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.

Murder

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.

Sword

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.

4 comments:

elizabeth said...

Lord have mercy.

Appreciated the thought and articulation you have in this post.

Stephen said...

I just learned of Tiller's death today and like you I find myself with several reactions.

I appreciated your post, but I noticed one inconsistency.

Speaking of Tiller's killer you said,

"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."

You boldly conclude that the killer is not a Christian, but you are (or you seem) less certain about Tiller himself:

"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."

Perhaps both were "profoundly deluded and misguided" men - but bear in mind that while Tiller's murderer will have to answer for one evil and misguided act, Tiller himself will have to answer for some 60,000 of them.

"Vengeance is mine I will repay saith the Lord."

May God have mercy on those who exercise vigilante justice and on those who continue the merciless murder of countless unborn babies.

God bless you V.

Les said...

You raise an interesting point Stephen but I can imagine someone's passion being enflamed enough to commit one act of murder and then feel remorse for it later. That is even recognized in the law as a distinction from someone who cold-bloodedly calculates the death of someone.

In the case of Tiller, when you understand what it was that he did for a living, after first suppressing your gag reflex you have to wonder what could possibly go through his mind to actually allow him to do what he did each day. If someone did that to animals he would be locked up.

So we're left with the two possibilities v mentioned. Either in some unknown, unfathomable (at least to me) way he actually thought what he was doing was morally licit, or he was evil in a way we have not seen since Auschwitz. There seems to be no middle ground, no mitigating factors.

Clearly, in the case of Tiller's killer, we can say he was not pro-life by definition, because he allowed himself to commit murder, but in the light of day he is in a different category from Tiller himself.

Your point concerning the Lutheran Church, v, is a good one, but I hesitate to throw stones when there are still Catholic Bishops who avoid confrontation with the Catholic enablers of men like Tiller and his industry. Indeed, the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, calls herself Catholic but when Governor of Kansas took money from Tiller and ran interference for him at the State level. To be sure, her own Bishop called her out, and even put out the directive to the diocesan parishes that she was to be refused communion, but there are many others still too timid to take such a stand, perhaps concerned about their tax-exempt status.

Anonymous said...

The AP on 11/10/09 quoted the defendant, Scott Roeder, saying he has no intention of changing his plea from not-guilty regarding a first-degree murder charge of killing Dr. Tiller in a trial to begin next month (Jan 2010).

Roeder and his attorney disagreed whether Kansas law could support Roeder's announced plan to use a so-called necessity defense. Roeder's attorney says that there no such legal statute as "necessity defense" in Kansas's criminal code.

First, according to Kansas law, Dr. Tiller had not committed 60,000+ murders. Even if abortion were defined as murder by Kansas law, a vigilante would be forbidden by law to kill a killer except under very restricted circumstances.

As far as a 'lex talionis' theme among many deluded comments, which cushions condemning Dr. Tiller's murder by introducing specious arguments such as his murder was an act of war or defensible by other special circumstances, I am opposed. May we not eat bread with anyone of that house...ever.
--Ioannis