Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Church Shootings on Pentecost

I was surprised to find out that the murdered abortion doctor was Lutheran. Actually, the first surprise was that he was shot while serving as an usher at his church on Sunday. It's become sadly common to hear about school shootings or shootings in neighborhoods. But a church?

I think of my own church, and I realize that I have no idea what most of my fellow parishioners do for a living. Of course, I'm fairly new to this church. In my old church, it was easy to know what most of us did for a living. Most of us were retired. Only about 10 of us adults worked outside the home (and there were only 50-70 people worshipping on any given Sunday).

As a teacher, I've come to understand that I work in a dangerous profession. Until recently, I've taught 5 courses a term, 25-30 students per class. That's a lot of students, any one of whom could be mentally unstable. And even if they're all pictures of beautiful mental health, it's likely that several of them are dating unstable people.

Still, I would expect workplace related violence to happen in the workplace, not in church.

And I keep thinking that the shooting took place on Pentecost Sunday. I wonder if the shooter chose that Sunday on purpose.

I realized that the victim was a Lutheran when I received an e-mail that had a message from our ELCA bishop. If you'd like to read it, go here. It's short and to the point. I like these sentences: "We pray for the courage to be peacemakers, rejecting violence as a means of resolving differences. We trust God's promise that neither death nor life nor anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)."

I must confess to queasiness over the fact that the victim performed late term abortions. I haven't done the research to find out how late in the term. My views on abortion have changed since seeing my sister's sonogram images of her son early in her pregnancy, and my views on end-of-life issues have changed since my mother-in-law's lingering death. I have always had respect for the views of Cardinal Bernardin, who promoted the seamless ethic of life, and events in my life in the last four years have moved my views closer to Cardinal Bernardin's.

But I still think abortions should be safe, legal, and rare. I'm still confused by the fact that we'll act to put our pets out of their misery as they're dying, but we don't want to do the same for humans. I can't figure out how to reconcile all my conflicting beliefs.

However, I certainly don't think we should go out and shoot people who are behaving in ways we can't approve of. That way madness lies.

For a discussion of the law and civil disobedience, go to Kirby Olson's blog post. For a background on the news element of the story and links for more background on the victim's life, go here. If you want some social science statistics about murder rates of abortion providers, go here. For a painfully honest and searing (and weeping-inducing) discussion of why women need/choose late term abortions, go here, which will also give you links to the first two parts of the discussion. In part two, Ayelet Waldman reminds us that women rarely need these abortions because they're flighty and forgot to take their birth control pills and waited and waited and waited: "I've continued to be open about this both because the pain is real, and I don't want to pretend it isn't, and because I worry that the bile-spewers like Randall Terry and Bill O'Reilly have managed to characterize late-term abortions as something women do on a whim. Like, 'Shit, am I pregnant? Thirty weeks? Damn, better get that taken care of.' But you and I are the face of late-term abortion. You and I and my friend whose baby had a fatal form of dwarfism diagnosed at 24 weeks. Or my friend whose babies (two of them) had such profound physical and mental malformations that they would not have survived more than a few minutes outside her womb." There's a reason why these issues tear us all apart.

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