Monday, October 01, 2007

Is Forgiveness in the eye of the beholder?: Nickle Mines & the Amish

We live so close to them, but oh so far away. A year ago, the unthinkable happened: a local Lancaster county man stormed an Amish one-room school house and mercilessly gunned down 5 young girls. What did the Amish do? They forgave the killer and comforted his family. How is that possible? If most of us are honest with ourselves, we would admit that we would never be able to do that. Why is that? What happens when an atrocity occurs on a larger scale? To a specific ethnic group, or religious group, or racial group, or a group according to sexual orientation? How do we rebuild societies that have been so poisoned?

6 comments:

jolz said...

The Amish culture has deep rooted spiritual beliefs which govern every aspect of their lives. A characteristic many of us usually claim to posses but seldom put into practice. It is obvious that these beliefs and moral principles by which they adhere to are not just samples of doctrine that they regurgitate but rather it is a guide by which they live their lives. This is evident by their application of these religious principles to the horrific shootings.
On the other hand when a tragedy occurs on a larger scale the people who it affects directly seek earthly justice in the form of lawyers and courts or worse take revenge into their own hands to right the wrongs done against them. They rely on a justice system that usually hesitates to help in the first place. Maybe it is the Amish dependence on what they believe to be fairness of divine justice that gives them the ability to offer forgiveness so readily and rebound while still possessing the ability to love other people. As for societies that have had their human rights violated, it is more a question of whether or not they can be rebuilt. And if it can then doing so would probably involve the people adopting a philosophy similar to that of the Amish, which is easier said than done.

Kyle said...

What may at first appear to be a show of naiveté by the Amish is actually a display of great maturity and wisdom. In our 21st century pop culture of violent action cinema it seems foolish to not chase after a murderer and kill them as revenge for what they have done, and it is almost inconceivable that someone like that could be forgived. However, one of the main cornerstones of the Christian religion that many of us are a part of (or at least act like we are a part of) is the idea of forgiveness. It is not an easy thing to do and it takes a lot of personal and emotional strength, but not seeking revenge for what someone has done stops the cycle of violence and killing instead of endlessly perpetuating it.

Ryan said...

The Amish society obviously is deeply rooted in its faith. I wonder if the Amish community would be as forgiving if the man who committed this atrocious crime was still alive. Either way, it is still extremely commendable for them to forgive. But for crimes that occur on a larger scale, like genocide, justice is necessary. A precedent must be set so that people know that crimes will not be tolerated. People can easily forgive those who committ crimes while justice is being served at the same time. Thus, in order to forgive a criminal, one does not also need to let him or her off the hook without a punishment.

Kyle said...

I didn't mean that justice should not be served, I simply meant that it was commendable that the Amish were able to forgive a man for committing such a heinous crime. In instances of genocide or other terrible crimes if the persecutors were simply forgiven and not punished then it would be an unbelievable atrocity. All I meant was that justice should be dealt in a way that is fair and fitting to the crime without attempting to seek revenge upon the perpetrator(s).

aditi said...

This can be compared to Mato Oput (communal healing) that takes place in certain African crimes where the grievances are spoken about by the two parties and are then forgiven after a ceremony. If it works for the people why not? It is highly commendable that the Amish have learned not to shift the blame from the perpetrator to the perpetrator's family like most people in society do. The fact that they have acknowledged what a woe it must be to the perpetrator's family and have helped console them gives others faith that people will stop stereotyping entire communities based on the actions of a few of its members. It thus shows that societies that have been poisoned can indeed function without hate if its people are wise enough to realize that shifting blame and stereotyping is not the answer to their grievances.

Libby said...

Everyone has pretty much covered the background of the Amish society and their beliefs. I just wanted to say that I truly envy people that can forgive a person who has committed such an atrocious act like this community has been able to. The murderer was merciless as he shot multiple girls. It is said that there is nothing harder than living through the death of your child and I know if I were put in the position of the parents I would not be able to forgive this man. The forgiveness and understanding embedded in the Amish culture is something to admire as we see similar crimes in the news on a regular basis with people (rightfully so, in my belief) bring the criminals to court and imprison them accordingly. Most of these awful crimes happen to ordinary people who could not possibly be forgiving as the Amish. I think the Amish are extraordinary people when considering the evil they endured without pointing a finger or blaming the man and his family.