Thursday, March 01, 2007
Philip Yancy On the Amish, Forgiveness and Chrisitans
I'd be curious to hear your thoughts and reflections on this Phil Yancy article. I was especially moved by the international curiosity about the Amish response to the school killings. Of course generally, the article didn't make me feel proud to be an American Christian...www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/march/22.120.html
posted by Jemila Kwon at 7:41 AM
Intersting article. I was deeply moved by the reaction of the Amish after the school shooting. In a time where I have struggled "to turn the other cheek", I keep those kinds of stories in mind.
I agree that I am not real impressed with the way the American culture has become. I have said many times that we should respect each other (denominationally), and encourage "God's work" within each other. I have learned that we don't agree on many things, but there are so many people who truely want to honor God and do "the right" thing. Unfortunately, I think there is a lot of pressure, as we well know. If you don't think "right" then your placed in a completely different realm.
As for "our rich" churches and the need for things...I have felt for a long time, that it must make (American's) look extremely self-centered and rightous. Our "blessings" have been connected to numbers, buildings, how nice your church programs are etc. I have cringed at the idea of the amount of money that pours through some of these churches. The people who could be helped or fed.....
I agree with the article in respect to judging others faith. It still amazes me that when people fall on hard times, or have a lot to deal with others will tell them that their faith is not strong enough. I find that absolutely insensitive and arrogant!
I wonder why the American media quickly rushed past the Amish response to the school shooting and yet it really caught the attention of groups overseas? It seems that there is very much a "glitz & gore" perspective that that the latest walk down the runway or horrible tragedy receives prominent response with the processing of those situations relegated to the sidelines.
I also liked his analysis of hurt and recognition that prayer and "faith" as it has been defined by some doesn't cut it. Sometimes all we can know in prayer is that we're not alone.
I especially resonate with the last part of Yancey's piece about people in pain. Our churches are full of people in pain, and to claim that they should simply have more faith is to diminish both the human experience and the experience of Christ on earth when he cried out, "My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?"
I like Yancey's writing and his admission that the Christian life is not the neat thing that American evangelicals make it out to be. Soul Survivor: How I Survived the Church (by Yancey) is a fantastic book, and I would highly recommend it.
I want to add my perspective as a British woman on the first part of the article. I was interested in the comment that there is no overlay of cultural Christianity and no social advantage here.
I fear we're not quite as liberated from riches and status as this article kindly implies! In many smaller towns and villages there is still a sense of social expectation over going to church, and there is also some residual status involved in your "brand" of Christianity. Anglicans versus Catholics for example. And politicians who are Christian are just as likely to find ways of letting voters know that fact!
But the writer is correct in saying that there is a lot of dialogue between different Christians and we do often work together. I hadn't thought of the "being thrown together because we're a minority" argument, but it makes sense.
By the way, I thought it was very interesting that the writer refers to British "audiences". I think that may well be a big difference as it is a word I've never heard here for church congregations. It implies an expectation of theatrical performance by the priest/vicar which I've never found.
I'm enjoying reading your blog - I hadn't even heard of the "Emerging Church" until I stumbled across this site, and have been doing some reading since. Interesting.
yet it really caught the attention of groups overseas?
1) It wasn't a typical response to violence from a community. Most communities would be angry, not forgiving.
2) It wasn't a typical "Christian" response to violence...or at least it isn't the response that most places are used to hearing about from U.S. Christians.
In the US churches I take part in, I heard quite a bit about looking to the Amish as a model of forgiveness last fall, and I do think that the message the Nickel Mines community sent to the world is crucial to be heard.
But I cannot hear mention of the Amish forgiveness without expressing my frustration with the way the story of Nickel Mines was handled. Most reports I saw in the US referred to the victims as children, schoolgirls, but failed to address the gender implications of GIRLS being targeted because of their gender. This would surface not only the wider US culture of patriarchy, which tolerates violence against women as a matter of course - it would also surface the blatant sexism within those forgiving Amish communities.
I am also concerned by the way some folks, across political spectra, seem to romanticize the Amish. I think we can take a lesson from them even more when we recognize that they are normal people just like us, and normal people with flaws and sins, and their forgiveness arises within that human context.
I recommend that all of us enhance our understanding of the situation of violence in Amish communities by reading the posts at the following two websites, which shook me of my naive idealizing of the Amish as any more peaceful than anyone else:
In the end, I do find a wonderful lesson of forgiveness from the Amish response to the massacre of young women last October, but I find that lesson THROUGH the understanding of the Amish as a people just as flawed and patriarchal as other communities.
Thanks for the links, priestess. I agree with your comments. I look to the specific story, as I know that I do not agree with many aspects of their ideology. I did find it interesting that the comment was made down the line that a murderer can be forgiven, but people who leave the Amish life can't. Of course it is so easy to see these wacky "rules/reasonings" within a certain branch of "Christianity" when it is not our own.
Yes, Priestess, I hear your concern of not idealizing a group and missing the larger picture. The stories on your links are indeed appalling.
I agree we can best learn from others when we see their full spectrum humanity -- the amazingly good and the unbelievably abhorrent. Because both are part of us all, really, and while we can admire an ideal, we can learn more from something/someone real.
Michele, a big amen.
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