Sunday, October 29, 2006

What the Amish are Teaching America

Shortly after the tragic school shooting in the Amish community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, I left for India to participate in the "Thinking Together" consultation. During that week, I stayed at the Shanti Ashram in Coimbatore and with folks at the Gandhi Museum in Madurai, engaging Gandhian activists and organizers in serious conversation and becoming convinced that the Satyagraha model of non-violent community change is still valid for our time.

It is in that context that I return to a reflection on the lessons of the Amish community following that tragedy. Rather than exact revenge from the family of the shooter, in their deepest grief following the deaths of 6 girls in that school room, and 8 critically injured, they reached out to that family in love. This is in utter contrast to what most people, including Christians, in our culture will do. Is it not surprising that they want to isolate themselves from the rest of the country?

It also makes me wonder what has gone wrong with right-wing Christianity so often associated with its Evangelical stream that its TV Evangelist leaders (Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham) and its organizational leaders (Tony Perkins, John Hagee etc.) have no qualms about calling for violent revenge, particularly against Muslims. We should all take a lesson from the Amish, or then again, perhaps we should read our Bibles more carefully and take a lesson from Jesus who taught us that the most important commandments are that we love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. He also exhorted upon us a more demanding virtue: Love your enemies.

The Amish are teaching us how to be Christian -- indeed how to be religious, since that's what all religions teach us. This is a lesson we cannot afford to not to learn.

Here's an excellent commentary entitled What the Amish are Teaching America from Sally Kohn, of the Center for Community Change, a powerful community organizing network.


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