On Pentecost Sunday, at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas, Dr. George Tiller was murdered as he was handing out bulletins for the 10:00 service.
Before Sunday, I didn't know who Dr. George Tiller was. I didn't know that he is famous (or infamous, to some) as one of the very few late-term abortion providers in the country. I also didn't know that he was an ELCA Lutheran, just as I am. (For your information, ELCA stands for Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.)
I've always been ambivalent about abortion. I have desperately wanted to be a mother, but never had children. I would like to describe myself as "pro-life," but I can't get over the complexities of the stories that I have heard in my life from women who have had abortions. I abhor the idea of abortion as birth control, and I do think we live in a "throw-away" culture, where there is very little reverence for anything any more. But I also have a hard time understanding how people can be "pro life" but not "pro health care", as it seems to me that a lack of financial (as well as emotional) resources is one of the contributing causes that drive women to have an abortion.
I have been looking at different blogs and websites off and on the last few days. I've heard vitriol from some who say that Dr. Tiller was "just like Hitler", the scum of the earth. I've heard graphic details about late-term abortions; I've heard my own denomination described as apostate. (Our Church's social statement on abortion describes it as "always tragic, but perhaps sometimes necessary"; it also goes on to deplore abortion as a means of birth control and to advocate for health care reform.) I've also heard stories from women who knew Dr. Teller and describe him as kind and compassionate. They described doomed pregnancies where babies (and sometimes they) had little or no hope of survival.
I know this is anecdotal, but one woman I knew said to me (on the side) that she knew someone who had gone to him, and "according to that family, he was a saint."
I read a story here about Dr. Tiller. Among other things, the article talks about his shock when he discovered his father, also a physician, had done illegal abortions.
Some people will argue with me because I do think that abortion is a sin. (One website proclaimed that "abortion is a gift"; I can't go along with that.) Others will argue with my belief that even so, abortion might be the best, even the only option in certain situations. It is because we are human beings, living in a fallen world, that we find ourselves in these tragic situations.
I mourn the loss of Dr. Tiller. I didn't know him, so I don't know if he was a "saint", as some women said. If he took seriously the faith he professed, then he was a saint and a sinner, someone who knew that he was captive to sin and yet redeemed by Jesus.
And as a Lutheran, I also believe about myself that I am captive to sin and yet set free by Jesus, that I am capable of heroic goodness and unimaginable evil, and that, in spite of everything, I am deeply beloved by God.