We need to follow the Amish example

October 22nd, 2006

Just a few weeks ago, the world heard the news of the tragic school shooting at an Amish school in rural Pennsylvania. A deranged man entered the schoolhouse, bound and gagged female hostages, brought along torture equipment, and shot 10 of them. 5 died, and the remaining 5 are believed to still be hospitalized.

Back in 1990, a deranged man committed a series of murders near the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. The story mentions 5 people that were killed.

Both were tragic situations. Both men killed people that had their whole lives in front of them. Both shook an entire community.

But look at how the communities responded. The Amish responded like this:

CNN reported a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls said of the killer on the day of the murder: “We must not think evil of this man.”

Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, explained: “I don’t think there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts,” he told CNN.

The Amish have reached out to Roberts’ family. Dwight Lefever, a Roberts family spokesman said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them.

An article in a Canadian newspaper the National Post stated that the Amish have set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter. (Wikipedia)

In addition, the Amish invited the Roberts family to attend the funerals for the Amish girls he killed.

Gainesville reacted this way:

Dianna Hoyt, Christa Hoyt’s stepmother, said Rolling’s execution has been eagerly awaited by the victims’ families. Some will be inside the prison to witness it. . .

Sadie Darnell, who was the police department’s media spokeswoman at the time and developed enduring friendships with the victims’ families, said Rolling’s execution still matters, even if it also provides him more of the notoriety he sought.

“Retribution . . . is important because it represents that our society is holding that person accountable,” said Darnell, now a candidate for Alachua County sheriff. (CNN)

We’ve all heard of murders that have taken place lately. Usually they are accompanied by calls by politicians, victim’s family, and sometimes even clergy to kill the perpetrator. In the days after 9/11, there were reports of anybody that looked Middle Eastern being attacked in several different places around the country.

I have never understood this great desire for revenge. How does that help anyone?

What the Amish did was right religiously and morally. They truly followed the New Testament call to love your enemies and forgive. It is not easy to follow all of Jesus’ teachings, and nobody said it would be. But they are doing it, and they have already begun healing. Reports are that the Roberts family has become friends with several of the Amish in the area, and they are working to help each other out after this horrible tragedy.

Even putting religion aside for a moment, the Amish actions are quite simply the right thing to do. By spreading love instead of hate, and friendship instead of revenge, they have succeeded in making sure that no cycle of violence starts there.

In contrast, 16 years later, the families of the victims in Florida still aren’t healing. They are still angry and bitter. They are still seeking revenge. They hope that their lives will get back to normal after the murderer is killed. But after 16 years of stewing about it, will they really? And what about the family of the murderer, whose lives certainly must have been a mess for the past 16 years? They will now lose a family member. Does anyone care about them, or will they now turn angry at society and possibly spread the pain more?

Imagine what would happen if so many more people around the world took the Amish perspective — to forgive those that wronged us. How long must it be before we can forgive? How far back do we spread our hate? Do we still hate those that were involved in 9/11, or can we forgive them? Do we still hate the Germans for what their ancestors did in World War II, or can we forgive them? Do we hate politicians with whom we strongly disagree, or think are liars? Do we still hate all those that have wronged us personally — someone that stole something from us or the sadistic boss?

Knives, electric chairs, and bombs do not buy reconciliation. They can not “win over” the hearts of others. They do not make our lives easier. Hate brings more hate, and more resentment.

Forgiveness is not easy. We all hope that we will never be involved in such a tragedies as these. But let us follow the example the Amish have shown — forgive for all things, big or small, important or not, painful or not.

Only then will we be at peace with ourselves, and only then will we have the chance to be at peace with our neighbors.

