Three things you’re NEVER supposed to discuss…
Sooo…everyone’s probably heard of Scott Roeder by now; he’s the guy that shot & killed Dr George Tiller, the abortion provider from Wichita, a crime which Mr Roeder did not deny, and which the jury ultimately found him guilty.
I really hadn’t paid too much attention to this case, but there were some things revealed during Mr Roeder’s recent testimony and cross examination that I want to comment on.
As is typical when the topic turns to abortion, inflammatory language & rhetoric dominate people’s thoughts and words. For example, Mr Roeder said
“There was nothing being done and the legal process had been exhausted, and these babies were dying every day,” Roeder said. “I did what I thought was needed to be done to protect the children.”
Babies. Children. Little people you’d expect to see crawling around the living room floor or running around a day care or elementary school. Words like these conjure up certain images in our minds, and these are the words that Roeder used, which tells me that it’s very likely these are the thoughts he has, and the way he views the unborn. That is, he doesn’t view the unborn as mere fetuses, he views them as babies, as children; helpless, defenseless, precious. Now, I’m not going to focus on whether we should call the unborn fetuses or children; both seem to evoke extremist thinking and neither seems fully adequate. Frankly, I think arguing about what we’re going to call an unborn child/fetus is counterproductive, but we’ll come back to this in a moment. In the meantime, there are some other ideas that need to be mixed in.
After news of Roeder’s conviction, Kansas pro-life leader Troy Newman of Operation Rescue is reiterating the fact that Roeder’s actions fell “outside the realm of Christianity and the pro-life ethos.”
“Our reaction is the same as it was the day, the moment that we found out that Mr. Tiller was brutally murdered in his church,” Troy Newman president of the pro-life group Operation Rescue told CNA on Friday.
Newman also insisted that the murder of Dr. Tiller “does not comport in any way shape or form with the pro-life movement commitment in extending life and liberty to every individual nor does it comport with the age-old, 2,000 year old Christian ethic of laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
“This really falls outside the realm of Christianity and the pro life ethos,” he stressed.
Well now. That’s interesting, because Scott Roeder had this to say about the role that Christianity played:
“The lives of those children were in imminent danger if someone did not stop George Tiller,” Roeder said. “I shot him.”
He said his anti-abortion beliefs “go hand in hand” with his religious beliefs. He said he became born again in 1992 after watching an episode of “The 700 Club.”
Must be awkward to be in the position that Mr Newman is in. On one hand, he’s probably very pleased that Tiller is no longer in the killing business, though he certainly can’t show it! On the other hand, he’s probably frustrated because [slaps forehead] dadgummit, sum crazy sumbitch done went and killed Dr Tiller”, and not only that, but hasn’t minced any words about the direct, “hand in hand” relationship between his religious views and his anti-abortion beliefs.
Then again, not everybody is as politically correct about it as Mr. Newman:
A great day for unborn children scheduled to be murdered by Babykilling Abortionist George Tiller.
Now those children lives are spared from the Kansas BabyButcher, George Tiller.
George Tiller reaped what he sowed and is now in eternal hell.
Psalm 55:15 Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.
Anyway…back to the theme I’m trying to develop which, since I haven’t stated it clearly yet, and since you might be scratching your head, justifiably asking yourself, “Where is this going?”, is this: abortion is and always will be a highly charged topic, and the presence of religious-based thinking not only doesn’t help things, it actually encourages and facilitates ridiculous thinking. In other words, it’s hard enough to deal with the questions posed by abortion without factoring in the inflammatory, emotionally-reflexive, thinking vacuum which passes itself off as a righteous argument against abortion.
[Roeder] said he did not believe abortion was justified in the case of rape. “You are taking the life of the innocent. You’re punishing the innocent life for the sin of the father. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
This, coming from a man who murdered another man. This, coming from a Christian, who, as a Christian, must accept the notion that he, personally, is being punished for a crime that he did not commit. Original sin, anyone? Doesn’t Scott realize that the reason Jesus had to come “save” all of us is because Adam didn’t follow the rules, and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and Jesus/God/The Holy Spirit/etc were so pissed off about it that they decided to damn not just him, but ALL of mankind, from that moment on? Apparently this dichotomy escapes Roeder completely.
And by the way, if it hadn’t been for Eve, Adam would have never been duped into eating the fruit in the first place. SHE ate from the fruit first, and therefore KNEW what she’d done wrong, and yet she still persuaded Adam to eat it. And another thing, how in the hell were Adam or Eve supposed to know they weren’t supposed to converse with talking snakes? They hadn’t eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil yet, so there’s no way they could have known that talking snakes are always, ALWAYS up to no good. There’s no way they could have known that the magic sky voice was good, or that the talking snake was evil, or vice versa, until AFTER they ate the fruit. They couldn’t have even known it was wrong to disobey the magic sky voice.
Of course, if Roeder can simultaneously keep the notion of an infinitely benevolent, infinitely powerful “God” in his head at the same time he keeps the notion that this same “God” has created a special place of eternal and infinite torture, or that this “God” can allow evil to exist (God’s comments in Isaiah 45:7 notwithstanding), then I reckon he is probably quite adept at keeping utterly irreconcilable, self-contradictory, mutually exclusive ideas on somewhat parallel paths in his mind.
This, to me, is the thing I find most repugnant about the manifestations of religious belief; that it stops the thinking process and substitutes it with a “just because” answer which the typical believer then seems willing to accept. (Note: If you’re not a typical believer, then I don’t mean “you”, so don’t take it personally)
By the way, when we’re talking about God and infinite qualities, recall Graham’s number, and consider that as big as G64 is, it wouldn’t be a pimple on a gnats ass compared to infinity. And the pious man says, “Yep, pretty cool huh! Our god is an awesome god!” As if, encountering the notion of complete absurdity, the reaction is instead to imagine that it’s somehow profound and important. Not senseless, meaningless, or ridiculous, but profound.
