Sunday, May 31, 2009

A response to the Tiller murder

With people assuming that the murder of George Tiller was motivated by opposition to abortion, this is, I think, a good time to bring back something I published in 1999. It's as true now as it was a decade ago. I'll only change it to update it a bit to the current event.

Wise as Serpents; Innocent as Doves

A lot of people are going beyond merely noting that George Tiller reaped what he sowed. He was in the business of killing. He himself was killed. But is this the sort of thing a Christian or a prolifer could ever condone?

There is a tiny, frustrated minority of people who think that those who live by the sword need to die by the sword (or, more accurately, that those who live by the canula need to die by the .22, but that's just being technical). By and large, these folks aren't bloodthirsty. They're just plain fed up. It's hard to watch abortionists slaughter women and children for decades on end, and listen to them gloat about it, without sometimes thinking that maybe the world would be a better place if somebody just took these folks out of it.

Most of them struggle with the issue; after all, the Bible says "Rescue those who are being led to slaughter." Does this mean that believers have an obligation to use whatever worldly means are necessary to stop abortionists in their tracks? Since I personally have been a Christian for 15 of my 25 years of pro life activism, and since those tempted to become violent often think that God might be calling them to harm abortionists, my primary approach will be from a Christian point of view. But those of other faiths, or of no faith, or those who are confused, will still find food for thought.

There are many angles from which to approach the question, "Is violence justified in dealing with abortionists?" The one that I think cuts to the quick is Jesus' admonition to "Be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves." Examining whether or not killing abortionists is wise and innocent can provide insights for people of all faiths.

Is killing abortionists wise?

The professed goal of someone who shoots an abortionist is to "rescue those who are being led to slaughter." Superficially, it might seem wise to simply shoot the person who plans to slaughter the babies. But is that what is really accomplished?

Let's not forget that every baby scheduled for death by abortion is being carried to the death house by his or her own mother. The abortionist is the instrument that carries out the death sentence she herself, for whatever reason, has imposed on the child. Unless her heart and mind are swayed, she will simply select another executioner. In the case of George Tiller, his killing is so high profile that abortion advocacy groups will probably rush in to fly his patients to George Pendergraft in Florida, who might well do the abortions as freebies to benefit from the good publicity.

Although some women might take the shooting of the abortionist to be a sign against aborting, others will be hardened in their resolve. Insiders who have fled the abortion industry tell us again and again that direct confrontation only tends to make the woman more stubborn -- she now has an additional reason to go through with the abortion, if only to show those hateful busybodies that they can't push her around. The most anyone will accomplish by shooting an abortionist is that they will delay some scheduled abortions. On the other hand, peaceful pro life efforts such as running alternative centers, sidewalk counseling, and peaceful pickets, have been shown to be effective in turning women away from abortion and helping them to choose life for their unborn children. Is it wise to turn from a method with a proven track record to one that is dubious at best?

Let's also step back and look at the big picture. There are more babies scheduled for death in the United States every day than just those at a particular abortion mill. Roughly 4,000 women will walk into abortion facilities on any given day and have their children put to death. Tiller ran a high-volume mill. His murder will at most delay the scores abortions scheduled for the upcoming days, leaving roughly 25,000 other abortions to go on as scheduled. What of the tens of thousands of mothers going into other abortion facilities? On ordinary days, many of them will be swayed by the peaceful pro life presence outside. Sometimes just looking out through the waiting room window at all those people willing to help her is enough to give a woman the courage to have her baby. But if an abortionist gets shot, you can be certain that word will get out quickly, and that the staff at clinics nationwide will be exploiting the news. They will use it to convince the women that the peaceful prolifers outside are actually violent, ready to shoot people who disagree with them. Instead of being open to approach by pro life counselors, the women will be frightened and driven straight into the waiting arms of the abortionists.

And what of the scores of thousands of women scheduled for abortion in the weeks and months to come? Again, abortion advocates will use the shooting of an abortionist to drive a wedge between the women and the people who are tying to reach them. Proven effective peaceful efforts will not have a chance if the women are too frightened to approach pro life activists.

Let's look at some of the ripple effects of shooting abortionists: demonization of pro life activists, increased sympathy for abortionists, draconian laws passed to keep peaceful and effective pro lifers away from abortion facilities. None of these effects is positive. So is shooting abortionists wise? Not at all. It simply feeds the pro abortion propaganda machine.

