Here’s a little Amish girl.
This is the sort of sweet child gunned down in a school house in Pennsylvania. This is the sort of little girl who tried to save the lives of her friends by saying to an insane, lust filled beast, “Shoot me first.”
There is more religious faith and courage in that little girl than in a million Islamic suicide bombers.
G.K.Chesterton said, “Every argument is a theological argument.” The scenes this week make his point. The events in Pennsylvania and Iraq reveal the clash of two religious cultures.
Contrast the Amish and Islamist. Both appear to be religious fanatics. Both societies are intentionally anti-modern. Both societies are culturally antique. The men with their beards, the women with their dark modest dress, the suspicion of the outside world, the suspicion of technology…they look pretty similar. And suddenly in Amish land just as in Islam land both societies are faced with wanton violence and unimaginable bloodshed. In both crazed gunmen execute innocent little girls.
The violence and insane killing does not surprise me. Murder is as ancient as Cain and Abel.
It is the different response that makes me gasp with sudden enlightenment. The different response among people in Lancaster County and people in Baghdad reveals the core difference between Islam and Christianity. In one culture they wail and beat their breasts and then plot how to murder their enemy. In the other they wail and beat their breasts, then load up their buggies to go and forgive their enemy.
At the heart of the Christian faith is forgiveness: the need for forgiveness, the way of forgiveness, and the power of forgiveness which is the cross of Christ. Is forgiveness a part of Islam? Have you ever heard any Muslim–radical, moderate or nominal–ever mention forgiveness at all? Even once? Have you ever got the idea that they even have it in their vocabulary? I haven’t.
I am no expert in Islam, but I do know that the cross of Christ is not at the center of Islam, and the demand to forgive and be forgiven (if it exists at all) is marginal. Instead the Muslim follows the only other form of ‘justice’ that humanity can conceive: retribution and revenge. In the face of violence, the downward spiral of retribution and revenge can only plunge everyone into more violence, bloodshed and grief.
Christianity stands that on its head. The Christian faith demands forgiveness–radical, crazy, totally total unconditional forgiveness.
As Christianity faces global Islam, the Amish are prophets for us all. With immense dignity and faith in action, their hearts full of confusion and fear and anger and grief, they step out to visit the family of the murderer to forgive.
In the war against Islam I stand with my own ancestors–the Mennonite and Amish of Pennsylvania. In the face of the murderous reign of Islam, I stand with them, and not with those who seek revenge, and who use torture to prevail.
As a Christian nation, do we follow the way of forgiveness or the way of revenge? The first way is Christian. The second is Islamic.
If America wants to prevail over the Islamic threat, the quiet, plain and peaceful people of Pennsylvania have shown us the way.