September 15th, 2010
04:19 PM ET

'The Amish Way' to forgiveness

Donald  Kraybill says the blood was barely dry on the floor of a Amish school where a gunmen murdered five girls when parents of the victims sent words of forgiveness to the family's gunmen.

How could the Amish forgive so quickly, he wondered?

It was the same question that many Americans asked after the 2006 schoolhouse shootings in Pennsylvania. But Kraybill was especially equipped to answer it. He had formed long-term friendships and relationships with members of the Amish community.

Kraybill’s insider’s perspective pervades his new book, “The Amish Way.” In the book, Kraybill and two other authors, tell the story of the Amish community’s faith in their own words and compare their beliefs to other faith traditions.

Kraybill, who has written or edited eight books on the Amish, also explains why the Amish are so resilient and dispels several misconceptions about the reclusive community.

He says one key to understanding the Amish’s resilience is to understand the importance they attach to patience.

They do not skip from one thing to the next, but stick with traditional answers and approaches. When they are faced with problems, their first instinct is to wait and pray rather than seek a quick fix. Indeed, the quick solution, the simple method, and the rapid cure that characterize our instant age are dangerous, says one Amish church leader. Demanding immediate solutions signals a lack of trust in God.

Equally important is the Amish insistence on forgiveness. Kraybill says the Amish sees forgiveness as a “form of giving up – giving up bitterness.”

As one Amish man told Kraybill:

The acid of hate destroys the container that holds it.

At a time when some say religious intolerance is dominating the news, a religious community’s willingness to forgive can make headlines, too.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Books • Christianity • Violence

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Celtix1234

    When parents can shun their children for leaving the faith, it makes one wonder just how much value those children have, other than as workhorses. My father shunned/disowned me 8 years ago for admitting I had left Catholicism for atheism. I doubt this estrangement really bothers him, as he always looked upon his children more as property and slaves than as human beings. Had someone shot one of his children, he would certainly be able to forgive, as it would be akin to shooting one of his cows. After all, he had 4 children; he still had 3 left. While I admire many things about the Amish, I feel the Amish are able to detatch themselves from their children in a certain way that I don't appreciate. Having raised two teens, I could never shun them just for having different beliefs – unless their beliefs included parricide!

    September 30, 2010 at 1:10 am |
  2. JohnQuest

    Now that is the Reality I have come to know and love (read as respect). Question, if the Amish aren't hurting anyone why "force" them to change?

    September 16, 2010 at 10:30 am |
    • Frogist

      @ JohnQuest: What's wrong with "love"? You mean you don't have that deep man love or Reality?! 😉

      September 16, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
  3. Reality

    Eugenics? Opening up the Amish community to the outside world's males and females greatly reduces the stochastic genetic problems of inbreeding. There is no specific control/eugenics involved. Think "amishmatchmaker.com" or "e-harmonyamishstyle.com".

    Oops, the original comment should have read, "Latvia, Estonia and the Ukraine." And I forgot to add countries where there are an excess number of males e.g. China, Greenland, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

    September 16, 2010 at 8:30 am |
    • Cautionary Tale

      Gives a whole new meaning to the term "barn raising". ..

      September 16, 2010 at 10:27 am |
  4. Olivia

    Needless to say, regardless of whether it came from thier faith in God, and belief of forgiveness, or when this just comes as a way to handle situations, it is good.
    Forgiveness is what the world needs more of. It is also healthy for the one forgiving. I see no problem with this at all.

    September 16, 2010 at 8:24 am |
  5. Mark from Middle River

    Dawi – That is an interesting thought and question. As humans my thoughts and I feel most folks thoughts would be to fight or lash out. Maybe for folks of faith, since for many of us the desire and need to have The Father in Heaven or other diety forgive us we are compelled to do such here on earth with one another. In other words if we know that God forgives us for our sins then it would be crazy wrong that we would not forgive another for transgressions towards us.

    Some call it the WWJD or just the simple part of the Lords Prayer where we say "and forgive those who transgress against us." I can't really speak for others but this is how I understand the Gospel.

    September 16, 2010 at 8:07 am |
    • Frogist

      @Mark: That's an interesting explanation of why christians might seek to forgive others. I don't doubt at all that people who truly believe that god forgives and feels good about that would forgive others in turn. And those who believe it more are compelled more towards acts of forgiveness.
      But I don't think that is necessarily truer for the religious as opposed to the secular. The need to be relieved of the burden of hurting someone else can manifest in guilt and anger and sadness and asking that person to forgive you relieves that tension. And in the case of grief, most counselors will tell you that the longer you hold onto that anger that comes with loss, the harder it is to function. Forgiveness can alleviate those feelings.
      My issue with forgiveness as prescribed in this instantaneous fashion is that it seems disingenuous. Loss, grief, pain cannot be overcome instantly. It takes years sometimes to heal that rift. And when people simply throw out "I forgive you" because they feel commanded to by their traditions, I wonder how much that forgiveness is really worth. Forgiveness should come with a full understanding of what and who you are forgiving.

      September 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  6. Reality

    Unfortunately, the Amish have a significant inbreeding problem with many children being born with mental and physical issues.

    A solution?: female immigrants from Latvia, Estonia and/or Estonia where the female population far exceeds the male population and a good dose of modern religious education about the historic Jesus and about the great con job pulled on all branches of Christianity.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:43 am |
    • peace2all


      Now THAT was 'vintage' Reality... 🙂


      September 16, 2010 at 5:50 am |
    • Cautionary Tale


      Eugenics? Really? How do you feel about culling? Population control?
      I'm guessing it won't take you long to dig up a paragraph or two....

      September 16, 2010 at 7:27 am |
  7. Mark from Middle River

    The part stating about demanding a immediate Solution to a given problem shows a lack in faith is a deep point.

    September 15, 2010 at 9:08 pm |
    • Darwi

      @Mark from Middle River

      Yet their forgiveness was an immediate solution that they put forth without delay.
      Did their "lack of faith" cause them to forgive those who did them wrong? Or was it something else?
      Patience is only a virtue when there is time for it.
      "Haste makes waste" does not apply to every situation.
      The Amish seek absolutes but will they find the ones they need?

      September 16, 2010 at 2:27 am |
  8. HotAirAce

    For another inspirational act, check out how Dale Lang and family handled it when their son was shot dead at a high school in Taber Alberta about 10 years ago, just a few days after the Columbine shootings. Not once did Dale and family lash out at the shooter – in fact, he asked for forgiveness for him. See http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/taber/omalley3.html. Dale spoke over 1500 times, mostly to youth, about the need to stop bullying and violence.

    September 15, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
    • Frogist

      I found the story touching, but I missed the part where he forgave the shooter. Did I miss something? Maybe you're referring to the section where the Rev blessed the family of the boy who shot his son. But that is not forgiveness in the strictest sense. Don't get me wrong. I think it's wonderful that he even mentioned the boy's parents at his child's funeral. I just don't think it was necessarily the same as saying, "I forgive him."

      September 16, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Please look at http://www3.telus.net/st_simons/cr0207.htm. Lots of other similar postings are avaiable.

      September 16, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.