What Are You Thinking?

My friends in Topeka, Kansas, tell me they have seen a bumper sticker that quotes Psalm 109 in reference to president Obama.  It’s not funny.

Maybe I’m sensitive because of where I live.

I sometimes have coffee in Aggieville and wonder if the ghost of Timothy McVeigh is lurking in the shadows.  Aggieville was the first place America’s worst domestic terrorist was arrested.  It was just a bar room fight when he was a soldier stationed at nearby Fort Riley, but he went on to worse things.

A few years after that incident, McVeigh and his accomplice rented a big white truck and filled up with gas in Riley County  before they drove it to Oklahoma City and killed 19 children at America’s Kid’s Daycare Center, along with 150 adults.

During the nineties fanatics were speaking in apocalyptic terms about the evils of Bill Clinton and his wife.  They were talking about concentration camps in the Southwest and Blackhawk helicopters.  They were painting David Koresh as an innocent victim whose righteous blood called for vengeance.  For most it was just talk.  But Tim McVeigh was listening.

Or maybe it’s the hideous figure of America’s worst living hatemonger, Fred Phelps, whom I sometimes have to drive past.  Fred and family give hate speech a bad name.  In February I attended a conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls at Midwestern Baptist Seminary.  One of the seminary’s graduates had been murdered in church, and Fred and his pitiful band of followers came to picket.

After fifteen years of hate speech directed at physician George Tiller–someone finally listened.  The doctor who performed late-term abortions in Wichita was finally murdered.  It happened on a Sunday morning as he was serving as an usher at his church.

Late term abortion is a gruesome and traumatic procedure–and sometimes a tragic necessity.  Under Kansas law at the time Dr. Tiller was murdered, it was legal only when the mother’s health was endangered.  The law was not strict enough for some, but too strict for others.  But my point is this–murder was not the answer; but people kept chanting “Tiller the Killer” until someone took it seriously.

We have a peaceful way of changing national leaders every four years.  In the meantime, the Bible tells us to pray for our leaders–it doesn’t tell us to take a curse out of context and pray it.  You are entitled to your political opinions–but think about the effects of hate speech:

  1. It may set off an unbalanced person.
  2. It reflects on all Christians and makes us look like ignorant bigots.

In Romans 2:24 Paul quotes from Isaiah, in a passage referring to the people God chose to represent his love and goodness to the world–

God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.

How about that for a bumper sticker?

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Another Church Shooting

reformation lutheran

An usher was murdered at a Lutheran church in Wichita yesterday.  Back in March, Clint Van Zandt reported,

So far this year, churches in 39 states have reported 141 incidents, including shots fired, robberies, burglaries and bomb threats. Some shooters are liberals, some conservatives, some act under the belief that God ordered them to do so while others do not believe in God or organized religion.  (Newsvine)

Yesterday’s murder was likely perpetrated by someone who believed he was doing God’s will, since the victim was the late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.  As usual, the Phred Felps family, which celebrates all murders, showed up to applaud Tiller’s murder.

Phred Felps himself is a case of how something can start out apparently good and then go awry.  In the 1960’s and ’70s he represented many African Americans in civil rights cases.   He and his daughter claim they systematically took on and dismantled the Jim Crow laws in the state (more here).  Then sometime around 1977, something snapped, and he was eventually disbarred.

I know many people who describe themselves as Pro-Life.   Most are quiet and humble.  A few have participated in quiet demonstrations, but most have never taken part in any form of public protest.  I don’t know any who approve of violence.  Of course, some will brand all who are prolife as dangerous fanatics.  Yesterday’s violence will be more than a setback for the movement.  I suspect it will quietly fade away, at least as far as being any kind of public political movement.

Maybe some will continue to work to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies and to support women who are pregnant in difficult circumstances.

steve green

The following may not seem related, but to me it is.  Last week a jury in Kentucky spared the life of Steven Green, who had been convicted of murder and rape in Iraq.  You could not imagine a more horrendous crime than the one planned and committed by Green.  If any crime ever deserved death, it was his.  Yet, the jury chose to deal a measure of mercy, giving him life without parole.

This leads me to a simple conclusion: It is time to abolish the death penalty in America.  Capital punishment might  be a deterrent where it is swift and sure, but in our system it will always be rare and agonizingly slow.  It can never be applied consistently, and so it can never be fair.

The Kentucky jury’s failure to choose execution for Green is an insult to the people of Iraq.  Than can see it only as an indication that American’s regard their lives as less valuable than the lives of others.  If capital punishment had never been an option, at least they would have had the consolation that we had given the harshest penalty possible to the perpetrator of this monstrous crime.

My further conclusion is that the only way to be pro-life is to be consistently nonviolent, and to work consistently for peaceful solutions to problems, however difficult the problems may be.