Last Sunday morning, Dr. George Tiller was murdered in the Lutheran Church which he attended Sundays. Dr. Tiller, known for his late-term abortions, was gunned down by Scott Roeder -- a man described by his family as mentally ill. According to Roeder's ex-wife, Lindsey Roeder,
"There has to be mental illness there. He couldn't cope with day to day life," she said. "He couldn't cope with the struggle of paying bills. He couldn't cope with not being able to make ends meet."
There appears to be little doubt that Mr. Roeder's actions were finally motivated by his anti-abortion views and the late-term abortions performed so infamously by Dr. Tiller. According to a news article posted on KWCH.com (which labels Scott Roeder a terrorist), Lindsey Roeder further believes her former spouse killed because of his views on abortion:
"He was determined that if the abortion doctor killed the baby then he didn't have any right to live either, it was justifiable," said Scott Roeder's ex-wife Lindsey. She says her ex-husband's views were so extreme, she knew he was capable of murder. "I think I knew that if he snapped, if he went that far, that he could actually do it," she said.
As a pro-life apologist, I am appalled by the killing of Dr. Tiller. I know that I am not alone in this. No one I have spoken with about the murder since Sunday morning has said, "Wow, that's great" or "That's a justified murder" or any other claim to that effect. Dr. Tiller, mistaken as he was about the wrongness of his actions, was still a human being created in the image of God who was not justly murdered by Scott Roeder. The idea that somehow killing people in the name of ending abortion is somehow promoted by Christianity or the pro-life movement in general is simply wrong and mistaken.
Don't get me wrong: I am certain that there are some wackos out there who probably argued that Scott Roeder was justified in killing Dr. Tiller -- just as his wife suggests. My argument is very simple: the segment of people who would hold this position is quite minuscule. My own sampling of people who I have dealt with in arguing for the pro-life movement leads me to conclude that less than one percent of all pro-lifers would hold to that view.
Even when Terry Randall and the clinic bombing by his extreme pro-life group was being debated, few that I can recall was advocating killing anyone. The focus was always on destroying the tools needed to commit the abortion, i.e., the clinics. There were some arguing by analogy that killing Hitler to stop the Holocaust would have been a good thing, therefore, killing an abortionist to stop abortion would have been a good thing. This argument was rejected by virtually everyone on several grounds. The most obvious reason was that God did not put into the hands of private individuals the power to kill others. Rather, God put into the hands of government only the power to execute for crimes. It is wrong for a private individual to elect himself the judge, jury and executioner.
At the same time, while I am appalled that someone killed him, I find that I am not particularly saddened by the fact of his death. If he had died of a heart attack instead of being murdered, I would have had no hesitation in saying that the death of George Tiller was a good thing for the thousands of babies he would otherwise have killed over the next few years through his late-term abortions. While it is probable that someone else will step in and take over his obviously profitable abortion practice, until that happens there are many babies in advanced stages of development who will not be sliced-up by this particular abortionist.
Does the fact that I can see good out of the death of George Tiller mean that I think that he should have been murdered? Absolutely not. Evil as his actions were, he was operating within the law and it is beyond the power of any individual to take the law into his own hand and kill another human being. Killing Dr. Tiller was completely contrary to the most fundamental beliefs of the pro-life movement that holds that every human life -- even the life of the morally confused Dr. George Tiller -- has value and should not be murdered.
A portion of a blog entry on the Vision Forum Ministries weblog by Doug Miller entitled George Tiller is Dead: For Whom Shall We Mourn?, raises some interesting arguments. I think that the language used by Mr. Miller is way-overblown. I think it is hyperbole that does not advance the conversation. However, he makes two points that I want to repeat, but in softer language. Miller says,
The tragedy is two-fold: First, by breaking the law of God (murder) in order to advance the law of God (punishing a murderer), the shooter demonstrated that he was a lawless individual and that, whatever his motivations, his cause was unholy. He cannot expect the blessing of God on his efforts, but rather the contrary. God was certainly capable of shutting down George Tiller without private individuals breaking His law by taking matters into their own hands. The ends do not justify the means. Pragmatic responses to evil produces short term victories and long-term heartaches.
Second, Tiller’s executioner has played into the hands of the community of abortion apologists — those in the press and elsewhere who look for every opportunity to shift the debate away from the bloodshed of babies. These individuals are hell-bent to justify America’s idolatrous practice of child sacrifice to the gods of feminist self-determination, and the wrongful killing of an abortionists only furthers their cause.
To state it differently, George Tiller attended church. Yet, he apparently either never heard that abortion was wrong at his particular church (which, given what I know from personal experience about the Lutheran church, is quite probable), or he ignored the teaching either to make money or because he justified that the killing of babies was actually a good thing (as taught by the pro-abortion movement). But the argument put forth by the pro-life movement about the teaching of the Bible is quite clear and compelling. The idea that the fetus is not a living human being -- especially a late term fetus such as Dr. Tiller regularly aborted -- flies in the face of scientific knowledge. What Dr. Tiller was doing was wrong in the eyes of God. But God doesn't seek for someone commit murder to end the sinful practices of an abortionist. We are called to respect the law and seek to change the law. That is largely what the pro-life movement is doing, and it is only the crazies and the nuts who would argue that Scott Roeder's actions were somehow Godly.
Second, the murder has not advanced the pro-life movement -- it has set it back. Roeder advanced short term goal of saving a few babies' lives at the cost of painting those working to end abortion legally across the entire country as people promoting illegal killings -- even identifying us as potential terrorists. I am certain that it won't be long before everyone who argues that abortion is wrong will be labeled as promoting violence against abortion clinics, abortion providers and women seeking abortions. That presents a further obstacle to promoting a cause that is already vilified by the pro-abortionists.
In sum, George Tiller is dead. While I am not sorry that he will no longer be killing babies, I am very sorry that he is dead, that he died without recognizing his sin, and that he was murdered by someone supposedly seeking to advance the pro-life cause. The manner of Dr. Tiller's death is probably going to make it much more difficult for the 99% of right-thinking pro-lifers to make their case for changing a very wrongful legal situation.