Breaking Amish was a television series that I’ve never seen a single episode. On occasion, I would see a preview or a commercial for it, but the other day the thought of it struck me. Here is a description of the former series.
The reality series `Breaking Amish’ provides a unique look into the lives of young men and women as they break free from their Amish or Mennonite traditions to pursue dreams in another world altogether. Living in New York City and Brooklyn, New York, the cast wears jeans, uses electricity, and spends time in places that serve alcohol – all first-time experiences for them – but taking advantage of Western luxuries has its disadvantages. The cast members likely will be abandoned by their families if they commit to living full-time on the outside, and even if they return to their previous lifestyles, they risk being shunned by their community altogether. The choice is theirs, and they know it comes with potential lifelong consequences.
Amish and Mennonite communities and, subsequently, many Orthodox Christian communities place high priorities on external conformation to community standards, and this is clear with the Amish. The men wear blue or gray pants with suspenders, black shoes, and blue work shirts and wide-brimmed hats. The women wear blue or gray ankle-length dresses, hair bonnets, and black shoes.
Legalism is about appearances. They conform to a set of community standards that others set for themselves and those around them. Authoritarianism drives the train. While legalism can exist without authoritarianism, where authoritarianism exists, legalism abounds. They go together like “peas and carrots.”
Whether this show was a representation of reality or not is certainly debatable, but the concepts are legitimate and of great concern to the children in these environments. Not all children will run off to New York City and go wild. Some will internalize, and some will openly rebel. My contention with legalistic, cultic, authoritarian churches is that many of the children will grow up to become this themselves, or they will rebel against the system.
Upon leaving a place bound in legalism and authoritarianism, I made the argument that the children growing up in this place will grow to hate Christianity. They will only see it as a big set of rules. A series of do this but do not do that. Dress like this, but do not dress like that. But the whole time they most often see the hypocrisy of the adults involved. You see it is always easier to be a purveyor of the rules than an actual follower of the rules. I hope I am wrong, but we watched the faces of the children as they grow up. They went from joyful, fun-loving kids to, in many ways, expressionless and somber. When seeds of Christianity seemed to blossom, they were often squashed because their testimonies did not meet community standards. They probably had not mourned enough.
True Christian freedom exhibited in the fruit of the Spirit is that we are free to love and be loved, to live for the glory of God in a way that each are unique and representative of the complexities of variety that God creates, but in authoritarianism, it is like Amish and Mennonite life. Everyone should look the same. Stand in line, wear the same clothes, have the same responses the questions asked…
Will the adults realize this before it is too late? I do not know, but we can hope, and we can pray.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23