Amish Grace – forgiving the unforgivable

Just seen the film Amish Grace and thought I’d throw my thoughts here – raw and jumbled as they are.

Good film. Emotionally hard to watch, obviously – a movie about children being killed by a guy that walks into their school and starts shooting, if it wasn’t emotionally hard to watch, wouldn’t be worth watching. This is tough stuff, one of the toughest things to deal with. I think it was dealt with very well.

We were shown something of the life of the community that was going to be impacted by this event, so that we got to know the people first, as individuals, with their own families and personalities and so on. We were even shown something of the life of the guy who was going to do it, and a glimpse into why.

There was no blood & gore, no shooting scene – there was no need for that. We saw the guy preparing for it, and then we saw people’s reactions after it happened.

The main theme was that of forgiveness: the Amish community showing the world something amazing – people forgiving the unforgivable, people who have every right to be angry choosing instead to show love to the murderer’s widow. The reactions of the TV news people showed how utterly inconceivable this seems to the world out there, and yet to Christians this is – or at least should be – obvious: we’re told to forgive, so, even though it is sometimes really difficult, we forgive anyway. I loved the bit where one of the mothers who had lost kids in the shooting talked about how she has to keep forgiving again and again and again, how she gets up in the morning and there’s silence instead of the normal sounds of her kids and the silence reminds her of what happened and she is filled with anger – but she takes that anger to God because she doesn’t want to hang onto it; and then she may have to do it again an hour later, and again an hour later, and so on… I loved that she was being so real about it.

And I loved the conversation between one of the bereaved fathers with his young daughter, who was saying she really hates the guy who murdered her sister, and she wants her daddy to tell her it’s ok to hate this guy. Her dad reassures her that her feelings are quite natural, and says that yes, she can hate this guy as much as she likes for as long as she likes. But then he gently asks her: how does it feel, this hatred inside you? Does it feel good? And he helps her to see that actually it will do her good to let go, that hatred damages you from the inside.

I couldn’t help making the connection between this and what happened with this guy who shot the kids – he had been nursing his own hurt and anger for years, bitter about his own baby who had died the day she was born, angry at God and eventually, having never let go of these feelings, getting to the point of actually going out and hurting a whole lot of people and killing himself. The Amish were facing the same choice, which we all face when hit by a devastating loss: hold on to the anger and let it fester inside you, or forgive and let go and set yourself free – sometimes people think that forgiving someone is about letting them off the hook, but it’s a lot more to do with letting yourself off, setting yourself free. (I liked how one of the Amish explained that it isn’t about saying that what this guy did didn’t matter, we know that he will one day stand before a just God and we can leave it to God to sort out the justice side of things.)

I liked that there was one of the Amish mothers wrestling with this stuff, so that we could see the very real struggle that forgiveness can involve. The feeling that she’d be betraying her daughter by forgiving her murderer – that’s something I think a lot of people struggle with in such situations. (And on a side note, I thought she made a very interesting point about how they were so willing to forgive a murderer but at the same time insisted on shunning her sister because she had left the community. That does seem incongruous.)

end of jumbled straight-off-from-seeing-this-film thoughts.

Questions? Thoughts? Talk to me - I don't bite :)

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