Categories: Society

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  1. Linda Krueger

    I heard one explanation for this deep level of forgiveness that made sense to me. It is generations in the making; not just one sweet elderly Amish man who offers forgiveness, but years and years of teaching and believing in forgiveness no matter what, that prepares an entire community to be able to immediately say “You are forgiven.” I’ve never lived in Florida and I don’t personally know anyone involved in that tragedy, but I think it’s safe to say that it wasn’t a community enmeshed in generations of forgiveness. Most of our communities aren’t! We need to begin developing that thought process, one family at a time.

    Reply

  2. A jew

    The judaeo-christian perspective is not all bleeding-heart “turn the other meek cheek” forgiveness. The message that murderers convey to their victims need to be reflected back upon them. Gainsville read pain and hatred in Rollings’ deeds, and so hatred and pain is returned unto him; the issue of whether via lethal injections or the electric chair is a detail. “Feel as I feel, dammit!” is the bedrock of civilization, justice, and the perpetuation of the human race.

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    I can’t speak to modern Judaism, but I can say that your position is certainly not consistent with pretty much the entire New Testament.

    Reply

    Daniel Reply:

    Is that so? I suppose then your New Testament has a problem with the great Elie Wiesenthal hunting down every last hell-bound Nazi that he be brought to justice.

    Would any of your hanky-panky flimsy-whimsy fake forgiveness that’s not in the heart anyway prevent another jewish holocaust?

    What the freak is this New Testament of yours anyway?

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    You have no way to know what is in my heart any better than I do, and the same goes for the Amish.

    Rather than repeat myself, please read this page and the comments that follow:

    [url]http://changelog.complete.org/posts/517-Something-I-cant-understand.html[/url]

    Also, I have never heard of Elie Wiesenthal, nor have I been able to track down who that person is. Would you please cite a source where I could read on the subject?

    Reply

    Dylan Thurston Reply:

    I’m sure the poster meant to refer to Simon Wiesenthal, and got confused with Elie Wiesel.

    C T Reply:

    What does the Holocaust have to do with any of this? Seriously, many people of all different faiths and backgrounds perished in that event and in many other holocausts before that. However, it seams as though you have just jumped on the hate wagon and let the horses go.
    I believe what John has written would be the ideal situation. To not pass hate down for generations on end might be nice too. The Japanese occupied my country for decades when my grandmother was a child, but I don’t walk around hating them for it or angry all the time.
    It was refreshing to read this entry, we don’t have to be angry and stressed all the time even though or society encourages it. I’m sure it was as easy as 1-2-3 forgive, they are probably battling all types of emotions still.

    Reply

    C T Reply:

    Correction. I’m sure it WASN’T easy as 1-2-3-….

    Reply

  3. Kirklin

    It remains incredible to me that people of “faith” so completely discard the the concepts of grace and forgivenesss as being applicable to interpersonal and corporate relationships. My question to the zealots who have effectively gotten their way is: When one considers, only, the physical cost/loss of preparing for war and recovering from war of the past one hundred years how can you so glibly continue to dismiss grace and forgiveness as offering real possibilities to our world?
    The basic tenets of Judaism and Christianity are the same. Why has the year of jubilee been thrown on the heap pile by the Jews and why have “Christians” ignored Matthew 5 to 7? Vengeance is not ours to repay!!!!!!!! And those who try end up in the same place as those they attempt to visit their spiteful revenge upon. What a viscious cycle we have going.

    Reply

    Kevin Mark Reply:

    I recently heard a conversation about playing the role of the slave and master characters in “Waiting for Godot” as performed by black and white actors in the South. The comment was about how, in the play, the Master holds a rope that attaches to the slave. The commentor said that ‘the rope goes both ways’. Similarly, the victim and his family and the perpatrator and his family, if based upon current trends, can be bound and locked in a similar destructive relationship. As soon as they abondon that relationship, the rope is abondoned, and both parties are free to do other things, like seek reconciliation, forgiveness or other more positive things.

    Reply

  4. terah

    Here’s an interesting article from a Catholic Sister on the topic:

    http://ncrcafe.org/node/513

    Reply

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