Jul 12, 2007

Choosing to Walk in the Light

In the late 1600's and the early 1700's the Amish would come to settle in the United States after years of suffering religious persecution in Switzerland. Today more than 200,000 Amish live in the United States and they practice their religion freely without fear of persecution.

It has not always been easy for the Amish living in America, despite their deep respect for the separation of church and state, the Amish are fervently anti-modern, technophobic insular pietists who have willingly conceded the fact that by following the tenets of their religion, it is impossible for them to assimilate and integrate into the mainstream of America.

During a summer vacation, as a child, with my parents driving from Texas to Illinois would be the very first time that I had ever seen Amish people. My father would slow down in the car so that all of us could see the horse drawn buggy up close and the Amish family dressed in their old-fashioned clothes.

As I got older I often wondered to myself why the Amish chose to live in their own communities and why they didn't attempt to force others to 'tolerate them in the name of diversity' and pay reverence to their way of life by taking their case to court and perhaps arguing that their "freedom of religion" gave them the right to drive their buggies anywhere they wanted and the rest of us would just have to resign ourselves to the fact that their "freedom of religion" would mean that we would have to conform to them. I imagined how that would inevitably lead to society's overall regression if we had to do without the modern amenities of life.

It would take until only last year when a terrible tragedy struck the Amish community in Pennsylvania, when I began to truly understand the Amish people. I received an email copy from a friend of a letter written to the Amish community from a gentlemen named Craig Smith. A letter that would continue to have an effect on my life to this very day.
"The difference between being ordinary and extraordinary is simply a choice. A choice to be great is never easy and may take sacrifice, but that is why there are plenty of ordinary folks in America yet very few truly extraordinary.

This week America witnessed this principle in the most profound way. A group of peace-loving, hard-working, self-sufficient, faithful citizens laid to rest their precious children who were cut down in their early years at the hand of a man in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.

We all know the story. The Amish community was shaken to its core as a man entered a schoolhouse, tied up 10 young girls and then proceeded to slay them. Methodically, one by one they were shot execution-style until ultimately the shooter turned the gun on himself and the horror-filled air rang silent. I can't imagine what the scene must have been like, much less what that scene looked like in the minds of the parents who loved those children.

After the smoke settled and the reports started to pour forth, we watched as a group of extraordinary people responded to this tragedy as only extraordinary people would. They mourned and cried and then went about the grim task of hand digging the graves in which their children would soon be laid to rest. Afterwards they arranged, by meeting all the requirements of the state, to make the sorrowful trip to the coroner's office to take possession of the lifeless bodies so a funeral and subsequent burial could take place.

They drove their horse and buggies to the grave sites and buried their dead. Every last shovelful of dirt was gently placed on the coffin with the same care and attention as it was removed by the love of a father, brother or uncle. All the while the state offered transportation, counseling and various services in hopes of making this tragedy less burdensome. The response was

"Thank you, but all we ask is for our privacy and your prayers".

The most remarkable part of this sad story is not what was visible but what was invisible. The invisible shows the extraordinary character of these fine people. During this whole process you never saw a finger of blame being pointed at anyone, including the gunman who took innocent life from the Amish community.

The most you heard was an Amish spokesman's prepared comments read by a policeman. The comments were filled with love, understanding and forgiveness for what took place. Comments that talked about how this man made a bad choice and they forgive him for making that choice. They didn't blame guns, politicians, media, society or any of the other normal targets that we ordinary people look to blame.

They didn't blame God or look to make sense of what is a truly senseless act. They made a choice to live their faith and trust in God. Knowing full well God loves them and has forgiven them, in turn they forgive others - even when it means the loss of something as precious as a child.

They chose not to allow hate to fill their hearts. They know hate produces darkness and eclipses the light of God in man. They chose to walk in light and not in darkness. Walking in darkness can only produce more evil, and for the Amish that wasn't even an option.

