Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Amish model of Christian forgiveness

Unimaginable. Grotesque. Words do not begin to describe the horror of the killing of the Amish school children this week. Too much time and ink have already been devoted to describing that terrible event and reactions to it by all kinds of people.

But like the bright, full harvest moon I see rising in tonight's perfect, clear October night, the Amish community quietly shines brighter than any other part of our multi-cultural, omni-directional, polyglot and many-faceted society. We are a nation of many traditions and leaders in high places love to use terms like Judeo-Christian, ecumenical, inter-denominational, tolerant and open-minded. We pride ourselves on the civilized way we look as we compare our behavior with the retrograde, savage behavior of the animals we claim to be fighting in a Global War on Terror. (We fight fire with fire, you we attempt to out-terrorize the terrorists with greater firepower, expensive resources and well-oiled supply chain. The logic is very much like that of the parent who responds to a crying child by saying harshly, "You better stop crying right now or I'll give you something more to cry about!" Exactly how to comfort a crying child, right? Unfortunately, a good many people reading this will miss the point.)

But I digress...back to the Amish.

There is no need to go into any deep analytical detail. It is enough just to say simply that as a Christian community, all the indications are that they are faithfully following the Christian ideal to expect God's forgiveness "as we forgive those who have tresspassed against us." And it didn't take a lot of time to come to that place. And as far as anyone knows, that will be the Amish community's final word on what happened.

PARADISE, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- A grieving grandfather told young relatives not to hate the gunman who killed five girls in an Amish schoolhouse massacre, a pastor said on Wednesday.

"As we were standing next to the body of this 13-year-old girl, the grandfather was tutoring the young boys, he was making a point, just saying to the family, 'We must not think evil of this man,' " the Rev. Robert Schenck told CNN.

"It was one of the most touching things I have seen in 25 years of Christian ministry."The girl was one of 10 shot by Charles Carl Roberts IV after he invaded their one-room schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania on Monday.

More at the link.

Too many words can cloud this simple message. I'm not interested in doing that. When we look at the Amish response to this crime we see Christianity alive and well in the Twenty-first Century. This email posted by Andrew Sullivan is eloquent.
The thing that has struck me about the Amish, is how truly Christian they are ... they will not be photographed or interviewed because is it too vain. We won't see any Amish on CNN, Oprah or the like because they believe in humility and privacy. They have thanked the police and firefighters who helped their community. They have expressed forgiveness to the murderer and have also expressed sympathy towards his wife and children. They have noted how difficult it will be for their and the murderer's children to go back to school. This tragedy has deeply affected me. But, I have come away with a sense that the Amish have shown us all an example of how Christ would behave ... with dignity, forgiveness and love. They are a real Christian community.

I can't think of anything more to add.

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(I have put together another post showing where the Amish fit into the larger Anabaptist traditions.)


Luis said...

God bless the Amish. They humble us all.

Hoots said...

...the Amish community, which buried five of its little girls this week, is collecting money to help the widow and children of Charles Carl Roberts IV, the man who executed their own children before taking his own life. A serene Amish midwife told NBC News on Tuesday that this is normal for them. It's what Jesus would have them do.

"This is imitation of Christ at its most naked," journalist Tom Shachtman, who has chronicled Amish life, told The New York Times . "If anybody is going to turn the other cheek in our society, it's going to be the Amish. I don't want to denigrate anybody else who says they're imitating Christ, but the Amish walk the walk as much as they talk the talk."

Ron Dreher with Dallas Morning News wrote a good column worth reading.

Glen A.Beachy said...

An action that speaks louder than words.