Monday, June 01, 2009

Does Christianity breed Violent Murders?
The Death of George Tiller

Shocked as I read the newspaper this morning, learning disturbingly about the horrific murder of Doctor George Tiller gunned down by an anti-abortion activist in the narthex, or entryway of his church.  While he welcomed folks to worship his wife practiced with the choir.  In that experiential moment of hospitality he was either murdered for following his beliefs and acting on his conscience or gunned-down in a justified mercy killing that would save countless unborn fetuses.

Arrested nearly 200 miles from the scene of the crime yesterday, I have to wonder if the person that committed the crime thought it was justifiable by faith, or even the most faithful thing to do as a Christian.  You could argue that following Jesus in a radical way can indeed lead to violence.  Consider the case of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who concluded that it was his "Christian duty" to work actively towards the elimination of Adolf Hitler at any cost and by any means (he died for his faith praxis).  But isn't that different than the case of George Tiller?  I think it actually has nothing to do with Christianity - or at least with the primary essence of the teachings and example of Jesus of Nazareth.

I think it has everything to do with the cultural context in which Christianity, in a particular culturally-adapted form, is practiced.  Jesus preached against violence, retribution and murder.  In fact he preached openly nonviolent resistance: turn the other cheek,  love your enemies.  His are the words that inspired Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr., among countless others.  We seem to have reached a cultural place in which he have to vilify our adversaries, or those with opposite perspectives, beliefs or worldviews, as our enemies.  Think of the equality of marriage debate and struggle.  In the abortion discussion everyone claims to be "pro"-life/rights, in a sense-pro human life and humanity - yet often in the same breath those same dialoguers consider and call the opposition as less than human.  [Great article on this by Time's Nancy Gibbs, "Understanding America's Shift on Abortion" ; a great post on Streets Prophets: Whoever Killed George Tiller Was Not A Christian] Have we lost our way?  Has the church, the community of those that claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth, lost our way trading culture for conviction, reaction for action, demonizing for discipleship?

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