“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”: of a doctor, an usher, and the answerer of a call

It’s been years since I’ve been as shocked by an assassination as I was by today’s cold-blooded murder of Dr. George Tiller. I’d followed Dr. Tiller’s career since his town of Wichita, Kansas, became “ground zero” for the anti-abortion movement in the early 1990s; I knew he had been shot before, faced harassment and death threats. I knew he had also persevered with quiet dignity to provide late-term abortions and other reproductive services to women in his community and from across the country, often at little or no cost. I knew he was tops on the “target list” for those who were willing to kill abortion providers. And yet I was still stunned and heartsick when I saw the news this morning.

But here’s one thing I didn’t know. Dr. Tiller was a Christian, active in his local Lutheran church. It was at that church where he died this morning, ushering just as he had done on countless Sundays before. I had no reason to suspect he wasn’t a church-goer, of course. As a Christian who has wrestled mightily with my own views on abortion before coming to what is today a staunchly pro-choice position, I know full well that it is possible to believe in a loving sovereign God (as the Calvinists always put it) and to believe in a woman’s sovereignty over her own flesh. (I belong to the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and have heard that good Dr. Tiller did as well.) Dr. Tiller gave hope and comfort to women who were often in desperate, medically dangerous situations; far from being a craven Dr. Death, he was a gentle, dignified man who did what he did out of a profound commitment.

That commitment was to his patients, but it was also clearly to his faith. He had faced death so many times, faced trials and lawsuits and threat after threat. Where did he find the strength and the courage to continue to do what he did? Did he find it in a sense of an ethical obligation to women who had nowhere else to turn? Certainly. Did he also find it in his belief in a loving God who had called him to do something hard, something that many would not understand, something that would cause him to risk his very life? I suspect he did. Lutherans are famous for their sense of “calling”; it was Luther himself who first began to emphasize the idea that each of us has a “calling”, a vocation, outside of our role in the church. And it was another Lutheran, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote the famous Cost of Discipleship, with its devastating line: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Bonhoeffer, of course, was martyred by the Nazis for many reasons, not least because he stood up for the dignity of creation in the face of the monstrous evil that was the Third Reich. George Tiller was martyred today, not least because he stood — and stood publicly and openly — for the God-given dignity of women in the face of a movement that seeks to deny women their full humanity.

(I am well aware that today, some loathsome folks have dared compare Tiller’s murderer to Bonhoeffer; the latter, of course, was involved in the plot to kill Hitler. Some see abortion as akin to the Shoah, and an attack on Tiller as akin to the less-successful one on Hitler. But these bloggers have it back-to-front. It was Tiller himself who was far more like the gentle German pastor, and his assassin far more akin to those who martyred him.)

According to the Wikipedia entry on his life, Dr. Tiller had originally planned to be a dermatologist. Few emergencies or controversies in dermatology, after all; his life would have an easy and untroubled one, no doubt far more lucrative to boot.* But something changed, as he himself said:

In July of 1970, I planned to start a dermatology residency. On August 21, 1970, my father, mother, sister and brother-in-law were killed in an aircraft accident. My sister had a 12-month-old boy, Maurice. They had written out a will in longhand the evening before the airplane crash, that I was to raise Maurice. So we took charge of my sister’s boy and we moved back to Wichita. My game plan was to spend six months here, close out my father’s huge family medicine practice.

We Christians know a lot about game plans. As we say, if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. Tiller:

And I found out that in 1945, ’46, or ’47, a young woman for whom Dad had already delivered two babies came to him pregnant again right away, and she said something to the effect that, “I can’t take it, can you help me?” That is apparently the way you asked for an abortion from your regular doctor before abortion was legal. Dad said, “No. Big families are in vogue, by the time the baby gets here, everything will be all right.” She had a non-healthcare provider abortion and came back and died.

I can understand how upset my father was. I do not know whether he did 100 abortions or 200 abortions or 300 abortions. I think it may have been something like 200 over a period of about 20 years, but I don’t know for sure. The women in my father’s practice for whom he did abortions educated me and taught me that abortion is about women’s hopes, dreams, potential, the rest of their lives. Abortion is a matter of survival for women.

