With the beginning of Breaking Amish: Los Angeles, the second installment of the pop-culture phenomenon, more Old Order Amish/Mennonite rules have been broken in an increasingly tangible manner and with unprecedented allowance from the community. From pregnancy to criminal experimentation to living amongst the community while pursuing worldly/selfish dreams, these new “breaking baddies” are living more explicitly sinful in an Christian-based environment that has accommodated these behaviors; thus giving permission for the participants to have their cake and eat it too. However, these scenarios would not been contrived without the permissible pre-conditions set up from the first heat of “breakers” who were divorced, exploring the English world well beyond their adolescence, and inviting the cameras to record all their drama to glorify these deviations- all without any serious shunning/excommunication. With the Old Order allowing these initial amendments, it was lending way to a complete nullification of their cardinal rules of conduct through inconsistence in strict punishment and tip-toeing the line between an objective right versus justified impulse. Therefore, through admissions in love, exploration, and vanity it is easy to see understand how these former Amish/Mennonite casts commit such moral crimes against a lenient rule system that offers frequent “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.
In regards to marriage, sex, and associated offspring, many of the imposed guidelines were violated more appropriately in Breaking Amish: New York, than in the latest season. According to the National Geographic article, “Amish: Out of Order”, community participants do not enact divorce, pre-marital sex, or re-marriage with blended families for fear of being shunned; however when Rebecca, New York, divorced her husband to marry fellow cast-member, Abe; Jeremiah philandered with several women- including a few cast-mates, and Rebecca/Abe married while taking her newborn from a previous marriage as their own, these actions did not cause tangible retribution from the community other than simple dissatisfaction. The possible explanations for “turning the other cheek” in these scenarios is the perceived ownership of their faults/holy empowerment to remedy these sins; i.e. divorce is recognition of an ungodly union and movement towards a stronger love, pre-marital sex is recognizing a weakness to the flesh, along with a search to find someone to end the multiple partners; and the blended family is an effort to recognize a lack in paternal strength but finding double the effort in another who takes on a non-blood child along with creating his own. Therefore, with loose guidelines noticeably developing around these acts, it is no wonder Lizzie, Los Angeles, is pregnant and partner-less while Betsy left her current husband to explore an English life of adultery, since only hypothetical- not actual- threats are mentioned during their interviews. With constant justification for broken rules, defiance has developed into more blatant admissions of the cardinal Amish statutes with no plan for repentance and only further comfort through selfish sinful investment.
Furthermore, the pre-conditions for more devious secular explorations come from the Old Order allowing these cast-mates to experience life outside the Amish community at ages 20-32. According to Johns Hopkins’ published article, “Growing Up Amish: The Teenage Years”, the designated “Rumspringa” is a time of worldly trial, without fear of repercussions from the family unit or church, as the participant has not yet been baptized to earn this jurisdiction. However, judging by the name of the article, this permission applies to youths age 16-18 and accommodates only small-time experimentation, such as driving a car or smoking a cigarette, as long as it is within range of the community and lasts only a few days. Through this guideline, the worldly pleasures are trivialized, localized within the community, and minimized to 2-7 days, so the adolescents do not sway too far from the Amish Order and still prefer this lifestyle overall. However, with the participants of Breaking Amish exploring the world in their mid-twenties, over 30+ days, and in New York City/Los Angeles; the cast-members were prone to binge drinking, deviant sexual experimentation, and criminal activity. Under pretense of the timeframe being one of “Rumspringa”, the Amish/Mennonite participants did not experience any remorse for violating their communal guidelines, other than feeling personal guilt for violating their own emotions. Furthermore, going into Season 2, the participants are shown partying at strip clubs, engaging in threesomes, and performing assaults without, of course, reflection on how this effects their community or general sense of social respect.
Lastly, the third main violation of the Amish/Mennonite Creed is the allowance of vanity by the cast-mates having their lives filmed for an entertainment/celebrity pretense. According to “Amish: Out of Order”, the mere idea of a photo being taken, let alone the Amish lifestyle being put on continual display/admiration through broadcast media, is strictly forbidden. Although, the series might have started as an educational documentation, the stories unfold in a made-for-TV fashion, with drama as the main focus and notoriety/dedicated followers as the main objective. With the participants’ stories at the center of this contrived phenomenon, the show naturally lends itself to self-centeredness, with each participant seeking their story to reign supreme and, if need be, stomp out the competition to do so by creating a more intriguing storyline than the other. Furthermore, going into Season 2, the idea of Amish pushing back against their credo has created a pop-culture niche, causing admiration of these Amish outcasts for their continued entertainment value rather than respecting their struggles. Thus, with the increasing allowance of filming within the Amish community, via a competitive, broadcast network, the cast is led into the darkest fortress of vanity and the strongest catalyst to all the major sins of the community.
Throughout my dissertation, it is apparent that the lack of punishment/wavering rules of conduct for the Old Order Amish/Mennonite communities has led to a constant need to test even further waters. With the cardinal rules of love, exploration, and vanity being violated, with no effort to coax these participants back, they will continue disregarding their previous moral code and develop a personal code of conduct to guide the right/wrong of their own impulsive actions. This inconsistency in rules not only proves that any act has a gray lining, but also these former Amish are not held accountable for their actions- potentially causing more than just a moral violation.