A powerful lesson for all of us


NEARLY seven years ago, five little Amish girls were killed by a guman who raided their school.
A brief statement by the grandfather of two of the slain girls soon after the shooting was astounding.
Asked if he felt any anger, the grandfather replied: “No’’.

Asked if he had forgiven the gunman himself, he said: “Yes, in my heart. We must not think evil of this man.’’

How was it possible for a grieving grandfather to think, much less say those words?
They asked him that too. He simply said: “With God’s help’’.
To the astonishment of most of the world, many Amish attended the funeral of the killer, who turned his gun on himself after the senseless slaughter of the schoolgirls in a rural American schoolhouse.

At the behest of Amish leaders, a fund was also set up for the gunman’s widow and three children.

It was like a light shining in the darkness.
Forgiveness does not always seem deserved, especially when children are slaughtered. Who would not be angry at such an horrific act?
But the Amish refused to hate what had deeply hurt them.
It was an extraordinary response and a prime example of the spiritual demand to turn the other cheek when struck. And not to return evil for evil.
The families most affected by this appalling tragedy responded in a way that might seem foreign to most of us. Perhaps almost beyond comprehension in a world where religious-based revenge is commonplace.


28 thoughts on “A powerful lesson for all of us

  1. The grandfather said, “We must not think evil of him.” ?

    That’s ridiculous! He committed an evil. What planet is Grandad from?

    He was a murderous coward and he took the coward’s way out.


    • Monica,
      This was probably the same sort of response that Stephen made when he said “father forgive them for they know not what they do” whilst being stoned to death. Or Jesus when He was being crucified.
      That is the planet granddad came from. Or maybe you would like to read Biblical passages that tell you to bless those that curse you, do good to them that hate you, etc!!


      • The Amish are one of the few groups of Christians that still follow the Bible injunction not to resist evil. Had the Christian world obeyed what the Bible teaches, Christianity would not have been involved in Crusades, persecution of dissenters, or those fake televangelists who fleece their flocks for money. We would be hated by our enemies for our stand on correct principles not for lowering ourselves to the same standards as unbelievers.


      • I take offence to that generalisation. I try to find a reason to forgive people that transgress against me. I am law abiding and moral. I am an atheist. How dare you assume that other people are lesser mortals to yourself! Just because I do not share you beliefs does not give you leave to denegrate non believers!


    • “Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord. In other words, judgement.

      Who knows what sort of tortured mind that poor man had. Yes, perhaps his suicide was a coward’s way out; perhaps not.

      I wonder when he decided to do away with himself – before or after his crime?

      As for the bereaved families, I expect they felt their children safe and happy in Heaven, perhaps even grateful they had been called home without having to face the continuing bad things in this world. I know that is the thinking of a friend who lost a little girl to a horrific accident. This mother then adopted a child with a traumatic background. She felt to use the love God had given her for her own child, to serve for another.


    • I can stand back from the gunman’s situation, not knowing what sort of mental torment he was under. I find it harder to do the same for people who habitually and unremorsefully, apparently in full command of their mental faculties, inflict this sort of abuse on any of God’s creation.


  2. Itt’s hard to forgive others who have done wrong as within the case of the amish girls. But arent we supposed to forgive others who may have hurt us in our own personal lives. If we can forgive those, than I think we have to forgive this man too. Maybe he will live with his regret the rest of his life, who knows, maybe he will try to make amends who knows, but why should we live with his anger of the act he committed. Its only going to hurt us in the end.


    • He took his own life slesser.

      “One person who had had almost daily encounters with him said that she noted that he never looked into anyone’s eyes, he never looked into anyone’s faces, and she knew that there was something deeply troubling about him,” Schenck said.

      “Although she did say, she was very careful to say, that Charles Roberts was not an evil person. That he was a deeply troubled man, that he had, in her words — the sort of modest words of the Amish — that he had problems of the heart.”
      Bodies are embalmed, but undertakers do not apply makeup. Funerals are held in the victim’s home, and the dead are delivered to the cemetery in a horse-drawn carriage. A hymn is read, but there is no singing, AP reported.

      On Tuesday, police said Roberts told his wife he molested young relatives 20 years ago and was dreaming about molesting children again.”

