The Greater Good and Scott Roeder

It seems to me that anti-abortion folks have an untenable position if they hold to the idea that some killing is ok.  I have debated abortion with many anti-choice folks.  I have never found one yet that took the position that killing any human for any reason was wrong.  Scott Roeder took the position that killing was ok in the case of self-defense or to protect “unborn children”.  Most anti-abortion folks will not go along with killing someone to protect “unborn children”.   However, most anti-abortion folks do believe in the concept of a “just war” and capital punishment.  In both of these cases they believe that it is ok for humans to kill others. 

In their view, God is good.  God is served in the case of a “just war” or capital punishment.  Therefore, killing in the case of a “just war” or capital punishment is the greater good – the greater good not by man’s standards but by God’s standards.  Many anti-abortion folks that have been around the block tend to resist arguing their point on purely religious grounds since they have been burned too many times with that argument.  They tend to take the emotional bashing, shame and pity method to make their point.   Nevertheless, when push comes to shove, their beliefs are really grounded in their religion.  In any case, the “greater good” argument works whether they are atheists are theists.  Since they believe that a greater good is served by a “just war” or capital punishment, the question is, “Why isn’t the greater good served by murdering an abortion doctor – if you believe that a fetus is a baby?”  How would you draw the line at saying killing an abortion doctor is wrong yet killing is ok in the case of a “just war” or capital punishment? 

I suppose if you are a theist you could maintain that the former is not God’s will while the latter is.  This argument will show itself to have more “subtleties” as in the case of Judas Iscariot cited further down.  So God appears to be more interested in killing “unjust” folks whether in war or in crime.  However, if you think that killing “babies” is murder, wouldn’t you also believe that it is “unjust”?  I suppose that if you question why one “unjust” act justifies humans killing humans but another “unjust” act does not, the theist would proclaim that we cannot know the mind of God.  But if we cannot know the mind of God how can they know the mind of God?  Well, they would say “faith”.  At this point nothing is left to be said since to question this “faith” means that you have no faith or at least not the “correct” faith.  In any case, it appears that there are various shades of faith. 

Scott Roeder’s faith told him it was ok to murder Dr. George Tiller.  The anti-abortion mainstream would disavow this type of faith and wash their hands of it (remind you of Pontius Pilate).  However, by intentionally slicing the kinds of faith so thin, don’t they share some complicity in this?  I have heard many of them (including Rod Dreher) write that they are not heartbroken by the death of Dr. George Tiller but condemn the action of Scott Roeder.  They have a very tight line to walk.  Ultimately, it can only be defended by appealing to their correct “faith”.  My question is. “How is this different from radical, violent Islam?”  They believe that they have the correct “faith” as well.  If everything boils down to the right “faith” then on the surface of it there is absolutely no difference. 

Here is another point – if you believe that Iraq or Afghanistan was wrong then you are in effect saying that those wars were not “just wars” and that your vote for the Republicans and President Bush was complicit in killing unjustly – or, murder (see ).  As anti-choice, the only way to justify your vote for President Bush is to insist that both wars were just.  This would also include all the post-born women and children that were killed in these wars which no one would contest are not human and that the vast majority was innocent and killed unjustly.  I suppose this also would boil down to not having the correct knowledge of God.  The point is, once one starts down this road the fine distinctions get finer and finer.  When a person like Scott Roeder can’t get too fine with his logical prowess he just believes that he is exercising his faith by killing Dr. Tiller.  He thinks he is simply braver with his faith than most Christians.  He has all kinds of rationalizations about his virtuous motives.  Most Christians that disavow his action would also suggest that God can use evil for his glory as in the case of Judas Iscariot.   

Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ.  Here is what the Bible says concerning Judas:

I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me’.  John 13:18

While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.  John 17:12

 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”  Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”  Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.”  Mathew 26:23-25

But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.  The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.  Luke 22: 21-22

Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.  Mathew 27:9-10

and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus  Acts 1:16

“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, ” ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, ” ‘May another take his place of leadership.  Acts 1:20

Judas was condemned for betraying Jesus and yet he was fulfilling the will of God.  This is how many anti-choice folks view the act of Scott Roeder. 

It seems to me that at some point we have to just state that “faith” and rationality contradict each other and “faith” wins at the cost of logic.  Even Kierkegaard who thought that faith was the absolute passion of pinning your eternal happiness on the contradiction of the God-Man would not pitch faith against logic.  He would simply suggest that logic is irrelevant for faith.  The square is not a circle in faith; it is just not relevant to that distinction.  However, in the case I am making, faith must conquer rationality and deem logic illogical by the “logic” of faith so the square is a circle.  Faith is another kind of logic that can contradict logic.  It is sort of like saying A is not A because of B.  If you have faith in B then your argument is proved correct.  However, many folks do not hear the voice of God in this proposition – only the confusion of man.

Christians still kill the innocent unjustly and still condemn those that they think do the same.  I believe this is the definition of a hypocrite.  It also shares a nasty complicity in the evil it condemns as the prophecy of God also shares an insidious role in the betrayal of Christ.  Thus, it seems to me that the violent history that marks the history of Christianity, the hatred of the inquisition, the genocide of the crusades still yells much louder in the anti-abortionists than the words of their Christ, “The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness.  Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness.”  Luke 11:34-35

1 thought on “The Greater Good and Scott Roeder

  1. admin

    These are comments and replies to this post on before the whole post was deleted (see

    Thanks for the comments.

    “Do you believe in a “just war”? Do you believe its OK for soldiers to kill each other?”

