Echoes of Nickel Mines

The news this past week has been dominated by the shooting in Tucson.  A gunman opened fire at a political event, killing 6 individuals, and severely wounding a US Representative.

In the aftermath, previous shootings come to mind, including Columbine and the Nickel Mines school shootings, probably the two most infamous in recent history.

As in Nickel Mines, a young girl has lost her life.  Nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who attended the event out of a nascent interest in politics, was shot and died later in hospital.

And again as in the case of Nickel Mines, Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas has announced plans to picket the funeral.  Westboro’s angle is to use heavily-visible funerals, typically involving high-profile deaths (ie, school shootings or war casualties), to gain publicity for their “message”.  That message, as far as I can tell, seems to be God’s supposed hatred of everything from soldiers to Jews to homosexual individuals.

Frankly, I have trouble understanding this group, which seems to be more a publicity-hungry band of extremists than anything else.  The protests have been called off, however.  A pair of radio hosts have given air time to Westboro in exchange for an agreement to not picket victims’ funerals.

This repeats the move of one of the hosts, Mike Gallagher, who gave air time to the same group in order to prevent them picketing the Nickel Mines girls’ funerals in 2006.  At that time, they condemned the Amish for “creat[ing] their own form of righteousness” and the entire state of Pennsylvania for the governor’s previous criticism of Westboro itself.

The radio offer has been controversial.  Some have questioned the wisdom of giving Westboro a much expanded audience over the airwaves.  But apparently Gallagher is confident that the group will be “exposed for exactly who they are”.

I would probably agree with the move, if only for the sake of the victims’ families.  Westboro’s message, (to the degree that you can find a coherent message) seems a perversion, or inversion, of Christian beliefs: hating the sinner.   In this case, “sinners” are those who Westboro deems worthy of their hatred–including the world’s 1 billion Catholics, Barack Obama, and the country of Italy.

In Westboro’s eyes, there is a lot of hate to go around.  Whatever they are, it’s hard to see how they can be called a “church”, or at least not one within the Christian tradition.

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    1. Lance

      The Nickel Mines legacy is that of forgiveness. The Amish example of forgiveness in the face of horrible tragedy is something I can never forget.

      As for WBC, they apparently don’t have these verses in their Bibles: Rom 12:18, 1Tim 2:1-3, 1Thess 4:11, Heb 12:14, nor these: Matthew 7:1-2,21-23, 1Cor 1-13.

    2. Theresa

      It is so sad to see such hatred among those who call themselves Christian. We are to hate the sin; not the sinner.

    3. Alice Aber

      I guess they feel they can re-write the bible and all of Jesus’ teachings. I find it difficult to believe they have any followers that actually think their acts are of a Christian nature. This is just sickening.

      I wonder if this is the same group that had on their web site about 8 years ago that kids should steal their parents credit cards and call the account numbers into the group so they could buy their way into heaven? I saw the web site back then but can not remember the name of the group. I do remember it was a “Baptist” church. Or at least claimed to be.


    4. Marilyn in New York

      I agree with Theresa and Lance. Christians love one another and are suppose to forgive the sinners as God forgives us. Westboro Baptist Church, in my opinion, is way off the right Christian way. The families and friends of those killed and injured in Tuscon don’t deserve their treatment.

    5. Marilyn in New York

      I mean the Westboro Treatment. I want to make that clear.

    6. Bob Rosier

      October 2006. Over 4 years since Charles Roberts shot the 10 young girls and it still brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. Being a Pacifist myself (Quaker), it is hard for me to understand how anyone can take another’s human life.

      Since we live in the Nichol Mines area part time, we are familiar with the quiet and peacefulness of the rolling Amish farmland, interrupted only by an occasional clip-clop sound of the horse’s hoofs and the rattling of a buggy heading down these back country roads. For those who would like to see the countryside, I have posted pictures at following location:
      click on: Sign in
      password: kn2cbb
      click on Amish Pictures, then on Slideshow

      I should have ask Erik if they could be posted here

      The Amish and their simple peaceful lifestyle have always been an inspiration for me and they set a wonderful example for the rest of the world. With all the hatred that has developed in our country, it is wonderful to know there are still many who truly follow the teachings of Jesus.

      Most of you know the story.

      Although school shootings are far too frequent an occurrence in this country, this incident was a clash of two cultures – the modern so called “advanced” American society and the withdrawn community of the Amish. It was like a wake up call to many because the violence that is too common in one society blasted its way into the non-violent, peaceful community of “the gentle people”.

      So how did the Amish community react? How would you have reacted if your young daughter was murdered by a mad man? The afternoon of the shooting, a grandfather of one of the girls who was killed expressed forgiveness toward the killer. That same day Amish neighbors visited the Roberts family to comfort them in their sorrow and pain. The Roberts family was invited to one of the Amish funerals. And, Amish mourners outnumbered the non-Amish at Charles Roberts’ funeral.