When it became legal and my patients began to ask for it, I’d say, “Sure. It’s a legal process.” I was a service provider. I was a physician. The patients needed abortions, and I did them. It is my fundamental philosophy that patients are emotionally, mentally, morally, spiritually and physically competent to struggle with complex health issues and come to decisions that are appropriate for them.

Bold emphases mine. God didn’t want George Tiller doing facial peels, removing basal cells, and comforting the be-pimpled. God had something else in mind for him, something that in the end George was one of the few to do. Dr. Tiller heard a call in the midst of a family tragedy, and answered it. He lived and — died — in a very Lutheran way. Christ called Him, and George said “yes.”

George Tiller died today while ushering. Ushers quietly and unassumingly help folks to find their place in God’s house. Ushers, in many churches, are the first to tell a visiting newcomer that he or she is welcome. Dr. Tiller did that at his church on Sunday mornings, and he did it at his clinic all week long when he welcomed in women who had nowhere else to turn. And he was murdered in cold blood today as he did this precious work. I have not peeked at the Lamb’s Book of Life; but I say this with all the certainty that my rebirth in Christ has given me: I think George Tiller’s name is in that book, and that he has been welcomed today with love and rejoicing on the far side of the Jordan.

When I first heard the news, I prayed. I got angry, very angry. And then I donated money, as that seemed the only tangible way I had at my disposal to strike back against this act of evil, this killing of a righteous man who knew how to do what was needed in the face of so much danger and hatred. I give monthly to Planned Parenthood, but at Heather Corinna‘s suggestion, gave a large donation today to the National Abortion Federation. I gave a smaller donation to Medical Students for Choice, which works to raise up the next generation of abortion providers. I gave in memory of Dr. Tiller, of course, but also in the name of my wife, my daughter, my mother, my sisters, and all of the women in my life. As I’ve written before, any lingering sense I had that I might still place a foot in the anti-choice camp ended the day I saw my wife give birth to our daughter. I pray that my daughter will never be in the situation that so many of Dr. Tiller’s patients were in. But if she should be, I pray a doctor of his decency and caliber will be there for her.

Please check out a list that Jill has put together at Feministe. Many suggestions for where to give in Dr. Tiller’s name, and more in the comments.

Any comments here suggesting that what was done today was somehow justified will obviously be deleted.

I am George Tiller. If you support the thug who killed the good doctor, know that I stand with Dr. Tiller and give time and money to support his work. Come for me. And if you stand for a woman’s right to choose, even if it is a hard choice, then say it and repeat it: I am George Tiller. They can’t shoot us all.

*Update: Having had time to sleep on this post, I stand by all of it — save my unfair mischaracterization of dermatologists. I have dear friends who are dermatologists, and they do far more than I suggested in this piece. My apologies.

67 thoughts on ““When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”: of a doctor, an usher, and the answerer of a call

  1. Powerful and beautiful piece, Hugo. After today, the emperors really are naked in their intent, and no one will be able to say otherwise.

  2. Very lovely post, Hugo. I see you have 61 posts on abortion… can you point me to one that spells out how you came to your views on abortion? I am happily pro-choice for early term abortions (in all cases), but I still do find it hard to leave the fence on late-term ones… though OBVIOUSLY this violence is never, ever, ever acceptable. I’d love to read your words on this.

  3. This is excellent, and I too cried reading it. Though I don’t hold any religious beliefs, I still feel a deep sense of spiritual calling, and I can only hope that we George Tillers come out stronger after today’s loss.

  4. I was directed here via Hilary’s link on Facebook. I’m glad I read this and I’m grateful you wrote this. It is beautiful and brought me to tears. It was my ray of sunshine in the dark cloud that was Dr. Tiller’s assassination.

  5. The man was not “martyred” it was a simple and plain murder. Being the victim of a crime does not make you a good person. As a Christian I am horrified that you consider his lifetime of killing a “calling.”

