Posted 21 September 2003 - 08:19 PM
Anyway, last night my family happened to get together to celebrate my sister's birthday and my own as well (which isn't for another 10 days, but my parents like to cut costs). And then my uncle and aunt showed up just as my other sister proposed that we all watch this documentary that she had taken out of the library. And so we did. And it was interesting, watching this film on Amish teens, given that everyone in the room was raised Mennonite (except for my father, who came to Christ in his early 20s, and my girlfriend, who is a convert to Orthodoxy).
For years now, I have pondered the question of how one draws the line between "religion" and "cult" -- so long as churches practise baptism and communion, there are arguably cultic elements (certainly from an anthropological point of view) in even the most modernized denominations -- and it was strange to see these teenagers grapple with the fact that they have been raised in such an extremely cloistered environment and are now being exposed to the world in the hope that it will inoculate them to the world and/or scare them back into the faith. In a nutshell, the kids go to school until they are 13, and then they are compelled to drop out of high school and get work, and then, at 16, they enter a phase where they are allowed to do pretty much whatever they want. In theory, these teens have not "joined" the church yet because, as Anabaptists, the Amish do not baptize anyone who has not attained the age of "accountability" and chosen to be a Christian; the Amish apparently don't think kids are ready to make that decision until they are at least 16, and that seemed a little weird to me, since I have very clear memories of asking to be baptized in a Mennonite Brethren church when I was only 11, and going through the appropriate 'adult Sunday School' classes, and then actually being baptized. We all believed that baptism was something someone should choose for himself, but no one ever suggested that I should wait until I was 16. And certainly no one ever suggested that it would be permissible for me to screw around as much as I wanted during my adolescence, which the Amish parents alluded to in this documentary seem to accept.
Anyway, at 16, these Amish kids are let loose, with the hope that they will eventually choose to join the church and commit themselves to the community for life -- a choice that is perhaps made unnaturally easy for them because they have no high school education and thus their options beyond the Amish community are somewhat curtailed. If they THEN decide to leave the community, they are 'shunned'. And I have to say it is profoundly strange to me, as an evangelical dating an Orthodox woman, to see an Anabaptist sect essentially promote itself to its offspring as the one true church. I can understand churches with some sort of apostolic lineage making such a claim, but THIS group? Exactly how do they teach the history of the faith to their young'uns, I wonder.
I could say more about this film, but I've got to get back to work. Anyone else seen it?
Posted 21 September 2003 - 08:44 PM
The one thing I wanted to make a comment on is that in Anabaptist churchs, it seems that kids keep getting baptised younger and younger. I'm personally of the opinion that if you're gonna baptise a 10 year old, you might as well have infant baptism and then confirm him at age 14, because there is no guarentee that 10 year old will remain "in the faith" any more than there is a child raised in the church from birth will.
Posted 21 September 2003 - 09:13 PM
I'm not so sure, having been baptised at 10. I knew what I was doing and saw it as a right of passage in life and faith. Ironically, I had a deep early crisis of faith when I was 15 and now date my life in Christ from when I was 16. To this day I cannot rationally account for the real conversion as a teenager in relation to the real faith I had much earlier that was "confirmed" when I was 10. You raise the concern of being in the faith later on. I don't see adolescent confirmation as any more secure a method than pre-pubescent baptism. Quite a few "lose" their faith in adulthood.
Posted 22 September 2003 - 01:14 AM
However, this is turning into a theology discussion (though I would be willing to discuss it in that forum), what I did want to add is that I'm really curious about this Devil's Playground film, because I've heard so much about this interesting Amish practice. Is the film available on video everywhere now?
Posted 22 September 2003 - 01:22 AM
: I'm personally of the opinion that if you're gonna baptise a 10 year old,
: you might as well have infant baptism and then confirm him at age 14,
: because there is no guarentee that 10 year old will remain "in the faith"
: any more than there is a child raised in the church from birth will.
Hmmm. Whereas I'm of the opinion that if you're gonna isolate your kid from the world at large and more-or-less brainwash him/her, you might as well have infant baptism -- this whole thing of letting your kids run wild when they turn 16, just so they can sin to their heart's content before coming back to the faith and calling it their "choice", just seems perverse, to me. (And no, I am not equating infant baptism with brainwashing, any more than I would equate child dedication with brainwashing -- rather, I am saying that the technical emphasis that the Amish place on the teenager's "choice" makes little sense to me when the children are given no real choice at all over their lives for the first 16 years or so.) Better to have some sort of continuity and to encourage faithfulness throughout the child's life, methinks.
: However, this is turning into a theology discussion . . .
True. And I admit that my comments on the film probably tilted more in a theological direction than a cinematic direction, and thus may have pointed the thread that way.
: Is the film available on video everywhere now?
Side note, more film-related than theology-related: It was funny how my brother, who is possibly the least religious member of the family, perked up near the beginning of the film and said, "Is that--? Is that--?" Sure enough, yes, it was -- much of the music throughout this film was by Aphex Twin, a band that I don't know very well but my brother is fond of. Interesting choice for a film about people who are caught between the 17th and 21st centuries.
Posted 10 May 2004 - 06:34 PM
Is the "one true church" doctrine an official Amish teaching? Kids in the film certainly seem to perceive it that way, but I'm not sure I trust their perception.
The film spends most of its time with one kid who decides to leave the church (or at least, by the end, hasn't decided to stay) and another who joined, later left and was shunned, then decided to attend college at Christ for the Nations Institute. There is a girl who decides to stay, but as you might imagine, her story isn't as interesting as the others.
Was bothered a bit by scenes where the camera pans around the trailer where several of the kids live as they're "waking up" in the morning -- those shots would definitely have to be staged, don't you think?
Posted 11 May 2004 - 08:30 AM
Posted 30 June 2004 - 01:37 PM
This film left me with a lot to think about. I'll repost my comments from the other thread in a moment.
I really think this belonged on our Top 100 list.