I have already seen glee from some abortion supporters on the blogosphere. Yes, glee. These abortion supporters are delighted beyond words, just as many of them were at the death of Rosie Jimenez, to have a corpse they figure they can hang around prolifer's necks. They're just as happy to see Tiller die as they are indifferent to the deaths of women at the hands of abortionists. It's all about The Cause. Any given person -- be it a woman or an abortionist -- is important only as far as he or she contributes to The Cause. And face it, abortion advocacy has scored a huge triumph today. Satan certainly has made good use of the foothold George Tiller and his associates gave him in Whichta and in Tiller's church.

And that brings us to the spiritual impact of an abortionist's murder.

Let's start with the abortionist himself. He was shot on his way to church, a church he'd attended for decades with no glimmer of a sign that he repented the evil that he embraced six days out of seven. We can't be sure, but it looks pretty grim for Tiller. Another soul is firmly won for Satan, with no chance of redemption. Peaceful efforts, on the other hand, have been shown to win abortionists over to Christ. Now, which does Satan the greater harm -- giftwrapping an abortionist and leaving him on Hell's doorstep, or stealing him into the Kingdom of God? Which does God the greater service, reaching out to a lost sheep, or delivering an abortionist to Satan, all trussed up and ready to torment?

And what of the surviving abortionists? Won't shooting one of their own at least put the fear of God into them? Hardly. As we've seen before, it hardens their hearts and makes them harder to reach.

What of the other unrepentant souls? The associates of the slain abortionist, and the other abortion defenders? Again, they harden their hearts. Those who might have been receptive to the Gospel want no part of God, if God means people shooting their friends. What about the unbelievers not directly involved in abortion? All they see is a man or woman gunned down in the name of God. They decide, "If that's what God is about, I want nothing to do with it." So unbelievers -- even those with no great love for abortion -- are turned away from Christ. I'm sure Satan chuckles when that happens.

So what does shooting an abortionist do? It thwarts efforts to rescue babies from death, and drives more souls away from Christ and toward Satan.

This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, wise.

Is shooting abortionists innocent?

There are those who advocate shooting abortionists since the Bible contains examples of God instructing His people to smite the wicked. Since the abortionists are clearly wicked, these people rationalize, killing them isn't covered under the Commandment to refrain from killing.

They're overlooking quite a few things.

First of all, God gave very specific instructions to very specific people about exactly which wicked folks to smite, and when, and how. There have been far more wicked people that God did not give orders for anybody to smite. I doubt that this was an oversight on His part. If He had wanted His people to smite this particular wicked man, I'm sure He would have said so. God is many things, but He's no shrinking violet. Unless you've received a direct order from God, "On such-and-such date, take such-and-such weapon and shoot such-and-such abortionist," your actions don't fall under some sort of global instruction to smite the wicked. And even if you think you have received such an order, you're instructed to "test" the message by consulting with your brothers and sisters in Christ. All the abortionist slayers to date have neglected this vital step, or have ignored the council of their brethern who warned them that their plans were not Godly. Jesus warns us that the Devil can quote Scriptures. Considering the great service done to Satan when an abortionist is shot, it's pretty clear where those instructions are coming from, and they're not from God.

Secondly, we can not see into anybody else's heart. Our many brothers and sisters who have fled the abortion industry tell similar stories of the final days before they left. Many of them reached out to their fellow employees, trying to reach them. Others helped women to leave the clinic instead of going through with scheduled abortions. (For examples of those rescued from the abortion industry, read the testimonies of former abortionists such as Carol Everett, Luhra Tivis, and Bernard Nathanson.) A human being standing looking at an abortionist has no way of knowing what is going on inside his heart. Yeah, Tiller had walked into that church thousands of times before without repenting. But we can not know that he was not going to repent on this occasion. Because we can not know, shooting the abortionist is not innocent, either.

Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Continue the prayer and education and peaceful efforts that have saved lives and souls.


I can especially see the hand of Satan in the shooting of George Tiller.

1. Tiller likely died unrepentant.

2. His murder will harden the hearts of other abortion advocates.

3. Because of his extreme high profile, his killing will generate massive amounts of attention that the killing of -- excuse the expression -- a run-of-the-mill abortionist would never do. This means that people who never really gave abortion much thought will have this drag the issue to their attention -- in a way that makes abortionists look like brave, beleaguered champions of "reproductive health", instead of as the quacks and butchers they are.

3. Because of Tiller's spectacular wickedness, even for an abortionist, a lot of abortion opponents will lose sight of the fact that Jesus came with the goal that NONE should perish. Not even somebody as spectacularly evil as George Tiller.

4. The shooter did damage to his own soul.

5. Just as the abortion cause was losing ground in the polls, somebody comes along and gives them a martyr.

6. Tiller was shot in a church, making him seem like some sort of decent, God-fearing guy, and really highlighting the evil of killing him.

This whole thing just sucks on so many levels.


Here is an excellent reflection on Tiller's murder.