One more thing, if you feel the need to tell me that the “correct” interpretation is such and such, or that the original scriptures say yadda yadda, don’t. Seriously, don’t even bother. As much as I appreciate the offer, I too, can read.
[Pauses for two full days, trying to decide if I even want to continue with this post or not.]
Sorry. I really had no intent to go off on that tangent, it just seemed to fit quite nicely with the whole, “It’s wrong to kill, so I must kill to stop the killing” duplicity demonstrated by Roeder. This is very much like saying, “I like square circles”. But, religion is full of it (pun not originally intended, but…), and Christianity fares no better than any other religion. Anyway, moving on…
An article on CNN reported this:
Eventually, the abortion issue took center stage as prosecutors portrayed Tiller as a target of Roeder’s anti-abortion agenda, and defense lawyers attempted to mitigate his culpability under the theory that he believed Tiller’s death was justified to save the lives of others.
Defense attorney Mark Rudy told jurors in his closing argument that Roeder “thought that the babies kept on dying” and he had to stop Tiller from “killing more babies.”
His testimony was intended just as much for the jury as it was to convince Judge Warren Wilbert that evidence existed to support a possible conviction of voluntary manslaughter. A conviction on the lesser offense, which is defined as “an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force,” would have set Roeder free from prison after five years.
Earlier in the trial, Wilbert said he would rule after hearing evidence in the case, acknowledging that he felt the defense faced “an uphill battle.” Ultimately, he rejected the theory, saying testimony did not support the defense claim that Roeder’s beliefs justified using deadly force against Tiller.
“There is no imminence of danger on a Sunday morning in the back of a church, let alone any unlawful conduct, given that what Tiller did at his clinic Monday through Friday is lawful in Kansas,” the judge said.
That’s quite disingenuous, to say the least. I watched several segments of Roeder’s testimony, and I came away with the perception that he was being very straight-forward, matter-of-fact, and sincere. It just seemed like he was “telling it like it is”. As much as I agree with the murder conviction the jury decided on, I don’t see how the judge could have ruled that Roeder did not have an “unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force”. Roeder was quite clear about his motives and why he did it, so for the judge to come back and say, “Oh, well…I don’t believe there was any need to use deadly force on that particular Sunday morning, while Tiller was at church”, just seems to be a way for him to avoid granting the defense a possible manslaughter conviction.
More “square circle” thinking, if you ask me.
Anyway, so where’s all this headed? Well, regardless of what Tim Tebow and his mother tell us to think during the SuperBowl next week*, I think we’d ALL be better served to leave any and all religious arguments on the shelf. In it’s place, may I suggest a system that’s worked pretty darned well: It’s called science, and I’m guessing you’ve probably heard of it. Here’s what we know about the unborn from science:
Excerpt from “Billions & Billions”, by Carl Sagan
“…if only a person can be murdered, when does the fetus attain personhood? When its face becomes distinctly human, near the end of the first trimester? When the fetus becomes responsive to stimuli – again, at the end of the first trimester? When it becomes active enough to be felt as quickening, typically in the middle of the second trimester? When the lungs have reached a stage of development sufficient that the foetus might, just conceivably, be able to breathe on its own in the outside air?
The trouble with these particular developmental milestones is not just that they’re arbitrary. More troubling is the FACT that none of them involves uniquely human characteristics – apart from the superficial matter of facial appearance. All animals respond to stimuli and move of their own volition. Large number are able to breathe. But that doesn’t stop us from slaughtering them by the billions. Reflexes and motion and respiration are not what make us human.
Other animals have advantages over us – in speed, strength, endurance, climbing or burrowing skills, camouflage, sight, smell or hearing, mastery of the air or water. Our one great advantage, the secret of our success, is thought – characteristically human thought. We are able to think things through, imagine events yet to occur, figure things out. That’s how we invented agriculture and civilization. Thought is our blessing and our curse, and it makes us who we are.
Thinking occurs, of course, in the brain – principally in the top layers of the convoluted ‘grey matter’ called the cerebral cortex. The roughly 100 billion neurons in the brain constitute the material basis of thought. The neurons are connected to each other, and their linkups play a major role in what we experience as thinking. But large-scale linking up of neurons doesn’t begin until the twenty-fourth to twenty-seventh week of pregnancy – the sixth month.
By placing harmless electrodes on a subject’s head, scientists can measure the electrical activity produced by the network of neurons inside the skull. Different kinds of mental activity show different kind of brain waves. But brain waves with regular patterns typical of adult human brains do not appear in the foetus until about the thirtieth week of pregnancy – near the beginning of the third trimester. Fetuses younger than this – however alive and active they may be – lack the necessary brain architecture. They cannot yet think.”
That may or may not make you feel any better (which isn’t my intent anyway), but it *does* provide a way to talk about abortion with a mindset that is more receptive to meaningful dialogue. That is, I think people would be more likely to listen to an argument if it started from a position of, “Well, here’s what science tells us”, rather than, “Well, here’s what God tells us you baby-killing murderer”.
Since we can already have somewhat meaningful discussions about when to pull the plug on brain-dead individuals, it seems that we could transition towards discussions about when to pull the plug on individuals that don’t even have (thinking) brains.
Just an idea folks.
* And by the way, as an adopted child, I too am thankful my biological mother didn’t choose to pull the plug. Then again, if she had, I wouldn’t have ever known about it, and you wouldn’t have to put up with my irritating opinions.