Monday, June 1, 2009

Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor
Topic: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller
May 31, 2009

There is an old saying: Two wrongs don’t make a right. This does not appear in the Bible but it certainly reflects a scriptural idea. This concept, that two wrongs don’t make a right, is certainly true in the case of the murder of Dr. George Tiller.

Dr. Tiller was an infamous abortionist, who was one of the very few in the country who would perform late-term abortions. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is strongly pro-life, and condemns the practice of abortion. Dr. Tiller, a former member of a Missouri Synod congregation, was excommunicated by that congregation for his abortion practice. (The congregation he was currently attending is part of another Lutheran body.) We stand by that action. Our sister congregation acted properly in disciplining Dr. Tiller. Such action is always intended to lead a person to see their sins and come to repentance. Excommunication is never intended to bring that person harm.

While we condemn Dr. Tiller’s actions as an abortionist, we just as strongly condemn the actions of the person who took his life. Murder, even of a murderer, is never acceptable. God teaches us in Romans 13 and other places, that the government is in place to enforce justice. We are never to take private vengeance. This is simply not given to private individuals. Murder in any circumstances is a grievous sin. It was our utmost desire that Dr. Tiller come to repentance, and perhaps in time he may have. We do not know. Only God sees all ends. Sadly, because of this heinous act of violence, Dr. Tiller no longer has that opportunity.

Rev. Jody R. Walter, pastor LCMS
Immanuel, Frederic

Rev. David Emmons, pastor LCMS
Zion, Turtle Lake/Immanuel, Clayton

Rev. Mark Schoen, pastor LCMS
Shepherd of the Valley, St. Croix Falls


Anonymous said...

Presumably, the shooter would not be deemed guilty of murder if Dr. Tiller were trying to kill the shooter - it would deemed self defense. If Dr. Tiller was about to kill a little old lady on the street and the shooter shot and killed Dr. Tiller, that would be considered justifiable homicide. Please analyze and discuss how the present situation differs from one of justifiable homicide on the basis of defense of human life (self defense, or otherwise).

Anonymous said...

If abortion truly is what the pro-life movement says it is -- if it is the infliction of deadly violence against an innocent and defenseless human being -- then doesn't morality demand that pro-lifers act in any way they can to stop this violence? If I believed that a guy working in an office down the street was murdering innocent and defenseless human beings every day, and the governing authorities repeatedly refused to intervene on behalf of the victims, might we not feel compelled to do something to stop it? If abortion is murder - and it is - is it murder to kill the murderer?
To say that two wrongs don't make a right, or that all murder is wrong, is too simplistic. To call this killing "murder" begs the question when a killing is murder, and when it is justifiable homicide. IF we simply say that we must leave all killing to the government (e.g., police, military, death penalty, etc.), that eliminates even self defense as a justification for killing, does it not? Yet most Christians would probably have no problem with the idea of killing in self defense, or in defense of a husband, wife or child.
If there is such a thing as justifiable homicide (criminal law of every state in the US puts some killings into that category), how much distance is there between that position and the killing of abortion doctors? One could argue for fealty to the law, but to a law that condones the murder of children? At some point, disobedience to the civil authorities becomes a Biblical mandate. The question is, did this shooter cross that line, and if so, in what respect?

Pastor Zip said...

Since seeing the first news flash of Dr. Tiller's murder yesterday afternoon, I've been trying (as a strongly pro-life ELCA pastor-blogger) to figure out what, if anything, I should say.

Brethren, I wish to commend you for your excellent letter to the editor. I've seen a lot of comments these last hours, but I've not seen one yet that better says what Christian pastors should be saying in this truly tragic situation.

You've said it for me. Thank you.

The Rev. Steven P. Tibbetts, STS
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
Peoria, Illinois

Walt's World of Religion and Politics said...

Anonymous, first you fail to understand the purpose of the Church which is always to lead people to repentance. We are not in the business of handing our earthly retribution. Second, the private citizen is not responsible for the sin of the government, so long as he has been faithful.

Romans 13 places the sword in the hand of government. Those officials who fail to render justice will be responsible to God. As private citizens we use what influence we have to encourage those officials to act justly. But if they fail to do so, the sin in on their head not ours.

As a private citizen, my responsibility is to report crimes to the authorities. I am not act on my own except in those circumstances when contacting the authorities is not possible. Otherwise we claim an authority which God has not given us.

Anonymous said...

So, if a group of people saw in, lets say Canada, where people were being imprisoned, or even executed because they were Jewish, or whatever, do they take up arms, form an army and intervene?

Walt's World of Religion and Politics said...

Anonymous what you are advocating is a popular revolution on the order of the French Revolution. History teaches us that such a revolt leads to far greater destruction of life than it would intend to prevent. Nor is it clear where such a revolt would end or who would win. Such a revolt can only be countenanced when all other options have been exhausted.

It should be noted that neither the American Revolution or the American Civil War were popular revolts on the order of the French or Russian revolutions. Rather they were conflicts between already established governments. This would be the governments of the colonies versus the crown or the governments of the states versus the federal government. This is why they did not have negative consequences that would attach to a popular revolt.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful letter. On my blog, The Moral Christian, I bemoaned the fact that the Lutheran body to which Dr. Tiller and I belong, the ELCA, would probably not have attempted to bring this poor man to repentence.

I also referenced your letter on my blog post.

God's Peace to you,


Walt's World of Religion and Politics said...

One note should be made in regard to the ELCA. While there are individual congregations that are way out in left field,and certainly the church bureaucracy is pushing a radical agenda, many of the people and some of the rank and file pastors are still committed to the Word of God. I know this first hand serving an LCMS congregation in a sea of ELCA in the NW Wisconsin.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, pastor, for your reply. However, this killing was not an act of the church, nor was it necessarily an act of retribution. Neither did you address the issue of justifiable homicide, in cases such as self-defense. The civil law recognizes the legitimacy of killing in self defense, or sometimes, in the defense of innocent third parties. In this case, the legal issue will be whether the killing of Dr. Tiller was justifiable as a form of defense of innocent third parties. But are you saying that, from the Christian perspective, killing by an individual acting alone upon individual initiative (as opposed to service in the military or police) is never allowed, even in self defense or in defense of innocents? Thank you in advance for your reply.

Matt said...


This is very clearly not a case of justifiable homocide since the shooter was not acting to protect himself or anyone nearby or anyone he knew from harm.

Instead, he acted as judge, jury and executioner, apparently to remedy a situation that he sees as deeply immoral, though not illegal.

This sort of thing must not be tolerated in a nation of laws, any more than abortion should.

In the larger context, the anti-abortion movement has the moral high ground of non-violence; of working to end the violence of abortion. To resort to violence in order to prevent violence sacrifices this moral high ground and is deeply counterproductive to the effort to save unborn lives.

Walt's World of Religion and Politics said...

Anonymous,self defense or justifiable homicide would have to be an act of the moment. If know someone is coming to my house to kill me, if there is time, I call the police and seek their protection. If there is not time, then I get my .357.

In the Tiller case, the government was aware of his actions. They chose to allow it to continue. (Though some individual officials did try to stop him.) The proper response is to try to change the view of the government and thereby change the law. In many cases that means change who the officials are. But private individuals do not have the authority to, in a premeditated fashion, take unto themselves the role of government in restraining evil. Then we have evil on both sides, with the end result being lawlessness, which most assuridly would cost even more lives