Rated PG. Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 1; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 1
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Everyone knows about the killing of five Amish girls in Lancaster County and of the incredible act of forgiveness on the part of the Amish community. This Lifetime Movie Channel film, based on the book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy,
fills in the details, focusing in on the struggle of the mother of one of the murdered girls to accept her church’s decision to love rather than to hate.
In the episode leading up to the tragic day we see that Ida Graber already harbors a grudge against her church because of the shunning of her sister. She had been a widow who fell in love with and married “an English” (as the Amish call outsiders). Now the two can communicate only by letter, the sister having left the community and moved to Philadelphia.
When the deranged Charlie Roberts shoots the ten girls, Ida and her husband Gideon rush to the school but are kept at a distance by the police. Slowly, the names of the dead and the wounded are made known. Meanwhile Charlie’s wife, now a widow due to his suicide, struggles with an intense sense of guilt because she had seen nothing to warn her that his unrequited grief over the infant death of their youngest child was driving him to such a terrible outcome. That very afternoon she and her father-in-law are surprised by the visit of the three leaders of the Amish community who pay a visit.
Gideon is one of the visitors. She is astonished that they offer forgiveness to Charlie and extend condolences for her own loss, offering to stand by her and help in any way that they can. The TV reporter watching outside is also amazed by the unfolding story of the unbelievable response of the Amish. Her boss, skeptical of the sincerity of the Amish, assigns her and her cameraman to stay on the story in the days ahead.
The film does a marvelous job of showing grieving people struggling with their emotions, in Ida’s case, with hatred. This story of faith, hope and love also stresses the importance of the faith community in nurturing the heart and soul and supporting the individual struggling to choose between forgiveness and hatred. The climax of the film will remind one of the wonderful one in the other film set in an Amish community, Witness. Because the actual killings themselves are not shown this is a film suitable for families to watch, though young children should not see it alone. It is by no means a flawless film, the make up of all the Amish women being Hollywood perfect, and their dresses look like they just came off the costume rack rather than having gone through countless washings via tubs and scrub boards. Nonetheless this is a film, filled with enough material for a dozen sermons, not to be missed, and when it is released on DVD, will become a treasured resource for the church.