  6. Sweating Through Fog, many late term abortions are made when a wanted pregnancy goes terribly wrong and starts threatening woman’s life. Read some comments at Pandagon and they describe such cases. Like when a fetus will die anyway, but without an immediate abortion a woman will die too. Or a woman will most likely die without an abortion. She is already a full human being with relatives, family, other children. Why must her life be sacrificed? Why is she worth less than a fetus in your book? If one must die, imo it should be a fetus. Of course, each woman can choose. Nobody will force her to abort. Or you think that only you’re moral and numerous others are happy to abort 7 month fetuses? Actually late term abortions are extremely rare and are mainly done for health reasons, which I’ve already mentioned. And yes, he saved those women’s lives. If I were pregnant and dying because of it and not able to abort because of people like the murderer and like you, who support the rhetoric, which justifies this murder, whether you want it or not… well, if I believed in God, I would pray for such people to spend a very long time in purgatory.

  7. One more point: for a wanted, advanced pregnancy if the doctors could make a Caesarian and save a fetus too, they would do it. There are times, when it’s impossible. Unfortunately, I don’t know a lot about the reasons since I am not a doctor, but you can search, if you’re interested.

    Besides, some late term abortions are made at a late term since some kind people worked hard to put numerous obstacles in the women’s way, preventing them from having those abortions much earlier. I suspect they’re pretty happy now – first prevent from having an abortion at 2 months, then when a woman gathers money for travelling and medical expenses later, you can use “late term” expression and generate more outrage to further your goals. Imo abortions should be provided for everybody in the beginning of a pregnancy and afterwards only in extreme cases – exactly the way your laws already work! I remember reading in some book about the women’s position in the past – 16-17 century iirc – and there was an example how a pregnant woman’s husband thought she should die, if the pregnancy killed her. That’s what pro-fetus people want to return to. Can’t use pro-life here since zero late-term abortions mean women dying from pregnancy complications, leaving their other children orphans. (Many times fetuses will die too.)

  8. I don’t celebrate the act of killing. But life isn’t always smiles and roses. I think like that:
    1. Without late-term abortions some women will die.
    2. Therefore, in my book, somebody has to make them to save those women’s lives.
    3. Political situation in US endangers the abortion providers. They get death threats, are shunned, are even killed.

    If somebody is willing to save those women’s lives, while endangering oneself and one’s relatives, I do celebrate this person’s courage and determination to help others. Not all help is “giving bread to the poor” kind, which practically nobody will question and which will leave only good feelings in the giver. Providing late-term abortions is being willing to go to darker places, sacrifice a part of yourself to help other people. It’s much mentally harder to make such abortions than to help others in more conventional ways, like donating money, clothes or food. Dying from pregnancy women must be helped, so somebody has to do it. There are only 2 such clinics from what I read. (Now only one?) It’s not like women line to do that for fun!

  9. We’ll I refuse to celebrate his courage and his determination to do the mentally hard work of killing. I find your secular praise and Hugo’s postmodern Christian praise equally abhorrent.

  10. Just to clarify your position:
    Do you think those women should die (with fetuses in most cases)? That nobody should perform such abortions?

    In a situation when there is a very small chance that the fetus will live but mother will almost definitely die without the abortion, should abortions be allowed? (Imo, yes) What about a situation, in which a fetus will definitely die itself in a few days or immediately after birth, but mother’s health prevents from waiting for this and her life is in danger?

    There is celebrating and there is celebrating, STF. I don’t go “abortion at 7 months? Cool!”. It’s making the best of horrible situations. I knew a woman, who wanted a child and during birth something went so wrong that the doctors cut it into pieces. If it’s or mother’s life or child’s life, why should child’s life be more valuable? Besides, even at cost of mother’s life the chances of saving a child may be low. I used the term “child” here since it was during birth. At 5 months it’s a fetus yet, not a fully developed human being.

  11. El,

    The late Dr. Tiller’s website is down, but it would appear he did elective abortions too. Personally I think that abortions to save the mother’s life, or in cases of nonviable fetuses, should be legal. (And I would interpret threats to the mother’s life reasonably broadly, especially in the case of young teenagers when the risks can be quite severe). Any politically plausible anti-abortion law in the US would make such exemptions, it seems to me.

    Sweating through Fog,

    While I mostly agree with you, I don’t think this is the most productive place for a discussion. If you want to discuss this from an anti-abortion perspective, come over to my blog.


    Do you think it’s possible to oppose legalized abortion, very strongly, and also to oppose killing people who carry out abortions? I do. Mostly on the grounds that the right to decide whether someone shall live or die- no matter how good or evil they are- properly belongs to the state, and only to the state. Except under circumstances of war or revolution, private individuals do not have the right to take justice into their own hands, at least not in the modern United States. The killer should be punished up to the limit of the law, and if Kansas decides to execute him I won’t quibble with it.