      KLTV— ‘Amish Grandfather: ‘We Must Not Think Evil Of This Man”


      • “Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller said Roberts may have targeted the school for its girl students and — given various items found in the school — intended to molest the children.”


  3. Yes Dabs,

    I’ve seen what the Amish do to their animals (except their horses of course!) and I agree with you, there is indeed a dark side to these people which should not be ignored.


    • Thanks Mon…I was beginning to think I’d transmigrated to a different universe.
      The ‘main’ comment/link is still hung up in “awaiting moderation”.
      Perhaps god is trying to keep a lid on what these sanctimonious, inbred ‘christians’ get up to behind closed doors…..sort of of an accessory before, during and after the fact. ~> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7O1P7Y97HQ


      • I’m sorry Bryan,

        But if the Amish can be this inhumane to their dogs, then as far as I am concerned they have lost all credibility. I don’t want to know about their so-called forgiveness!


      • Dabs,

        I sometimes tend to react like you do (hot blooded). People disappoint me too, as I am sure that I disappoint others. So God has to constantly remind me that no-one is perfect, but that His grace surely is. No Christian has it all (virtues), but just because we don’t, it doesn’t mean that we do not have some. “Look to Jesus” is God’s constant reminder to me. Many Christians do not live up to their name—the name of Jesus—but He, the One we love and worship, will never let us down.

        This is Chris Shaughness’ blog . He is a pet behavior consultant, dog trainer and author of Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK! , the only book written by a pet behavior expert to help people with the rehabilitation of puppy mill survivors. What he said in his blog titled ‘Forgiveness’ on April 9, 2010 blew me away.

        I knew God wasn’t going to let me get away with the last word on this subject.


        “Early April brings carpets of wild violets scattered through fields and dotting lawns with royal purple, my favorite color. As I walk my dog through the grass, we can’t help but step on the beautiful blooms, no matter how we try to avoid them. (Well, I try not to step on them – my dog doesn’t care!) I’m reminded of the quote from Mark Twain:
        “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heal that has crushed it.”

        The forgiving violets are quite timely for me this week as I learned of a small pony who was confiscated by an animal shelter after witnesses called the police to report abuse. The pony was owned by an Amishman who used him to pull his buggy. Sounds reasonable, right? Not so fast. The pony was malnourished, weighing only about 4oo pounds, yet he was whipped to pull the buggy weighing at least 500 pounds, a load made for a horse no smaller than 800 pounds. The Amishman was spotted at a shopping center 8 miles from his home – yes, the poor pony had pulled the burden that far, up and down many steep hills. The police were called when witnesses saw the Amishman whipping the pony to get up. The pony had finally had enough and refused to move. Suffering also from dehydration because he had been deprived of water during his long journey, the pony had no more to give despite the whippings he endured.

        From my work with dogs rescued from Amish puppy mills, I already have a stilted view of the Amish. The way they mistreat animals tarnishes their holy, pristine image. But their redeeming virtue is their guiding principle of forgiveness. Last week, I watched a TV movie called Amish Grace, the story of the mother of one of the 5 girls killed at a schoolhouse in Lancaster County a couple of years ago. The show focused on her struggle to live up to the ability to forgive the shooter’s wife. Forgiveness does not come easy, especially when you have the burden of grief to carry forever.

        Do I have the fragrant violet’s ablity to forgive the Amish for not sharing my love and respect for animals? That’s the burden I carry whenever I see the abuse inflicted on the creatures I love so dearly.”


      • I take the point,Mon, but it’s not valid.
        Her “struggle” is a self-imposed burden; the brutalised animals have NO choice.
        They suffer pain and fear and despair without even the option of dying.
        ….and it goes on and on and on, all around the world,and the only reason I haven’t surrendered to despair is that there’s ever more need and not nearly enough people.
        Especially people who’ll give rescued dogs (sometimes cats, horses, goats, rabbits, rats, whatever) a good home.
        If you (any of you) can find a berth for a delightful little Ozzie terrier who’s spent the best part of 8 years on a 2-foot long chain behind a shed without shelter let me know. She’d fit in anywhere.


  4. “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the ways its animals are treated” – Mahatma Gandhi
    That applies equally to religious ‘nations’.


