Monday, June 1, 2009

In Response to the Murder of Dr. George Tiller

As someone who is vehemently pro-life I am very disturbed by yesterday's murder of Dr. George Tiller.

The term "Christian" encompasses many denominations, sects, cults and groups of individuals that hold wildly varying ideas of what being a Christian means. The fact that Dr. Tiller was a church goer involved in ministry through ushering and yet performed late term abortions is evidence of that fact.

In the past I've engaged in debate with individuals using the Word of God as a weapon as we've fired verses and interpretations of those verses back and forth at one another. I came to a place where I decided that I would not use scripture that way and now rarely quote it. However, today I feel the need to explain where I, a Christian woman who lives an obscure life, is coming from and I will need to quote some scripture to do that.

"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due; taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor." NKJV Romans 13:1-7

This piece of scripture was written during the time of Roman government rule and they had recently crucified Jesus Christ. The Roman government was known for the viciousness of it's soldiers, was not a democracy and was by no means pro-Christian. In spite of all this Paul, a servant of God, said what he did in the above verses in the book of Romans.

It is clear that there is no authority except from God, and that God establishes government for His purpose and that citizens are clearly commanded to be in subjection to governing authorities.

If the Roman government persecuted Christians, how was it "appointed by God"? In what sense were Roman authorities "God’s ministers"? And in what sense are Christians to be "subject" to these "authorities"?

Even Satan’s authority comes from God and the story of Job demonstrates that. God did not morally approve of this persecution, but allowed it to occur, because it was in line with his divine plan. In other words, God “appointed” Satan to persecute Job. Throughout the Old Testament, there are many examples of where this theme is extended to human governments. Although these governments persecuted God’s people, often in brutal ways, they are described as God’s servant showing that they were appointed by God. Examples of this include the Pharaoh of Egypt and King Nebuchadnezzar.

The LORD instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh, "But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth." NKJV Exodus 9:16 In God’s divine plan, he allowed the Pharaoh to persecute and enslave the Hebrews because it led to their ultimate good through their exodus from Egypt. The fact that the LORD instructed Moses to challenge Pharaoh shows that although Pharaoh was placed in that position by God, it does not justify his actions against the Hebrew people.

In the case of King Nebuchadnezzar, the prophet Jeremiah declared to the unrepentant people of Judah, "Therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,' says the LORD, 'and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations." NKJV Jeremiah 25:8,9 And later in the passage, " 'Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,' says the LORD; 'and I will make it a perpetual desolation.' " NKJV Jeremiah 25:12 Describing Nebuchadnezzar as God's servant does not mean that his actions were morally just. It only means that his sinful actions were used by God to the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Even as a believer, these types of passages are difficult for me. I understand God allowing things to happen for the ultimate good of the people as a whole but when I think about the individual suffering of people it can be hard for me to accept. We all know people who endure much suffering and, along with our own suffering, the knowledge that what happens in any of our lives is allowed by God can, and often does, incite anger toward God in many people. There's also the issue of the foreknowledge of God... our own free will... I often grapple with my own understanding of things and my efforts to reconcile everything in my mind. It's complicated.

It is interesting to me that Paul was the author of Romans in light of the fact that he constantly disobeyed governing authorities, was often on the run, was imprisoned for two years and eventually executed. Peter, John, the other apostles, as well as Jesus himself all disregarded and disobeyed governing authorities. Yet, they were still under the power and authority of the Roman government. Being called upon to love their enemies, violent resistance was not an option. This non-violent message was important to Roman Christians. Many of the Christians in Rome were of Jewish descent and Jews throughout the Roman Empire had suffered centuries of persecution and were continually on the threshold of violent rebellion. It was approximately at this time that the Roman Emperor Nero began his immense persecution of Christians. Taking this into consideration, it becomes perfectly clear why Paul would urge Roman Christians to be “subject” to the governing authorities. Rather than violently opposing the government, Paul instructed these Christians to subject themselves to the persecution they were suffering.

