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article imageReview: Amish — A Secret Life Special

By Alexander Baron     Aug 3, 2012 in Lifestyle
There are a quarter of a million Amish living in the United States; in this one-hour documentary, a BBC team films one family close up in defiance of the strict Amish code against photography and filming.
The Amish are well known in both the United States and throughout the world; there are websites dedicated to them, which of course they don't run themselves.
Generally though, they are not seen up close, but in this programme, the BBC has been granted rare perhaps even unique access to an Amish household. David and Miriam Lapp are Old Order Amish, the most orthodox of the religion; their house has no electricity, they have no telephone, and they dress extremely plainly.
Although they are not totally cut off from the modern world, they don't appear to read newspapers either; Miriam thought the Prime Minister of England was Tony Blair, obviously confusing him with the indicted war criminal of that name.
According to Miriam, the Bible tells women to be keepers at home and submissive to their husbands, and to look well to the ways of their households, a thoroughly progressive idea that is unfortunately entertained by very few modern women outside of strictly orthodox Moslem and Jewish families.
The Lapps have four young 'uns, the two youngest of whom run around their small holding barefoot, and this, coupled with both a lack of electricity and Miriam's candid admission that she does not spare the rod would be considered by many self-styled liberals to be tantamount to child abuse.
David and Miriam allowed in the cameras because they want Amish culture to be understood; the team did not expect to be given access to anything more than the family home, and even that meant David and Miriam were risking excommunication, but remarkably they were able to film an Amish women's meeting too.
The following week there was another meeting, of men as well as women, and some of them were driving cars. One man present had a full beard - normally, Amish men wear beards without moustaches.
It is clear there is an enormous schism within the Amish religion, and its entire way of life, a schism that has been caused mostly, but not entirely, by that thing we call progress.
Five months later, the BBC team was back in Amish country, by which time the Lapps were moving to another, larger house, David having managed to afford a farm. Later, David is shown using a telephone, though not in the family home, but could that have been a refrigerator in Miriam's kitchen?
Amish: A Secret Life is currently on iplayer for those who can receive it.
More about old order amish, Lancaster county, miriam lapp, david lapp, Amish
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