Yesterday a doctor who practiced late-term abortions was shot and killed by a fanatical pro-life proponent.
His name was Dr. George Tiller.
He was shot in his church.
While he was serving as an usher.
These last two details of the story really threw me off. Without calling into question the salvation of either man involved, to the world it would appear that Christians are now killing other Christians over the issue of abortion…a movement that is supposedly “for life.”
Not only were both men Christian, but they were both Lutheran as well. And both men were acting out of their spiritual convictions. The shooter likely thought he was saving thousands of lives through the taking of one. Dr. Tiller, on the other hand, engaged in his work for the protection of female lives. In a public statement, Tiller’s wife explained that her loss “is also a loss for the city of Wichita and women across America.”
One faith, two totally different convictions. What is going on here?
The problem is that both men had strong convictions about the value of life, but they applied their ideology in very selective ways. They both supported various aspects of life, but not ALL life. One failed to value life whenever it comes, the other failed to value life no matter what it does. And in so doing, they departed from the example set for them by Christ.
This is what happens when Christians get tunnel vision on one particular issue–it eclipses EVERYTHING else, including God Himself.
I think that’s why the world is so often confused by the pro-life movement. While the events of yesterday are by no means the norm (that man was probably just insane), there are other ways that we engage in a kind of philosophical schizophrenia.
We say we support life whenever it comes, but we don’t follow this statement to its logical conclusion. We’re as vocal as can be about the evils of abortion, but we don’t actively support unwed mothers (and I mean actually support them in tangible ways–not just talking about supporting them in some vague, hypothetical way). Nor do most churches actively invest themselves in the school systems and under-privileged families that raise those children.
What’s more, the people who fight so long and hard for abortion seem almost oblivious to the injustices that occur in our system of capital punishment. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, numerous individuals have been falsely convicted and sentenced to the death penalty due to eye witness error, government misconduct, and false confessions, just to name a few. (Source) Why isn’t the pro-life movement fighting for these lives, many of which were only exonerated AFTER their executions?
Our culture is also baffled when staunch pro-lifers are liberal on the issue of war. Now I am not going to dive into the topic of whether or not our present war is just, but how you discuss this war, regardless of your position on it, betrays your stance on life. Do you grieve for the loss of life, both American and Iraqi? Are you committed to ending the bloodshed in as peaceful a manner as possible?
When the pro-life movement focuses almost exclusively on one type of life, we reveal ourselves to be no different than Dr. Tiller. He ranked the value of adult women over unborn women. Oftentimes we rank the value of innocent unborn babies over criminals and strangers in other lands. But we part ways with God’s character when we do this.
To fight only against abortion is not a holistic approach to pro-life. We must therefore embrace a worldview that not only values life whenever it comes, but also values the redemptive possibilities of all lives, no matter who it is or what they have done. It may sound radical, but this is the appropriate response to a God that has shown impartial grace to a world that does not deserve it. God sent his son to die for criminals and strangers, so I wonder what that might look like were we to live it out today.