Monday, October 09, 2006

Some Thoughts Around the Amish Mass Murder Last Week

Murder is murder but somehow it seems even more despicable to target people who may be more vulnerable because of their relative isolation and lack of ready cell phones.


Maybe they would have been less vulnerable had anyone in that schoolhouse had effective weapons.


Although as a Catholic I can not condone or promote suicide, it is hard not to agree with Dennis Miller that, if you get so twisted up that you fear you can no longer stop yourself from hurting children in that way, that it might be time for you to stick your chin out and "take one for the team". You just need to do it before you go into the schoolroom with the K-Y jelly and the ropes, not wait until you think you're going to be caught.


Right or wrong, the people I pity most in all of this are not the family of the girls who were murdered, but the children of the murderer. Even if their mother moves them away from this small area, so that they can be relatively anonymous, I can not imagine how horrible this knowledge will be for them to live with.


I don't know the details, but I was heartened to hear in Rod Dreher's good opinion piece that the Amish were collecting money to help the widow and children of the murderer.


NRO's John Podhoretz, mentioning Rod Dreher's saying elsewhere he wished to become the sort of person who could stand over a murdered girl and say not to hate the murderer, said that some people we should hate. (I hope I'm not oversimplifying what I read days ago.) Yesterday Jeff Jacoby had a column saying "hatred is not always wrong, and forgiveness is not always deserved". I think both men are failing to distinguish between hating an action and hating a person. You can hate very much a despicable action and hate the attitude or philosophy that led to that action, and yet not hate the person who committed it. It is hard to explain why or how this can be so, but it is. A human person is more than one or several despicable actions he has committed; even the most depraved person still has some human dignity and worth left about him, no matter how much he has done to deserve our scorn, simply because he is still human. We punish the despicable action and we try to prevent other such actions, but we don't have to hate the person to do it--although anger is inevitable and hatred is sometimes thoroughly understandable.

Jacoby goes on, "I cannot see how the world is made a better place by assuring someone who would do terrible things to others that he will be readily forgiven afterward, even if he shows no remorse." And, "The murder of the Amish girls was a deeply hateful evil. There is nothing godly about pretending it wasn't." Forgiveness does not mean we will not punish the wrongdoer's anti-social action in a just way. Forgiveness does not mean we will fail to protect our society from other such attacks, both by that perpetrator and others. And forgiveness certainly does not mean we will say what the wrongdoer did was right. It does mean we will let go of our anger and our resentment against that person; we will refuse to let resentment eat away at us, destroying our lives.

I personally have trouble forgiving--I'd much rather sink an ax in the chests of people who've deliberately hurt me or my family, then (in certain special cases) dig up the bastards' graves and dance on their corpses--and I used to argue much the same line Jacoby does with my husband, who is a much better person than I am. My husband used to tell me that forgiveness does more for you than it does for the person you're forgiving. Age and--please God--maturity have brought me around to thinking he's right; holding on to our anger and resentment may or may not hurt the other person, but it definitely does a number on us. I also finally came to realize that forgiving someone was not the same as saying what they'd done didn't matter, that it wasn't wrong. And THEN I became a Christian, with an obligation, not only to forgive, but to pray for my enemies; nobody who's tried that ever said this was an easy religion.

One place I would agree with Jacoby--besides believing that the murders were an evil, godless action--is that forgiveness is not always deserved. But Christians such as the Amish are still called to forgiveness, whether the wrongdoer deserves forgiveness or not. And we're required to pray for those who do evil against us, whether those people deserve our prayers or not--probably especially when they don't deserve them. It's rarely pleasant or easy to do, but it is a requirement. And what is the alternative--a society dominated by vengeance and inhumanity?

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