We Too Need an “I’m Sorry Day”: Concerning the Recent Abortion Murder

We Need an I'm Sorry Day Jarrod McKenna’s posted on the God’s Politics Blog about the “I’m Sorry Day” Australian’s celebrate every year as a remind that “there is no future without confessing and seeking to heal the pain of the genocide of Aboriginal peoples and the evils that created the ‘stolen generation.’” It’s a good short post and he links to, what looks like, an excellent new Aboriginal contextual theology book “The Rainbow Spirit Theology: Toward an Australian Aboriginal Theology

And I think we Americans, especially those of us who are Christians, need an I’m Sorry Day as well. With what seems like increasing intensity our “culture wars” continue to appeal to fear and doomsday, we continue to close our hearts to people who need us, we shout and curse those who live differently (whether for right or for wrong) then us, and yes, we kill in God’s name. Repentance and forgiveness are meant to be key markers of the faithful church, yet we have somehow allowed these practices  to all but disappear in our communities.

As many of you know by now George Tiller, a doctor who conducted late-term abortions, was murdered Pentecost morning in his church while we he ushering on Sunday morning.

On Sunday morning, moments after services had begun at Reformation Lutheran Church, Dr. Tiller, who was acting as an usher, was shot once with a handgun, the authorities said. The gunman pointed the weapon at two people who tried to stop him, the police said, then drove off in a powder-blue Taurus. Dr. Tiller’s wife, Jeanne, a member of the church choir, was inside the sanctuary at the time of the shooting.

NY Times

I didn’t hear about this until later in the day when I listed to some of Jay Bakker’s sermon where he expressed a mixture of grief and anger over what happened Sunday morning. I too am grieved over this death, in the same way I am grieved over aborted births. Killing of any kind is simply wrong.

But we should not be surprised that this kind of gruesome “Christian terrorism,” as I’ve called it elsewhere, continues to happen either. So much of the rhetoric around this particular topic, and a few others, are so hateful, so inflammatory, and in your face, that violence is the only possible end. Whether it is physical violence such as this murder, the violence brought on by severed relationships (whether family or friend), systemic violence that continues to oppress particular demographic and ethnic groups, or violence of language, it is not the way of Jesus. Matching wrongful behavior with more wrongful behavior continues the logic of the world, and ultimately displays our own disbelief in the power of God’s kingdom to bring about redemption and salvation amidst sin and destruction. When we lash out in violence like this we don’t show fidelity to the kingdom, rather we betray our own atheism.

Christian leader Frank Schaeffer wrote a moving piece this morning titled, “How I (and Other “Pro-Life” Leaders) Contributed to Dr. Tiller’s Murder,” where he confesses his, and his father’s, roles in this death:

In certain passages he [Frank’s father, Francis Schaeffer] advocated force if all other methods for rolling back the abortion ruling of Roe v. Wade failed. He compared America and its legalized abortion to Hitler’s Germany and said that whatever tactics would have been morally justified in removing Hitler would be justified in trying to stop abortion. I said the same thing in a book I wrote (A Time For Anger) that right wing evangelicals made into a best seller. For instance Dr. James Dobson (of the Focus On the Family radio show) gave away over 100,000 copies.

And since that time Schaeffer, and many others, have come to realize that this is going to far in the wrong direction and only contributes more to the problem them helping to come up with solutions that are rooted in God’s loving and peaceable kingdom. Schaeffer takes the remainder of the article to confess and ask forgiveness:

The same hate machine I was part of is still attacking all abortionists as “murderers.” And today once again the “pro-life” leaders are busy ducking their personal responsibility for people acting on their words. The people who stir up the fringe never take responsibility. But I’d like to say on this day after a man was murdered in cold blood for preforming abortions that I — and the people I worked with in the religious right, the Republican Party, the pro-life movement and the Roman Catholic Church, all contributed to this killing by our foolish and incendiary words.

I am very sorry.

And so I think we Christians need to follow suite and say we are sorry for contributing to death of all kinds, from the unborn to those (whom we may) feel are worthy of death. We are sorry for the hate speeches, the racism, the prejudice, the homophobia, and the fear we instill in our communities about those who do not live the way we do. This is not how Jesus would treat others, this is not how he would respond. This is not what the church was meant to look like. I am sorry, for my own lack of faith and my own violent responses to things I personally disagree with. I am sorry that to disagree with another often means to break fellowship with, to alienate, reject or push away from rather than to go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, and lovingly pray for our enemies. I too find it very hard to overcome differences and confess I need the Holy Spirit to help me in this area.

May we church have an “I’m Sorry Day” and offer freely the forgiveness we’ve been freely offered.

12 responses to “We Too Need an “I’m Sorry Day”: Concerning the Recent Abortion Murder”

  1. Wess,
    Thank you for your comments. They elucidate another perspective on the issue. I believe that we have made the issue too simple – reducing it to simply are you pro-life or pro-choice. That reduction has lead to missing many of the salient points about the issue such the one that ou brought up of God is in-charge, it is possible to reduce abortions by improving the economics of the people that are using abortion, and to understand the perspective of the pro-choice proponents. We can try also to engage the issue of when life begins better also. Anyways, thanks again for the comments.

    • Thanks for the comment and thanks for naming some of the ways, that defy oversimplification, we can begin to address some of these questions and problems.

  2. I am prayerfully pro-choice. I'm holding the wife and the family of the courageous Dr. George Tiller in the Light. I'm also praying for protection for those who daily provide women with compassionate reproductive care.

    A good website on this topic:


    "The blood poured off the pulpit/The blood poured down the picket lines/The hatred was immediate and the vengeance was divine/So, they went and stuffed God down the barrel of a gun/And after him they stuffed his only son."-Ani Difranco

  3. Thank you for this. I'm a Christian who is also prayerfully pro-choice, and who has worked for Planned Parenthood (and volunteered at a clinic when I was younger). I was on the receiving end of this kind of hatred and violence. Recent conversations with a pro-life Friend has turned into an argument because he insists that the violence is only a fringe element of the pro-life movement when just about every protester I had contact with expressed their hatred toward me.

    I am only interested in finding our common ground so that we may move forward.