I confess to knowing little about the Amish, but recently I watched the television series “Breaking Amish” with mouth wide open wonder. It is a reality show about young Amish and Mennonite people with one Mother thrown in. These young people have decided to go “English” as they call it. It means they will be throwing off their entire outer garb that declares them to the world to be in a religious sect. Off they go to New York City to “fit in” at last. But they can’t. After having been taught all of their lives the do’s and don’ts of their religion, some go completely wild, others shed their “look” but seem to hold onto certain beliefs, and Mom, well, she tries it all, but couldn’t make the switch.
Throughout the show, scenes are preceded by random Bible verses that the producers feel apply to the next scene. This series, these characters, and these scriptures taken out of context and made to apply to whatever they think it fits, reminded me of my time in the UPC. The religion portrayed here had no more to do with the teachings of Jesus than any other Bible based religion of rules and regulations. It was all about a group of people being controlled by a set of rules the leaders deemed necessary to control where they live, how they look, and what they can do. It was tragic to watch as one young man went out and nearly ruined his life trying to live on the outside, then going back in to stay out of trouble, but then ultimately going back out because he has now become a misfit. The young couple on the show seems to successfully make a transition to “English” life. They throw off the outer garb, give up the horse and buggy, and drive a pickup truck but when push comes to shove; they revert back to the same old beliefs and expect others to live by them too. The Mom goes back to her husband to live in the community, despite the fact that she knows she will never be accepted by them again. She will also be expected to have nothing to do with her own “English” children.
Sadly, in my UPC, I saw all of these characters play out – those who go in and out, miserable in, miserable out, all the while their life never having purpose. There are those who leave but still hold on to the idea that they know “the truth” yet pick and choose which part they hold to and expect others to hold on to same. Then, there are those who stay despite the pull of the outside world because of fear. An unhealthy Fear of God (He will get you), fear of the leaders and fellow members opinion, or because it appeases their family; no matter how wrong they know it is. When you are a member of a mind control group, if you stay or if you leave, your life will never be the same.
I am eternally thankful that I was able to make a clean break and no, it has not been easy. Sometimes it feels like I have clawed and scratched out every inch of the way. I got in as a young girl with only one of those taken out of context scriptures pounded into my mind by my grandma; so I was virgin soil in which to plant their brand of mind controlling, cookie cutter look, you better stay in line dogma.
I have learned since leaving what matters most:
Those of you who try to be put right with God by obeying the Law have cut yourselves off from Christ. You are outside God’s grace. As for us, our hope is that God will put us right with him; and this is what we wait for by the power of God’s Spirit working through our faith. For when we are in union with Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor the lack of it makes any difference at all; what matters is faith that works through love. Galatians 5:4-6 GNT