Ghost in the Amish van tragedy?

amishRemember that tragic accident on an Indiana interstate that killed four Christian college students and a university employee? On Sunday, about 20 miles from that spot on that same stretch of interstate, another tragic car accident took the lives of five people traveling in yet another 15-passenger van. This is a heartbreaking story that has been all over Midwestern television, print and radio. Five people were killed, including three children, and 11 were injured in the single-car crash. Two Amish families heading home after a church function were using the 15-passenger van that apparently burst a tire, which caused the accident.

The natural reaction to this kind of story is sadness, and questions can be raised by believers about why God allows these kinds of things to happen. Those familiar with the Amish, and that's anyone from northeastern Indiana, will wonder why a group of Amish were driving a van from a church service. Early editions of the story failed to explore this question, but at some point this line with no authority cited was added to many stories:

Amish people generally shun modern conveniences such as motor vehicles but sometimes enlist non-Amish as drivers.

The Amish van crash, as it is now being called, will linger around for a few days as people sort out what happened, why 15-passenger vans can be dangerous vehicles and how our government's road policies help or don't help prevent accidents like these. I hope the story won't go in the direction that the Taylor University crash did, with mistaken identities and incompetent public officials.

Similar to the Taylor crash, the religion angle is something reporters should find worthy of reporting. Rick Yencer of The Star Press in Muncie was off to a good start in today's paper with a surprising angle:

A relative of survivors of the horrific van crash that claimed five lives on Interstate 69 on Sunday suggested divine intervention had spared his members of family.

"I would say it was the hand of God," Paul Schmucker said about how his cousin, Joseph Lengacher of New Haven, and his family survived the crash that left Melvin and Savillia Fisher, from the Parke County community of Rockville, and three of their children dead.

Schmucker and about 15 members of the Allen County Christian Fellowship waited on word of the condition of Lengacher and other family members late Sunday at Ball Memorial Hospital.

The families had just attended Sunday service at the Allen County fellowship and the Lengachers were apparently traveling with the Fishers for a visit to Parke County.

Schmucker recalled that Melvin Fisher had spoke of the 23rd Psalm earlier in the day.

"The Lord is my very own Shepherd," Schmucker said. "I know he will be with me as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death."

The Amish, Anabaptist Christians, are known for simple dress and their efforts to stay separate from modern society. They don't have Social Security numbers generally and refuse to take any form of government assistance.

There are other aspects of this story that have yet to be explored, and with the news media's tendency to move on to other stories, I wonder if some of the religious nuances of this story will ever be covered.

For instance, the vague reference that "Amish generally shun" cars could be fleshed out. The doctrine of "shunning" is particularly significant in Amish theology, and whether one uses modern contrivances reflects significantly on the order of Amish to which families belong.

Perhaps there will be other car accidents and murders for Indiana journalists to cover tomorrow and next week. But there are angles that are worth exploring in this story that can significantly enhance the public's knowledge of the people who live around them.

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