Guest / Limited Access /

The grisly, premeditated shooting of 10 Amish girls—five of them fatally—by Charles Carl Roberts at a one-room schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, on October 2 was shocking. The Amish response, however, was even more so.

The bloody incident ended with Roberts—who apparently intended to sexually assault the girls first—taking his own life when police stormed the building. Within hours, the Amish community publicly forgave this outsider and expressed loving concern for his widow and three children. Many of the mourners at Roberts' funeral were Amish.

"Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need," the killer's widow, Marie Roberts, wrote the Amish later. "Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world."

In awe, most media observers, at least for a moment, dropped their prevailing storyline that religion is, at best, irrelevant to truly important matters and, at worst, dangerous. Bruce Kluger of USA Today noted, "For a change, what we saw was religion in its best light."

But not everyone was convinced. "[H]atred is not always wrong, and forgiveness is not always deserved," wrote Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, who is a Jew. "I admire the Amish villagers' resolve to live up to their Christian ideals even amid heartbreak, but how many of us would really want to live in a society in which no one gets angry when children are slaughtered? In which even the most horrific acts of cruelty were always and instantly forgiven?"

Jacoby's complaint stings my comfortable religiosity like a slap in the face. When Ted Haggard's duplicity and unfaithfulness were revealed by a homosexual prostitute, I'll confess my first impulse was ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedJohn Perkins: The Sin of Racism Made Ferguson Escalate So Quickly
John Perkins: The Sin of Racism Made Ferguson Escalate So Quickly
The Christian civil rights leader responds to the shooting death of Michael Brown.
TrendingNine Current Mars Hill Pastors Tell Mark Driscoll To Step Down from All Ministry
Nine Current Mars Hill Pastors Tell Mark Driscoll To Step Down from All Ministry
(UPDATED) Mars Hill responds Friday to leaked letter, says 'our team is Jesus, not one group of elders or another.'
Editor's PickLife Together, Again
Life Together, Again
After Hobby Lobby, vibrant corporate life is needed more than ever.
Comments
Christianity Today
The Scandal of Forgiveness
hide thisJanuary January

In the Magazine

January 2007

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.