Before it hit most of the national media, I received a phone call from a friend in Wichita, Kansas with news of the Sunday shooting death of George Tiller in the lobby of Reformation Lutheran Church as he served as an usher, while his wife sang in the choir.
It wasn’t long until my daughter in Omaha called, asking if I had heard the news. Why were we so affected? You see, Reformation Lutheran, right next to St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral on east 13th Street, is barely a half mile from the home where Linda and I raised our family for 16 years and on the route of numerous neighborhood bike rides with my son. The sadly misnamed “Women’s Health Care Services,” the infamous abortion clinic where George Tiller killed some sixty thousand baby boys and girls over thirty six years, is less than four miles away.
I join those on both sides of the abortion debate who are lamenting today the tragedy of any man being gunned down in the lobby of his church. No matter what you think about George Tiller, justice is not served by anyone acting independently of the structure of government to seek to bring justice. That only breeds further injustice.
Secondarily, the murder of Dr. Tiller did not help the pro-life cause, but has rather made him a martyr hero for those who defend abortion. Who is to blame for this murder? The apparent gunman has been arrested and will be charged with murder. That is as it should be.
The war of words has barely started, yet is already getting heated in an effort to spread the blame to all who speak honestly about abortion as the killing of people. The Huffington Post has bright red headlines today, accusing Bill O’Reilly of The Factor on Fox News of inciting violence by his rhetoric. On the same website, Frank Schaeffer blames his father, the late Francis Schaeffer, for incendiary language that could be taken literally and lead to actual murder of an abortionist. Is that what happened here? We don’t yet know what influences affected the gunman in this case. Do some people speak with excessive passion and anger? Probably so! But does than mean we should be less than forthright in speaking the truth? I say No!
This is not the first time a major moral issue has been at the center of national debate. Leading up to the civil war, the battle to defend the human rights of persons of African descent resulted in highly enflamed rhetoric, leading such men as John Brown to seek resolution through personal violence. My home state earned the name Bloody Kansas because of free state/slave state battles to claim Kansas as their prize. Ultimately, it took the Civil War and the lives of more than 600,000 Americans to resolve the issue and make the slavery of other human beings illegal in the United States.
Abortion in America has now claimed some 50 million human lives and left silent wounded mothers who live with their decision or the insistence of others to end the life of their child. As long as this continues without repentance, America grows in corporate guilt with innocent blood on our hands.
Bad decisions will be made by those who don’t clearly understand how justice can be gained; and pro-lifers must be careful to voice our convictions, while being clear that we are committed to non-violence following the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in contrast to the extreme violence of abortion against children. But we must not be silent as long as the killing of innocent children is legal in our nation. This issue won’t go away until abortion is legally called what it is, the murder of innocent children.
Sadly, George Tiller is now dead in another act of unjust violence and he will be treated as a martyr hero by some, while others of us must continue to speak in the defense of children.