Throughout the New Testament are instances where the apostles, following Jesus' lead, set the example for later Christians regarding subjection to persecution, leading to their martyrdom. Jesus predicted this type of subjection to persecution many times throughout the Gospels:

"But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before ruleres and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them (v.9)... And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved." NKJV Mark 13:9,13

"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of this world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember what I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also." NKJV John 15:18-20

What exactly does this mean for Christians today? What is our role when faced with issues such as abortion, the death penalty, and child abuse?

"Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good." NKJV 1 Peter 2:13,14

"Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vegeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord." NKJV Romans 12:17-19

For me, it is clear that human governments throughout the world are the avenue through which God chooses to bring evil doers to justice. Interestingly, there are Christians who believe that any involvement in government is wrong, whether that be through any kind federal or state employment, service in the military, holding of public office, or voting. Obviously, I am not of that opinion.

What about the commandment, Thou shalt not kill ? How does a Christian adhere to that in times of war? What about a police officer using deadly force? I believe that falls under the rule of law through our government. There are rules of conduct that have been issued in military and police action. If those rules are broken then the soldiers/officers who broke them must be submitted to the proper authorities.

I believe abortion is wrong. I find late term abortion particularly heinous. That being said, the man who took the life of Dr. Tiller yesterday was wrong and he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

In this country we have been given certain rights, among them freedom of religion. People look to laws to define what is right and wrong. People of different faiths look beyond common law to the tenets of their faith on how to conduct themselves. As citizens of this country we do have a say, through our votes, as to the laws that are passed or abolished. We have a right to vote our conscience and as long as we have that right, we need to do so. The battlefront needs to be seen as the courtroom. It may seem that there is no point and that we are fighting a losing battle. That may be so. However, if through standing up and explaining why we believe as we do we can reach some people and turn them back toward God... shouldn't we? Jesus did not come to condemn the world... He came to save it.

15 comments:

Two Dogs said...

I have often wondered about the leftist's hypothetical about whether or not I would go back in time to kill Hitler given the chance, and I have never come to any conclusion other than NO. My ideology has to hinge on facts and possibilities. Since time travel is impossible, then the answer must be no at all times.

Same with Tiller. I really think that late term and at any point abortion are the exact same thing, so Tiller was not any more violent than any other abortionist.

All that said, Roeder is a murderer. To perpetrate the actions that he did make him one. I have yet to see one single report on the connections with him and his philosophical mate, Timothy McVeigh though. To call either a Christian perverts the word, they were both anarchists, Far-Right extremists. Oh course, the Republicans are getting blamed for that, even though the anarchists are ALL in the Democrat camp. Strange.

BLBeamer said...

"Thou shalt not murder" not "Thou shalt not kill."

I believe what Dr. Tiller was doing was murder. I also believe he was sincere in his stated opinions that he was performing a legitimate medical service. I think he was more than a little disingenuous regarding his "second opinion" shenanigans, but I don't think he felt what he was doing was murder. He was performing a controversial and gruesome - but legal - procedure. He did not deserve to be murdered. Full stop. Dr. Tiller's case is now in the hands of the Judge of the earth.

However, there is no question at all that the person who shot Dr. Tiller committed murder. I would support capital punishment for Dr. Tiller's murderer, assuming he's convicted.

I don't believe soldiers under lawful orders, police officers or the other professions you mentioned apply to this commandment.

If they act autonomously (shooting an unarmed, non-threatening civilian, for example) then I believe they should be subject to this commandment. And our laws, by and large, reflect the same view.

Rick said...

"Vengeance is mine" - says the Lord. The Dr. should never have been killed. The person that killed him should be punished justly. It's a terribly sad situation.

BLBeamer said...

Re: time travel

Two Dogs, you underestimate the power of President Obama. Haven't you heard that if you close your eyes, click your heels together three times and repeat, "Where's my stimulus?" the entire country can be transported back into that magical time known as the Great Depression?

Coffee Bean said...

BLBeamer you are a HOOT!

I've been kind of kicking the time travel to kill Hitler in the back of my mind this afternoon.

