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Eric Sapp Headshot

Was Tiller's Murder Justice?

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Last week, I had the honor of sitting next to a group of Gold Star Moms during the National Memorial Day concert. We talked about their sons and exchanged some tearful hugs during the extremely moving concert. The next day, the militant pro-life group, Operation Rescue, sent a mass email to its members entitled "Tiller Abortion Worker Honored At White House By Obama." The email condemned President Obama for inviting to the White House a woman who volunteered in George Tiller's clinic as "yet another connection between Obama and late-term abortionist George Tiller." The woman in question was a Gold Star Mom, and she was invited to the White House on Memorial Day (along with all the other Gold Star mothers I'd sat with at the concert) for no other reason than to commemorate their sons and daughters who were killed in action.

The rhetoric from the far right often saddens me but seldom generates a real emotional reaction, but I was furious when I read Operation Rescue's email. At first, I couldn't decide whether I was more upset that Operation Rescue was trying to score cheap political points off of the death of this woman's son, or that they were so intent on proving their point about the threat of Obama's pro-choice administration that they felt completely justified in twisting the facts and ignoring the truth. But following Tiller's murder by a man who regularly posted on Operation Rescue message boards, I have decided that while using a U.S. soldier's death to try to score political points is more deplorable, the complete disregard for the truth in a pursuit of justice is more dangerous.

Obama didn't "honor a Tiller abortion worker," and the Gold Star Mom event in no way demonstrated another connection between Obama and Tiller. When Christians decide lies are the best way to inspire the "faithful" to fight for justice, and when Christians demonstrate through our actions that we believe that any means are justified as long as the end is just, we are lost. The annoying thing about morality and ethics is that sometimes they make it difficult for us to get what we want immediately...and they may even make us reexamine our motives and priorities.

As our society becomes increasingly governed by the sound bite and as we divide into ideologically homogenous groups to get our news, discuss our faith, and engage in our politics, we see more and more examples of Americans deciding morality and truth are luxuries we cannot afford in our righteous quest for justice. We break 200 years of tradition and torture prisoners because we face threats so dire that laws of man and God no longer apply. And lest the left get too self-righteous, there is little difference between Operation Rescue hosting chat rooms where protestors are encouraged to target Tiller's church and opponents of Prop 8 posting the names and home addresses of donors to the gay marriage ban.

As our specific causes become increasingly important in our own eyes, as the perceived threats to them become increasingly immediate and dire, and as our opponents are increasingly turned into demonized caricatures void of feeling or humanity, "justice" becomes just another word for "revenge" and we teeter on the verge of becoming Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor who kills Christ to save the Church...because Christ's message of meekness and mercy is not what the times call for.

And so while Operation Rescue may not have pulled the trigger, they created a culture that justified their web team's decision that in the times we live in they did not need to follow Christ's command to be truthful in all things or to comfort the suffering since such commands would have hobbled their righteous and just purpose...and tragically, it was just a small step for someone who was constantly bombarded by their alarmist rhetoric to decide that Christ wanted him to murder another of God's children.

Every time we demonize another, stand as righteous judge over our brother, and seek justice devoid of grace or mercy, there are consequences. And when we decide that we will fight God's battles with the devil's weapons of lies and force, we should not be surprised when we create monsters.

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