Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Murder of Dr. George Tiller

I heard on Sunday that an abortionist had been murdered. “Uh-oh,” thought I. “Here comes the inevitable demonizing of those that condemn the evils of abortion. We’ll all be tarred with the same brush.”

When I had a chance, I read the news story. Until this weekend, I had never heard of Dr. George Tiller. I am not an American, so the unique place he held in popular thought (“Tiller the Killer”, “lightning rod of controversy”, etc.) was unknown to me, though I was well aware that there were those that aborted infants in the third trimester.

Reading his life and death I found myself with several reactions. Too many to process easily. Enough to warrant a post.


First, let me echo the words of countless others concerned that the evil action of one (murder) may cause a backlash against the many who do not murder.

I do not know with whom the murderer of Tiller affiliates himself. He may call himself a Christian. He may call himself pro-life. I don’t know at this time what he calls himself, or even who he is, although I can safely conclude he is neither Christian nor pro-life.

Christian is as Christian does.
By our fruits are we known.
Christianity is not a noun or a state of being, but the act of repentance.
Murder is incompatible with Christ.

He is also not pro-life. Oh, he may be anti-abortion … that seems safe enough to conclude (I feel no need to invent a conspiracy theory at this time) … but he is not pro-life. Pro-life, by definition, means no killing. None. Not abortion, not capital punishment, not war, and certainly not murder.


Second, I found myself surprised. Surprised that Dr. Tiller hadn’t been murdered before now. I read of a man who had slaughtered 60,000 or so antenatal infants, and found it amazing that this “lightning rod of controversy” had lived so long.

Why the shock? Simply put, (as Christ said) those who live by the sword die by the sword – an observation, might I add, not an injunction or command. In modern parlance we might say that violence begets violence.

And this is readily observable. Not just with tit-for-tat feuding, as in the Hatfields and the McCoys. In the past 50 years, U.S. imperialism begat Islamic extremism and terrorism which begat American anger (mis)directed at Iraq which has in turn begat an Iraqi insurgency. It is safe to say that the cycle will continue unless some party decides to a bloodless and nonviolent response.

It seems that those who deal in violence most often reap in violence. Blood sown is blood reaped. Sorrow breeds sorrow, and the passions unleashed beget answering passions.

I reiterate: this is not a justification for murder. Following the examples set me by Christ and His Saints, I cannot and will not condone the murder, assassination, killing, or slaughter of anyone, not even a mass murderer like Tiller.

But I can observe patterns, and I can marvel at the miracle of this man’s long life.

Religious hypocrisy

Third, I was troubled, deeply troubled, by a veneer of religiosity that pervaded Dr. Tiller’s life.

He was murdered at church … a church-goer, then. Not just that, but a member in good standing, an usher (a position of responsibility and respectability). He also had a chaplain on staff at his clinic to provide baptisms and funerals for the infants he killed. Balm to solace the heart and numb the conscience of those who had aborted.

I didn’t know Dr. Tiller, and I haven’t the opportunity now, even if I wanted it. I cannot know whether his hypocrisy was deliberate – the work of a minister of evil – or if it was innocent and he was a profoundly deluded and misguided man. Indeed, the point is moot, for he is dead, and his actions and his heart are weighed by Someone infinitely more merciful than I, and more holy, and more just.

Instead, I find myself angered with the spiritual leaders and false shepherds of Reformation Lutheran Church, and their predecessors. They have failed in their duty to condemn the actions of Tiller; they failed to refuse him Communion if he continued to kill; if he was deluded, they failed to save him from his delusion; if he was a minister of evil, they failed to protect their flock. Their responsibility is the souls of their parishioners, of Tiller, his family, and the rest of their spiritual flock, and they have failed all of them.

- V.