Saturday, October 07, 2006

Amish demonstrate Christian charity on crime and punishment

Thanks to CrimProf Blog for pointing out this fascinating addendum from Common Dreams to the story of a nationally publicized tragedy.
On October 2, Charles Carl Roberts entered a one-room schoolhouse in the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He lined up eleven young girls from the class and shot them each at point blank range. The gruesome depths of this crime are hard for any community to grasp, but certainly for the Amish — who live such a secluded and peaceful life, removed even from the everyday depictions of violence on TV. When the Amish were suddenly pierced by violence, how did they respond?

The evening of the shooting, Amish neighbors from the Nickel Mines community gathered to process their grief with each other and mental health counselors. As of that evening, three little girls were dead. Eight were hospitalized in critical condition. (One more girl has died since.) According to reports by counselors who attended the grief session, the Amish family members grappled with a number of questions: Do we send our kids to school tomorrow? What if they want to sleep in our beds tonight, is that okay? But one question they asked might surprise us outsiders. What, they wondered, can we do to help the family of the shooter? Plans were already underway for a horse-and-buggy caravan to visit Charles Carl Roberts’ family with offers of food and condolences. The Amish, it seems, don’t automatically translate their grieving into revenge. Rather, they believe in redemption.
Said writer Sally Kohn, "If, as Gandhi said, 'an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,' then the Amish are providing the rest of us with an eye-opening lesson." Real justice must be tempered with mercy and compassion.

MORE: I thought the comments about this on Mike Cope's blog were interesting.

5 comments:

Roy said...

It's not what it seems on the surface. The Amish do not report Amish-on-Amish crimes to the outside authorities. The top priority is to cover up the crime and hope to persuade the culprit not to do it again. They cannot resort to physical punishment; outsiders would consider that a crime itself. They cannot use shunning; that would encourage the culprit to leave the community. All they have left is forgiveness.

Think of it another way: the strongest tie that binds the Amish together is mutual blackmail

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So how does that apply when an outsider shoots a bunch of people? What blackmail incentive do they have to forgive the shooter or his family?

diana claitor said...

Exactly, Scott....The Amish response in this case seems to me much closer the original teachings of Christ. Many Christian churches today seem to be more about the Old Testament.
Doesn't mean that one has to agree with everything the Amish people do or believe, but this kindness toward the family of the killer seems admirable and healthier than the rage and vengeance
model.

800 pound gorilla said...

Just when I thought that I could elevate the Amish to sainthood, the shunning example pops up. It is possible - and somewhat likely - that shunning [or excommunication, an example in conventional christian practice]leads to group coercion. While I disagree with group coercion; it amounts to surrender of emotional freedom to group approval, avoidance of disagreeable people is the only viable alternative for those of faith, as long as this avoidance doesn't hamper the rest of their lives. No sense seeking out these people, however, if they are inherently a part of your life you must follow the rule of love.

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