PARADISE, Pennsylvania (CNN) — A grieving grandfather told young relatives not to hate the gunman who killed five girls in an Amish schoolhouse massacre, a pastor said on Wednesday.
“As we were standing next to the body of this 13-year-old girl, the grandfather was tutoring the young boys, he was making a point, just saying to the family, ‘We must not think evil of this man,'” the Rev. Robert Schenck told CNN.
“It was one of the most touching things I have seen in 25 years of Christian ministry.”
. . . Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, said local people were trying to follow Jesus’ teachings in dealing with the “terrible hurt.”
“I don’t think there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts,” he told CNN.
Sam Stoltzfus, 63, an Amish woodworker who lives a few miles away from the shooting scene, told The Associated Press that the victims’ families will be sustained by their faith.
“We think it was God’s plan, and we’re going to have to pick up the pieces and keep going,” he told AP. “A funeral to us is a much more important thing than the day of birth because we believe in the hereafter. The children are better off than their survivors.”
In comparison, I just got an email about the news that Fred Phelps’s hate church is planning on protesting at the funerals of those killed. I just can’t fathom that kind of hate and it honestly makes no sense. (here’s the PDF of his announcement flyer — WARNING this link is to horrible material from a hate website)
But in another way it does. These two responses to tragedy are telling. The Amish have chosen to live with love and forgiveness. Fred Phelps and his folks are chosing to live out of hate and blind anger. Rarely do we see this kind of contrast, but I must say that the Amish way sure looks better.
As to Fred Phelps, the best thing to do is to pray for him, that he would be set free from the shackles of hatred and instead discover the love that Jesus had for everyone. I know Fred is convinced that God is vengeful, angry and hateful (and to some extent the Old Testament has that vibe at some points), but that god is not the God that Jesus taught about.