What happens when rural Christians evangelize the Amish?

By | February 17, 2014

I’m a documentary nerd. I’ve been known to spend an entire weekend watching true stories about topics spanning from American History to Zoroastrianism. This weekend, I watched two films about an Amish family that was excommunicated by its community and faith after committing several seemingly harmless infractions.

What were the charges against them?
Well, the Amish have strict rules about the Bible. Amish Bibles are written in German, and they are required to use those German Bibles even though an overwhelming majority of the population no longer understand the language. Amish people who dare to read the Bible in English are in violation of the rules. The Amish are also not permitted to attend church with non-Amish people, and are prohibited from having significant contact with people outside their faith. They are also not permitted to sing hymns in groups without the greater congregation of Amish church members.

The three gentlemen upon whom these documentaries are mostly based are guilty of these infractions and several others. However, they did not begin their rebellion alone. They began to break the rules after coming into contact with Evangelical Christians who, as we learn in “Leaving Amish Paradise,” had a mission of evangelizing Amish people. Those Amish who accept the Evangelical message also begin to accept that they have been sheltered from English translations of the Bible, which in many cases are in stark contrast to Amish church teachings. The Amish defectors learn that they have accepted as “Scripture” what mostly amounts to a system of traditions, and they become disenchanted with their religious faith. For many, the desire to live Biblically (yes, I understand how problematic “Biblical” living can be, even among the Amish) outweighs the perceived benefits of maintaining faithfulness to tradition.

I invite you to watch these documentaries about the religious journeys of Amish people who have been impacted by Evangelicalism. I found the documentaries fascinating. I hope you will as well.

Part 1: Trouble in Amish Paradise

Part 2: Leaving Amish Paradise

4 thoughts on “What happens when rural Christians evangelize the Amish?

  1. jasdye

    Fascinating. Not having seen the films yet, of course, I can’t really weigh in, Crystal. But I’m thinking of this idea of leaving/abandoning one community for another and not really fitting in either (where for me it’s having a hand in several communities/ID’s but never really feeling fully at home in one or another).

  2. Jean

    I haven’t seen the documentary clips yet. It would have been better that non-evangelical Christians showed interested Amish on English Bible etc. and leave it up to them.

    I grew up in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, which has German-Mennonite cultural historical beginnings. The Amish also live in the area. (Waterloo County).

    A long time friend of mine is a conservative Mennonite which means white net cap over hair bun, always dresses, plain shoes (ie. tie up shoes or low loafers, running shoes), etc. Out of 9 siblings, only 3 have remained Mennonite. 1 is married to a non-Mennonite. Anyway…..over the decades of our friendship, I’ve attended church (I’m not a believer), participated in her wedding as her photographer, attended a Mennonite school graduation….among many other great friendship experiences.

    In some of the countryside drives, I was stunned to discover all sorts of fundamentalist factions (non-Mennonite, non-Amish), hidden quietly in the same area. I also learned there were up to 10 different Mennonite factions in our county …about 25 yrs. ago.

    Anyway she and her hubby run a used bookstore of wholesome books out in the country.

    Moving away from Mennonite (conservative or Old Order), has been difficult for some families. Somehow her family did find some cohesion since I attended some mega-extended family dinner.

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