Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy

( 39 )

Overview

On Monday morning, October 2, 2006, a gunman entered a one-room Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. In front of twenty-five horrified pupils, thirty-two-year-old Charles Roberts ordered the boys and the teacher to leave. After tying the legs of the ten remaining girls, Roberts prepared to shoot them execution style with an automatic rifle and four hundred rounds of ammunition that he brought for the task. The oldest hostage, a thirteen-year-old, begged Roberts to "shoot me first and let the little ones ...

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Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy

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Overview

On Monday morning, October 2, 2006, a gunman entered a one-room Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. In front of twenty-five horrified pupils, thirty-two-year-old Charles Roberts ordered the boys and the teacher to leave. After tying the legs of the ten remaining girls, Roberts prepared to shoot them execution style with an automatic rifle and four hundred rounds of ammunition that he brought for the task. The oldest hostage, a thirteen-year-old, begged Roberts to "shoot me first and let the little ones go." Refusing her offer, he opened fire on all of them, killing five and leaving the others critically wounded. He then shot himself as police stormed the building. His motivation? "I'm angry at God for taking my little daughter," he told the children before the massacre.

The story captured the attention of broadcast and print media in the United States and around the world. By Tuesday morning some fifty television crews had clogged the small village of Nickel Mines, staying for five days until the killer and the killed were buried. The blood was barely dry on the schoolhouse floor when Amish parents brought words of forgiveness to the family of the one who had slain their children.

The outside world was incredulous that such forgiveness could be offered so quickly for such a heinous crime. Of the hundreds of media queries that the authors received about the shooting, questions about forgiveness rose to the top. Forgiveness, in fact, eclipsed the tragic story, trumping the violence and arresting the world's attention.

Within a week of the murders, Amish forgiveness was a central theme in more than 2,400 news stories around the world. The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, NBC Nightly News, CBS Morning News, Larry King Live, Fox News, Oprah, and dozens of other media outlets heralded the forgiving Amish. From the Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates) to Australian television, international media were opining on Amish forgiveness. Three weeks after the shooting, "Amish forgiveness" had appeared in 2,900 news stories worldwide and on 534,000 web sites.

Fresh from the funerals where they had buried their own children, grieving Amish families accounted for half of the seventy-five people who attended the killer's burial. Roberts' widow was deeply moved by their presence as Amish families greeted her and her three children. The forgiveness went beyond talk and graveside presence: the Amish also supported a fund for the shooter's family.

AMISH GRACE explores the many questions this story raises about the religious beliefs and habits that led the Amish to forgive so quickly. It looks at the ties between forgiveness and membership in a cloistered communal society and ask if Amish practices parallel or diverge from other religious and secular notions of forgiveness. It will also address the matter of why forgiveness became news. "All the religions teach it," mused an observer, "but no one does it like the Amish." Regardless of the cultural seedbed that nourished this story, the surprising act of Amish forgiveness begs for a deeper exploration. How could the Amish do this? What did this act mean to them? And how might their witness prove useful to the rest of us?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

When a gunman killed five Amish children and injured five others last fall in a Nickel Mines, Pa., schoolhouse, media attention rapidly turned from the tragic events to the extraordinary forgiveness demonstrated by the Amish community. The authors, who teach at small colleges with Anabaptist roots and have published books on the Amish, were contacted repeatedly by the media after the shootings to interpret this subculture. In response to the questions "why-and how-did they forgive?" Kraybill and his colleagues present a compelling study of "Amish grace." After describing the heartbreaking attack and its aftermath, the authors establish that forgiveness is embedded in Amish society through five centuries of Anabaptist tradition, and grounded in the firm belief that forgiveness is required by the New Testament. The community's acts of forgiveness were not isolated decisions by saintly individuals but hard-won "countercultural" practices supported by all aspects of Amish life. Common objections to Amish forgiveness are addressed in a chapter entitled, "What About Shunning?" The authors carefully distinguish between forgiveness, pardon and reconciliation, as well as analyzethe complexities of mainstream America's response and the extent to which the Amish example can be applied elsewhere. This intelligent, compassionate and hopeful book is a welcome addition to the growing literature on forgiveness. (Sept. 21)

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Library Journal

Kraybill (senior fellow, Young Ctr. of Elizabethtown Coll.), Steven M. Nolt (history, Goshen Coll.), and David L. Weaver-Zercher (American religious history, Messiah Coll.) have each authored or edited numerous works on the Amish. Here, they explain the Amish community's reaction to the Nickel Mines, PA, murder of five of its schoolchildren, especially its forgiveness of the killer and expressions of grace toward his family. While the reader will gain important glimpses into the grit and grime of daily Amish life, broader understanding of Amish practices of forgiveness will enable reflection on the meaning and value of it. Those familiar with Joe Mackall's Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among the Amish, the 2005 documentary The Amish: How They Survive, or John L. Ruth's Forgiveness: A Legacy of the West Nickel Mines Amish Schoolwill appreciate this balanced presentation, which blends history, current evaluation of American society, and an examination of what builds community into a seamless story that details the shootings while it probes the religious beliefs that led to such quick forgiving. Recommended as an essential title for current affairs and religion collections; also recommended for public libraries wanting to offer general readers with an interest in history and crime a work that nourishes both mind and soul.
—Leroy Hommerding

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470344040
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 3/22/2010
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 169,357
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald B. Kraybill, Ph.D., is senior fellow at the Young Center of Elizabethtown College. Among his many publications, he has authored or coauthored numerous books on Amish society. The Young Center fielded hundreds of media calls in the week following the shooting.

