The Amish – Lovely People…

So, the BBC had yet another documentary about the Amish last night. Following on from the programmes about the Stoltzfus families, the BBC gave us a programme about David and Miriam Lapp and their adorable children.

And, just as with the Stoltzfus families, I found myself simultaneously liking the Lapps, but also cringing at their complete obliviousness of what humanity has achieved, for better or for worse.

David and Miriam came across as genuinely likeable, but there was that awful frisson when Miriam started talking about the rod (as the Bible states), as an effective method of chastisement of her children, while smiling all the while. At this point, her youngest son pipes up to implore her not to use the rod (in her case a wooden spoon – with a smiley face drawn upon it!) on him. She grinned. I found that shocking and not at all cute or lovely.

In the end, I once more found myself thanking my lucky stars that I was not born into an Amish community. The chains around the human spirit would have proved too much for me.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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38 Responses to The Amish – Lovely People…

  1. Arthur Murgatroyd says:

    Seems you have a problem with parents disciplining their children.

    Regardless, the discipline of Amish parents does not necessarily result in ideal citizens as you would learn from the Stick Figure Production documentary “Devil’s Playground” about Rumspringa.
    Some Amish teenagers have even been arrested for being drug dealers.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      I don’t believe that beating children is a good way to bring them up.

      • L. Guenther says:

        I realize that the Lapps are in favor of corporal punishment, but I didn’t find that scene gruesome at all. The child in question was too young to hide fear and he obviously didn’t fear that spoon one bit……he was playing with it. Now, Miriam Lapp may use that spoon on occasion, but if you look at the body language and the interaction between the children and their parents, they have loving and gentle interactions with one another. I didn’t see it as anything more than that.

      • henrirt says:

        Thats not a beating when spanking a disobedient child.
        A beating is what America did to Britian during the revolutionary war.

      • Ivan jimenez says:

        Geoff, if you want to be taken seriously you need to leave the logical fallacies out of your arguments. When you wrote that you don’t believe that “beating children” is a good way to bring them up, it reeks of bias. If anybody were to watch the documentary they would see that Miriam referenced “light taps” and sometimes “harder tap”. For you to suggest that she beats her children is simply wrong. To give a name to the logical fallacy you used, my first thought would be a “thought terminating cliché” by the use of “beating”, but you also made “conspicuous withholding of relevant facts”, and a whole bunch of others.

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          You’re also assuming that her definition of a tap is your definition of a tap. The look on the child’s face when she spoke of this was, as I recall, not one of relaxation.

  2. l0lls22 says:

    I thought Miriam was generally very smiley and I didn’t think it was a terrible moment when she described her discipline methods – even though I disagree with them. Generally, I thought they were a lovely family and I was very touched by this programme. I think its wonderful that this couple, despite their very simple and prescibed existance have nevertheless had an awakening…really touching.

  3. Clare says:

    I agree. This was a truly insightful programme into the lives of Christian Amish. I was touched by their simple and family-loving way of life. The lack of need for materialism was refreshing and for me, thought provoking.

  4. Matt Foot says:

    The Bible is the word of God. Whether or not you agree with it is irrelevant; they follow it to the letter, and look HOW happy they are. I’ve yet to find SO many families as content with SUCH a simple and blessed life, as the Amish.

    Follow God’s instruction and ignore “opinions” – you won’t go wrong. God is perfect, ergo, his instruction manual gives you guidance for a happy life.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Matt, thanks for your opinion. However, based on the evidence I see, god is a human invention, and the bible is a collection of writings by human authors.

      • Zubin says:

        Geoff, its difficult to explain God’s existence- as difficult as explaining the taste of honey. Sincerely seek – from the bottom of your heart – saying, ” God , if you exist , reveal yourself to me” everyday ..and wait. I too had your belief that God was created by man but before I came to a final conclusion I did what I suggested to you … and my beliefs were turned on its head by Him whom I now worship as God my creator through a personal encounter which he gave me. No wonder Jesus said that He would reveal himself not to the wise of this world but to children!!

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Sorry Zubin, you might believe that; however that does not make it true. Personal encounters are not sufficient evidence except in the minds of those that have them. The brain is capable of many peculiar beliefs. Look up Cotard’s syndrome sometime, and then try and convince a sufferer of that that they are not dead but alive.

      • Pamela Enmark says:

        YES! And Shakespeare happens to be one of them! You’re right on this one Geoff!

