Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Notes in the Wake of Dr. GeorgeTiller's Murder: On the Considerable Shortcomings of Mainstream Media Coverage of Religious Issues

Some observations in the wake of the murder of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in Wichita on Sunday:

▪ It’s interesting to note how quickly the mainstream media are seeking to bury all follow-up to this story in articles hidden off the front page, and how little interest the media are showing in probing the background to this murder—in particular, the ideological and religious motivations, as well as the history, of Scott Roeder, the man charged with the murder.

▪ The media’s immediate relegation of follow-up articles about this story to inner and back pages of newspapers suggests the continuing domination of our mainstream media by the political and religious right, and, in particular, by the economic interest groups the political and religious right serve.

▪ One does not have to be pro-abortion to be intently concerned about the contradictions between pro-life rhetoric and murder (indeed, one has to be concerned about those contradictions, if one expects to be a credible pro-life spokesperson). Nor does one have to be pro-abortion to be intently concerned that a strong hidden undercurrent of violence runs through our culture, targeting those who support or provide abortions, gays and lesbians, and others that the religious and political right consider transgressive and susceptible to violent repression.

▪ Fascinating first-hand testimony from Lindsey Roeder, Scott Roeder’s former wife, in a New York Times piece today by Susan Saulny and Monica Davey—testimony that does deserve analysis and follow-up:

“‘The man I married disappeared into this other person,” Ms. Roeder, shaken and puffy eyed, said of Scott Roeder . . . . ‘He wanted a scapegoat,’ Ms. Roeder said. ‘First it was taxes — he stopped paying. Then he turned to the church and got involved in anti-abortion.’”

He wanted a scapegoat: that observation speaks volumes about what underlies much anti-abortion (and anti-feminist and anti-gay) ideology in our society. The need of angry heterosexist men to find a scapegoat when they feel control of everything is slipping out of their hands . . . . Which, of course, radically calls into question the claims of many of those who represent the “pro-life” stance that they are actually primarily concerned about the value of life and about protecting pre-natal life: it’s not really about that at all, in much of the pro-life movement.

▪ And so the churches—above all, the Catholic church, which has led the charge here—are making a very unholy alliance, when they ally themselves, under the guise of promoting respect for life, with groups whose ultimate goals have nothing at all to do with respect for life, and which are, in fact, quite counter-life in clearly discernible, shocking ways.

▪ Bruce Wilson’s investigation of the ties between proposition 8 supporter Lou Engle of TheCall, the Army of God, and the New Apostolic Reformation at Talk2Action today provides hair-raising evidence in support of what I have just said.

Engle (who campaigned actively against gay marriage in the proposition 8 battle in California), calls for “acts of Christian martyrdom” by those who oppose abortion. In Wilson’s view, “. . . through TheCall Lou Engle has quietly mainstreamed language that was, during the 1990's and up through 2001, to be found mainly coming from the militant wing of the antiabortion movement associated with the antiabortion terrorist movement known as the Army Of God.”

Wilson notes that Engle's rhetoric parallels that of Army of God members who maintain that a civil war will be necessary to atone for the “blood-debt curse” they believe God has placed on America because of abortion. In December 2007, Engle announced a doctrine he called “The Doctrine of the Shedding of Innocent Blood,” which maintains that “surely blood requires blood in God's judgment.” (And this bloody rhetoric, with its aberrant theological stance that is far from Catholic orthodoxy, is now being echoed in the Catholic anti-abortion movement.)

▪ Wilson also notes that Engle belongs to the New Apostolic Reformation movement, which also claims Sarah Palin as a member and which is tied to white-supremacist militia groups as well as to Christian Zionist cells.

▪ All of which should be all through mainstream media news coverage of the murder of Dr. Tiller, but is not there and will not appear there. It is wonderful that good journalists covering religious issues, like Bruce Wilson, are probing these ties. It is deplorable (and irresponsible, unprofessional, and unethical) that the mainstream media are not probing them.