A couple of years back, I blogged about a documentary made by Andrew Tait. It was Trouble in Amish Paradise, and followed the lives of two Amish families. Last night, the follow-up documentary, also made by Tait, was shown on BBC2: Leaving Amish Paradise. It was an equally extraordinary and revealing piece of work.
It followed the fortunes of the same two Amish families: Ephraim and Amanda Stoltzfus and their children, and his brother Jesse Stoltzfus, his wife Elsie and their children. By the time of this second film, Ephraim and Amanda had already left their Amish church for an evangelical Christian church, and Jesse and Elsie were on the point of doing the same.
By my lights, of course, leaving the Amish for evangelical Christianity strikes me as jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, but Ephraim had no doubts whatever. Indeed his total, and unshakeable, belief that God would provide was either admirable or utterly foolhardy, depending on where you stand. That said, it was rather curious how money apparently turned up in envelopes to keep the family afloat, and the film opened with Ephraim and his family on a trip to Britain, which had been paid for by people who had seen the first documentary.
As I wrote last time, both families were very personable, but every now and then, something would be said that brought one up short. Usually it would be Ephraim; as for example when he said (apropos his handing out of messages from the Bible to passers-by):
People are more receptive here than in England. In England they’ve been taught Darwin for [pause] quite a few years more than we have here. The Bible says that in the beginning, God created the world in six days, and that’s what I… that’s what the truth… That’s the truth, that’s what happened in six days. Darwin doesn’t believe that way. Or he didn’t. He does believe that way now. Darwin now is saying “Yes Jesus was the Christ, and I didn’t acknowledge it in the past, but he is. And I wish I would have, you know”. Darwin is in Hell, today, according to the scriptures.
That’s his reality.