So, as you may have heard, Dr. George Tiller, a prominent abortion doctor, was murdered in his Church on Sunday. The whole story is unbelievably tragic - so much so that anti-abortion groups are scrambling to condemn the incident. Of course, prominent "pro-life" groups could never condone such an unspeakable act. To be "pro-life" is to oppose murder (albeit those who use that title have a broader definition of the word "murder" than some of us). Murder is wrong. That's easy. It's everywhere in the Bible, in reality, and in our hearts (assuming we aren't violent sociopaths). Murder is wrong. Done.
So who is Scott Roeder, the suspect in the George Tiller murder?When things like this happen, I can't help but think about the commonly-made atheist claim that religion is the cause of most, if not all, of the world's violence. It's one I've argued against time and again. "It's people who are the problem," I say, "not religion itself." But when something like this happens, it starts to look like these claims are more founded in reality than I would like to believe.
The 51-year-old resident of Merriam, Kansas has a record as a fanatical anti-abortion activist, who had made at least one other threat against an abortion provider. And he also has had ties to the a violent right-wing extremist group that came to prominence in the 1990s.
Roeder believed in "justifiable homicide" -- that is, that it's OK to kill those who facilitate abortions -- according to another anti-abortion activist, Regina Dinwiddie.. . .
When Roeder was arrested yesterday, he was driving a blue 1993 Ford Taurus. In the rear window of the car was a red rose -- a symbol often used by anti-abortion activists -- and on the back his car was a silver fish symbol with the word "Jesus" inside.
Matthew 5:43-48 says:
You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.To me, this passage is simple enough to understand. Jesus wants us to love each other, even those we find morally reprehensible. It's a good message - not a message of hate. But, as you may have noticed, there's a curious movement in Christian fundamentalism toward the re-definition of what used to be simple words. "We are called to love all people," they say, "but God hates sinners, and so we need to warn them that their actions are taking them straight to hell."
Leviticus 19:17 says:
Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.Leviticus. We meet again, you dirty scoundrel. Look at you, poisoning the minds of the right-wing fanatics. Is Leviticus the Greek word for "convenient theories for modern-day assholes"? Because that would make sense. How fitting that this idea, this bastardization of the word "love", would come from that book. And, as we all know, there is no better authority on the words and will of Jesus Christ than the book of Leviticus. That's for damn sure.
But pieces are still missing. There's lots of passages in the Bible about stuff God hates. According to Proverbs 6:17-19, God hates haughtiness, lies, murder, and the doing of evil. But what I can't seem to find in the Bible is any mention of God hating people. Perhaps I've missed something, but it just doesn't seem to be in there. Not even in the book of "Convenient Theories for Modern-Day Assholes" could I find any mention of God hating anyone. A funny thing, then, that faith groups who claim to live by the Bible would espouse an idea that is completely fabricated: the idea that God hates people.
Now, this may seem like a small thing. To say that love means warning your neighbors that God hates them is a justification for evangelism, which is annoying but isn't murder. Why, then, is it relevant to this story? What's the big deal?
Hopefully we all know the answer to that question. Of all the words I can think of, the only one that evokes a stronger emotional reaction than the word 'love' is 'hate.' 'Hate' is a dangerous and powerful word. It appears relatively rarely in the Bible - a mere 128 times (as opposed to the 697 times the word 'love' occurs). Even so, the word has become such a vital part of modern-day Christian fundamentalism that, to outsiders, the two ideas are inseparable. According to them, God hates fags, democrats, black people, immigrants, America, terrorists, Sweden, Obama, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, women, foreign-made vehicles, modern medicine, and, of course, abortions, the people who provide them, and the women who receive them. These claims, made by people who profess strict allegiance to the scripture, are not founded in it. They do not come from what these people claim is the exact word of God, unless you've been reading the book of "Convenient Theories That Aren't Even In the Bible So I Just Made Them Up."
I'm generally no fan of conspiracy theories, but it's hard for me to understand the existence of Christian fundamentalism without seeing it as little more than a way to control stupid people. It's really brilliant for that, actually. You get a bunch of stupid, uneducated people really angry, give them a list of people God "hates", then send them on their merry way with the idea that they'll go scare a bunch of other stupid, uneducated people into joining the cult. Oops, I meant "club." But with all those stupid, uneducated people you're riling up, there's bound to be a couple of loose cannons who hear the word 'hate' and get extra mad. After all, it's easy to kill sinners when you've got God on your side.
Ten out of ten pro-life groups agree: murder is wrong. But inciting hatred in the hearts and minds of the ignorant is dangerous, and this is what it leads to. No definition of the word 'love' can include hatred. Love is not complicated. It does not mean "love the sinner, hate the sin," and it certainly does not mean "hate the sinner." Nor does it justify murder.
1 Corinthians 13 says:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.This chapter, which I've quoted before and will undoubtedly quote again, describes most accurately the God I know. It describes most accurately the Christ I know. Every day it becomes clearer to me that the Christian Right and I do not share the same God. What some atheists say about religion - that it incites violence - is true of fundamentalism (in every religion I can think of). To play people's passions without teaching them how to think for themselves is dangerous, and can have unintended consequences (I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt by saying these consequences were unintended). I do not for one second believe that this man's actions, nor the actions of those who instilled this violent hatred in him are anywhere near the actions of a Christ-like person. These people ruin lives, by murder and other means; they sow misery and fear in the hearts of those who don't know any better; and they give the rest of us a bad name.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
So, Christian Right, is what you're doing really WTF Jesus would do?