    You have every right to be angry, and while I disagree very strongly with just about every point you make above, I don’t want to argue with you here and now. If you do want to discuss this, come over to my aforementioned blog.

  12. “We’ll I refuse to celebrate his courage and his determination to do the mentally hard work of killing. I find your secular praise and Hugo’s postmodern Christian praise equally abhorrent.”

    Then here’s a thought, STF:

    A man was killed in cold-blood. Slaughtered. Murdered. A real live no doubts about it human being. This post is meant for people to mourn the death of a real live walking talking human fucking being. If you can’t show the man in question some respect, how about you keep your damn indignation to yourself and let those of us who are in mourning do exactly that.

  13. “Do you think it’s possible to oppose legalized abortion, very strongly, and also to oppose killing people who carry out abortions? I do.”

    Here’s what some of your fellow pro-lifers are saying about Dr. Tiller’s death:


    or how about these comments:


    I could keep going. Endlessly, no doubt.

  14. Faith – this isn’t your blog and you don’t get to say who comments here. Mourn all you want, but do so with the knowledge that someone else thinks that respect and praise for a killer and his supposedly Christian calling is unconscionable.

  15. You’ve made your point, STF, and perhaps now is a good time to take a step back and let those of us who are grieving a man whom we regard as a hero do so.

    Hector, I do know that the pro-life movement is a continuum. I have known some very gentle people in the consistent life wing of the movement, pacifists to their core, whose abhorrence of all forms of violence was equal and absolute. And I suspect that a great many (sadly, I can’t say all) so-called “pro-lifers” are upset by George Tiller’s murder. I’ll leave it to others to point fingers, but the fellow who pulled the trigger was a well-known person in the pro-life world. The chances that no one knew what he was planning are remote. And if they failed to drop a dime, as it were, then they are complicit in his death.

  16. I don’t think you are a real Christian, Hugo.

    The devil quotes Scripture all the time.

    You know the bible well, and you know what buttons to push, but in your heart I think you cannot possibly be a Christian. Your views on sex and life are too incompatible with the church, but you continue to use the Bible to justify the most appalling and awful things. You encourage homosexuality, promiscuity, divorce and abortion, and you do so in this charming language that is very seductive to the young and impressionable. You used to seduce your students sexually. You’ve given that up and traded it in for something I think is even worse: you seduce them morally, leading them away from their families and their morals and God.

    Young people look up to you. You have 1483 friends on Facebook, including my niece whom you have brainwashed. Yes, I logged in to her page to view your profile. I don’t know if you believe in what you’re doing or not, or whether you’re consciously doing the devil’s work. But when you call yourself a George Tiller, Hugo Schwyzer, you are right. You are a child killer, a soul killer.

    I will pray for your real conversion, for your victims, and that you be stopped.

  17. Frank, your niece, whoever she is, surely has the capacity to make up her own mind. You are just upset that she hasn’t been “brainwashed” the way you want her to be.

  18. Hector: “Mostly on the grounds that the right to decide whether someone shall live or die- no matter how good or evil they are- properly belongs to the state, and only to the state.”

    Really? As a Christian, you believe that the State has the right to decide who lives or dies? I’m not calling your faith into question, but still, the State, really?

  19. Pingback: Rest in Peace Dr. Tiller « I’ll Follow the Sun

  20. “Faith – this isn’t your blog and you don’t get to say who comments here.”

    I wasn’t telling you that you couldn’t comment here. I was telling you that you were being highly disrespectful to those who have been traumatized by this man being viciously slaughtered. As Hugo already basically stated, if you have a problem with Tiller, you have a problem with me. I supported George Tiller. That means I’m just as responsible for the abortions that he performed as he was. I’m not going to remain silent while you disrespect a dead man on a post meant to honor him.

    Would those of you spouting your hatred for this man walk up to his friends and family and tell them that he didn’t deserve respect? Would you be so callous? Because what you and the rest of your pack are doing now on the internet is no different.

  21. Frank, if your niece is my student, you know where I work. You can find out what I look like and what my office hours are. Come and tell me what you have to say to my face.

