Late last week the United States became the victim of another domestic terrorist attack, this time at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. From the moment the shooting began, and even now, the internet has been busy discussing and dissecting the situation from multiple angles– and there certainly are multiple angles to this story. Today however, I simply want to respond to one of those angles: the issue of how the common pro-life ethical system leaves room for this kind of violence.
In an effort to explain why someone was motivated to do something, we look to the ideology behind their actions. In this case, it appears the individual was anti-abortion, and it would logically seem that his anti-abortion views were a chief motivator. Flowing from that, I’ve seen no shortage of chatter placing blame on what some are calling pro-life rhetoric– but quite honestly I don’t see that as the culprit.
Instead, the chief problem facing the pro-life movement– and what I would suggest was a major factor in the attack– is the absence of a comprehensive pro-life ethic.
For example, many of the people I know who loudly wear their pro-life label are also the folks who are the most pro-gun, pro-self-defense, pro-capital punishment, pro-war, etc. They are the same folks who show up here in the comment sections to push back when I teach nonviolent enemy love (something I plagiarized from Jesus, FWIW), often citing that we “have a responsibility to defend the innocent and vulnerable, even if that means lethal violence.”
And that right there, is the heart of the issue.
You see, if that’s true– if we have a responsibility to use lethal violence to defend the innocent and vulnerable, then it’s difficult to condemn the actions of the Planned Parenthood terrorist. In fact, as I’ve watched some of the condemnation of the attack I’ve had to sit back and scratch my head, curious as to why so many in the pro-life camp cannot see that shooting abortion providers is actually consistent with the set of ethics held by so many in the movement.
I would love to ask them the burning question: if God sanctions the use of violence, and if using lethal violence to protect the innocent and vulnerable is good and noble, why is shooting an abortion provider wrong?
Their instinct that such actions are morally reprehensible is an excellent instinct– it is reprehensible. I simply wish they would think that through to the logical conclusion: the use of lethal violence is always reprehensible.
Until the pro-life movement awakens to this glaring gap in logic and ethics, I believe we will continue to see some in the movement follow the train of thought to the logical conclusion, and choose to use violence to oppose abortion. An ethical system that claims killing people can sometimes be God-ordained, good, or noble will continue to have people who actually do it.
While the vast majority of pro-life folks reject the use of violence against abortion providers, what I long for them to see is that the most common pro-life ethic does not. In fact, if it’s true that God wants us to use lethal violence to defend the vulnerable and innocent, one would actually have an easier time making the argument in favor of violence against abortion providers, and this alone should be a giant red flag that something is horribly and insufferably wrong with this ethical system.
The only solution to the problem is a comprehensive, total pro-life ethic– one where we believe in the depths of our being that unborn babies, post-born babies, children and adults of all shapes, sizes, and colors, from kind-hearted grandmas to the most vile of criminals, are all image bearers of the Living God and have such intrinsic value that we refuse to end their life.
The only pro-life ethic that truly leaves no room for the evil we saw happen in Colorado Springs is one where pro-life equals ALL life, without exceptions.
Until we embrace an ethical system that is comprehensive and truly pro-life without exception, we leave the door cracked open for the evil violence we witnessed in Colorado– and that’s not a door that I think should be left open.