      In a world at war and in a society that often points fingers and blames others, this reaction was unheard of. The Amish culture closely follows the teachings of Jesus, who taught his followers to forgive one another, to place the needs of others before themselves, and to rest in the knowledge that God is still in control and can bring good out of any situation.

      Love and compassion toward others is to be life’s theme. Vengeance and revenge is to be left to God.

    7. As Jonathan Swift said, “We have just enough religion to hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

      That’s what comes to mind when I see the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church and their ilk. The way I see it, there is a difference between “righteousness” and “self-righteousness.” If people would just spend more time living their own lives righteously, they wouldn’t have time to worry about others’ supposed “sins.”

      It’s already so sad for everyone involved. Such a shame that people who purport to be Christians see fit to pour salt on this wound.

    8. Christina

      It is interesting to check out Westboro Baptist Church’s picket schedule on their website. They provide a time, place and reason for the picket so you can avoid the area. Why would I bother believing in God if He hates me and everybody else so much? I wonder what God will say to Fred Phelps and his followers on the Judgement Day.

    9. Kate

      We as Christians, who know better, need to remember these group members and the shooter in prayers as well as the victims here. God loves each of us the same and I am sure His heart is crying out for those who are doing this harm to His other children. It’s hard to love the unloveable but Jesus commanded us to do it and led by example. I just really feel we need to pray that these people who learn the TRUTH of Jesus and God’s love and that they could spread it around rather than the hate they are doing now.

    10. RICHARD

      topic today………. im not sure if we really will totally understand why some people do these types of senseless things to other people, and this subject is very current because of what has happened in Arizona. it looks like there were some warning signs that this troubled young man had shown, yet no one was able to take that extra step in getting him some much needed help, most seemed afraid to take any action. maybe this situation will increase a persons intervention to just go outside of their comfort zone, and maybe stop someone from doing something that can end someone’s life. and i know the amish take a much different approach when it comes to punishment, and forgiveness, although i truly admire the way they can handle crimes like this, my kind of justice and punishment would be much different. some people acted very heroic in nature in Arizona during that shooting, without even thinking, just reacting. ive never been in a situation like that, and i hope i never will be tested in that way. and if i am tested, i hope i will do the right thing. i notice some new people to the blog, welcome and you should find this site to be among the best of its kind on the web, along with the people who are on it…………………….. Richard from the amish community of lebanon,pa

    11. RICHARD

      incase this is my last comment before i sign-off today. hello alice, looks like you had a full day on here, and the comments were very thoughful and well meaning for sure. since thier are a few folks on here living in a few amish communitys, maybe some of us could be used as a sort of tourist guide for anyone interested in visiting other amish communitys like maybe lebanon,pa or lancaster, ohio,new york. well-you get the idea, and id be happy to help maybe point someone in what i think are some great restaurants, and motels. stay warm alice and rest-up…….. ill see everyone on sat……… good night…… Richard, from the amish community of lebanon,pa

    12. Alice Aber

      Richard,,, I was actually only on here twice for about 5 minutes each time. I have spent most of my day sleeping again. I love that the meds are taking care of the pain but hate that I can not even stay awake. Something has to give sooner or later, I have way too much work to get done to be spending 95% of my time sleeping. This is not good, LOL.

      Sounds like a good idea Richard. I plan on picking up a lot of brochures the next time I make it to Arthur. I did promise to send some to Morinne from on here and I will get extra in case anyone needs or wants the info.

      Hope you have a good night too Richard and stay warm!!

      Blessings, Alice

    13. Buck

      A little insight into Westboro Church Group. They are Baptist only by name and are not a religous organization at all. They litterally are a family of lawyers who only a short time ago made a living out of nuisance lawsuites, suing companies, stores etc for anything and everything. They are nothing but scum ambulance chasers. Yes, God hates homosexuality, along with every other sin but I think that there’s a little something special waiting for the members of the WBC.

    14. linda saul

      To Bob Rosier. Thankyou so much for allowing me to view your prints in Lancaster. We visited there for the first time 2 years ago, beautiful country. I would love some of your prints but I live in Ontario, so much harder to order.

    15. Bob Rosier

      Glad you liked the pictures Linda. That was some of my better shots. I only left them up for a few days so people here could take a look. I’m going back to Lancaster in March/April and will take lots more. Maybe I will ask Erik about posting some here that you could copy. I’m always happy to share with friends.

    16. Bob–nice idea–when you get a chance fire me an email at ewesner( at )

    17. ann

      I will never forget when the WBC were at the Snyder funeral. They put the family thru so much and this poor soldier actually died because he fought for their freedom! So so sad. What kind of people are they? I also will never forget the Nickols Mine horror either. So heartbreaking for all the loss of innocent lives .