Monday, August 23, 2010

Amish Grace

I've started reading Amish Grace the story of the massacre of the 5 Amish school girls in 2006.  As the title indicates, the book is less about the shooting and more abou the grace filled response of the Amish.  It has an interesting chapter on forgiveness where the Amish acts of forgiveness are highlighted and underscored.  Included are some of the crituques of that same forgiveness--people that felt the forgiveness approach was too soft, that it lacked justice.  

As I continued reading, I was better able to sift through my thoughts.  Forgiveness and justice are two different things.  Forgiveness, typically, affects the offended party most dramatically. It may affect the relationship with the offender, but it may not. More deeply though i will affect the heart of the offended.  

It's a hard case to evaluate fully as Roberts, the shooter, also shot himself--so we can't see how the forgiveness might affect him.  Though the Amish may not have pressed charges were he alive, the local DA likely would have. The thing to remember is that forgiveness does not deny justice. It denies retaliation.  There's a difference.  I don't think the Amish response would have impeded the court process, but I do think it would have tempered it--no call for the death penalty (after all a trademark of grace is that there is ALWAYS the possibility of redemption). And there likely would not have been a civil suit to follow seeking financial reparations (or even emotional ones for that matter as those too would have been included in the forgiveness offered).  

I do believe that the Amish response would have affected Robert in striking ways.  Forgiveness is healing and redemptive and to be truly touched by forgiveness after having committed a wrong can bring someone into true awareness of what they've done. And that can often bring about strong feelings of guilt and shame, but if further blessed by grace (as I am sure Roberts would have been in this situation) ultimately would have led to healing, repentance, and likely reconciliation.  It would have been powerful to witness and likely would have challenged the critics in impressive ways.

On occasion, our legal system, or at least the prison system still touts its original goals of restoration.  However, most, (if not all) of those with true awareness about the realities of prison will tell you it's all but restorative. There is very little that is redemptive inside those walls.  

Now, sadly, Roberts likely would have suffered great injury n prison, especially for having killed children, but if he could have been spared that--he might have come through the process in a more redemptive way.  Maybe that a bit too much idealism for what really transpires within the system, but hopefully you get my point--in a system bereft of most things restorative being held and attended to by Amish grace would have drastically changed the circumstances.

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