  5. Lynn Peckham says:

    I enjoyed this programme.I am a Christian but for me, that wasn’t what was pertinent. I found their entire way of life fascinating. Life is so frenetic, that to see people able to live in this world without all the things we think we can’t live without, mobile phones, computers, cars etc, was really refreshing. I found myself envying the total simplicity of their lives. Yes, they work hard but they have something to show for it. And their families definitely benefit. Family life today is under threat, these people know that family is important and something to be valued. We have so much technology that is supposed to make our lives easier. All it seems to be doing is making life faster and isolating us even more from each other. Maybe it’s time to take note and realise that we need to simplify our lives and concentrate more on the small things…..?

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Lynn, I sympathise with your viewpoint, but the means to live simpler is within ourselves. I concur with you that concentration on the small things in life is valuable. I just happen to do that without the need for gods. Family is important, but I suspect that the Amish would disagree with me over what a family is.

      • Lynn Peckham says:

        Yes,Geoff, I agree. The mere fact that I am sitting in front of this computer proves that we are not always strong enough to resist the lure of technology. I yearn for a simpler life, for myself and my children. I despair that children are forced to grow up so quickly, not knowing a childhood. What I loved about this programme was how the children had such freedom and innocence. My 10 year old is more like a teenager despite our efforts to keep things simple. We have tried to hold off on the gadget buying, she’s just got an MP3 player and her requests for a mobile phone have been ignored. We live in the country and I am keen to move to an even more rural area to try to escape the frenetic pace of a town/city. We tried living in London before we had children(we’re originally from South Africa) and just couldn’t take the pace of life there. It was too loud, too fast and way too superficial and impersonal. Society is losing sight of the importance of connections, everyone is only in it for themselves. It’s very me-orientated…what can I get out of it…Anyway, sorry for the soapbox speech. This is something I have a very strong opinion about and as I said, I have long found the simple Amish way of life enviable. I mentioned to my daughter tonight that we need to move to America and go to live with them. Needless to say she was horrified…esp when I said there is no tv, no phones, no computers 🙂

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Lynn, no need to apologise for the soapbox!

          As I said before, I can sympathise. When I was young, I lived in London and loved it, but now I’m very content to live in the country, and don’t miss city life at all. Nonetheless, technology is extremely useful, and I don’t think should be dismissed as simply “a lure”. My computer and the internet is what enables me to keep in touch with my “nearest” and dearest beyond my physical neighbourhood, and that’s a boon, and it enables broadening of horizons far beyond what was available to my parents or others in the world today.

          Connections *are* important, but they can occur in all sorts of ways and places, and while some of them can only be mediated via technology, they’re not necessarily the worse or the poorer for that.

  6. Karen Collins says:

    While I think the Lapp family seem really lovely people, and I do slighly envy what seems a very simple life, realistically though I don’t think god would deem all modern technology as a sin if they had any. Its all about control and it does not need to damage any ”family time”. I don’t really like the way the Amish elders seem to dictate their parishioners lifes and the fact they could not be honest and tell their elders in fear of being ex-communicated tells me something is wrong. God forgave sinners and nobody has the right to say anything different.

    • Zubin says:

      Yes Karen,I agree with you. I however think that the Lapp family is challenging those beliefs within their community. The challenge for us is greater- not to become Amish but to incorporate their value and priority systems of 1st place to Jesus, then family , then work, centering their lives around the principles, words and faith in Jesus while living in the midst of technology and within the hustle and bustle of modern life. I guess the key is to love …love of God and of man under the power and leading of the Holy Spirit. Then as scripture says….we would truly become..”the lamps to be kept on the lamp-stands”..children of God. “Bloom where you are planted”

  7. Maggie says:

    I just watched this documentary and realised what we are missing in life…….simplicity and love towards one another. The world is in turmoil and yet they seem to escape it, instead, focussing on their beliefs and values. I wonder if the world would be a much better place if only we held the same values……..love goes a long way.

  8. Matt Foot says:

    You see the happiness, yet cannot account for it, since you seem to be rejecting God. You could never experience the joy these Amish have in life WITHOUT God, to pretend otherwise is just foolishness. The remainder is a big wooden house, nice people and lots of hard work. They alone do not create happiness. Impossible.