  5. ….and from Henry Beston:-

    ““We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

    Worth remembering


  6. But there are still some good people: and some better stories ~ eventually. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQr0W3_wXpw

    We need similar ‘recognised’ groups ~ with a little more than ‘moral’ authority ~ here in OZ
    Two local raids recently netted: 80-odd taken from a ‘hoarder’ as in the link, and another 38 removed from a ‘puppy farm’ with the sort of conditions seen in the amish clip.

    You, Mon, to your everlasting credit, contributed to their rehabilitation!
    I expect the God-Of-Your-choice is taking notes.


  7. For you Dabs:

    Amazing Things You Didn’t Know Babies Could Do
    By Zion Lights June 17, 2013

    If you’ve ever taken a psychology class or watched Lost, you’re probably familiar with the theory that people are born as blank slates. The idea is that we soak up ethics from our caregivers and environment, that we’re born as morally ambiguous as a really good Breaking Bad episode. But recently, science has proven otherwise. Before we’re able to talk or walk or take care of our own poops without sitting in them for a while first, we’re able to distinguish between good and evil. Not only that, but we’re also able to choose the right side. (Good … the right side is good.)

    Researchers at Yale stuck babies between 6 and 10 months old in front of a puppet show, a morality tale featuring anthropomorphic geometric shapes, which sounds like the shittiest puppet show ever. Basically it boiled down to a yellow triangle helping a red ball up a hill, while a blue square tried to push the red ball back down. All of these shapes had eyes, if that helps with your mental picture. The important part is that when given a choice on which shapes they preferred, 80 percent of the babies reached for the helper shape, as if to say “You are the best and I want you” (or possibly “You are the one I am going to eat because I too am evil,” but probably that first one).

    If you think that was just a coincidence (like maybe the helper shape was also shaped like a boob), they’ve done multiple versions of the study — for instance, babies as young as 8 months agree that justice should be rewarded and evil should be punished. That study was again conducted with puppets (the universal language of babies), and in this one a bad puppet was either rewarded or punished as the babies watched. This time, the babies picked the punisher as their favorite. Not the victim or the bad guy, but the one who administered justice.

    And the older the kids get, the more intensely they feel right and wrong (one toddler actually smacked the bad puppet). But all of it happens at an age when they shouldn’t even have witnessed enough good or evil to even know what it is. We practically come out of the womb wanting to administer pain to bad guys. Or bad puppets, at least.

    Cracked com.


    • See? Coincidences DO happen.
      These little creatures are acting purely on the ‘instinct’ I try to highlight so often.
      Although we ‘adults’ need to invent words like ‘justice’, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in order to communicate, the kids haven’t yet been contaminated by such ‘moral’ creations… but DO have an ‘inbuilt’ (from as far back as a billion or some years ago) instinct as to what should ‘be’ and what shouldn’t.

      Unfortunately, needing to apply apply ‘meanings’ greatly restricts the conceptual ‘instincts’.
      Perhaps that’s what “…except ye be as little children” is all about? I note that, as far back as Genesis, categorising ‘good’ and ‘evil’ without destroying the concepts was even beyond your god. HE tried to prevent Adam from even considering such matters! (and Jesus didn’t make much of an issue of it either.)

      I try to stay as flexible as possible in how much of ‘meanings’ and ‘instincts’ I employ in any given situation.

      Like those little kids, BillyBob ~ who also doesn’t talk English (or Greek or Hebrew, etc.) also doesn’t feel a need to try such balancing acts.
      ….not that he has much trouble conveying what his instincts dictate!


  8. and to liven up your Sunday:- You’ll love the punchline!

    This timeline of evolution of life represents current scientific theory outlining the major events in the development of life on planet Earth. In biology, evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organization, from kingdoms to species, and individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins. The similarities between all present day organisms indicate the presence of a common ancestor from which all known species, living and extinct, have diverged through the process of evolution.

    The dates given in this article are estimates based on scientific evidence.

