The Amish, Women and Forgiveness

The terrible killing of the Amish girls and the subsequent coverage of the Amish community’s commitment to forgiveness touched me deeply. Forgiveness is one of the teachings of Jesus that I have carried with me from my Christian childhood and family. I have been interested in alternative approaches to justice such as restorative justice and find the descriptions of the work a healing and transformative alternative to our current approach to justice. So watching the media coverage of the Amish community forgiving the man who murdered the girls and extending compassion to his wife brought tears to my eyes. It is tempting to romanticize the Amish community because of this display of the type of values I admire. However, I have also seen a darker side of the Amish in my explorations of their community online. Granted it is a superficial exploration and the Amish and other Anabatists include diverse communities. However, as I understand it, the more conservative communities require a submissive role for women, do not promote education past an 8th grade level and their traditions of shunning and forgiveness completely failed to protect a young woman who was being repeatedly raped by her brothers. I guess I am left with the fact that people with a deep commitment to live authentically religious lives can be led astray by an extreme and rigid approach to their beliefs. Something not unique to the Amish. In spite of their failings, they can still provide a moment of brilliance if we choose to see it. Their act of forgiveness still inspires me, but it is with a heavy heart that I also remember their failings – particularly for the lives of the women among them. Ironic considering the tragic victims were the girls of the community.

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