I caved this weekend and rented Valkyrie even though Tom Cruise didn't bother to learn a German accent for the movie. In fact, the movie included many different accents, most of which more closely resembled british. *snort* All that aside, it was actually very good.

God ultimately decides when we die. There are countless stories of miraculous survivals... there have even been babies that have survived being aborted. Just as God allowed the things Pharaoh and King Neb did, He obviously allowed this final attempt on Dr. Tiller's life to succeed. And just as Pharaoh and King Neb were held accountable for their wrongs... so will the man that did this.

Do I believe there are reasons to break the law? Yes, I do. I wouldn't drive the speed limit if someone was bleeding out in my car. I wouldn't renounce my faith if Christianity were outlawed. I can think of dozens of reasons I might choose to break the law. If I did, though, it would be with the understanding that I would also suffer the consequences of that choice.

Two Dogs said...

Not to put too fine a point on things, but according to that outdated, anti-science book you read, the contemplation of the sin is just a bad as the sin itself.

Just saying.

Junebug said...

They did say on a news show today that there are not very many abortion doctors left who will perform late term abortions. Are they picking them off one by one? I certainly do not condone murder of anyone. Hopefully there will be fewer that perform abortions period but it would be good if more would get a conscience.

Coffee Bean said...

Two Dogs... you have got to have figured it out that I'm a big ole sinner by now! LOL!

Junebug,

It is my understanding that there were only three doctors in the U.S. willing to do late term abortions, now there are two, one of which is here in Colorado.

With that being the case, you really have to wonder about Obama's desire to rescind the Conscience Clause which protects health care providers against having to do things that go against their conscience, such as abortion.

Roland Hulme said...

BRILLIANT post - but this is one of my most difficult issues with Christianity. If 'authority' is the tool which God uses to administer his justice, what does that mean in regard to Nazi Germany? Or Soviet Russia?

As you point out, Jesus himself was an anti-authority figure. Most Christians I know tend to lean to the Republican side of things - small government etc.

This whole thing just reinforces to me how twisted people's view of Christianity must be if they think murdering a doctor is justifiable in Jesus' eyes. I have enough problem justifying the death penalty. I don't think Jesus would EVER endorse the death penalty.

This is a really sad event - especially for the anti-abortion movement, as it paints them all with the same brush as one obviously sick man.

Coffee Bean said...

Murdering the doctor is not justifiable at all! I hope that isn't what you thought I was saying.

Bad things happen in this world every day and it feels so unfair. God has allowed evil to exist. Why? I don't know. I think it has something to do with giving us free will. Some would argue that it really isn't free will where Christianity is concerned because our choice is to accept the sacrifice of Jesus or burn in hell. There is much I don't understand and yet I still believe. Over and over in the bible we are told that God's ways are not our ways. We can only look at the past and the present in our lives and our understanding is limited. And, yes, those things all bother me. I want to know and I want to know now.

I'm just a person that believes in Jesus. I make mistakes all the time. I say the wrong things, do the wrong things and think the wrong things. I shy away from overly Christian type speak because it makes me feel like a fraud. Some days my faith boils down to looking at the world around me and not being able to accept that it just happened and that there is no purpose. Other days I have a sense of peace and feel that God cares for me and that He is speaking to me through His word. But those are feelings and I don't trust feelings because they come and go.

As far as God allowing evil leaders/governments to exist and God using that to bring about justice... oy. I don't really get it. When you stand back and view things from a historical standpoint you can see when they ended and what came of that but I'm sure the people that lived it had a much different perspective. When you think about the Holocaust and hear nearly 6 million people were put to death it is horrifying yet... can we even really grasp it? That happened close to our time but what about 2 or 3 generations out from us? Will it just be facts in a history book that really don't carry that big of an impact? I think about stuff like this and it bothers me.

I can't stand pat Christian answers so I try not to give them. Roland... I understand your frustration with Christians. I understand your frustration with the very idea of God. I don't know... maybe it is that it is easier for you when you see all the pain and injustice in this world to not believe in God because if He is real you view him as cruel. Maybe I believe in God because when I see all the pain and injustice in this world I can't see living in it without hope.