Lilliput said...

Its certainly very ironic that he was shot on the way to Church - when all of you don't believe he is Christian. It reminds me that Hitler did most of his recruiting in Church, Salem witch hunts were performed by the pious, and the Crusades were a model of G-ds mercy.

When will we realise that there must be something inherintly wrong with the religion itself?

Lilliput said...

Its certainly very ironic that he was shot on the way to Church - when all of you don't believe he is Christian. It reminds me that Hitler did most of his recruiting in Church, Salem witch hunts were performed by the pious, and the Crusades were a model of G-ds mercy.

When will we realise that there must be something inherintly wrong with the religion itself?

Christina Dunigan said...

I'm with C.S. Lewis on this one, that it makes a lot more sense to say that Tiller was a bad Christian than to say he wasn't a Christian at all.

And the fact that Tiller was in a church does indeed show that professing Christians can do terrible evil, yes.

Unknown said...

Christina, thanks so much for (re-)posting this excellent essay. It can be very difficult to explain why abortion is a monstrous evil and yet anti-abortion violence is also a monstrous evil. Your explanation does a good job on both counts.

Thank you for blogging as you do.

Unknown said...


To blame Christianity for the existence of human sin is a serious logic error. Real Christians don't pretend that we're immune to sin. Furthermore, we don't pretend that the Church is immune to sin. Scripture is very clear that both individual Christians and even the Church itself will fall into sin repeatedly. That's actually part of the Good News!

Weird, huh?

Of course, the News wouldn't be Good if the story ended there. If all we had was sin, then it would be Bad News. The Good News is that fact that Jesus died so that we would not be trapped in sin. Yes, we'll fall into sin from time to time, but Christ gives us a way to be free. He promises us that our sins are only temporary, and we will eventually be perfect ... just as He is perfect.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Christianity. However, there is something inherently wrong with the entire human race -- sin -- and Christians are part of the human race. Does that make sense?

Lilliput said...

Naaman, in that case - why can't you allow women to have as many abortions they want and then confess and say sorry just before they die and then all is forgiven.

Alternatively, if as you say we as a human race are sinful, and nothing we do will change that - then again, women should be allowed to abort on demand.

We can do this until such time that whatever needs to happen to make us "perfect" will happen - and I'm begging you to enlighten me with what that actually is?

Unknown said...

Lilliput wrote:
Naaman, in that case - why can't you allow women to have as many abortions they want and then confess and say sorry just before they die and then all is forgiven.

Alternatively, if as you say we as a human race are sinful, and nothing we do will change that - then again, women should be allowed to abort on demand.
The Grace of Christ is not a "Sin All You Want, Then Get Out Of Hell Free!" card. Our sins still grieve our Father in Heaven. Yes, we are forgiven ... but that does not give us permission to sin. Paul addresses this very point in Romans 6.

Also, we cannot forget that the sin of abortion has a cost beyond the spiritual harm that all sin causes. Specifically, abortion kills innocent human beings. Even if you don't believe in sin at all, abortion is a massive violation of human rights. There are several pro-life atheists (such as The Raving Atheist) who oppose abortion purely because of human rights, with no reference to sin at all.

Lilliput also wrote:
We can do this until such time that whatever needs to happen to make us "perfect" will happen - and I'm begging you to enlighten me with what that actually is?The Holy Spirit works inside believers to make us perfect. Theologians call this process "sanctification". I'm not really sure if it finishes when we die ... or when Jesus comes back at the End of Days. However, I know that it doesn't happen during our earthly lives. (Unless we happen to be alive when Jesus returns.)

It's important to note that our sanctification is not an earthly process. I cannot make myself righteous and perfect through my own self-effort. If I could, then Jesus would not have needed to die for me. Rather, our sanctification is a matter of Grace, as performed by the Holy Spirit. However, we can thwart the Holy Spirit's action in our lives through our own free will. (I didn't lose my free will when I became a believer.) Thwarting the Holy Spirit is one of the effects of sin. I won't grow in the Grace of Christ if I'm still clinging to my old sinful ways.


Sanctification is a tricky bit of doctrine, and many people have gotten it wrong over the years. The most important point is this: Trust in Christ, and He will do what He promised to do.

Kathy said...

Lilliput, Why? -- because sin makes one sick. And it makes society sick. It's like poisoning the water we drink and the air we breathe. To just sit back and say nothing and do nothing while sin is spewing vileness into the world is unthinkable. The attitude expressed in your first paragraph is breathtakingly flippant about a very serious matter.

Perfection does not come in this life, but in the life to come -- in Heaven. God has called us to holiness in this life, as much as we can, by His grace. But it doesn't mean we should just ignore all the sin and filth around us.