The brutal murder of George Tiller inside the foyer of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita may signal the end of reasoned discourse concerning controversial issues. Without doubt, George Tiller was a symbol of all that is wrong with the pro-abortion position in America. He performed late term abortions with some bordering on infanticide. While his actions were inexcusable, they certainly didn’t warrant the execution of vigilante justice doled out by a misguided crusader for the unborn. If our culture is going to survive we must all agree to adhere to the rule of law and keep our disagreements, no matter how passionate or critical, within the boundaries of reasonable protest and civil discourse.
George Tiller’s murder illustrates the irony of ironies. The taking of a life in the pursuit of the sanctity of human life is absurd. It falls in the category of someone who would set fire to a forest to bring attention to the importance of trees. If life is precious it is precious inside and outside the womb. The life of George Tiller was precious because he was created in the image of God and he carried the possibility of redemption…until Scott Roeder, allegedly acting as judge, jury and executioner removed that possibility.
I have heard the arguments that suggest the law has failed to protect the unborn and therefore taking the law in our own hands is the only way to restore their protection. People with good intentions but misguided thinking invoke the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his involvement in the Abwehr plot to kill Hitler in Nazi Germany as justification for extreme measures in the defense of life. While it is true once Bonhoeffer realized the extent of Hitler’s atrocities against the Jews he decided he had to take drastic measures to stop him, it should be noted that Germany was in a state of war and the only rule of law was Hitler’s rule as a dictator. Bonhoeffer resisted Hitler from the beginning. Two days after Hitler was installed as Chancellor, Bonhoeffer attacked him in a radio address and was taken off the air in the middle of a sentence. He could have called for the death of Hitler long before the war but he realized as long as there were avenues of redress within the law to stop Hitler that must be his course.
After spending some time in Great Britain and America, Bonhoeffer eventually returned to Germany and joined the resistance that eventually plotted to take Hitler’s life. Every avenue of resistance was exhausted and Bonhoeffer felt he had no choice but to join those would intervene through violence. But even then, he became a double agent of the Abwehr (German military resistance to Hitler) and worked within the framework of military resistance to try to end Hitler’s reign of terror. He didn’t just pick up a gun in a free society and execute a form of vigilante justice.
That appears to be exactly what Scott Roeder is alleged to have decided to do. He allegedly picked up a gun, walked into the foyer of a church, and violated the sanctity of life by depriving George Tiller of his life. But Roeder didn’t make his desperate decision to intervene in the middle of a war or under a dictator where a mad man suspended the rule of law. He made his decision in a society that still offers the opportunity for peaceful dissent through a representative government. Every time we go to the polls and vote we have the power protect life by electing representatives who believe life is sacred. We are not reduced to violence or vigilantism in a constitutional republic. If we need to start pointing fingers in the direction of who is responsible for the continued death of the unborn maybe we should start by pointing in a mirror. We all have the opportunity to make our voices heard through the political process.
Other than an act of barbarity (and yes, I realize Tiller was guilty of barbaric acts against unborn children) I fail to see what the murderer of George Tiller hoped to accomplish. The clinic where Tiller worked is scheduled to be open next Monday. Someone will step into Tiller’s shoes and the death of the unborn will continue. Those who wish to use this act to paint pro-life adherents, as extremist will waste little time in doing so. Most people found Homeland Security’s inclusion of people who are pro-life, pro-second amendment rights and pro-legal immigration on a watch list of possible domestic terrorists to be over the top. Now, many people will wonder if the inclusion was valid.
Those of us who are pro-life must not let the death of George Tiller chill our resolve to continue to speak out in defense of life. We must redouble our efforts to peacefully, prayerfully and purposefully to defend all life through the power of the ballot box, counting on the power of God through the Holy Spirit to be our guide.
Dr. Tony Beam is Vice-President for Student Services and Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.