Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Labels: Christian Extremism
Convicted murderer Scott Roeder is precisely the sort of Christian who makes many Christians eager to disown him and much of what he represents. And yet, there is little doubt that some conservative Christians will honor him as a hero for killing Dr. George Tiller. "Killing for Jesus" is not exactly a novel concept among Christian extremists, particularly when physicians who provide abortions are involved. The question facing us now is how many pro-Roeder Christians are out there and the degree to which this once fringe phenomenon is acquiring greater acceptance.
Admittedly, Roeder provides us with an extreme example of Christian terrorism. Some Christian extremists who oppose reproductive rights for women engage in many less violent terrorist acts (e.g., harassing women outside clinics, vandalism, etc.) but draw the line at murder. And yet, Randall Terry was observed outside the courthouse during Roeder's trial showing his support for the admitted murderer.
Roeder's defense was perfectly consistent with the extremist position held by Terry and others determined to restrict the healthcare options available to American women.
“I did what I thought was needed to be done to protect the children. I shot him,” he testified, adding at another point, “If I didn’t do it, the babies were going to die the next day.”
This is the sort of rhetoric that has become increasingly common - not just on the extreme right but in fairly mainstream right-wing circles. Former President Bush often spoke about "the sanctity of life" and made no secret of his opposition to Roe v. Wade. Fox "News" blowhard Bill O'Reilly seemed to delight in repeatedly referring to Dr. Tiller as "Tiller the baby killer." In speaking out against abortion, many socially conservative members of Congress have had no qualms about labeling it as murder.
Rather than being a calming influence, the evangelical fundamentalist brand of Christian extremism that is so popular among the far right today has undeniably fanned these flames.
Mr. Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., told jurors that he had a growing sense of his own faith and opposition to abortion in the 1990s after watching “The 700 Club,” the evangelist Pat Robertson’s television talk show. Mr. Roeder’s views on religion and abortion, he said, went “hand in hand.”
This observer finds it deeply disturbing that there appear to be a sizable number of Americans who, while they would probably not go so far as to say that Dr. Tiller deserved to be murdered, agree with the far-right and Christian extremist claims that physicians who provide abortions are committing murder. From such a position, violence seems nearly inevitable.