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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Amish Grace and Amazing Grace

Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt and David L. Weaver-Zercher is a soulful and thought-provoking meditation on the Amish understanding and practice of forgiveness and loving one’s enemies. On Oct. 2, 2006, Charles Carl Roberts IV entered an Amish schoolhouse near Nickle Mines, Pa., and shot 10 girls; five died and five were seriously wounded. He then took his own life. While the rest of the country responded with shock and anger, the Amish responded with graciousness, patience and love. Instead of being consumed with revenge, this community lavished forgiveness on the killer’s widow, her parents and the killer’s parents.

The Fetzer Institute provided research funds for Amish Grace as part of its Campaign for Love & Forgiveness. The authors are scholars who have written extensively on Amish society, history and culture. They talked with more than two dozen Amish people in the Nickle Mines area, including family members of the murdered children. Their study is divided into three sections: the story of the school shootings and responses to it; a wide-ranging exploration of the habits, roots, spirituality and practice of forgiveness in Amish life; and a look at the meaning of forgiveness in American society today.

In the most incisive chapter in the book, the authors point out that the Amish see Jesus’ practice of forgiveness as central to his life and ministry (John Wiley & Sons/Jossey Bass).

DVD


Amazing Grace is an inspiring and well-acted movie about William Wilberforce, an 18th-century member of the British Parliament and human rights activist who spearheaded a 20-year battle to abolish the English slave trade. His moral crusade was built upon his evangelical faith in God and a commendable single-mindedness and patience. We see Wilberforce’s zeal, wit, struggle with illness, political savvy, friendships, and love and family life. Perhaps the most astonishing bond in his life is his friendship with William Pitt, who eventually becomes the prime minister of England. Another ally and supporter is John Newton, the remorseful former slave trader who penned the hymn “Amazing Grace.”

Amazing Grace would be an inspiring film if it only told the story of the anti-slavery cause in England. But Wilberforce turns out to be a moral leader in other areas as well. An activist for animals, he is involved in the founding of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In a scene about his service ethic, he orders his cook to prepare meals for any poor person who shows up at the door, so that at times the kitchen is full of unruly groups devouring the household’s supplies. He was clearly a man with a deep reverence for life—all life—making him a moral mentor for us all (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment-PG).


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Reinventing Sunday school

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