases the bann to each individuals conscience, most stop practicing it all together. That is the way of progressive Amish churches.
From the characters in the movie, Naomi is just a person raised Amish who never joined the church, she is not under the bann. I don’t remember if Levi or his brother are under the bann or not. Joe is under the bann, but as often happens, after a long time of a good record on the outside, the people often have a hard time upholding the bann. He describes his parents doing that. Anna, Paul and Jan are all under what progressive Amish call strict shunning. The only way that shun gets dropped to go back to the church they left and to repent and submit to the church and do whatever they tell you to do. That is a tough thing as it can be very difficult. This was not told to you in this movie, but from other sources, I know other things that Paul did. Paul divorced his Amish wife and remarried to a former Amish girlfriend and sued his first wife for custody of all 4 children, so I doubt the church would ever allow him to return.
Yes they are vastly different even in the same community! Remember we are talking about a man made religion and there are a lot more not just Amish. I was born Amish lost my parents to a Drunk Driver at the age of 4, I was placed with an Amish bishop. Just wanted to let everyone know I had first hand knowledge about them.
My Uncle Elmer was a member of the Amish Church, married his English neighbor’s daughter Theda. She had a sickness all of her young life and needed help doing everything including eating, Elmer being a kind young man would go and help them with her and the two fell in love with each other! The Bishop I lived with was the leader of that church, he insisted that he had to be shunned for caring about another human being! At our Miller reunions he always had to set at his own table and of course his wife now a healthy young lady would set with him. After a few years most people didn’t shun him anymore, but his nephew my first cousin shunned him all of his life, even though he was a Godly Christian man and the had 4 wonderful children! The day we buried Elmer after a year of fighting cancer, the church had a dinner for the people that attended his funeral. My Pharisee, Bishop of the Amish Church, cousin Menno Miller that had shunned Uncle Elmer all of his live came and ate dinner with everyone at the funeral and there were people there that had left the Amish Church that were also shunned! Figure that one out.
While I appreciated the film and it’s focus on Amish shunning, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the Amish who left, with the exception of the nurse, seemed like painfully dull and awkward people who came across as “foreigners” in their own country. I found that very sad. No wonder why some Amish, after leaving, choose to return to their culture, since some would probably never fit into the larger American (or as they say, “English”) culture. It was interesting to see just how deeply embedded some of the habits are in the ones who chose to leave. Never have I seen homes kept so clean and barren of decorations, even in some former Amish who have left the church years ago. Personally, I find the whole idea of shunning people to be extremely painful for those who are shunned, and deeply unChristian as a practice. People can of course, live however they want to live, but if a person is born into the Amish world, they will be trapped for their whole lives, unless they leave, but the penalty is severe, if not utterly ridiculous. It’s just too narrow and restrictive of a world, that creates narrow and restricted people, who work very hard, but don’t seem too terribly bright.