Some may suggest that is a sign of weakness, but I know that it is the sign of ultimate strength. Make no mistake, however; it was a choice. They could hate and seek revenge. Instead they returned evil with good. They choose to love and not hate. Their natural reaction was to reach out to the family of the killer and invite them to the funerals of their slain children. The Amish have been more concerned about the pain of the killer's survivors then they are themselves. Perfect love and forgiveness has sprung forth from this truly extraordinary group of people.

What a great life lesson we could all receive if we choose to do the same as we watch Democrats criticize Republicans and Republicans criticize Democrats. We see no forgiveness from either camp for mistakes made or poor choices. Instead all we see is the constant straddling for political advantage. Who can trip up the other versus trying to heal each other's pain. How elections mean more than truth. Human decency loses out to advantage and politics.

This week was a rather extraordinary week to me, for I watched Americans all across this country choose to either be ordinary or extraordinary. A man chose to walk into a school and kill innocent kids. A group in D.C. postured and played political gamesmanship to beat an opponent. They both walk in darkness because their motive is hate. Then there is a group of folks who chose to be extraordinary simply by living their faith in a God of love. They didn't blame or criticize. They didn't look to gain advantage in order to destroy their opponent. No - they loved and forgave and chose to walk in light.

Some call the Amish old-fashioned. They don't watch TV or listen to the radio. They don't fill their minds with the toxic waste coming from Hollywood. They work hard, love their families and love God. I think we all owe the Amish a collective sense of gratitude, for they have shown us this week what America could be if we shut off the iPods, turned off the TV, ignored the agenda- driven media and simply walked in light. They chose to love and not hate. I can only hope each member on Capitol Hill and across the nation heard the message coming from Pennsylvania this week.

To the Amish, I express my heartfelt sorrow and mourning for your loss. The nation grieves with you. But we also rejoice in knowing your faith proves to us all there is more than this life. We know those beautiful young ladies are walking with Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They have now spent time with Paul, James, Peter and Silas. They have all now seen HIS face."
In many ways the Amish and the fundamentalist Muslims in America today are alike, both have found that their religious beliefs prevent them from being able to assimilate and integrate into the mainstream of American society without someone giving ground.

For the Amish, they have chosen respectfully to live an insular life, isolating themselves from the mainstream of America with the sole desire of defending and preserving their religious freedom and yet at the same time embracing all the good that America stands for, a people who have chosen to walk in the light of liberty.

For many Muslims in America, they have, by and large, chosen a different confrontational route demanding that American society change and conform to their cultural and religious beliefs and customs, often demonizing those who will not willingly subjugate themselves by labeling their opponents as "bigots" and "Islamophobes" and initiating legal action at the slightest provocation. Consumed in the fires of their own Manichean struggle their desire is not to defend and preserve their religious freedom, but to achieve political power so that they might recreate America in their own image.

There is nothing bigoted or hateful about defending our way of life, and yet there are those among us who would abuse the freedoms we have only to further their own agenda. To quote McCracken, we have forgotten that "the men who first crossed the Atlantic not come to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls."

A line from a poem, "The New Colossus," by the nineteenth-century American poet Emma Lazarus appears on a plaque at the base of the statue of liberty. It ends with Lady Liberty herself speaking:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
The broken shackles lying at Lady Liberty's feet signify liberation from oppression and tyranny. The seven spikes in the crown represent the seven seas and seven continents and the torch signifies enlightenment, it welcomes and leads the way for those who wish to walk in the light and not the darkness.


  1. the punny pundit7:21 PM

    The Amish are the best home-grown example to use to show up the hollowness of the Islamikazes' lies. I have always wondered why nobody in America thought of bringing up the long, true peaceful existence of the Amish in America whenever the Islamikazes open their lying mouths and spew platitudes about peace, love, and understanding.

  2. the punny pundit7:25 PM

    P.S. The Amish are fucked if the Islamikazes ever get into power. Will the Amish fight for their survival then or will they march passively to their doom?

  3. Yep a perfect example of Christian extremism - the Amish.


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