Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Walk in forgiveness

And the Amish are showing us how it's done.

From the New York Times:
In one sign of their approach to tragedy, Amish residents started a charity fund yesterday not only to help the victims’ families but also to help the gunman’s widow.

Yesterday on NBC News, I saw an Amish midwife who had helped birth several of the girls murdered by the killer say that they were planning to take food over to his family's house. She said -- and I paraphrase closely -- "This is possible if you have Christ in your heart."

From ABC News:
We arrived in this community of Nickel Mines, Pa., curious about how the Amish, who live differently than most Americans do, might react to what was an unthinkable act of violence.

It didn't take long for us to learn that the Amish families most affected by this tragedy have responded in a way that might seem foreign to most of us: They talk about Monday's school shooting only in terms of forgiveness.

From Ekklesia:
A cousin of one of the children shot by disturbed killer Charles Carl Roberts, aged 32, has said in an interview that he believes Mr Roberts’ wife would be welcome at the funeral of the girls who died.

The Amish community in Pennsylvania, USA, is in “deep shock” over the events, those close to it say. But they continue to be sustained by the love of God, and by a strong belief in non-violence and the power of forgiveness.

From Pittsburgh Live:
Lefever told those gathered in the large church that he was with Roberts' widow and children Monday when an Amish man arrived at around 9 p.m.

Standing in the kitchen of the man who shot 10 Amish girls hours earlier, he embraced Marie Roberts and offered forgiveness.

"In that place of mourning, there was hope," said Lefever, fighting back tears. "There was life."


Marian Koob ... recalled an accident about a year ago when the Amish community offered their forgiveness after a drunken driver killed an entire Amish family as they rode in their buggy.

"The Amish community has taught us all about forgiving," Koob said. "They teach us all how to live in this world."

[Update] Good discussion in the comments.

Pastor Jeff and Conblogeration contrasts the coverage by different newspapers, some of which could not bring themselves to look at the faith aspect of this story and restricted themselves to the "quaintness" of the Amish.

A very lively discussion going on in the comment section of Amba's post on this subject at Ambivablog.

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reader_iam said...

Great job of bringing this together, Walrus. It's so late now. But I'm going to return to this on the morrow.

PatHMV said...

I've been using it too, but I'm not sure that "forgiveness" is entirely the right word to describe the reaching out to the widow of the killer. She didn't do anything wrong which needs to be forgiven.

In addition to forgiving our fellow man for their trespasses, we are also commanded, in one form or another, not to visit the sins of the father on the son, or in this case the sins of the husband on the wife. It's hard not to hate the family of those who do us evil, but refusing to succumb to that hatred is not precisely forgiveness of the evidoer. I could, at least in theory, hate the man who killed a relative, but still love the killer's mother.

Fern R said...

I think it's beautiful that the Amish are not holding any grudges against the gunman's family (afterall, his family didn't do anything wrong). But I don't "get it" when Christians forgive truly heinous people. It's just not something I can wrap my Jewish brain around. In my mind, some acts are so horrible that they don't ever deserve forgiveness. Sure, the victims need to move beyond what ever it is that was done to them. It would be unhealthy to dwell on some sort of horrible event in your life for unreasonably long periods of time. But moving on doesn't mean you have to forgive the perpetrator. At least it doesn't in my mind.

To be clear, I'm not advocating that Christians not practice this element of their faith, I just don't understand it.

Janet said...

Very good point, Pat. You're right too, recognizing that the widow is a victim also and is not guilty isn't precisely forgiveness. But they still deserve a lot of credit for not spreading the blame around like most people do. The parents of Kimveer Gill wanted to meet the parents of the girl he killed, Anastasia De Sousa. They refused. While I understand their pain, it was really an act of cruelty, denying Gill's parents a chance to ask for forgiveness, even if they weren't directly responsible. I can't help but think the Amish would have literally welcomed them with open arms and healing could have occurred on both sides.

Still, the refusal on the part of the Amish to nurse bitterness and hatred is so close to forgiveness, it's hard to find another name for it. I'm open to suggestions.

And I hope any ranting bloggers who read this who are so quick to condemn groups of people for the actions of some of their members will be inspired by a better example.

Janet said...

Fern, there is an excellent discussion of this going on over at Ambivablog on the post that linked to this one. Amba had much the same question, although she phrases it a bit differently.

And because to recapitulate would be way too long, I'll just refer you over there.

PatHMV said...

Oh, I don't have a better word for it, either.

In my old job, I met with many, many victims of horrible crimes. My take on meetings between relatives of the killed and relatives of the killer (or the killer himself) is that it's entirely up to the victims. I think it is a good idea, and a wonderful example of the best of Christianity, but I won't disparage those who are just not able to. I'll quietly pray for them, but I won't criticize them for their decision.

Fern R said...

Thanks Janet. There was inded some good stuff over there. I especially liked your first comment "I think the first condition is to be profoundly aware of how you yourself have been forgiven, and needed to be forgiven." That's probably the most succinct and persuasive explanation of the Christian idea of forgiveness I've ever come across.

Hailey said...

This is so beautiful. They are an example to us all.


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