National media seeks informed answers concerning Amish
The October 2 tragedy at the Nickel Mines Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pa., renewed national interest in the Amish community. In the weeks following the shooting, David Weaver-Zercher, associate professor and chair of the Biblical and religious studies department, fielded inquiries from dozens of news publications, radio stations, and television networks, including the BBC, MSNBC, and The Washington Post, to provide commentary about the Amish.
Weaver-Zercher, whose research has dealt extensively with the interface between Amish culture and mainstream culture, said that initial questions focused on how the Amish community would respond to the attack which left five young girls dead and others critically injured. Would they make changes in their school security measures? Would the event change the way they relate to the non-Amish world around them?
It wasn’t long before interest centered on the “radically counter-cultural” response of forgiveness, says Weaver-Zercher, who saw his role in the media as one of educator. The author of two books on Amish life—The Amish in the American Imagination and Writing the Amish: The Worlds of John A. Hostetler—Weaver-Zercher sought to help the public understand the way that Amish practices “are motivated by their Christian faith commitments.”
He hopes that by communicating the nuances of Amish life, which shares a heritage with the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ denominations, he can help to dispel misconceptions and allow more Americans to understand the true nature of this community’s radical commitment to Christ and to forgiveness.