American Colony: Meet the Hutterites premiered this week on the National Geographic Channel, and one has to wonder, why?
It’s not that the show isn’t an interesting concept—in fact, delving into the inner workings of a religious group like the Hutterites is a lot like finding the key to a secret society, and that can be quite intriguing. But, really, why would a religious group like the Hutterites, who presumably live their lives away from the spotlight of the modern world, decide to invite cameras into their private society?
Claudia is one of the younger members of the Hutterite King Colony. In the first episode, she wants to invite a boy—a Hutterite runaway—to the upcoming Harvest Party. Her mother, inquiring about her potential date, asks about him, and she is honest: He is an ex-Hutterite.
“Well, you know you can’t do that. You know what happens when you marry off the colony. I don’t want you to get close to him,” Bertha told her daughter.
“I hate hearing Claudia talking about dating outsiders,” Bertha said to the camera. “If she marries an outsider, she’d have to leave the colony. That would be the worst nightmare for me.”
So, what sense does it make to be bringing more of the outside into the colony, if this is the mindset of the Hutterites?
Still, Bertha does say, “I would love to see Claudia living in a Hutterite colony all her life. But, I want to see her happy, too,” alluding to the distinct possibility that she may leave one day.
High School Not Permitted by Hutterite Elders
Even going to high school is prohibited, Bertha indicates, after a certain age.
“It’s hard, because the elders don’t want our kids to go to high school or play sports [her son, Carver, plays basketball]. They want our kids to drop out at the age of 15, so they can work at the colony. But, I can’t bear to tell Carver that he can’t do something he loves. I’m afraid that if the elders find out that Carver is going to school, he will be forced to leave, and that will break his heart.”
Not exactly a society that one would expect to be open to a reality show.
The Hutterites apparently do not reject some modern conveniences, such as electricity, so they do not completely reject the modern world. What they do reject, it seems, are the “ways” of modern society—religious ideas and practices, morals (or lack thereof), etc. Are they assuming that opening themselves up via reality television might have a positive effect on modern society and, perhaps, a serve as a religious duty? Or, is there another, more worldly reason for the decision to participate in the show, i.e. money?
Well, at this point, the reason for doing the show has not been broached by the colony. But, hopefully, as time goes forward and the show continues, it will be addressed. Otherwise, it simply seems like a contradiction of their beliefs, if not outright hypocrisy.
Image: Wikimedia Commons