    And those who do not grieve at Dr. Tiller’s murder, or who praise it with faint damns, are not welcome in this thread. I can’t stress that enough. I am Dr. Tiller, and treat me as you would treat him.

  22. Thank you for this post. I cried too. Salon has a pretty thoughtful post on the true picture of Dr. Tiller’s practice, that he served individuals and families who found themselves in tragic circumstances, often having to choose between the life of a wanted fetus and the life of an actual born woman (also wanted). http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2009/06/01/late_term_abortion/

    I also just wanted to speak up in response to Frank’s comment and say that Hugo’s posts have meant a lot to me in the short time I have been reading, especially his thoughful and compassionate posts on divorce–one of the “appalling” things you mention in your post. I know many people who have been shunned and isolated by their churches because of a divorce, which I have found to be the opposite of Christ-like love. I greatly appreciate that Hugo has been willing to tell his story here, which has lessened the isolation for other people of faith who have gone through that particular difficult life event. I am saddened, Frank, that you now attempt to use his honesty and humility against him in your post.

  23. I don’t consider killing babies a noble cause. The fact that he did and then went to church makes me sick. I don’t care if you’re for abortion or not. The late term murders he did are absolutely horrifying. It is true that he should NEVER have been murdered. That is not the way to fight evil. But let’s not make this man a saint.

  24. Frank, Matt, and SWF,

    I’m as pro-life as they come, though I do make exceptions for threats to life/health and for nonviable fetuses. That said, I am not going to dance on Mr. Tiller’s grave, nor am I going to condemn him on this blog. This thread is meant for people to grieve over Dr. Tiller’s death, and it’s damned inappropriate for those of us on the pro-life side to come and talk about how we disliked him. (Hell, I’m not even sure what I think of him, since I don’t know for a fact how many of his abortions were elective vs. medical necessities.) Let’s follow the old schoolyard rule: if you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything. If you want to condemn Dr. Tiller, there are lots of other places to do that.

    That said, Hugo, I doubt I will be reading or commenting on your blog much in the future: our worldviews are just too diametrically opposed on this and just about every other issue. I wish you the best.

  25. Matt: It seems telling to me that the response of so many people who think as you do is to, immediately after perfunctorily expressed disapproval of the murder, go on to minimize the loss, since, after all, it’s just an abortion doctor, not a saint.

    You’d think that somewhere out there there’s a pro-life internet denizen who could bring themselves to say, ‘However much I disagreed with Dr. Tiller’s bioethics, his murder is a sin and a crime. My heart goes out to his family and his community, which were so brutally included by his murder at his own church. Whatever theological differences I had with Dr. Tiller, surely his murderer knows not whatever God Dr. Tiller and I both tried to approach.’

    You’d think.

  26. Some clarity on what it means to have an “elective” late-term abortion. When you read the stories of families that have faced this, they did not face a choice between having an abortion and bringing home a healthy baby. It’s a choice between an abortion and having a baby that will die at birth, or live and suffer for a few hours or days then die.

    They had to decide as loving parents which of these unbearable options was better for them, for their child and any other children.

    I can’t know what I would do if I were faced with this decision. But I do know I can’t make that decision for someone else.

    But an “elective” procedure involving a “viable” fetus does NOT mean that without intervention there would be a normal pregnancy and a healthy baby.

  27. Did someone seriously just say you aren’t a Christian because of your stances on homosexuality and abortion? Is this because of Jesus’ many teachings on these issues? Ohhh wait, no, he never spoke on them. La dee dah.

  28. Frank, if your niece is my student, you know where I work. You can find out what I look like and what my office hours are. Come and tell me what you have to say to my face.

    Not to tell you how to do your job, but I wouldn’t go anywhere near this guy. From what I’ve seen, once somebody starts babbling out imprecatory prayers, divine judgment via gunfire isn’t far off.

    At least get a campus rent-a-cop to keep an eye on him.

  29. You encourage homosexuality, promiscuity, divorce and abortion

    Y’know, I’ve never understood this mantra. Presumably if you encourage the first one, you’re automatically reducing the incidence of the last two.

