Even by reality tv's bizarre standards, UPN's Amish in the City was something of a milestone. The show featured five Amish teenagers in the midst of rumspringa, the period when young people decide whether they will join the community as adults. Amish in the City placed its adventuresome subjects in the oh-so-realistic environs of a Beverly Hills mansion, along with five city kids straight out of MTV central casting.
Long before it aired, Amish in the City was decried for exploiting a religious community mortified at the thought of owning a television, let alone appearing on one. But as the episodes went by, one thing became clear: The Amish kids were awfully sympathetic characters. Sure, they lacked style, street smarts, and experience with parking meters and sushi. But their upbringing in a rural, Christian culture had equipped them with qualities their urban counterparts lacked-such as, say, maturity. Amish in the City didn't do much for the reputation of reality tv, but it did something for the reputation of the Amish.
Non-Beverly-Hills-dwelling Amish are readily identified by their plain clothing and horse-drawn carriages, symbols of their collective decision to step off modernity's technological treadmill. But should this Anabaptist movement survive for another century, they won't just look different from other North Americans. More than ever, they will be different-because our culture will have changed the nature of human being itself.
Based on our growing knowledge of the human genetic code, we are on the threshold of not only curing disease but of redefining "normal." Parents already are pressuring doctors to prescribe human-growth hormones for slightly shorter-than-averagebut perfectly healthychildren. ...