June 13, 2009

Richert, Tiller, and the Pro-Life Movement

I greatly appreciate Tom Piatak?s gentle attempt at mediating between two of his favorite commentators. Moreover, there is nothing in his statements about Scott Richert I could possibly disagree with. Scott and his wife Amy are exemplary parents, and I applaud their godliness and energy in trying to raise seven children, and especially in our morally decayed American society. Nor would I ever attribute to Scott the slightest sympathy for the pro-choice movement or the socially radical feminists behind it. And in no way do I consider him to be front-man for GOP party hacks, who can?t wait to give evidence of their ?moderateness? by reaching out to the media.

Where I differ from Scott are on two points. First, I do not see any moral parity between the mass-murderer George Tiller and the outraged Christian who took his life. One was a thoroughly evil person engaged in infanticide for fun and profit. The other was someone who stopped Tiller?s rampage by drastic means. While relatively little good can come out of this violent act, it was morally defensible. What Tiller did was not. Note this is not an attempt to whitewash the obvious political recklessness of what the killer did. It will no doubt be turned into grist for the mills of our cultural Marxist regime, which will go after people like John Zmirak, Tom Piatak, and Scott, all of whom have been vocal opponents of abortion. But there is no moral parity between Tiller and his slayer, given the kind of services Tiller was ?providing.? Nor will Scott gain friends on the cultural left by forcing comparisons between the two killers? actions.

Second, Scott?s attempt to prove his case by citing the bible and medieval philosophy is less than convincing. I simply don?t see how Aquinas?s view of tyrannicide, which is borrowed from Aristotle, can provide sufficient guidance for dealing with the evils of the modern managerial regime. The reason is not that classical and medieval analyses of government are wrong. They are simply outdated and do not take into account political developments that have occurred in the late modern era.

Scott also quotes biblical passages, especially Romans III, in order to buttress his positions and the effect is far from compelling. Paul?s epistle does not show that Tiller?s killer acted wickedly ?because good cannot come out of evil.? The cited reference, which is a leitmotiv in Romans, pertains to actions taken without or without faith (pistis). The previous discussion is to whether one could fulfill the Law of circumcision merely by performing that commandment and whether someone who was not circumcised in his flesh (akrobustos en sarki) could nonetheless observe that commandment ?in his heart.? Section III ends by reminding the reader: ?therefore through the works of the law no human body is justified in His presence. Affirmation of the Law is affirmation of error (dia gar nomou epignosis hamartias).

As a devout Catholic, Scott may not read these passages in the same way as the Protestant Reformers. As he might know, they were pivotal texts for Luther. But the passages in question should not be pulled in to attack Tiller?s assassin. Taken in context they have a very different meaning.

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