I've been debating whether or not I want to discuss this topic, as it is pretty strange and has the potential to weird people out a bit. After a bit of discussion with a few of my friends, I've decided that I need to share this topic with the world, because it seems as though more people are interested in it than I originally thought.
I love the Amish. Specifically, I love the ex-Amish who have the balls to leave their Amish communities and spread their little ex-Amish wings into the "real" world. I've been intrigued by this community for quite awhile, due to my first Amish documentary, Amish at the Alter. The doc outlined the traditions of courting and getting married in the Amish community, as well as an ex-Amish couple who wanted to get married in the traditional way. Super interesting! But who are these ex-Amish?!
My friend Wikipedia informed me about rumspringa, a period of time for a 16-year old Amish boy or girl to basically go wild and do all the "English" (or non-Amish) activities ... drinking, smoking, pre-marital sex ... and then they make the decision whether to return to the Amish community and become baptized into the Amish church or not. These kids must have a lot of willpower to go back. I mean, I get it, morals and family are really important and whatnot, but going from a loosie goosie to going back to the strict and pure Amish lifestyle has to be difficult. Good for them.
Cue to last spring when I got a new client in Lancaster, PA. Home of the Amish! What an exciting opportunity to come across my favorite subjects to study. I was so excited when I was told to go visit the hospital for a meeting. Right in the middle of Amish country! I'll admit it was a huge disappointment when I saw not one single horse and buggy, no lady in traditional clothes, and no young man with suspenders. I was both hurt and furious. How dare they send me to the Amish community and now allow me to make friends with one single solitary Amish?!?! It still enrages me and coworkers still rag me on it.
Soon after my disappointing visit to Lancaster, I saw another amazing documentary on NatGeo, Amish: Out of the Order. This doc highlighted the ex-Amish community and both the struggles and triumphs of leaving the Amish community. The Amish are really great people with a very strong tie to community and family, so it must be terrible for them to leave that all behind when they leave the Amish lifestyle. The Amish shun anyone who leaves the order, and many ex-Amish are never able to see their family again. I couldn't even imagine it ... I mean, my family occasionally has the tendency to drive me nuts, and they don't always agree with everything I do/believe in, but I could never imagine them shunning me. Just think: one day, you have a kid that you love and would do anything for, and then the next day you are done with them for good? Terrible.
Anyways, the people on Amish: Out of the Order make attempts to continue with the lifestyle of embracing one's community and family, by bonding with other ex-Amish. This one fella basically fosters new ex-Amish kids, gives them a roof over their heads, food in their tummies, a job to eventually support themselves, and teaches them about the "English" or non-Amish life. The Amish don't believe in government, so they don't have a social security #, no birth certificate; it's like they never existed according to our government. The interviewer asks the guy if he thinks he's going to hell for leaving the Amish community, and even after all the good that he's doing for the ex-Amish kids, he thinks he's still going to hell ... ugh break my heart.
I researched to see if there were any books on the topic of the ex-Amish, but many seem to be a lot of "whoa is me" crapola that doesn't interest me. There are a few that I'm trying to track down (some idiot out there apparently has the same agenda and borrowed a book from the library about this very topic--I had no idea that others were also interested in the ex-Amish. I wonder if it's a single male ...). I'll be sure to report back on my findings.
The book that I'm most innerested in is Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish, which is based on the movie Devil's Playground (which is airing again on NatGeo on June 6th at 8pm. Yes, it's on my calendar. And yes, I am VERY excited).
I have yet to watch the entire Lifetime movie, Amish Grace, but I'd like to check it out. It's a nonfictional movie about a shooting in an Amish community and a grieving mother who can't find forgiveness, which is a huge deal. Looking forward to checking it out at some point.
So, there ya have it. Conclusion: I'm obsessed with the Amish, in all forms and am on a constant search for new Amish information.