    I do not believe in a “just war”. I do believe there are necessary wars – the last one was WWII. I know from personal experience what wars do to families, communities, nations and the world. Even though my brothers did not die in Vietnam they may as well have as their lives ended when they came home and they reaped much havoc and destruction on many people. All war is evil (see my post War is an ugly, flawed, messy human tragedy. We need to quit glorifying it with heroism and high and lofty ideals. This has the effect of perpetuating the “church” of war. Did Jesus advocate living by the sword? The ones who provide noble justifications for wars also provide historical narratives that appease and justify their complicity in the untimely death and demise of our young people. Generally, I find those that glorify war have not bitten by it and are responsible for the knee jerk way our politicians get us into the untenable situations. We need to understand how our praise of the highest virtues is necessarily bound to our most shameful vices and condemns us to perpetually repeat our tragedies – read the Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu or Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche.

    “Catholic doctrine recognizes civil governments’ authority to enact and enforce civil law. The British government, for example, isn’t acting on behalf of the Church of England when it gaols an embezzler because the Sixth Commandment forbids thievery…that’s not God at work.”

    “Civil government” is not civil to the degree that it perpetuates wars. Historically, wars destroy “civil government”. War does not enforce law, it destroys law. It is a “might makes right” that tragically condemns winner and loser alike. There are no winners only survivors. It is a lose-lose proposition that only thrives by generations forgetting what it really was.

    “Not every anti-abortionist is religious or uses purely (specifically Christian) religious grounds.”

    Yes, but the exceptional case does not a rule make.

    “So pro-choice supporters are rational, analytical thinkers? Course not. Everyone exploits emotion. I’d know–I was pro-choice. I’d make emo arguments for abortion as a feminist right, that pro-lifers were backwards fundies too dim to consider women own their own bodies.”

    If A (anti-choicers) are B (emotional) then Not A (pro-choicers) are Not B (emotional and by extension, logical and analytic) is a logical fallacy. Fundamentally, folks are not rational and contradiction does not seem to bother them too much. By the way, I would also suggest that war exploits emotions as well.

    “Stephanie Grey is a prominent Canadian pro-choice advocate who argues (controversially) that the North American abortion movement echoes the Holocaust — but she doesn’t base her argument on religion whatsoever.”

    I know arguments can be made that do not explicitly use religious terms but let’s not lose the forest for the tree. The Holocaust murdered what no one disputes were people. What is conveniently ignored by the anti-choice folks is that pro-choice folks do not understand the fetus to be a person. It is not because they are evil that they believe this and the anti-choice folks can give no daylight to that proposition. At least, it should be admitted that there is a serious contention with the point that a fetus is a person and no one would maintain that those killed in the Holocaust were not people. I think the uncompromising push (and logic distorting tactics) to the argument that a fetus is a child must draw an absolute line (at conception) based on the sanctity of human life (vis-à-vis God). I would add that I not comfortable with 3rd trimester abortions and think that the argument for early 1st trimester (at the cells subdividing stage) personally seems ok to me. This is not based on a religious belief only perhaps an over-abundance of caution. However, I would not insist that my preference was absolutely correct with no room for compromise unless I thought God had said all abortion was evil.

    “Who has intentionally “sliced” different kinds of faith?”

    Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Episcopal, Pentecostals, Army of God, White Supremacists, etc.

    “Apples and oranges.” [admin – this refers to the original text statement, “How is this different from radical, violent Islam?”]

    If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and quacks like a duck – it is a duck. It is only “apples and oranges” for true believers but not for the rest of us…

    “The two things as you point out Roeder and radical Muslims share is their self-righteous zealotry and the balls to act on it.”

    I would also include the determined effort of Christians to replace the secular state with the religious state since they can’t seem to go to heaven right away.

    “It looks like you dismiss mental illness and abnormal psych had a role in his murder of the doctor. Sounds like you’re saying he just thought too much for his own good. Problem is, the vast majority of his fellow Christians didn’t reach his conclusion.”

    I am suggesting that not all insane acts are a result of purely biological conditions but have a complicity in certain unrestrained, collective and social norms (i.e., no right is too right) that for example, glorifies war, believes Hitler was the salvation of the Germans, kills pagans in the crusades, thinks we have to start wars to kill criminals, etc. To dismiss every crazy deed as a nut is to obliviously ignore history and our own culpability in the repetition of tragedy. I guess if God says all evil is the sinner’s fault then after the appropriate guilt expiation Christians are off the hook. However, it may be that this psychological mechanism is actually part of the justification for overlooking culpability. The tea party’s dismissal of racism as the “crazies” in their group come to mind – we all know many of their religious, nationalistic, gun toting ideologies have nothing to do with attracting nuts – right? I found Facoult’s “Madness and Civilization” to address this issue eloquently.

    “And as for Judas–according to Tradition and Scripture he had a choice; God didn’t give him an assignment to betray Christ. Again, apples to oranges.”

    If there was choice how could the “scriptures be fulfilled”? Would God call it quits and start the universe all over after a “wrong” choice of Judas? If A (God’s word) is B (truth, the scriptures) and B (truth, the scriptures) is C (must be fulfilled) then A (God’s word) is C (must be fulfilled). Therefore, if God says Judas had to betray Christ to fulfill the scriptures it necessarily implies that Judas had absolutely no choice. It would be magical, hocus-pocus and slight of hand to suggest otherwise.

    “Which atrocity cries out worse? The Cambodian genocide or the “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia?”

    Yep, there is no worse when it comes to tragedy just those that, knowingly and unknowingly, perpetuate the mistake.

    Thanks again for the comments and I hope my words were not offensive to you.

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