Just my rambling thoughts about being gay and Mormon

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Living in our own world

I've been watching a British TV show called, "Amish World's Squarest Teenagers."  In the show 5 Amish teens from Pennsylvania travel to England for a month and spend a week each with 4 different families/groups of people. 

They have never experienced life outside their Amish community. The Amish teens have grown up working hard on farms and living without electricity, music, dancing, and the noise of modern life. In England they experience everything the modern world has to offer and the show records their reactions and interactions with British teens. It was fascinating. 

The show treats the Amish very respectfully and does not force anything but allows the kids to see a broad cross-section of British life and to experience and join in where they feel comfortable.

I can't begin to summarize the learning that happens on both sides as the Amish teens and the British teens learn about each other lives and become friends. The Amish are so completely innocent. The noise of dance clubs, the violence on the streets, seeing sex shops, and learning about drugs and everything else they see in London completely turns their world upside down. Then they go to live in the English countryside with a high-class family in a castle and then with a group of surfers on the coast. They are exposed to a world where the clearly defined roles for men and women don't exist and where they are exposed to other belief systems for the first time. The British kids are just blown away by the faith, discipline, and work ethic of the Amish teens. The Amish are blown away by the variety of experiences and the vast amount of free time available to the British kids.

The show is much deeper than just religion but because it is such an integral part of the Amish life it becomes a focus for some of the experiences. Some of the Amish teens can only respond that what they see is wrong because it is so counter to what they have learned growing up. One girl wonders aloud, "How do you know what religion is the true one with so many religions in a society?" Later, when an English teenager discusses religion with her she is challenged for the first time in her life about her concept of hell.  She wonders aloud about her regrets that her new English friends will go to hell because of the way they've been raised. 

I saw many parallels to the sheltered lives of some Mormon children who only later experience the outside world. In the end, I was impressed with both the British and the Amish kids. They were all good people who appeared to live the best lives they could within the world as they knew it. It left me wondering if it was really possible to say which group was more moral. They each acted morally within their own vastly different worlds but it was impossible to compare their moralities because their worlds were so different. 

In the end, I felt that the only real immoral act would be for one group to force it's belief system and morals on the other group. I've commented before that we each tend to love the belief system that we grow up with, until it no longer works for us. We are comfortable with it and for most people in the community the belief system works OK. But for some, including some of the Amish kids in this TV series, after exposure to other cultures they seriously consider if they want to continue in the belief system they were raised with or if they would be better off to move on to something else. In most cases, it has nothing to do with right and wrong but is just a matter of preference or fit for the individual and their personality, interests, and their hopes and dreams.  Powerful stuff.

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