General CBF

The Stain of Violence

The Reformation Lutheran Church of Wichita, KS, made this statement on their website:

“The Reformation Lutheran Church family is shocked and deeply saddened by the violent murder of Dr. George Tiller, a longtime member of our congregation, that occurred in our church home May 31.  Our congregation strives to be a safe place for all people.  We deplore the violence that took place within the walls of our church.  Further, we reject any notion that violence against another human being is an acceptable way to resolve differences over any issues.  We must always strive to engage in peaceful discussion.  Our faith calls us to this.  Our humanity demands it” (

Whenever I saw the coverage of the murder of Dr. Tiller, who was shot Sunday in the sanctuary of his church while ushering during worship, I could not help but think about the future of his church.  Dr. Tiller, a doctor at one of three late term abortion clinics in America, had been a long-time member of the Reformation Lutheran Church.  Regardless of what one believes about his practice, or the issue of abortion, a man in the process of his faith journey was murdered in the sanctuary of a church of God. 

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, Dean of the School of Theology at Claremont, writes in her book, The Fall to Violence, “Sin is the violation of the well-being of creation” (80).  She believes sin is not rooted in pride, but violence.  The intent to harm another is in violation of the well-being found in God’s commandments.  She also says, “God’s love becomes a standard for all other forms of love, for God and only God has the ability to know the other as the other really is” (75).  This relational view of God, one so deeply embraced by Baptists who rely on personal experiences with God, directly translates to the Church.  First Corinthians 12 talks about the importance of every member of the church, calling them parts of one body.  First Corinthians 12:26 states, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”  How must the Reformation Lutheran church be suffering now, with the members viewing the murder of one of its own during Sunday worship?  How will it feel to gather in that space next week?  How will Tiller’s wife feel, who was singing in the church choir when she saw him fall? 

Dan Holman of the anti-abortion group Missionaries to the Preborn said of Tiller’s death that he “was cheered by it.”  Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry stated, “George Tiller was a mass murderer…he reaped what he sowed.”  While certainly many on both sides of the abortion issue have condemned these acts, it is disheartening that any professing Christian would so crassly celebrate the death of a human being. 

When we allow a political issue to divide the body to the point of violence, we harm the entire body and violate God’s commandments.  Suchocki states, “The internal nature of relationships means that what happens in one entity has an effect on all entities.  When this effect is evil, that evil spreads until it touches all” (104).  Dr. Tiller’s murder will not just haunt that church, or churches in Wichita, but all of our churches.  His tragic death is a monument to our inability to discuss political issues civilly while still remembering that we are all members of the body of Christ. 

Let us pray the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

One thought on “The Stain of Violence

  1. Laura,
    Great article! Thank you for contributing to such an important discussion. All churches should mourn anytime an instrument of peace – the Church – is used as a place of violence – voluntarily or involuntarily. Hopefully St. Francis’s prayer will be the mission of us all!

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