Operation Rescue, the extreme antiabortion group that organized a six-week blockade of Tiller’s office in 1991, issued a statement condemning the murder. “We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning,” Troy Newman, the organization’s president, said.
These unqualified reproaches are nothing new. The organized antiabortion movement has always opposed violence against abortion providers. That has never stopped opportunistic prochoice activists, however, from conflating their passionate rhetoric with the behavior of individual criminals. True to form, on Sunday, Mike Hendricks of the Kansas City Star accused anyone who had criticized Tiller as a murderer (Tiller aborted healthy, nine-month old fetuses) of being an “accomplice” to his death.
Over the past decade this argumentative tactic has taken on an even more insidious twist. In addition to fighting violent, Muslim jihadists abroad, some liberals argue that America must deal with its own, homegrown terrorists. These are not just people who commit violence but millions of socially conservative evangelicals and Catholics — “Christianists” — who comprise the base of the Republican Party and threaten the stability of the country.
–The Religious Right Didn’t Kill George Tiller , WSJ Opinion article
I think we might be facing a revival of the type of opposition that led to widespread hatred on the basis of religious association, like that promoted by “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. This slanderous type of constituted myth, old hatreds, and fear spread the discrimination against the Jews. The Swiss Courts ruled in 1935 that it was “libelous”, and “ridiculous nonsense” but it stirred up fear and animosity anyway.
As Christians, our best defense against lies and misunderstandings of our doctrines and beliefs is to patiently explain them. And hope that people will listen and be rational.
Just because we believe in an Apocalypse, in a final judgment, in a second coming of Christ does not mean we believe that we are to abrogate the direct commands of Christ in living peacefully with our fellow man, do good and kind acts to others, be harmless, in this world. Just the opposite. It is in light of these events that we should patiently carry out a longsuffering and caring attitude towards even those we consider “enemies”.
But as Talk to Action blogger Chip Berlet does point out, there is a toxic mix of some of the movements that combine a fanaticism and militaristic approval of violence that incite individuals to acts of violence. but not encompassing all that he would name to it. And that is where the prejudicial slander begins. With that broad brush slathering all with salacious accusations of murderous intent and culpability.
The difficulty in untwining these threads of casting denunciations of conspiracy is that they are so widely used, by the Nazis of the Jews in the past, by Left of the Right, sometimes vice versa (although the Left has always had more of an appetite for it), of Muslims against most anybody else, and of Christians against Muslims at times. But there is a difference of specific groups who truly subscribe to such violence and of “the guilt for this crime from the individual who pulled the trigger to [the group] writ large”, as James Kirchick puts it. Of such guilt mongering, persecutions and genocides have been made.
And while I think it is wrong to cast aspersions on the whole group when an individual, not even closely associated, goes off on an aberrant violent path, I do not think that we can completely overlook our too enthusiastic calumny of our opponents. I think this is a call for pro-life adherents to temper their speech and restrain their aggressive actions. The focused, circumspect deliberation of one dedicated to a cause is more effective than a thousand screaming fanatics. We ought to be deliberate about eradicating abortion, and for that very reason we ought to reassess how useful it is to drum up the emotions of volatile individuals. The issue merits more than rallies and stickers on our cars. It merits activists focused solely on the issue and not on the hoopla surrounding it.
Less media attention, perhaps, but unstable individuals who don’t really understand the underlying conviction that life is precious might just find there is little to inspire violent plans of action.