  30. Oh, and sorry for the double post, but Hugo, I too encourage you to grab Frank’s IP address and talk to campus security. This is somebody who apparently stalks his niece and is obsessive enough to care about exactly how many Facebook friends you have (and to tell you, so that you know he knows). The reaction to Dr. Tiller’s murder is going to encourage copycats who want to be martyrs.

  31. Thanks, Schism and Mythago. Anyone makes threats, even veiled ones, that’s a red flag.
    I don’t think anyone else has the right to tell Hugo whether he is a Christian or not.
    I join you in mourning Doctor Tiller. While there have been times I have really wished I could kill certain, I knew that even if I escaped the legal consequences, it would just make that person seem like a martyr and me the villain. I would rather let someone I despised bring about their own doom.
    But I thank you for supporting a woman’s right to freedom from forced childbearing. It is too late for me to add to that earlier post about what would be an approrpiate punishment for abortionists if one really was pro-choice, but I would have said, “A couple extra hours each day after work building the exo-wombs that will free women from the need to gestate, and/or working on the chemosynthesizers of breast-milk to reduce the burden of lactation–for these must be in place before ever I would consider banning or restricting abortion.”
    Next time anyone of the male persuasion starts opposing abortion, ask him if he cared about the fetus/baby/whatever enough to gestate it himself, and/or work on the technology to make this possible. Is he willing himself to take on most of the same physical burdens? It might not take all that much hormonal tinkering to get a man to produce milk. It makes a lot more sense than shooting someone with a lot of training and wisdom, who no doubt could do a lot more than abortions, in the way of helping others.
    And thanks, Hugo.

  32. Franks didn’t make what I would quite call a threat, but his antagonistic language, and mention of overscrutinizing his niece, constitutes a warning signal.
    As to what I think should happen to the guy who shot Tiller…well, that’d be the start of a whole new brouhaha. Maybe there’s things folks could do to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.

  33. Thank you, Hugo. This touched me and means so very much to me, especially since we “met” years ago when I was all over you for your anti-abortion views at the time.

  34. Thank you, Amanda. Yes, you’ve been a witness to a big change in me since that exchange about Amy Richards five summers ago. You threatened to kick me, as I recall, but when we finally met last year, you held back.

    Frank’s IP address has been saved, and I’ll check it out. He’s local, that much I can tell. But I’ve heard a lot of smoke from MRAs and others in the past with various threats of physical violence. I certainly don’t make light of threats; I have a daughter now. But I don’t want to blow anything out of proportion.

  35. Hugo, we’ve often been at odds, but now and then we are in complete accord.
    Your reference to Bonhoeffer, who I’ve long considered one of my own personal heroes, is a welcome reminder of what a true calling, and true faith, look like. And it does come down to compassion. Yours led you to a deeper understanding of justice, as did the late Dr. Tiller’s. When we follow that compassion, it leads us to the right places, if not the easy ones.
    Thank you for this. May Tiller rest in as much peace and care as he offered so many.

  36. Hugo, you don’t have to blow anything out of proportion to be cautious. Myself, I’m more worried about his niece.

  37. May God’s peace be with us and may our thoughts and prayers for everyone involved in this. Peace, Carl

  38. @Matt,

    the delivery and short, painful, futile life of a baby born with severe abnormalities is also horrifying. Walking around with a burgeoning belly that every stranger wants to touch and then ask you about when all you can answer is “My baby is dead. I haven’t gone into labor. I might turn septic” is horrifying.

    I am sure most people don’t want to be the practitioner who pulls a dead, infected fetus from a woman’s womb when all she wanted was a healthy child. How dare you insult the man who was strong enough to be there for these women. What would you have them do? Rot and die while you close your eyes and say “icky!”?

    I am going to be a physician. I will be doing and witnessing many procedures that you may not be strong enough to handle. Some are very ethically challenging. I’d love to hear your opinions on some of these that do not involve a women’s reproductive rights.

    Should we force feed the child of an illegal immigrant who has cancer and can’t eat? Should we pay for her chemo if she is the child of an indigent migrant worker? What if the mother is against chemo, and the child will die without it? Should we spend the money fighting this in the courts, pay for her chemo, force her to take it, and then force feed her when she can’t eat? You want to put the tube up her nose and down her throat if her mother has told her to fight you? You want to fight for the tax dollars to pay for her therapy? Is the president gonna hop on a plane to save her life?

