Thursday, June 4, 2009

Terror in America

I've been thinking about the latest episode of violence in the ongoing tragedy of abortion in North America. A doctor was shot to death this past Sunday while ushering at the church he attended in Kansas.

Years ago, when Rebekah and I lived in Pensacola, we witnessed a series of similar crimes. The first, the infamous "Christmas Day Bombings," featured explosions at a clinic not far from our home. Later, a young man shot and killed an abortion doctor outside the clinic.

The administrator of the abortion center in question attended our church. The man who killed the doctor was the son of my dentist - also a member of our church. The lawyer who defended him was also part of our faith community.

Some time later, in one more horrific episode, a man with a shotgun killed both a doctor and his escort in the parking lot of another Pensacola clinic, again in our section of the community. The perpetrator was a minister from another state, credentialed in the "Orthodox Presbyterian Church" - a denomination so far "right" on the Presbyterian spectrum as to be out of sight.

Unfortunately, although the terrorist's congregation was of another denomination and from the state of Mississippi, the murderous minister was identified in news reports as pastor of "Trinity Presbyterian Church" - the same name as our church, Trinity Presbyterian (PCUSA) of Pensacola. You can well imagine the phone calls we fielded.

Rebekah was even interviewed by National Public Radio, who were bitterly disappointed to learn that we were reasonable, peace-loving, socially active moderates.

Pensacola, however, is a town with a large, hard-core cadre of reactionary religious extremists. These folk routinely wave placards, yell at motorists on street corners, gather outside downtown watering holes to obnoxiously condemn patrons to hell, and cruise grocery-store parking lots on Saturday afternoons, standing in the back of pick-up trucks with bull-horns, loudly proclaiming either the end of the world or the ruinous end of all hope for the perdition-bound shoppers who don't attend the particular church of the favored few...

So, after the double murders by a self-proclaimed minister of the gospel, you could cut the tension in the town with a knife.

Leaders in Pensacola quickly got together and organized an inter-faith prayer-service of peace and unity, to be held at one of the large down-town churches. So we gathered on a Sunday afternoon, crowding out the sanctuary until people spilled over onto the steps. There were four speakers, representing the broad spectrum of Christian witness. Rebekah was privileged to fill one of the slots and a segment of her poignant message made the feed to national prime-time news.

After the service we were all scheduled to march down the main thoroughfare in a mass demonstration of unity. But the clouds rolled in and the skies opened up to one of those hour long torrential downpours.

However, and in a scene I'll never forget, it seemed like 100% of the participants followed those of us from the stage as we sloshed our way along the street regardless of the pouring rain. It was my one good suit; they were my best Sunday shoes - ruined beyond repair! But it was Okay, because the world was able to witness the truth about living faith. We may disagree on so many details, and we may have political convictions that cover every conceivable variable...

...but there is absolutely nothing about following Jesus that supports or condones violence or terror tactics in any possible way. Not violence against the misguided; not violence against the violent; not violence against the not-yet-born; not violence against those we disagree with...

Like I said, I believe that abortion is an ongoing American tragedy. On balance I tend to align myself with Bill Clinton's remarks, "Keep abortion safe, legal and rare..."

Not my usual blog direction - but the subject has been on my mind.
Peace - DEREK