Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Answering Violence

Part of me really does understand, I confess, the mindset that leads to things like the murder of Dr. Tiller this weekend. If you passionately believe that abortion is murder, and you work yourself into a place where you're comparing him to Mengele in the holocaust, as was done by some, isn't it the right thing to do to kill him? By doing so, you're saving potentially thousands of lives. The argument of those who advocate for violence against abortion providers is essentially that they are living in an unjust state that condones murder. Going through the state process is unthinkable while people are being slaughtered. It must be stopped.

We glorify this sort of thinking all the time in our society. Our superheroes are the ones who take the law into their own hands and battle what they see as evil. Superman, Batman, and the rest of the superhero vigilantes usually pick targets that culturally we all agree on as evil (and usually in those stories, the law is trying to catch the same bad guys, as well). But we also glorify the rebel outsiders, like Hans Solo and Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, fighting against the corrupt state. It's not a far stretch, and some people clearly make that stretch, to see our own government as the one that needs fighting against. I'm not blaming the media, mind, I am saying the media reflects our societal values.

I am not personally a pacifist. If I was, this would be easier to explain how it is wrong. I admire greatly the pacifists who can take the hard line that violence is always the wrong option. If you take that line, the argument against this sort of violence is clear. But I do believe there is a point one can come to where war is justified, and where rising against your own state is justified. I think there are many countries where revolutionaries have been justified in fighting for their own freedom. I think there are dictators, like Hitler, who needed to be stopped.

Given that, it is much harder to answer this violence and show it is wrong. It is not my line, that I would draw, where violence is justified. But it is theirs. And I personally think that it's quite possible that abortion is, after all, murder.

But just as I said that violence is sometimes necessary, that opens a door to say that there are times and ways and places where killing another person is justified. And that opens the door for abortion, as well.

And I have one value that trumps it all: freedom. I do firmly beleive that women must be allowed to control their own bodies. And that means we have the right to choose not to support another life growing inside of us. Whenever. Period.

The problem is that absolute thinking about ethics can lead one to extreme ends, like taking up arms and committing murder. Real life, however, is much more nuanced. Deontological ethics, an emphasis on hard and fast absolute rules, will lead to this absolute thinking.

Our faith, our ethics, are much more nuanced. As Unitarian Universalists, we live in a space of nuance and ambiguity. Rather than believing, for example, in a literalist understanding of the Bible which gives hard and fast rules with absolute consequences of Heaven and Hell for following or breaking those rules, we live in a place based on an ethic of care, or love. The ultimtae, God, for us is about ultimate caring, love. The rules we follow are based on an ethical system of relationship and caring as the ultimate goods.

My heart and soul cry out against this violence, but I struggle to put into words the ethics that would answer this logical ethical argument for violence. But the answer is, must be, always will be no, this violence is not justified. And it is terrorism.
ter⋅ror⋅ism  [ter-uh-riz-uhm] – noun 1.the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.

3 comments:

Robin Edgar said...

Excellent post Rev. Cynthia.

"I admire greatly the pacifists who can take the hard line that violence is always the wrong option. If you take that line, the argument against this sort of violence is clear."

The paradox here is that abortion, especially late term abortion that destroys what could be a viable foetus and potential healthy human being, is itself a form of violence. N'est-ce pas?

I will refrain from further comment for now but your post, along with one by Rev. Christine Robinson, is amongst the most thoughtful posts that I have seen about this tragedy from U*U clergy.

Bill Baar said...

No one has the right to take the law into their own hands and pass judgement on Dr. Tiller regardless the ugly but legal things he did...

...as UU's we might want to reflect on the platform we give Bill Ayers with Beacon Press and some of the praise that's been given him there.

The arguments Ayers once voiced about stopping America's violence in Vietnam awfully similar I bet to the argument we'll hear from Tiller's killer.

Some of the passion voiced by antiabortion protestors errily similar to the passion I remember voiced in SDS and none were more elequent with it than Ayers and his wife.

Caroline said...

I had an interesting experience this week. I answered one of those "quick polls" about killing/murder that asked if you could ever feel really good about killing any living thing. I think this poll was geared to thinking about animals, but I don't remember for sure. Anyway, in the state of mind that I was in at that very moment, I answered "no", which I might not have answered in some situations (just war, abortion, etc.) Then the very next day, I squashed a mosquito with glee when it was humming about in my car, and I said "Oh!" out loud. I am two-faced. I admit it.
-- Caroline