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Shunned

I watched the incredibly powerful and very moving documentary The Amish: Shunned last night on PBS. I highly recommend that you try to watch it. It is the story of seven individuals who left their Amish families and communities behind and were ostracized or shunned as a result.

This story represents a distilled micocosm of our "culture wars." What are the culture wars, after all, if not an almost tidal force pulling us between innovation, individual freedom and expression on one side, and custom, tradition, and the bounds of community on the other?

This remarkable film may feel very strange, certainly foreign or archaic to most of us, but the themes are familiar- the voices, whatever the accents, could be those of our own families as we struggle to find our way through our distracted, disrupted and tense times.

Here is a quote from the Shunned website:

Revealing the pain of those who leave and the suffering of those left behind, The Amish: Shunned is the story of people confronted with difficult choices. Whether out in the world for weeks or decades, the former Amish people featured in the film struggle to create a new sense of community. Interwoven with their stories are the voices of staunchly loyal Amish men and women who explain the importance of obedience, the strong ties and traditions that bind them together, and the heartbreak they feel when a loved one falls away. Through its sympathetic portrayal of both sides, the film explores what is gained and what is lost when community and tradition are exchanged for individuality and freedom.