It's been a few days since Dr. George Tiller was slain in his house of worship. I've spent these days thinking about it and what this tragedy means for our society. I'm tempted to blame fundamentalists whose fear based, vindictive, repressive form of religion breeds intolerance and violence; but then I realize that such religion may simply attract violent people as much as create them, and religion then becomes an excuse rather than a cause for violence.
I'm tempted, also, to blame the neo-cons on radio and television who gain fame and fortune by spewing venomous hate-speech; but then I realize that they only screech their intolerance because there is an audience for it. Do the pundits of pugnacity create the violent mobs, or do the violent mobs create the pundits?
I don't have the answers...perhaps the sociologists and psychologists among us will sort it all out.
I do know that Dr. Tiller risked his life (and ultimately lost his life) in the service of women. I do know that in a sacred space where he was worshiping with friends and family he was murdered in cold blood. Not only was his life taken, but the lives of his entire parish were traumatized by the horrific act.
Of course, Dr. Tiller performed abortions, and not everyone supports that legal procedure. But it is a legal procedure, while murder is not. I do wonder how people can be so passionate about embryonic life and so callous about the living human beings with whom they share the planet. I wonder why someone would desecrate a house of worship, traumatize a congregation, and take a man's life all as a "pro-life" demonstration.
Some of the so-called Pro-Life advocates are also against gun restrictions, in favor of almost any war that any U.S. President wants to wage, and even supportive of state murder (capital punishment). When "values" promote so much violence, perhaps those values should be re-evaluated.
The Extreme Right (not to be confused with honest conservatives or centrists) wants to control bodies...sending bodies to die on battle fields, sending bodies to die in state executions, preventing bodies from expressing love or attraction for each other if they are of the same gender, and keeping women from having the final say over their own bodies. Maybe that's what this is really all about...not religion, or media, or politics...but a pathological hatred of bodies, or a twisted craving to control bodies.
When "Pro-Life" means caring about the quality of every person's life, demanding peace and justice and equality, offering medical coverage to every person as well as trying to provide all people with adequate nutrition, shelter, and equal opportunity, then I will embrace the term myself. But as long as "Pro-Life" seems to mean pro-violence, then I'm afraid it will remain a phrase that makes me fear for the lives of those who disagree with those who call themselves "Pro-Life."
Of course, Dr. Tiller may have simply been killed by a disturbed person, making his death a senseless tragedy with no explanation; but I strongly suspect Tiller was victimized not only by a gunman, but by a social pathology that is getting worse day by day. God bless our "free" and "civilized" society.
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins