ushers welcome visitors and hand out bulletins, yes. But they
also serve another function. Because although anybody, carrying
anything, can walk into a church—that’s the whole point, right?—the
ushers keep an eye out for any potential danger.
Because churches attract troubled people, people with needs
or grudges or ill-intentions. And both the pastor and the
congregation are vulnerable. The pastor is right up there,
front and center, an easy target. The congregation has its
backs to the door and can’t see who comes in. More than once,
when I was still serving in the parish, I saw our ushers intercept
harassing behavior by a trouble-minded visitor.
That he was serving as an usher at his church when he was
gunned down makes Dr. George Tiller’s murder that much more
horrible. The ushers welcome people. They protect people.
To those who believe in a woman’s right to choose whether
or not to carry a pregnancy to term, Dr. Tiller was a servant
in the realm of women’s reproductive rights. But to those
who believe that abortion is murdering unborn children, Dr.
Tiller was a murderer.
And that’s where the logic of extremism comes close to the
logic of justified killing.
After establishing that her own position on abortion is pro-choice,
Megan McCardle writes on her blog at The Atlantic:
“if you actually think late-term abortion is murder, then
the murder of Dr. Tiller makes total sense. . . . We accept
that when the law is powerless, people are entitled to kill
in order to prevent other murders—had Tiller whipped out a
gun at an elementary school, we would now be applauding his
murderer’s actions. . . . If you think that someone is committing
hundreds of gruesome murders a year, and that the law cannot
touch him, what is the moral action? . . . We are not morally
required to obey an unjust law. In fact, when the death of
innocents is involved, we are required to defy it.”
Nancy Gibbs, in Time, expresses a similar view: “There
is an uncomfortable consistency in the logic of the extremists:
If abortion providers are mass child killers and the law refuses
to act, the vigilante may see himself as the lone defender
of justice—as vigilantes usually do.”
Anti-choice groups have been quick and vociferous in their
condemnation of Dr. Tiller’s murder—as they should be. The
Christian Defense Coalitions, Operation Rescue and the National
Clergy Council, among other groups, have all issued statements
deploring the killing, at the same time distancing themselves
from those who commit violent acts of protest.
Operation Rescue’s president, Troy Newman, told The New
York Times that the accused killer, Scott Roeder was “not
a friend, not a contributor, not a volunteer”—even though
a 2007 post on the group’s Web site was written by a man identifying
himself as Scott Roeder, who asked if anyone had thought of
attending Tiller’s church to ask the doctor and other worshippers
about his work.
But no matter that these groups are condemning Dr. Tiller’s
murder, they are using this tragedy as a renewal of the urgency
of their cause.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,
wrote in The Washington Post, “Murder is murder. The
law rightly affirms that the killing of Dr. George Tiller
is murder. In this we must agree. We cannot rest until the
law also recognizes the killing of the unborn as murder. The
killing of Dr. George Tiller makes that challenge all the
With considerably more candor, Randall Terry, former president
of Operation Rescue (and famously, to my mind, sued by his
ex-wife for non-payment of child support) called George Tiller
a mass- murderer. In a statement released on Monday he said,
“We grieve for [Tiller] that he did not have time to properly
prepare his soul to face God. . . . Those men and women who
slaughter the unborn are murderers according to the Law of
God. We must continue to expose them in our communities and
peacefully protest them at their offices and homes, and yes,
even their churches.”
Even in their churches.
ChristianNewswire aired the opinion of Pastor Mark Holic,
Spirit One Christian Center: “What was an abortionist doing
‘in’ church, any church . . . being allowed, welcomed, even
venerated? This man killed babies for a living. . . . Then
he went to ‘church,’ made large contributions, and the ‘church’
(Reformation Lutheran Church) accepted it.
is an apostate church, fully complicit in Mr. Tiller’s murderous
rampage against preborn children.”
died the way he lived,” said the Rev. Rusty Thomas of Operation
Save America, “His was a bloody death. Someone ‘chose’ to
end George Tiller’s life this morning, in his church.” In
his apostate church, where he was serving as an usher.
This tragedy, this loss, exposes a depth of hypocrisy that
nice words and phrases about unity in Christ cover up. The
issue isn’t simply abortion; it’s about how there are Christians
and then there are ‘Christians.’ How there are churches and
then there are ‘churches.’
It wasn’t simply that George Tiller was a mass murderer who
died the way he lived. It’s also that he attended a church
that welcomed people with diverse views. And it wasn’t simply
that the church welcomed people with diverse views, it was
that the church itself was, as Rusty Thomas put it, “trashing
the gospel of Christ.”
Of that, as well as so many other things, these spokesmen
for the anti-choice movement are, apparently, quite certain.