A lesson about reconciliation from the Amish.

Kids from Sugarcreek enjoy their wheels.

I’ve always held a great degree of respect for Amish and Mennonite communities because their faith in Christ leads them quite naturally to forgiveness, reconciliation, and nonviolence. So it interesting to watch the press coverage of Monroe Beachy’s trial and the various slants through which it is described.

It seems the outrage is contagious; perhaps we prefer anger and its attendant self-righteousness to thoughtful consideration and deliberation. The putatively-liberal Huffington Post channels the customary liberal anger and outrage. Fox News has other fish to fry, lest Republican readers start to consider something not easily given to partisanship (i.e. sports are highly partisan and tap into the adversarial vein). CBS sits on the crime side.

Financial Advisor Magazine at least offers insight into what made Beachy’s investment fradulent:

He invested it in speculative securities such as junk bonds, as well as stocks, bonds, mutual finds and Ginnie Mae securities. He began collecting money from investors in 1986 under the company name of A&M Investments, and was a registered rep of H.D. Vest Advisory Services Inc. until 2004.He raised money from more than 2,600 investors in 29 states–the vast majority of them being Amish. As part of his Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy protection filing on June 30, 2010, Beachy said he lost roughly $15 million of the $33 million he collected.

The SEC says Beachy did his own books and made his own investment decisions. He mailed monthly statements that showed rates of return and account balances, and never disclosed the incurred losses. Beachy’s scheme lasted long enough to where second-generation Amish were investing with him.

Beachy was not charged with running a Ponzi scheme because he did not divert any of the funds to his own use or enrichment; he simply invested in ways that lost almost half of the money invested with him. He also was not subjected to a monetary civil penalty “due to his financial situation.”

But an article in the New York Times paints a richer, less politicized picture- a picture of what is truly noteworthy in this news.

But the most intriguing aspect of Monroe Beachy’s story is how different it seems from Bernie Madoff’s — and from almost every other story with a “Ponzi scheme” headline over the years.
While victims of Mr. Madoff’s fraud, like most Ponzi victims, condemned their accused betrayer in court as a monster, many of Mr. Beachy’s investors have said in court that it is more important to forgive him than to recover their money.

While the Madoff case and others like it have inevitably created conflict between longtime investors fighting to keep their fictional profits and more recent investors trying to recover lost principal, some Beachy investors urged that their own share of his estate should be given to those in greater need.

And while Mr. Madoff’s wife and sons instantly became social pariahs in Manhattan, Mr. Beachy’s wife and children remain at his farmstead here, living peacefully with their neighbors.

But like the Madoff case, the Beachy case has left an indelible mark on the nation’s bankruptcy record.

It became the forum for a rare bankruptcy court battle over religious freedom, with Mr. Beachy’s Amish and Mennonite creditors insisting that the court’s way of dealing with his downfall could not be squared with their faith or with his.

“Monroe Beachy in his time of distress breached the trust of his fellow Amish and Mennonites” by entering an “environment of coercion and self-protection in the bankruptcy court,” a group of church elders told the judge, urging him to put the case into the hands of the church where it belonged.

That would accomplish three worthy goals, they said. It would allow a less expensive, more advantageous financial workout “based on Christian principles of love and care for the poor and needy.” It would create a setting in which “Biblical forgiveness and restoration can be found between Monroe Beachy” and those he is accused of betraying. And it would repair “the tarnished testimony and integrity of the Plain Community.”

It is impossible for me to not admire the moral courage and mercy exhibited by the Sugarcreek Amish community. In fact, I’m going to share this article with Max today because it offers a counter-cultural yet thoroughly Christ-based approach to crime. I stand with the citizens of Sugarcreek in their efforts to live in truth.

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