03 June 2009

Be Clear:"Anti-Abortion" is NOT the same as "Pro-Life"

Following the murder of abortion clinic Dr. George Tiller in the Lutheran church where he worshipped, I have been reading many of the on-line news and journal articles, blogs, etc, along with the varied responses that people have written. I am deeply bothered by the tenor of many of the comments I've read. The Pro-Life movement cannot but do itself damage in the eyes of those still undecided on the issue of legalizing abortion by continuing to attack George Tiller after his murder. Whatever he did during his life he is no longer doing (thank God!). He is no longer an abortionist; he is a sinner in the hands of God, awaiting the judgment of Christ Jesus. If we continue to vilify him after he was murdered, we create a martyr to 'their' cause, and by our very language drive those who are undecided to the wrong side.
Rather, if we are indeed Pro-Life (and not merely social conservatives, who are against abortion but also against pre-natal care, support the death penalty, etc.), then the better response is this: George Tiller was indeed a sinner, and that we pray that he has repented; Scott Roeder, accused of murdering him, is, if guilty, by definition NOT Pro-Life, because you cannot be Pro-Life and commit murder.
Do not attempt, we must say, to tarnish the Pro-Life movement with the actions of someone who was not pro-life. We believe that only God has the right to determine when we are born and when we die; the killer of George Tiller believed that he had that right. Therefore, he is not one of us... don't mistake him for us, or use his actions to try to tarnish ours.
To be truly Pro-Life is to believe that only God has the right to decide when our lives may begin or end. 'Life' includes everything from conception to death, and if we are truly Pro-Life then we must demonstrate our care for our brothers and sisters throughout their entire lives, and not limit our care to the as yet unborn. To be truly Pro-Life is to do everything in our ability not merely to fight against abortion (although that is essential) and against the death penalty, but to do everything in our power to ensure that people are fed when they hunger, given drink when they thirst, cared for when they are sick, clothed when they are naked, visited when imprisoned... knowing that whatever we do for the very least of these, Christ's brothers, we do for Him (St. Matthew 25:31-40). It is on this that we shall be judged... and on all of this. We know, because Jesus was quite specific about what his His criteria will be during the Final Judgment. We shall be judged by Love, in love, for how well we have loved.
By that standard, the man who killed George Tiller was not Pro-Life. He may have been "anti-abortion", but that is not the same thing. Christ calls us to be Pro-Life in response to His gift of life, but by definition "Pro-Life" does not, aand cannot, limit itself to 'fetal life'... as the old joke goes, we who are Christian believe that there is indeed life after birth.
If we wish to convince those who are not already on our side, we must simply deny that the killer was Pro-Life at all. He might be anti-abortion, or simply mentally deranged (or most likely both), but he demonstrated he was not one of us by his actions. To be Pro-Life is to respond with love to God's love. We will convince no one by emphasizing the more bloodthirsty quotations from the Old Testament ("Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth..." and "If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts"), particularly when the quotes in question are asking God to take action-- not encouraging us to take it ourselves.
We are far more likely to increase support for the Pro-Life movement (and evangelize) if we emphasize that the movement exists as a loving response to God's love for all of us, that we believe that only God may choose the hour and day of our death, and that we are Pro-Life in response to the God who loved us enough to create us, to become incarnate as one of us (and Jesus didn't come into the world at Christmas-- He who is fully God spent His first nine months, fully human, in the womb of His Blessed Mother), to live as one of us and finally to die, horribly, on the Cross, that we might live. Being Pro-Life isn't enough, is response to that incredibly loving gift of God, but nothing we can do would be enough. I am certainly not an abortionist, but I am a sinner, and for me to say that my sins are somehow 'okay' while George Tiller's were not would simply mean I hadn't paid attention in Sunday School. Parsing which sins are worse than others is a waste of time-- 'All have sinned and fallen short of the grace of God'.
Tiller's killer proved that he was no friend of the Pro-Life movement when he chose to take life. We must prove ourselves better, if we wish to change hearts and minds. It is only be attracting enough people to that which we believe-- by making it so clearly attractive a way of life and (as they used to say in seminary) 'belief structure' (and not by dumbing it down, but rather by truly emphasizing the theological heart of the Christological message), that they want to join with us.
And as they join with us, the laws will change ,and lives will be saved in addition to souls, because the politicians will always follow the votes.

Ad te clamámus, éxsules filii Evæ!

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