Dr. George R. Tiller, a high-profile abortion doctor who performed abortions late into the third trimester, was gunned down on Sunday while handing out bulletins in the foyer of his Wichita, Kansas church.
The suspect, Scott Roeder, is being described by the media, his acquaintances, and his family as an anti-abortion, anti-government zealot with a history of mental illness. According to the New York Times, someone identifying themselves as Scott Roeder posted a message on the website of Operation Rescue describing Tiller as a “concentration camp ‘Mengele’ of our day and he needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgement upon our nation.” (Wichita-based Operation Rescue has released a couple statements condemning Roeder’s actions as “deplorable” and stating their commitment to a peaceful and legal end to abortion.)
This event deserves a more thorough consideration than I can give it here today. Tiller’s murder has caused me to reexamine my own commitment to peace and the protection of all life, from conception to natural death, and the ways in which my actions might undermine my principles.
One question I can’t shake though, and I thought I would share it with you: Is Tiller’s murder – as well as other recent acts of violence, such as the shooting in Knoxville last July (also at a church) by a suspect who seemed to pick his target because he “hated liberals in general as well as gays” – the logical outcome of the rhetoric of violence which has come to dominate so much of our national discussion? Put another way, should we be surprised that the language of the “culture war” might incite somebody to actually declare war?