Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Religious right criticizes Amish for forgiving mass killer

The murder of five schoolage girls in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania last week sent shockwaves around the world -- not only was it yet another copycat killing but it happened in of all places Amish country among a group of hard-working pacifists who generally shun technology yet run some of the most productive farms in the United States in the shadow of Philadelphia. When the community forgave the killer, Charles Roberts (who shot himself when it was all over) and even rallied around the man's family and offered to pay for his funeral and counselling for the family he left behind, it was seen rightly as an act of compassion.

All too often, we see prosecutors in the United States who are only eager for reelection or later elevation to the benches bully families who would otherwise oppose the death penalty into demanding it for the accused. The argument the DAs and their assistants cleverly use is, "Your parent / spouse /sibling / child would be very disappointed in you if you didn't want revenge. The fact you don't want it proves to me you really didn't love them." How incredibly cowardly, and it's outright slander too. Of course, as legal professionals, they have immunity for saying that -- no law society is going to disbar one of its members for getting a family to flip-flop on the ultimate punishment.

The attitude of the Amish must truly anger the DA of Lancaster County, who I'm sure wanted even more blood to spill and was denied the chance. While I personally am totally against the death penalty and will never support it for as long as I live in this world, I will concede that I too am a bit frustrated the killer took his own life rather than face justice. What I didn't expect, however, was the reaction of the relgious right, many of whom have condemned the Amish for forgiving the man.

The worst example I could find was from Jeff Jacoby at Town Hall:

To voluntarily forgive those who have hurt you is beautiful and praiseworthy. That is what Jesus did on the cross, what Christians do when they say the Lord's Prayer, what observant Jews do when they recite the bedtime Kriat Sh'ma. But to forgive those who have hurt -- who have murdered -- someone else? I cannot see how the world is made a better place by assuring someone who would do terrible
things to others that he will be readily forgiven afterward, even if he shows no remorse ...
I wish them well, but I would not want to be like them, reacting to terrible crimes with dispassion and absolution. “Let those who love the Lord hate evil,” the Psalmist writes . The murder of the Amish girls was a deeply hateful evil. There is nothing godly about pretending it wasn't
But other have pointed out, correctly, that the Amish did the right thing, no matter how grievous the fault. Ron Dreiher at the Dallas Morning News:

What sets hearts apart is how they deal with sins and tragedies. In his suicide note, Mr. Roberts said one reason he did what he did was out of anger at God for the death of his infant daughter in 1997. Wouldn't any parent wonder why God allowed that to happen? Mr. Roberts held onto his hatred, purifying it under pressure until it exploded in an act of infamy. That's one way to deal with anger.

Another is the Amish way. If Mr. Roberts' rage at God over the death of his baby girl was in some sense understandable, how much more comprehensible would be the rage of those Amish mothers and fathers whose children perished by his hand? Had my child suffered and died that way, I cannot imagine what would have become of me, for all my pretenses of piety. And yet, the Amish do not rage. They do not return evil for evil. In fact, they embody peace and love beyond all human understanding.

In our time, religion makes the front pages usually in the ghastliest ways. In the name of God, the faithful fly planes into buildings, blow themselves up to murder the innocent, burn down rival houses of worship, insult and condemn and cry out to heaven for vengeance. The wicked Rev. Fred Phelps and his crazy brood of fundamentalist vipers even planned to protest at the Amish children's funeral, until Dallas-based radio talker Mike Gallagher, bless him, gave them an hour of his program if they would only let those poor people bury their dead in peace.

There is one other thing that needs addressing -- the fact that the males were separated from the females first before the bullets were fired, and the inaction of the males to stop them. As far as previous massacres, such as the one at L'école Polytechnique (the U of Montréal's School of Engineering) it was a true embarrassment to males everywhere that not one man offered Marc Lepine his life in sacrifice to save the lives of one of the fourteen women slain. What's happened in recent weeks at high schools where the same happened and not one man stepped forward is also despicable. But to blame a young boy, eight years old for what happened and not offering his life to Roberts -- as Kanukistan suggested in response to the Jacoby post -- is just plain wrong. (As an aside, she does have her own thoughts about what feminism has done for her; kind of odd since I thought Town Hall was a conservative site.)

We could learn something from the Amish and the Mennonites. Pacifism can be rather naïve at times (which is why I'm not a pacifist), but other times it can be the ultimate saving grace.

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10/10/2006 4:14:39 PM

On Adler the other day, some nut called in and yelled for minutes about how stupid the reverend whose son was killed in Taber, was for forgiving the child that took his child's life. The guy on the phone couldn't answer the obvious question, "how is it empowering for the reverend, to never forgive, and always hate and fret about his son's killer?" He thought being able to forgive someone was dependent upon the killer asking for forgiveness first. Well that doesn't work well, because [fortunately] the killers in schools lately have taken their own life before offering their regret [if they have any, which is unlikely]. It makes a victim live like a victim if they are dependent upon the killer to release them from the situation.

Meaningful Meanderings
16/10/2006 1:15:21 PM

To forgive at this level, is the height of love in terms of what humans can reach. and what is the most irrestible force on the face of God's earth? LOVE.

Amidst the garbage of Telivised "Religion" their examples stand out as "Apples of Silver on plates of Gold".

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