Hutterites Claim 'Serious Breech' of Contract in 'Exploitative' Portrayal on Reality Show
By - Crossmap On June 16, 2012
After the release of a reality show documenting Hutterite life, bishops from the communal group are claiming that their representation is distorted and misleading.
National Geographic Channel aired the reality show, "American Colony: Meet the Hutterites," with the goal of showcasing the Anabaptist communal branch. Similar to Amish doctrine and belief, the Hutterites live a private and communal life according to how they believe Christians should live.
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However, representative from the groups were not pleased on how the TV executives portrayed them.
"What was promised by the producers to be a 'factual documentary' is, in fact, a distorted and exploitative version of Hutterite life that paints all 50,000 Hutterites in North America in a negative and inaccurate way. Scenes and dialogue were contrived resulting in a 'make believe' depiction of how we live and the spiritual beliefs we cherish," Bishops John Stahl, Peter Entz and John Waldner said in a statement Thursday.
The reality show focused on 1 of about 500 Hutterite communities--King Ranch Colony in Montana, which is made up of less than 60 people. Because of the reserved and discreet lives of the members, the producers were very fortunate to have had access into their lives at all.
It was "without doubt, a coup that show creators were able to film Hutterites at all," Mary-Ann Kirkby, author of I Am Hutterite, said to The Christian Post.
"The creators chose to go directly to the King Ranch Colony to seek permission, rather than the proper channels of requesting such from the Bishop," Kirkby said.
"By the time the Bishop found out about the proposed show, the creators had a signed document of agreement from the King Ranch Colony Manager."
Once the papers were signed, the executives threatened legal action if the group did not want to advance with the contract. Therefore, a agreement to "accurately portray" was made as a compromise.
However, since the shows airdate on May 29, the bishops claim their has been a "serious breach" of contract.
"We're very upset," Entz said an interview the Christian post.
"We are deeply saddened by the skewed image with which the public may now perceive the Hutterite faith and way of life. It is distorted and damaging," the bishops stated.
The bishops are state that they are not "perfect," and do actually encounter conflicts. "Nevertheless, our vision is to live meaningful Christian lives in community as Christ has instructed us to do," they continued.
"The situations are very contrived and staged and having spoken with Hutterites on both sides of the U.S. and Canadian border, they do not recognize themselves nor relate to the situations seen in 'American Colony,'" Kirkby said.
If the image of has been compromised, then what kinds of people are the Hutterites?
"Simply put, the Hutterites are the finest and most successful example of community life in the modern world," Kirkby stated. "Hutterites are a very private people group. Because of their adherence to the biblical admonition 'be ye in the world, but not of the world,' few outsiders have ever been privy to the details of the Hutterite way of life."
Jacob Hutter is their founder. He was part of the Anabaptist movement and developed the society based on the Book of Acts in the Bible. "And all that believed were together and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men as every man had need," as stated in Acts 2 of the New Testament Scripture.
"Our history began 500 years ago on a dusty path in Moravia during the reformation when a handful of refugees put a rugged blanket on the ground and placed all of their possessions on it including everything they were carrying in their pockets," Kirkby continued to explain.
While Hutterites do not work, Kirkby says "everyone is generously taken care of from cradle to the grave."
"The tenets of our faith are adult baptism, pacifism, non-swearing of oaths and of course, community life."