    1 Basic timeline
    2 Detailed timeline
    2.1 Hadean Eon
    2.2 Archean Eon
    2.3 Proterozoic Eon
    2.4 Phanerozoic Eon
    2.4.1 Paleozoic Era
    2.4.2 Mesozoic Era
    2.4.3 Cenozoic Era Historical extinctions
    3 See also
    4 Further reading
    5 References
    6 External links

    Basic timeline

    In its 4.6 billion years circling the sun, the Earth has harbored an increasing diversity of life forms:

    for the last 3.6 billion years, simple cells (prokaryotes);
    for the last 3.4 billion years, cyanobacteria performing photosynthesis;
    for the last 2 billion years, complex cells (eukaryotes);
    for the last 1 billion years, multicellular life;
    for the last 600 million years, simple animals;
    for the last 550 million years, bilaterians, animals with a front and a back;
    for the last 500 million years, fish and proto-amphibians;
    for the last 475 million years, land plants;
    for the last 400 million years, insects and seeds;
    for the last 360 million years, amphibians;
    for the last 300 million years, reptiles;
    for the last 200 million years, mammals;
    for the last 150 million years, birds;
    for the last 130 million years, flowers;
    for the last 60 million years, the primates,
    for the last 20 million years, the family Hominidae (great apes);
    for the last 2.5 million years, the genus Homo (human predecessors);
    for the last 200,000 years, anatomically modern humans.

    Periodic extinctions have temporarily reduced diversity, eliminating:

    2.4 billion years ago, many obligate anaerobes, in the oxygen catastrophe;
    252 million years ago, the trilobites, in the Permian–Triassic extinction event;
    66 million years ago, the pterosaurs and nonavian dinosaurs, in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.

    Dates are approximate. 😆



    • That is very unlike the Yahwist story in Genesis, but quite close to the Elohim story, Gen1, 1-31, where In each of the first three days (or ages) there is an act of division: the formation of the Earth.

      In each of the next three days these divisions are populated until day five populates seas and skies with fish and fowl; and FINALLY land-based creatures and mankind populate the land.


  9. I can so relate to this. Yesterday, I was visiting friends at a Mental Health ward where I stayed for a couple of weeks recently and heard that one of the guys I had met there during my stay had been committed for rape, I don’t know the full details, only that he tried to rape a girl in his room. As I was listening to the other patients stating how he will get his just deserve in prison and will get beat up constantly, my heart sunk for the guy 😦


    • I wouldn’t be too concerned, newpaz/Bryan.
      American movies are no basis for forming opinions about life in an Australian nick, believe me. (and probably not in real American jails either, I’d suspect.)
      From my extensive (if long-ago) experience I can assure you that life in a (Religious-denomination-operated) ‘Boys’ Home’ is a damn sight more brutal and dangerous than even the worst depths of adult gaols, both officiously and otherwise.

      Since my time official policy has tended much more to US methodology (eg. institutional medico-mental ‘management-systems’ , mechanised and computerised….untouched by human hands ~ or personal interaction), which is something I’m glad I missed: scary shit from what I saw of it ~ largely because it’s actually so opposite from what’s depicted in the movies.


      • This particular prison is in the UK, but sure the same applies. Thanks for the re-assurances. It had been worrying me, especially as I have no way of finding out where the chap is at the moment.


  10. Forgiveness is hard to do but mentally, emotionally and spiritually necessary. When you hold tightly the bitterness of being wronged, it leaves you bitter; it leave you hurting. It does nothing to the other person.

    God’s vengeance is just because he is sinless, and not bound by human emotion and irrationality. It is our judgement that is clouded by skewed perspectives. It is our judgement that is flawed.

    I live in western pa and we have a large Amish and Mennonite community around us (so much so we have hitching posts at local stores for the horse and buggies). The attitude of that grandfather is the same attitude any of those around here would have expressed had they faced such tragedy.

    We joke about the Amish. Most prevalent joke is “how do the Amish go hunting? — They sneak up on a deer and build a barn around it.” But the truth of the matter is, the Amish have a better sense of community than many of us. When tragedy strikes we call our insurance adjusters. When the Amish face a tragedy they rally together and make things right as fast and best as they can.

    My grandma tells me stories of when an F5 tornado took out many of the Amish and non-Amish homes in 1985 (i was a year old). It took almost a year for the Non-Amish to get things back together. Grandma remembers watching the whole amish community come together. They started at one end of the road and built a barn, then the house, on each lot that lost them. By the end of the month after the tornado the Amish were back to life as if the storm had never happened.

    Many then came out and helped the rest of the community. They avoid english (non-Amish) contact, but they understand love, kindness, forgiveness, compassion, better than any group of people I’ve ever know.


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