Tuesday, March 8, 2011

No villain, no hero... Just faith

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Periodically, stories arise from the Anabaptist traditions that shock and sometimes offend sensibilities of the broader society. Perhaps most prominent in recent American memory is the 2006 Amish school shooting at Nickel Mines, Pa., and that community's response of near-immediate loving outreach to the shooter's family. Another story that exhibits costly Christian grace comes from a Mennonite family from Chewala, Wa., whose five children were killed in a car accident five years ago. But the story doesn't end there as this piece from the local TV station details...

One thing that fascinates me about this story's coverage is the surprisingly theological conversation at the end, taking place between the news anchors. You can tell that the main anchor's news-culture-enforced habit of placing stories into predefined categories of good/bad doesn't work in this case. She wants to name the other driver who - in the eyes of the state - was responsible for the deaths of those five children. The journalist covering the story, who has spent a significant amount of time with the folks involved, interprets this well: "There's no villain, there's no hero. There's just faith."

This story is also instructive from a restorative justice perspective. Notice how the Mennonite family stands with the man who's been taken to court - again, by the state - for vehicular homicide. Let me say that again: The family whose children were killed stand with the accused. The husband, Jeff, says "He's just as much a victim as we are," and the family is still in meaningful relationship with the driver who was charged, who testifies to their worth in his life and ongoing struggle to make sense of what he'd done. What gives rise to such shocking statements, attitudes, and actions? (Begging the question, I know, I know...) Answer: Christian faith practiced in costly ways.

Jeff says, "As a Christian, I recognize that forgiveness is the only way that I can be a Christian. And in return for that, forgiveness is required of me. And so in that sense, I don't have a choice." The submission to God's call to forgive because you have been forgiven in Christ - thereby forgoing individual choice on whether or not to forgive - grates against every nerve in the Western tradition, and the Schrock family are a startling retort to that story of individualism and freedom to choose.

Or as the Avett Brothers so masterfully put it: "Free is not your right to choose. It's answering what's asked of you. To give the love you find...until it's gone." That's exactly what the Schrock family are making so painfully, sacrificially clear to us, and I give thanks to God for such faithful witness.

(Avett Brothers lyric from "Ill With Want" off the I and Love and You album.)

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