Breaking Amish=Breaking Hearts?

The TLC channel is rolling out yet another "reality" TV show. No, it's not about people in a polygamous relationship or about nerdy adults who are virgins. Its not about people who have taboo sex, talk to "dead people" or about a little girl who lives in the south with a family who seemingly loves breathing on each other for fun in addition to being loud and obnoxious.

No, no folks. Those stellar shows are already featured on the network.

The latest show is called Breaking Amish and it features five young men and women who are either Amish or Mennonite and wish to leave their families and their way of life to travel to the outside world of New York City.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think young people wanting to go outside the norm of their family life is something that is rare. That desire to explore the "outside world" whatever it may be is a common part of growing up. And obviously, someone who has grown up in the Amish community has given up a lot of material comforts and conveniences. I think it would only be natural to sometimes wonder what life on the outside is like.

My issue with the show is two-fold:

TLC photo
1) Just because the Amish adhere to a simply and strict way of life doesn't necessarily make it bad. I think many times mainstream television tries to make people who follow a religious way of life appear to be stupid or naive or backwards. One of the girls featured on the show seems to have some deep struggles with her adoptive family that go far beyond her life in the Mennonite community. As I heard her speak of her struggles, it made my heart break to hear the raw sorrow in her life that seems like it has a deep core and cause that isn't really about not getting to wear jeans and high heels.

Although I am not Amish, I do think that in the long run, they may be better off eternally than many in the "modern" world. What they sacrifice now, for whatever reason, pays off. They certainly wont be slaves of the government or the grocery story should times get hard. They stick together and mind their own business. They work hard and serve God to the best of their knowledge. Their life, though certainly not perfect (nor is anyone else's) is a rich life.

2) Is the TLC channel truly giving these young people a taste of "reality" when they bring them to NYC? In some of the promos, it looks like they live in a nice place, go out and do fun things and party often. One of the girls has a modeling session wearing a bikini (I think she gets a DUI at some point in the show) and another of the young men takes driving lessons. My question is, who is paying for their stay and activities? I am guessing the young people didn't save up all their money for a few years to fund this journey, so the TLC channel must be paying for everything and then paying them as well to appear on the show.

Is that real? The cost of living in New York city is extremely expensive. Who could come off an Amish farm and foot the bill for that kind of living? Is that really fair to the young people? For certainly, if they leave their families for good and move to the city, they won't be able to live that kind of life. It's not reality at all. (that would be like saying that The Bachelor dating show is a lesson in real relationships and dating. Yikes).

People probably find Breaking Amish fascinating because it gives them a small glimpse into a simple, hidden life that is rarely seen. But I am guessing it also fills people with dread of "oppressive religion" and they feel inclined to encourage the young people in a life of "freedom." So.....freedom being drinking, partying and hooking up? Is that the fulfillment of modern life?

I guess my heart goes to the young people as real people. What will be their final destiny? The TLC channel will make their money but what happens when the cameras stop rolling? Will the young people be shunned by their families? Will one of them get pregnant? What are they going to do for a living? Will their hurts be healed?

Although these young people are consenting adults and are free to do as they choose, I just wonder if something like this is in their best interest. And at what cost will their "freedom" come?


I also have issues with this show. As the parent of a child who has left his faith upbringing, I know of the heartbreak that causes in a family. I feel sorry for this young people and their families and do not think that a TV show has any business breaking up families like that. It is truly despicable! Thanks for your post!
Thank you sister so much! :)
Unknown said…
How sad that these young people are being exploited for entertainment. Their authentic curiosity and lostness has been led astray by evil that will destroy them. The answer to life isn't found on some sleazy New York street...getting drunk or living in the pagan world only begets more wounds...not the healing and maturity they are seeking. May the Lord have mercy on them and protect them during this ordeal.
Anonymous said…
I have not seen this show, so I can't comment on particulars. However the concept of "Rumspringa" among the Amish (a period of adolescence where some youngsters experiment with non-Amish ways) is not uncommon. As I understand it, teens are allowed some experimentation, before they make their choice to become adult members of the church. Of course, I imagine this would vary between different communities.

To your point #1, I would also caution that living an Amish lifestyle is also not inherently good. I believe only individuals make it so, and with their individual behaviors and choices. Take the recent conviction of Samuel Mullett Sr, an Amish man who organized a group to commit hate crimes against other Amish. Having grown up in Ohio (where seeing Amish/Mennonite folks is not uncommon), I've always held a deep respect for their way of life. But they are not saints by default.

To your point #2, I heartily agree. That sounds nothing like "reality" -- but then that is true for most reality shows. =)
Thanks for bringing up such interesting issues in your blog.

Popular posts from this blog

Fr. Santan Pinto, SOLT 1948-2011

Pilgrimage To Poland