  9. Rob says:

    During the show, there was a simply lovely piece of music played in the background. It sounded like Bach and was sung by 2 women – anyone out there know the song/singers etc? it was breathtaking

    • Katie says:

      Rob,

      The music is Salve Regina and It is performed by a group called ‘All Angels’. You can purchase it from Amazon.

      I concur that the music is very beautiful. But.. the good people at the BBC showed how little they really understand about the history of the Amish people. Salve Regina is an anthem that exalts the Virgin Mary in the sense that Catholics view her. The Amish are Anabaptists and find Catholic doctrines regarding the virgin Mary to be profoundly in error. The Anabaptists fled Catholic persecution. I’m not going to take sides here, I just think that it shows how little the BBC seriously researched their subject.

      In general the BBC has done good work, so this surprised me.

      Because He Lives……

  10. ottomummy says:

    Bit late on the responses, but I just Googled to find out what happened to the Lapp family. I too was taken with their “simple” lifestyle. But the undercurrents of their life is far from simple. Remember how they had to hide the fact that they had been re-baptised for fear of excommunication. In what way is that a good life to lead. That your elders will cast you out if you do not follow their strict and unbending rules and therefore you have to “lie” to them or “avoid telling the truth”. What the programme did not discuss (and good, because it was about the Lapp family only) was that the Amish community is in a state of turmoil and are split into many divisions. Let’s take the simple life and the religious life separately. We can all lead a simple life, making decisions that we do not have to hide from others for fear of exclusion. I though Miriam was great and she seemed to understand that the elders had some strange ideas that rather got in the way of being a Christian.

  11. Paul T says:

    I think the piece of music you mention was a variation of Pachabel’s Cannon – I agree a lovely piece of music. This was a wonderful, thought-provoking programme.

  12. Ohanzi says:

    I think the family is wonderful, although I don’t agree with the wooden spoon as a punishment. I never or have spanked my child. She is 21 yrs. old now. But, as a child when she fibbed or said a swear word, I had no one to blame but myself. When she done something that I didn’t approve of, I just pulled her aside and talked to her, in a calm voice… after that…she went outside to play and I went about my house work…. end of story.

  13. val dc says:

    Hi ! I’m french abd I’ve just seen that documentary. Something really shocks me ! Did you hear Miriam when she talks about her wife condition ? She said that sometimes David blames her for things that she has done wrong. She said that she must be grateful even if it hurts her. And I think to myself that the woman condition take a big slap of 50 years back. She lives trought her husband, she have no own personnality, she’s a shadow… do you really think that’s she’s happy ?
    And when she talks about her poor David who’s suffering so much because means womens are not dressed in a appropried way… She didn’t know anything about that before he told her how difficult it is to be a man ! Hey ! Are you kidding ? It must be a joke !
    Just like you I thought at first that they were a quite nice family, but there’s someting strange, something wrong in that so perfect life they seem to have.
    Sorry for my english, I know it’s not perfect 🙂

  14. Dave says:

    I guess I’m a bit late with my response here, just a few years. Anyways, English isn’t my mother tongue either but I feel confident enough to give it a shot. Just deal with the typos and grammatical horrors I will most likely fabricate.

    Maybe it’s a good idea to elaborate on the way the documentary was seen through my eyes. Go get some coffee or tea, because this might become lengthy. (edit: it’s ridiculously long. Maybe I should have just said “hi”.)

    Since I am agnostic to the core, I didn’t come here to sell a religion or deny the existence of any religion. My world revolves and evolves around evidence, logic, common sense and plausible theories. I approach science in the same manner as I approach religion. Let’s just say that in science things add up most of the time, and when it doesn’t it’s because old scientific theories have been found inaccurate or simply wrong. When that happens the scientific world usually embraces these new findings. Science is open minded and always can always undergo massive changes within its own theories.

    That’s where religion falls short in my opinion. There are so many different religions (and branches) out there that all claim they are right. I’ve taken a lot of time to dive into many of them. If one religion is right, other religions must be wrong. That would mean quite a few people have gambled wrong. All those unfortunate people will have wasted their lives and will, according to some religions, end up in hell. So even when they think they are doing the right thing, some loving and forgiving god will send them to hell. If you grew up without even knowing about religion, you’ll go to hell. If you’re a baby that died before being baptized, theoretically you’ll go to hell too. If you chose to be agnostic and live a good and loving live without causing any harm, you’ll still go to hell according to some of these religions. These are usually the same religions that have left an unerasable trace of pain, torture, rape, murder, blood and suffering throughout history. Many times contradicting the very essence they try to underline. And all this horror just keeps on happening as we speak. All in the name of some loving god.

