Excerpts from a commentary titled "They Believe in Forgiveness" by Terry Mattingly, who directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities:
"The helicopters kept making circles in the air so that the cameramen could keep showing the dairy farms and country roads, the bonnets and wide-brimmed straw hats, the horse-drawn buggies and the one-room schoolhouse framed in yellow police tape. Soon the facts started going in circles as police recited a litany about 600 rounds of ammunition, a shotgun, a semiautomatic pistol, a stun gun, explosives and, later, the killer's sick collection of chains, clamps, hardware and sexual aids. Witnesses said Charles Carl Roberts IV was angry with God, angry with himself, haunted by guilt, fed up with life and driven by a hellish grudge.
"Then journalists began asking questions that went in circles, the questions that nag clergy as well as state troopers. Why? Why the Amish? How could God let this happen? How can justice be done now that the killer is dead? . . ."The gunman's stunned wife released a media statement that showed her understanding of her Amish neighbors and their beliefs. She knew she could appeal for prayers and forgiveness, even though outsiders might find her words hard to fathom. 'Our hearts are broken, our lives are shattered and we grieve for the innocence and lives that were lost today," said Marie Roberts. "Above all, please, pray for the families who lost children and, please, pray, too, for our family and children.'
"To grasp the Amish point of view, it's crucial to understand that they truly believe God desires justice, but also shows mercy. . . . These are hard words in an age when many Americans hold one of two competing beliefs about eternity and God's judgment.
"Millions of believers -- lukewarm and fervent alike -- assume that the really bad sinners are the people who commit the really bad sins, those spectacular sins tied to violence, drugs and sex. These really bad people are easy to condemn to hell.
"Meanwhile, many other people believe that all people are automatically going to heaven, no matter what they believe or what they do.
"According to this point of view, the massacre inside the West Nickel Mines Amish School will have no impact on the eternal destiny of Charles Carl Roberts IV.
"Once again, the Amish believe that God knows all and that God, and only God, can judge. What the Amish emphasize is that forgiveness is the only way that humans can break a cycle of violence and sin.
"In this case, the gunman left suicide notes that showed that he was driven by guilt and a grudge that he would not surrender. It appears that Roberts could not forgive God and could not forgive himself.
"In the end, this killed him and through him killed others."
(Photograph by Matt Rourke/The Associated Press)