Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Last Step: On the Murder of Dr. George Tiller

Perhaps he had also always known, somewhere in the deepest recesses of his mind, that he would indeed eventually take that last step into Satanism, but if so, he had very successfully suppressed it.*

In the stunned shock that followed the murder of Dr. George Tiller, I found myself reflecting on Christian morals. Jesus, it is said, died for our sins, and since that was first said his followers have taken willing self-sacrifice as one of their models of virtue. To go from the willingness to give up one's own life, if that is what is needed, to the willingness to kill, is a complete inversion of a core tenet of Christian belief. It is as if, somehow, the murderer (apparently a violent psychotic) had decided that god's love and god's law were not powerful enough, and so turned to Satan. He is not alone, of course: he took seriously the claims of the various radical sects that Dr. Tiller was a mass murderer and so he believed that he was doing god's will. But the Christian teaching has always been self-sacrifice, not violence against others. It was that which, finally, won Christianity its moral authority.

I've said in other places that I think Christianity--and many other religions--has fallen out of touch with our world. Apparently its more radical followers think so, too, and so they are turning to what they call evil. There is even one church, in repudiation of another Christian tenet, that is advocating weapons ownership. If they give up their ancient sources of moral authority, what is left to them?

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