Monday, June 01, 2009

Far Beyond Anger

I’m seeing a great deal of coverage this morning about the murder of Dr. George Tiller. Surely this was a cold-blooded and reprehensible act. As with all other weighty events in recent years the guests on cable news networks and talk shows are screaming at and on top of one another. The rage is palpable, the information slim and the truth hidden. Once the spin is removed from this awful story I think it is fair to state that a significant component of Dr. Tiller’s medical practice included abortion procedures and someone who held radical and opposing views shot and killed him in the lobby of a Lutheran church. This ‘someone’ has been apprehended in Kansas. Print reports include the information that the car in which he surrendered bore a red rose sticker on the rear window (a pro-life symbol, apparently) and one of those fish decals with the name Jesus inside. I’m uncertain what bearing this had on the story other than to associate the suspected killer to with two movements not generally supported by the press: Pro-Life and Christianity. 
Abortion, of course, is perfectly legal in our sort-of-free country, with few exceptions. This has been the case since 1973. For the 197 years preceding 1973 abortion was illegal in The United States of America. That’s not to say that abortions were not performed. Indeed, one of the early challenges to the illegality of abortion was the data that reflected the number of women who were dying on the tables of back-alley clinics. (Since the procedure became legal following Roe v. Wade decision the lives of 50,000,000 women have been saved from the ravages of those horror chambers. Oh, what a dark blessing.) It is no secret that ‘we the people’ continue to disagree wildly on this very large issue. Simply put, there are those who view abortion as legal murder and there are those who view it as a human right in the realm of medicine. There are those who feel the state has no right to meddle in the very private and personal decisions anyone makes regarding their reproductive rights and there are those who feel that any abortion at any stage for any reason is homicide. There are very loud voices on both sides of this raging river but most of us, whether or not we have an opinion, wallow around in silence wishing it would just all go away. It will not. The problem is there are few forums for rational debate: there is never any middle ground – there are only stubborn, angry, fact-spinning screaming matches between arrogant and obnoxious hard-liners and we the people finally tune it out and turn away. And just when it all calms down someone from the fringe calmly wakes up one morning and mails a bomb to a professor, parks a truck in front of a government building or walks into a Lutheran church with a gun. Somewhere between the screaming and the silence evil slithers in and does its dirty little jig right in our faces. And then it starts all over again but the voices get louder and the gap gets wider with every hellish event. And boy, are they ever at it today. 
I hold very strong opinions about abortion. I spent many years as a volunteer board member of Hope Clinic for Women in Nashville, TN. The primary focus at Hope was post-abortion counseling (if you think abortion has no lingering impact on lives you don’t know the truth.) We did not involve ourselves with loud and abrasive protests, sign carrying or throwing blood on the steps of abortion clinics. Rather, we tried (and they continue to try) to be a Balm in Gilead – a Voice of Reason and Reconciliation. Lots of people held me in contempt for the work I did with Hope Clinic. My quiet solicitation for funding among friends and co-workers garnered very little. I was turned down at many local clubs when I wished to put on a small benefit for the clinic. My preacher at the time refused my request to make a brief donation pitch to our congregation. When the issue arose during a dinner conversation with longtime friends two women scowled at me and left the table. The pro-life posture has become anathema in our society. Oh my.
Today the blogosphere is sounding every kind of alarm. They are shriek and shrill and there’s not an ounce of give in anyone. This egregious act has been called karma, murder terrorism and retribution. A heart has stopped beating, a mind has stopped dreaming and a life has been ended involuntarily – by the hand of another. That is murder. On the other hand, a heart has stopped beating, a mind has stopped dreaming and a life has been ended involuntarily – by the hand of another. That is abortion.