Roland Hulme said...

Ha! Creating a world of suffering in order to give the gift of 'hope' seems cruel, malicious and weird.

We're God's children - created in his image. Therefore the way we treat OUR children must be in some way similar to the way God treats us. Therefore, not to guide us and protect us and shelter us seems cruel and neglectful. God kicked us out of Eden like an angry, neglectful parent and now demands obedience and 'tests our faith' in order to allow us back 'home' into heaven.

What kind of parent does that?

One most people would call Dyfs on.

BLBeamer said...

I don't believe God "created a world of suffering on order to give the gift of hope". I agree with Roland that that would be cruel, malicious and weird.

Christian theology teaches that the suffering in this world is a consequence of Man's sin. The Scriptures say that the world is under a curse of sin and death until Christ's return.

Because of that (as the famous charioteer's bumper sticker says), "Effluvia happens".

I'm not imputing the following attitude to Roland or any one else on this blog, but I perceive a common view in society at large (including many Christians) which holds that, "I'm a good person, good things should happen to good people, therefore if something bad happens to me, it must be someone else's fault." A variant of this attitude is especially common among those holding progressive political views, although by no means limited to them.

The Scriptures say that the rain falls on the just as well as the unjust and numerous stories in scripture describe believers doing bad things and unbelievers doing quite noble things. I don't believe it is incorrect to infer from those examples that just maybe what we do daily is not solely determinative regarding our temporal or post-temporal lives.

Dr. Tiller is ultimately responsible for his life's work, both good and bad. And Roeder is responsible for his, too.

Coffee Bean said...

Roland,

There is a tiny book toward the end of the Old Testament called Habakkuk. I stumbled across this book on my own about ten years ago. It was during the time I was really struggling with why God allows certain things to happen in this world. That is not to say that now I don't... because I still do. Just not like I was back then.

The content of Habakkuk indicates that it was written around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Habakkuk, unlike other prophets, spoke to God about the people and asked God questions. The book is a dialogue between Habakkuk and God ending in a psalm.

Habakkuk was upset by the impending destruction of his nation and his faith faltered. He questioned God's goodness and wisdom and called out for answers. He was a man with honest doubts who endured trials and learned to wait on God. God called Habakkuk to embrace what he called him to endure. In the end Habakkuk changed his question from, "Why does God allow it?" to "Who is this God who will sustain me in the things He allows?"

This has become one of my favorite passages of scripture. Habakkuk was a prophet and yet he struggled with doubt. He was honest about his not getting it and he questioned God. This speaks to me even still in that it gives me comfort that my doubts and quesions are not necessarily a lack of faith and that I can be honest about the things I struggle with.

A lot of the time when I pray I feel God is silent. I do not understand why my voice has been taken from me. I had plans. I thought that my plans were in line with what God's plans were for me. I don't want to be sitting around in my house on the computer all day. I want my life back. In my darkest moments I feel utterly rejected by God. Here I am... someone interested in ministry who was ready willing and able to serve... who has served. I've been shut down by my inability to communicate. I don't understand. I can't not believe, because I do. On the good days I think... okay, let's see how God's going to get me through this and use my life in spite of the obstacles. I wish I had a steadfast faith instead of this roller coaster I'm often on. I pray that someday I will.

You know Roland, a true atheist doesn't get angry about a God that they believe doesn't exist. I think for you to be intellectually honest with yourself and others you might consider calling yourself more of an agnostic.

Bob Cleveland said...

No follower of Jesus could ever rightfully claim that the Lord wanted him to commit murder. There's simply too much scripture mandating against that.

But there are plenty of instances of God using heathens .. check the reference to the Babylonians in Habakkuk chapter one .. to bring HIS vengeance, when He so chooses. I am not claiming that to be the case with Dr. Tiller, but it does seem a mockery of God for a man with his history to be working in a church; it also seems to hint at something, inasmuch as that's where he was shot.

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