    There´s very little logic and common sense in all of that. Which brings me back to what I said before; I am agnostic. I’m not saying there is no god. I’m just saying that if there is a god and all those men written scriptures were right, I will most likely go to hell. Despite the fact that I try to live my life the best way I can. Helping, caring, loving those around me and even some I don’t even know. If I chose to live like this and it turns out that there is a god after all, and he’ll send me to hell for not believing in him,.. I’d rather be in hell. That kind of god is not loving, forgiving or caring. That kind of god is a dictator, a narcissistic and truly nasty creature. That’s all hypothetical of course, from an agnostic point of view.

    Now, for the documentary. I found it very enlightening to see how these wonderful people live. One thing that really stuck with me was how David noted that he hoped that he didn’t offend anyone by showing the world how they live and showing their vision of life. If all religions would be like that this world would be a much better place. In that aspect he is a much better man than I am since I am pretty sure I offended a few people by writing some of the things above. The documentary has also shown the struggles within this particular religion itself, and how structures are being build to avoid people from leaving the religion. This is how every religion works though. There’s very little to no room for questioning. Believe or be wrong and pay the price. In this particular case Miriam even mentioned the lies that have been forced upon them.

    Something I find strange about the Amish is how they (most of them anyways) do their best to avoid the use of technology.Yes a phone is okay, as long as it’s not in the house. Using technology when it’s owned by someone else (a car for instance) is okay as well. Living your life simple out of free choice isn’t a bad thing. Living your life simple because your religion tells you to live it simple is something a bit different. There’s really no choice in what you want then really. Your children won’t really have a choice either. Religious rules are spoon fed into them, shielding them from the outside world, for the sole purpose of protecting the religion itself. How can you challenge your believes if you have no idea what the alternatives are? How can you determine what is the truth and what isn’t if you’ve only been shown one “truth”? Even more important: How can you know Tony Blair isn’t pulling the strings anymore if you’re shielding yourself and those you love from the outside world?

    Another thing that made me think was that, apparently, David had some inner battle going on regarding the opposite sex and the challenges it presented in regards to lust. The total lack of education is overwhelming. It would be interesting to witness a conversation between him and a radical muslim. “You blow yourself up and you get how many virgins you said???”

    Apart from that, I truly admire David and Miriam. It must have taken a lot of courage, faith and doubts to go along with this documentary. My heart broke when I saw the sadness and pain Miriam was going through when she started crying. The smile she wore throughout most of the documentary was replaced by reality and awareness. The mask came off, just for a little while.

    Still, this dysfunctional planet has a lot to learn from them when it comes to basic values. If David and Miriam are brave enough, they could learn a thing or two from us as well. They opened the door for us, reaching out and offering some insight. An open door allows passage from two directions. Let’s hope the best values and standards will find they way through.

    I hope David, Miriam and their beautiful kids didn’t have to go through a lot of stress and pain as a result of this documentary. Either way, I’m grateful that they had the courage to allow this to be filmed.

    • yahwehprevails says:

      Thumbs Up Dave!

      I sooo enjoyed reading your comment. You sir are a wonderful person, as I assessed from your statements. I am a believer of our Heavenly Father and a believer of His Truth. You are spot on about the division in religion… Religion is a lie & a trap from ye old evil one, indeed! The Bible has become the ‘Holy Babble’ with its many versions abound to surround and confuse the masses. Many tales of woe have been stated about our Heavenly Father, yet another way to seek, kill & destroy the masses one way or the other.

      I understand that you are agnostic and clearly see why it is so… In your statements I see that you are ManKind living in the ways of this world and the deception thereof. You have a brilliant mind and at best have kept yourself away from the minds of many, setting your own self set-apart from the rest who follow this and follow that never finding TRUTH.

      I leave this comment section with special thoughts of you, blessed to have read your statements. Take Care & Stay Safe!

  15. yahwehprevails says:

    What a crock @Geoff…

    How you found anything @ the Lapp’s family filming out of order shows you have no respect for a family living a life worth the living! You need to go back to kindergarden and start over, more so as a young Amish child. Complete obliviousness is who you are! You see only what man has invented over time, not what ManKind should do to live a life well worth the living! Kiss Off!!!

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