It was really interesting tonight as on Compass (a ABC program analysing religion) there was documentary on Amish: and the people that leave the Amish.
I have always found the Amish to be an interesting, vibrant, cultural movement. I was homeschooled using material from a similar, albeit a more liberal movement: the Mennonites. After researching the movement however, I do realise it has a shadowy side, something which this program drove home for me.
It troubled me greatly for example that whilst it is assumed that the "rules" (which govern everything from dress styles to prayer styles) arise from the bible, the reality is that many Amish have never read a bible they could fully understand (they still use the old german bible, a language many of them cannot read nor understand), creating a very obvious problem. Add into this that actual bible study is discouraged: in fact people are shunned for something as simple as reading the bible and then from what they read having the courage to stand up to the elders/bishops and disagree with some aspects of their legalistic take on things.
That was where the show took us: showing us a different, more brutal side of Amish life. I think too often their way of life has been promoted and praised, neglecting to mention the shunnings, the strict rules etc: basically the down side to any fundamentalist religion.
I think the Duggars (a fundamentalist, quiverfull family) are often portrayed in the same positive light as the Amish: just seen as a little more in touch. I have discussed the Duggars and the now infamous sin in the camp comment on here before: and how I struggle to comprehend how a family can appear to be that happy, that together. No family (that I know at least) is that perfect.
That's not to say that I don't still hold a touch of respect for their way of life. I admire the simplicity, the honesty. But yet, the dark side of the beast is still there, simmering under the surface, destroying families, hope and lives.