samedi, novembre 10, 2007

Intelligencer Journal from today

Amish know we are citizens of God’s kingdomBy Elizabeth
Published: Nov 10, 2007 12:34 AM EST
The Amish get something many American Christians seem to have a hard time grasping: We are citizens of God's kingdom first. As such, we have loyalties that may very well put us at odds with the state.
Recently, the boundaries between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God have been blurred by American believers — whether the issue is creationism or euthanasia — who sought to remake the state in their image.
Their chances of succeeding are minimal.
The Amish, on the other hand, look to the Gospel mandates for guidance on how to forgive, love their enemies and trust in God's providential care for them.
For Christians who struggle with the way their faith can be diluted and warped in cultural practice, the purity of the way in which the Amish responded to last October's West Nickel Mines school shootings offered a lesson in cultural and religious integrity.
In his recent book, "Amish Grace" (co-authored with Steven Nolt of Goshen College and David Weaver-Zercher of Messiah College), Elizabethtown College sociologist Donald Kraybill examines the ways in which Amish culture, history and "two-kingdom" theology prepared our Amish neighbors to swiftly forgive the man who killed five of their own children and injured five others.
Gentle and unpretentious, Kraybill, a national expert on Anabaptist culture, has become, in an informal way, the public voice of a profoundly private people.
With a Bible-based commitment to forgiveness, the Amish reached out to the dead gunman's family quietly, privately, practically and quickly, extending grace that built bridges.
For the Amish, there are two kingdoms: that of the world and that of the Kingdom of God.
"The state is responsible for justice and punishment," said Kraybill, who noted that while they may occasionally ask for leniency, Amish believe offenders should be held accountable for their behavior.
But as people with a blood-drenched history of martyrdom for their beliefs, the Amish, who rely heavily on Jesus' command to forgive others "seventy times seven" [Matthew 18:22], embrace an ethic of nonretaliation, nonviolence and love for enemies, Kraybill noted.
"The moral gravity of forgiveness is a very heavy mandate in terms of the way the Amish understand their faith" said Kraybill, who himself was raised in the Anabaptist tradition.
Just days before the Nickel Mines tragedy, an Amish family invited the woman who killed their young son in a hit-and-run accident to come to their home to be forgiven. Reading about the offer in a local paper, the woman visited and was forgiven by the child's parents.
As Kraybill and his co-authors remind readers, the Amish drive to forgive doesn't liberate them from experiencing grief.
What it does mean is that they try to take the words of Jesus and apply them to their own lives with a simplicity and practicality that seems, to us on the outside, to be both admirable and perhaps a little naïve.
After all, as Kraybill reminds us, the vast majority of us are not Amish. We who choose to live in the turmoil of a state in which religion, morality and politics are constantly colliding often find ourselves tightrope walking through questions that have many or no easy solutions.
But even in our individualistic culture, we can learn a few lessons from seeing how the Amish practice forgiveness, Kraybill believes.
We all experience injustice. We can prepare for forgiveness before an incident happens. Try to find points of empathy with those who wrong you instead of quickly seeking revenge.
Seeking forgiveness is not only good for the person who harmed you, but it is a good and wholesome practice for your mental health, Kraybill said, noting that modern psychology has confirmed this insight in numerous studies.
No, we can't become Amish. But we can choose to challenge our cultural idols — efficiency, complexity, revenge, easy answers. In the process, God willing, we may find we have more in common with our Amish neighbors than we ever thought we did.

1 commentaire:

Sue a dit…

A very poignant post -- thanks. It really hit home and it was helpful to be reminded of the practice of forgiveness so beautifully articulated by the Amish community. I was particularly struck by the line about forgiveness, how it's good for both the abuser and the abused. But what happens when the person who has done the wrong is clueless? Believes that what he or she did was completely in the right, and -- in some cases -- possibly even considered a "Godly" thing to do? They do not want to be forgiven, because there's nothing to forgive. I guess in that sense, the one who was wronged needs to forge ahead with the very human struggle to forgive for their OWN sake, for their OWN freedom, for their OWN healing.

Great post today -- a necessary reminder, especially as I continue to stumble on the rocks of my own journey's path toward this very thing. Your words meant a great deal. I'm glad we could (re)connect in this way, after all these years. Technology can be a pretty cool thing!