Since I’ve gotten back to Phoenix a number of people have asked me if the reactions to the shootings of the Amish children were anymore intense in PA than it was in the rest of the country.
The answer is “yes” in someways and “no” in others.
It was more intense certainly sitting about 45 minutes away from where the shootings had happened, knowing the area very well (I grew up and went to school in that part of the state) and knowing something of the community that had been attacked. I remember sitting in a meeting on Monday afternoon and seeing the news of the attacks unfolding online as I tried to pay attention to the agenda. I wasn’t able to participate in the meeting for a while – I gave my full attention to the events and to my prayers in response. Sadly the news kept getting worse and worse as the news came out.
It was awful too knowing the Amish. Part of my family on my mother’s side is closely related the Amish and we’ve always lived around Amish communities. They weren’t a tourist attraction to us, or an luddite oddity, they were our neighbors. And even though we were “English” and therefore outsiders to the community, we still had friends and knew that we could count on each others help in need or emergency.
And that’s why part of my answer was “no”. I don’t see the Amish as anything more than my neighbors. This attack would have been horrific no matter who it was aimed at. Frankly I don’t think the murderer had a particular grudge against the Amish – he was apparently looking to hurt little girls for some sick reason. The Amish children just happened to close at hand and unlikely to defend themselves. The great horror of this event to me is that it is just one in an apparent series of events and harm to the children of this country (and especially the girls.)
What I have been aware of is that my respect for the Amish community has grown even larger in watching the profoundly Christian way that they have reacted to these murders. I have no illusions that I would have either their faith nor their courage to forgive the attacker, reach out to his family and then to care for each other. All without further adding to the violence of the act by calling for revenge and violence in response.
Perhaps someday I’ll be that kind of Christian too.