It was about midway through this morning’s sermon when I got the word. Within ten minutes, my Blackberry was buzzing with email, text messages and tweets from across the nation. George Tiller, the notorious abortion doctor, had been shot dead. Information scatters in funny ways anymore, and by the time I got home and put the timeline together, I realized that I knew he was dead before his body had been loaded into a hearse and before it could be found on CNN.com.
Score one for the New Media.
Score none for the Pro Life movement.
For years, Tiller has been targeted by protesters, prayer teams, and potential threats. He’d been shot before, as well as had his office bombed. Nevertheless, he continued to practice his craft – one only a few medical professionals, even pro-choice medical professionals, will practice. He was the premier doctor handling late term abortions. The bulk of the Pro Life crowd believes life begins at conception. Those who can’t buy in to that pick some arbitrary date on the time line – one month, three months, whatever they ‘feel’ ok with and say ‘then it’s a life’. Tiller’s ‘kill by’ date was later than almost anyone was comfortable with. The babies aborted in Tiller’s clinic were by no means blobs of tissue, no matter how liberal your definition of blob is.
Tiller’s shooting is not a good thing for any of us. Last night I watched a documentary entitled Unborn in the USA. It focused on leaders in the Pro Life movement – I was a little surprised at how many of the people in the film I’d met personally. There were certainly people that I would never associate with in the film, but the ones that I knew would all concur that shooting George Tiller is not justice, because as good as it feels to personify a problem, George Tiller was not the problem.
In 1973, the US Supreme Court made a choice that extended choice to one segment of the population while refusing chance to another. Women got a choice, babies had no chance. Therein began a riff in our culture that runs far deeper than pro military v. anti military, tax v. no tax, or republican v. democrat. In fact, every issue I can think of becomes rather secondary when compared with “Shall we kill our unborn children?”. Having answered that for us, the Court set the stage for a thirty plus year drama that is far from over.
Recently, President Obama urged both sides to ‘seek common ground’ on the issue. This is a suggestion that I would expect both sides – if intellectually honest – should find offensive. ‘Common ground’ is the sort of thing one finds in the bureaucratic debates that get hammered out in subcommittees on Capitol Hill every day. ‘Common ground’ can be found on things like border crossings or tax relief. The very idea that we would find ‘common ground’ on the right to murder our babies indicates to me that the President either grossly underestimates the issue or simply doesn’t care for either argument very much. He just wants it to go away.
I’m troubled by Tiller’s murder. In the grand scheme of things, it solved nothing (although, frankly, for any child scheduled to be aborted tomorrow, it might have made the difference of a lifetime). I am troubled to think that anyone could identify themselves as Pro Life and then take a life in pursuit of their goals. I am troubled that even tonight, Pro Abortion types are sharpening their knives for the morning news dissection of the whole Pro Life movement. It will be grossly unfair but the opportunity is too rich for them to avoid it. I’m troubled that our President seems to be encouraging us to just all get along.
In 1856, John Brown grew increasingly irate with his fellow abolitionists. He called them cowards, content with talking about the ending of slavery but afraid to do anything about it. Eventually, he took matters into his own hands, hacking pro slavery farmers to death with broadswords near Pottawatomie, Kansas. Later, he led a murderous band of angry abolitionists in an attack on Harper’s Ferry Armory, where he gained the arms to further their rampage, hoping to free slaves along the way and convince them to join the revolution. Brown overestimated his ability to coordinate the freed slaves. The force fell apart and Brown eventually was hanged along with many of his men.
John Brown, though well known, was not considered a hero by mainstream abolitionists. What he had done was reprehensible. They were ashamed of him and publicly joined their voices with the Pro Slave groups in calling for his hanging. No rational person would consider Brown a positive figure in history….but he did prove something. The issue of slavery was one of life and death. It was not political. It was not governmental. It was much, much deeper than that, and there was no common ground high enough for both sides to stand and feel good about their compromises. It could not be negotiated. It had to be settled.
So it is with the killing of George Tiller. No thinking individual believes this was good for either side….but let the lesson not be lost. The issue will not go away.
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