Quick forgiveness for the Amish shooter?


A follow-up on the shooting of Amish school children by a man supposedly taking revenge for something that happened in his life some 20 years prior. The following appeared in an msn story (http://msnbc.msn.com/id/15113706/):

‘They honestly have forgiven’
Meanwhile, Rita Rose, a local nurse and midwife who delivered several children in the Amish community, told NBC’s Ann Curry that the mother of a 13-year-old girl who died has forgiven Roberts.

“She holds no ill will toward the shooter. She’s very forgiving. Christ forgave us, and we in turn forgive, and they honestly have forgiven,” she said. “Even last night, there was no anger toward the shooter.”

REALLY? Is this a higher form of spirituality? Did Jesus suffer from some sort of weakness when he overturned the tables at the tempte? My pastor preached on the last chapter of Nehemiah recently where Nehemiah goes on a bit of a rampage because priests have neglected their job or engaged in nepotism and folks are buying/selling goods on the Sabbath. He asked whether or not we are angry about the right things. While I applaud not becoming bitter over the sin of others, saying in less than 24 hours that they had forgiven their daughter’s killer sounds a bit premature. Yes, Christ calls us and empowers us to forgive others. But we ought to be angry at all forms of sin because they are an affront to God–especially those that damage little children (remember the millstone imagery!).

9 Comments

Filed under Forgiveness, News and politics, suffering

9 responses to “Quick forgiveness for the Amish shooter?

  1. Barb Boswell

    I am not quite sure why, but this shooting has really gotten to me. It gives me pause, however, and has me to reflect on my lack of horror at each and every act of violence played out daily in our country. Am I that desensitized? Or do I insulate my heart against the almost daily displays of sin’s devestation? If my heart grieved more fully … if my spirit railed more loudly against unleashed violence… would the “Why?” questions echo too persistently in a mind that prefers tidy answers? Is it easier (and I am ashamed to ask this) to mute the screams of the blood-soaked ground than to allow my faith in a Sovereign Creator to be tested?
    Forgiveness for the shooter? Yes! Outrage at the sin that mars our hearts and land? Yes!

  2. No Name

    Yes, forgiveness IS a higher form of spirituality. And forgivness is not the opposite of anger. Forgivness can be taught and it can be learned. I believe the Amish are “on to something” here–and that they have much to teach all of us if we are willing to learn. What do you think might happen if we, individually and collectively, were able to forgive the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11? Might not the world be a better place today?

  3. I agree forgiveness is important and I’ll go one step further and admit I don’t know the heart of those who quickly forgave. However, it is usually the case that forgiveness offered before the smoke clears is not always authentic. Scripture does not hesitate to name evil where it exists. And this forgiveness seems to be offered without any real acknowlegement of the damage done. Why? Is it because these struggles are not acceptable in some circles? The Psalmist clearly wants the Lord to vindicate. Paul doesn’t offer quick forgiveness for being beaten without legal proceedings. He makes sure they know they screwed up. When forgiveness is offered without acknowlegement of the devestation, then it becomes cheap and there is nothing cheap about forgiving. This does not mean it shouldn’t be done and so I agree that forgiveeness, if more present in the world, would certainly reduce violence everyway. It is something we must pursue because we have been forgiven. But lets not do it without understanding what we are actually doing.

  4. No Name

    When you write, ” . . . this forgiveness seems to be offered without any real acknowledgement of the damage done,” I wonder what you really mean. Do you think the Amish are not truly suffering the loss of their loved ones because they are not demanding vengeance and retribution? Christ came to teach “a better way” than that known to David in the Psalms (see Psalm 137:9 for a sad example of the “old thinking” of the Old Testament). In forgiving others, we forgive ourselves as much as we forgive the other person. In truly forgiving, we give up the need to carry within ourselves the bitter seeds of hate, vengeance, and retribution. Prompt forgiveness does not cheapen forgiveness; it is an act of great courage. Jesus embodied forgiveness as the nails were being driven! The Amish dare to express in their lives and their words this type of forgiveness–a forgiveness almost unknown by most people who profess Christianity.

  5. No Name, you taking my words to an extreme I certainly do not intend. Yes, they are truly suffering. No, they don’t have to demand retribution. Hopefully, I did not communicate that message when I raised concerns with those who might offer superficial forgiveness that shuts down the expression of pain and real acknowledgment of the devastation to the families and community. If you haven’t read Plantinga’s book, Not the way its supposed to be, a breviary of sin, you might take a look at how he details the glazing over the effects of sin with quick forgiveness. Peace is broken by sin and I would argue that we are not to offer superficial peace to others. That doesn’t mean I seek violence. The OT warns against those who say “peace peace” when they should not.

    I would take two other issues with your comments. I don’t think we forgive ourselves. We don’t have that power. In forgiving, we acknowledge our need for it, but we cannot forgive ourselves. There is no biblical warrant for such an action. Secondly, I think you need to be careful in your use of Psalm 137.9 as a bad example. There is no commentary on that. I am not a dispensationalist that suggests that the OT is wiped out by the new covenant. Jeremiah’s lament includes imprecatory prayers as do the Psalms. Paul wishes judiazers would emasculate themselves. There is a place to as for God to do his vengence (not for us to take it into our own hands).

  6. No Name

    The Amish are displaying a pure and unadulterated forgiveness that sets them apart from nearly everyone, and now it is on display for all the world to see. If any good can come from this tragedy, perhaps a few people will dare to learn something from the Amish example–and come to practice forgiveness in a new way. It is sad when people like you attack simple people like the Amish for their childlike faith–and make sarcastic comments deriding the “higher form of spirituality” for which they strive. I do not expect you to learn much from the example of the Amish because you are steeped and invested in your theological systems. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time attacked him too. But perhaps people who do not even profess Christianity will learn something valuable from the tragedy of the Amish shooting and the forgiveness they teach. That is my hope.

  7. When I heard the quick forgiveness for the shooting, I was deeply moved. This was a people who’s first reaction was to think of others. I admire them for that. Yet I do agree, to an extent with what Phil wrote, If the Amish ignored the pain and thought sorrow was ungodly, then yes their forgiveness will be shallow. There is a tension here that cannot be denied, these people want to be representatives for Christ yet they also are human and must weep for those who die. I hope that they continue their grieving and find peace in time. I especially hope that each day as the pain grows more acute, they will forgive again and again.

    As a tribute to the Amish character I wanted to add this story from that day: the eldest girl in the classroom asked to be killed first, hoping that the other girls would be spared by her sacrifice.

  8. Curtis, you are right that there were many signs of true Christianity that day–some quite moving like the one you alluded to. I do admire those who see the larger context of what God is doing in the world and those who shun things like bitterness, rage, demandingness, vengence, etc. And yet seeking those things does not mean the suppression of emotions of anger, questioning God, and even asking for God to seek justice. The Psalms provide great examples of faithful (not self-centered) responses to pain. A faithful witness to God speaks truth in all things. I suspect many of the Amish are privately asking God for help in understanding, expressing hurt and anger. Their culture is to address these things in private rather than public settings. I was just struck by the comment where an Amish spokesperson denied anger and linked the absence of anger with forgiveness. The two are not mutually exclusive. One can be angry and forgive.

  9. Beth Weber

    Phil,

    Just heard something on the radio that brought to mind this thread from long ago on your blog. Don Kraybill, a sociologist with Anabaptist background who has studied the Amish for 25+years, was interviewed about his new book “Amish Grace”. He made the comment that “Anger is not a functional response when one operates in community.” I find that thought interesting, and perhaps helpful as we think about forgiveness within the church. I wonder how that works.
    Beth

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