Steven M. Nolt, Ph.D., is professor of history at Goshen College. He has written extensively on Amish history and culture.

David L. Weaver-Zercher, Ph.D., is associate professor of American religious history at Messiah College. His books on Amish life explore outsiders' fascination with and perceptions of the Amish.

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Read an Excerpt

http://catalogimages.wiley.com/images/db/pdf/9780470344040.excerpt.pdf
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Table of Contents

Preface.

Part One.

1 The Nickel Mines Amish.

2 The Shooting.

3 The Aftermath.

4 The Surprise.

5 The Reactions.

Part Two.

6 The Habit of Forgiveness.

7 The Roots of Forgiveness.

8 The Spirituality of Forgiveness.

9 The Practice of Forgiveness.

Part Three.

10 Forgiveness at Nickel Mines.

11 What About Shunning?

12 Grief, Providence, and Justice.

13 Amish Grace and the Rest of Us.

Afterword (2010).

Interview with Terri Roberts.

Appendix: The Amish of North America.

Endnotes.

Resources for Further Reading.

Acknowledgments.

The Authors.

Index.

Discussion and Reflection Guide.

The Fetzer Institute.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

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(20)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(3)

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(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2010

    I found this book to be very helpful. It not only gave me more insight into how and what the Amish people think and believe and why but gave me a whole new prespective on forgiveness and all it includes from the way they live. I am a parent and can

    not even imagine what they went through and are still dealing with today.They live what they believe, not like the majority of us that say something and then when hard times come we fall apart and cave in instead of standing strong on our faith.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    When God Stopped Keeping Score

    I live in Pennsylvania and this story was hard to miss in the news when it occurred. At the time, I thought it was just another tragedy until I read R.A. Clark's book, "When God Stopped Keeping Score" that showed how the gift of forgiveness that came afterwards transcended the tragedy. I applaud this author's effort to help showcase this story because not only is it worthy of telling so that it never happens again, it also helps people understand what could push a person to that point to begin with.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Outstanding

    This is a story of how the Amish forgive just like Jesus intended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 16, 2010

    An insight into the Amish Life

    Like most of the world, I was in shock when the news of what happened became public knowledge. My husband and I know a few Amish people. We used to go to a camp for kids with Muscular Dystrophy and two of the boys there were Amish. My husband was their "buddy" for the week of summer camp for MDA. We became friends with their family and have spent many wonderful days in their home. The two boys have both died since that time but we continue to visit when we can. I am certainly no expert on the entire Amish lifestyle but a lot of what was in this book appears to agree with what we have found out over time. They are wonderful people and this book gives major insight in to their lifestyle and who they are. It wasn't what I was expecting but ended up being so much more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 7, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Amish Grace is inspiring

    It is very easy to hate, unfortunately. Having the Heavenly Grace to forgive even the vilest of deeds is more than accomplishment; it is inspired grace. The authors weave a worthwhile story of community, bed-rock faith, and truly 'walking the walk' of faith. Great read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    Amish Grace - What a truly inspiring book!

    I loved this book! It was inspirational! It will make you think about your own beliefs on forgiveness.I was given more insight to the Amish and their religious beliefs.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    When God Stopped Keeping Score

    I live in Pennsylvania and this story was hard to miss in the news when it occurred. At the time, I thought it was just another tragedy until I read R.A. Clark's book, "When God Stopped Keeping Score" that showed how the gift of forgiveness that came afterwards transcended the tragedy. I applaud this author's effort to help showcase this story because not only is it worthy of telling so that it never happens again, it also helps people understand what could push a person to that point to begin with.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2008

    Beautiful Book on such a Tragic Story

    This beautiful true story is written well and you can almost feel the sadness and yet you can also feel the forgiveness with this book. I am not done with the book yet but only have two chapters left and I have only had the book for 4 days. It was a very tragic event that the amish turned into forgiveness as only they do it seems.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2008

    A reviewer

    It is so simple, as they have chosen to live there lives perhaps living simple staying small and not allowing the world to rule them has made it possible, by living it day by day! They have in fact embraced Jesus Christs last words forgive them Father they know not what they do!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Great

    I have seen the movie so i know i will absoulty LOVE it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 19, 2011

    love reading books:) loved it hope you do to: ):)

    i hope you love the book like i did and i also watch the movie it is sad but you will like it. hope you enjoy it like i did..:) :)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 27, 2010

    great book

    i loved this book i barowed it from a friend be for i got the nook color and i loved it so i download it on my nook color

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2010

    Not exactly wht I wanted.

    This was very informative but lacked a story-line, and I prefer reading stories about people and their lives.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Textbook for understanding the Amish

    I listened to the audio CD after reading the book and the authors have a few organizational problems that are an issue on the CD. This was used in a study group and I found the imformation unusually organizated and often repetitive. IF you want to understand the Nickelmines event and the Amish response this is a good beginning.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted July 10, 2012

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    Posted October 13, 2009

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    Posted December 10, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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