What the Amish can teach us...

Forgiveness.

This has been the powerful coping strategy employed by the Amish of Nickel Mines, Pa., who on October 2nd endured the unimaginable when a stranger to their community invaded a one-room schoolhouse and executed five young girls. The Amish have reached out to the family of the gunman and, with the assistance of a deeply abiding faith, they continue to cling to the hope that in releasing their pain and anguish to God all will eventually be healed.

This heroic response on the part of the Amish community has rightfully been lauded worldwide. It should be held up by Christians everywhere as an example of how those who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus should conduct themselves in such horribly dark circumstances.

At the same time, we've come to learn that, ironically, it was precisely a lack of forgiveness and a surplus of guilt and shame that was at the root of the psychotic break that ultimately led to the gunman's hateful acts.

And so one is left to wonder: What can the United States learn from all of this?

Imagine what would have happened if on September 12th, 2001, the US had offered forgiveness to the perpetrators of the atrocious attacks of the previous day. Imagine if it had reached out to the families of the hijackers and pledged to help them heal from the loss of their loved ones. Imagine if it had reached out to the worldwide Muslim community, recognizing that the tragedy was theirs as well, and vowed to strengthen respect for the noble religion and people of Islam. Imagine if it had insisted that the acts always be characterized as political attacks and not religious ones so as to short-circuit the cultural legitimizing of criminal behavior. Then imagine how the entire world would have responded as the US requested cooperation in finding the other people responsible for the attacks. Would not all of the other conspirators be tried and convicted by now without the need for two costly regime-changing wars?

What is it that prevented a so-called Christian (and supremely powerful) nation from delivering such a magnanimous response? When there is no forgiveness in our hearts, guilt and shame fill the vacuum. Guilt and shame for whatever part we've played in provoking attacks. Guilt and shame that we long to hurl at perpetrators in a quest for so-called justice. Guilt and shame that spring from the fear we have of the vulnerability of taking an honest look at ourselves; a fear that manifests as hate against those who force that introspection; a hate that convinces us that violence is our only path to peace and healing.

The good news is that it isn't too late. The rest of the world may yet understand the US rush to secure vengeance and be willing to forgive it. When one fails to offer forgiveness, he may still find redemption in asking for it.

If the US relents from violence and asks for forgiveness, I believe the world will grant it. And I believe the world will be transformed into something abundantly more peaceful than it is right now.

If you're a US citizen and you believe that the greatest show of strength is by humbling ourselves rather than by humiliating others, use THIS LINK to find the email addresses of your US representatives and ask them to encourage the President to pay his respects to his avowed Savior and to the short lives of five Amish girls in Nickel Mines, Pa. by renouncing violence and embracing the spirit of forgiveness.

Your voice can make a difference. And it is that fact, not war, that is the true glory of the United States.