    Anyway, I digress.

    It is hard enough going through the physical and emotional challenges of late pregnancy, delivery, birth, and the post partum period for an average mother. Women who have desired pregnancies with poor outcomes are the last group that deserved to be kicked around. They should not have to walk through lines of picket signs and people screaming at them that they will be going to hell.

    Neither should ten year old rape victims. That was another one of the cases that was brought to court. Of course she had a late term abortion. SHE WAS TEN!! She wasn’t on birth control. She couldn’t drive herself to the doctor. She didn’t know what being pregnant was. She had no advocacy. She was being raped.

    People who use the issue of abortion as an opportunity to talk about late term abortions are using these poor women as punching bags and I am sick of it. People who villainize the practitioners who are willing to perform these operations when they are obviously risking their own lives to do it are pathetic. And people who shoot them in cold blood are heinous.

  39. Pingback: Reply turned post, Dr. Tiller style « Mom’s Tinfoil Hat

  40. I love this post, Huges. Thank you. So beautiful, and so in keeping with your blend of faith and feminism.

    “I am Dr. Tiller.” Yes, I am too.

    Please, please, please, please report “Frank” (or his email or IP or whatevs). For his niece’s sake and for yours. Some of us worry about you. Speaking of which, are you drinking more water? 😉

  41. I’m not sure what it would be productive to say here. This kind of cold blooded murder is abhorrent, an act of dreadful wickedness.

    Abortion is also a dreadful act of dehumanising wickedness.

    Lord have mercy on us all.

    You will understand, Hugo, why I find it difficult to use the language of Christian calling to describe abortion. But I pray for Dr. Tiller’s soul, and the peace of his family.

  42. In days of nonstop reading this is the post that made me cry, and told me what I needed to hear.

    Unforgettable, required reading.

  43. How you can compare a HERO like Dietrich Bonhoffer who RESCUED people from death and in the process lost his own life the same as George Tiller who MURDERED innocent life and in the process lost his own life is surely INSANE. There is NO comparison. One is a brave martyr who attempted to save lives. The other lived by the sword and died by it, cutting off life before it was given a chance to truly live. I pray at the last moments of Tiller’s life he asked for forgiveness of his sins. I pray that for his wife and for those who are deluded, like yourself, and the members of his “church.” This country will surely be judged for all the innocent rivers of blood – millions of tiny lives – that were slaughtered in the name of someone’s “right” or because those tiny lives were inconvenient. How tragic.

  44. HD,

    In your ranting, and in your bashing of Tiller’s church days after they’ve been terrorized (which says a lot about you, by the way), you’ve overlooked that Tiller’s church is Lutheranism… the same denomination of Dietrich Bonhoeffer!

  45. Mr. Schwyzer,

    Was linksurfing, stumbled across this. I may have to start reading regularly; slacktivist is already on my blogroll, but the way things are shaping up I’m going to need regular reminders that not all Christians are frothing hidebound lunatics hellbent on punishing me and mine simply for existing in a different way.

    I wanted to thank you for this. I’m a happy heathen myself, but I know that Christianity is as legitimate a connection to the Divine as any, and I had enough of a Christian education growing up that my ethics have been strongly influenced by the teachings of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay in my Catholic private school or my Episcopalian Sunday school long enough to learn the subtle nuances of Christian faith that justify murder, hatred, and bullying. I learned about Lazarus at the gate, and the Sermon on the Mount; about not casting the first stone, and what should be done before plucking the mote from another’s eye. I learned that the sacrifice of the self for others is the highest form of heroism, and whether or not they “deserved” the sacrifice is irrelevant.

    Dr. Tiller was a hero. Yes, he was. He did what no one who condemns him had the strength to do: the people who came to him did so in darkness and despair, and he made for them a great light. He showed them compassion when others condemned them. He risked his life and his safety to do right by people he did not know and owed nothing to. And when he ministered to his patients, his God guided his hands.

    Of course, I’m not even baptized, and I’m a practicing pagan, so what the fuck do I know? God’s mercy is only given to the right sort, after all, we can’t just let anyone live in the light of the Kingdom. Think of the property values! If I’d been properly washed clean in the blood of the Lamb, shed for the greatest and least, I’d know this sort of thing.

