As you have probably heard, a terrible thing happened in an Amish school in Pennsylvania on Monday. An armed man went in, sent all the adults and boys away, then shot 10 little girls, killing five, and leaving three in critical condition, and two in serious condition, before killing himself. The reasons for this unthinkable act are as numerous as they are puzzling, and listening to the reports on NPR yesterday had me on the verge of tears several times, but what really pushed me over the edge was when the reporter mentioned that not only were the people in the community praying for the families of the slain children...they were also praying for the family of the gunman. If this were days, or weeks after the fact I would not have given it a second thought. 'Good' Christians are supposed to forgive, at least superficially in front of others once the rage has worn off. But here are a group of Christians who, in the fullness of their grief and horror, finding room in their hearts for forgiveness. A newspaper reporter named Daniel Burke spent Tuesday evening with an Amish family named Mary and Ben. Here is a tiny bit of the conversation they had:
As Mary and Ben explained the day's violence to their sons, they emphasized the importance of forgiveness and trusting in God.
"I just feel bad for the gunman," said Mary's husband, Ben, 41. "He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he's standing before a just God."
I have seen religious hypocrisy that was medieval in its scope, but this is one of the very few times that I've seen real faith in action. The above conversation is typical of several reports I've heard coming from the Amish about this horrible event. While I'm not about to give up my tv or computer and go buy a wide-brimmed black hat, it is somewhat comforting to see that in the midst of trying to sort out this terrible crime there is a ray of divine light shining through. Maybe, just maybe there is a slight hope for the souls of humanity after all.