    All hail Lucifer, etc.

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  47. “In your ranting, and in your bashing of Tiller’s church days after they’ve been terrorized (which says a lot about you, by the way), you’ve overlooked that Tiller’s church is Lutheranism… the same denomination of Dietrich Bonhoeffer!” Ben

    Oh good grief. Bonhoeffer’s church at the critical juncture was the breakaway Confessing Church, it was Ludwig Müller’s state/establishment Lutheran Church which allowed itself to be happily coopted by Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

    That’s not intended as a too facile analogy or parallel either (though it was another ELCA church, also in Wichita, KS, which housed a parioshner named Dennis Rader, aka the BTK serial killer), but that’s precisely what your categorical sensibility reflects, an absurdly facile, categorical arrogation and resulting confusion.

    And no, it doesn’t say “a lot” about the commenter in the manner you’re suggesting, not by a long shot.

  48. “I am well aware that today, some loathsome folks have dared compare Tiller’s murderer to Bonhoeffer” Hugo Schwyzer

    Could you cite an example of this?

  49. Michael,

    I guess I should have clarified that I was mostly opposing HD’s insult to Tiller’s congregation (days after the congregation was attacked by a shooter… how classy.) In truth, it wouldn’t have been any more justified an insult if it had been a congregation of another denomination; I guess I was reaching a bit!

  50. Prof. Schwyzer,

    Yes, I understand the rationale. Bonhoeffer’s conscientious reasoning behind his and others’ participation in assassination plots against Hitler and the German resistance against the Third Reich in general. I can see how people, again with far too facile an approach and coming from the “opposite” direction of your own, can latch onto such a rationale. Though I do find your own cooptation – of Bonhoeffer’s dictum rather than his argument in support of assassination attempts against Adolf Hitler – equally facile and morally uncomprehending. Bonhoeffer would have approved of neither cooptation. Tiller’s murder was also a reprehensible act and obviously a crime, but it’s not remotely on a scale or in a category with Bonhoeffer’s intention and depth. There’s a very basic incongruity that you’re merely glossing over.

    Tiller’s murder can be framed as morally unarguable and even reprehensible, but that doesn’t place him in a category with a Bonhoeffer, nor does it categorically place post-birth and late term abortions within morally unsuspect frames. That doesn’t suggest that that’s the end of the story, the moral conundrums from different perspectives remain real conundrums (life vs. individual freedom and choice), but that’s the point, your own resolution does not take better depth of comprehensions and incommensurate qualities into account either. That’s a summarization only, yes, but it’s not an either/or in terms of approving or disapproving of Tiller’s murder and Tiller’s post-birth and other late-term abortions.

    (And I don’t find the link you provided so terrible. I don’t approve, but she’s indulging a too simple, a facile rationalization in support of her views. Lot a’ that goin’ ’round from all perspectives and from all vantage points. She’s not plotting to kill anyone any more than you’re applauding or plotting infanticide by virtue of your own rationalization. Again, yes, the conundrums remain, but that’s precisely one of the primary points being emphasized.)

  51. Ben, I disagree with HD’s formulations, but imo the ELCA can far more readily be likened to Muller’s state/establishment church than to Bonhoeffer’s Confessing Church. It’s not even close. That too is a summarization only, not an argument, yes, I realize that.

  52. “George Tiller was martyred today, not least because he stood — and stood publicly and openly — for the God-given dignity of women in the face of a movement that seeks to deny women their full humanity.”

    And what does tearing a young woman apart in her mother’s womb do? *Affirm* her full humanity?

  53. Pingback: This Could Be Inconclusive… « Back Towards The Locus

  54. Glad to see this reposted. I didn’t read the comment thread the first time. I don’t actually have an uncle Frank, but I have relatives like him, and when I’ve told those relatives about your courses, they’ve said some similar things. I’m quite sure that they would never actually threaten you physically, but they sure are filled with some un-Christian anger at you.

    RIP, Dr. T.

  55. It’s alarming how a simple google search of the name Troy Newman could give somebody like me, sitting in a computer lab in another country so much proof of what happened to Dr. Tiller AND OTHERS!! And yet Newman and his terrorists are still free to subject people to these horrors.

    I think I need to chat with my atheist friends for a while.

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