See You in Hell, Buddy

Yesterday, the state of Florida executed Paul Jennings Hill, a former Presbyterian minister who was found guilty of murder nine years ago of an abortion clinic doctor and his volunteer escort. Mr. Hill, according to most accounts, remained "unrepentant" and said that he "expected a great reward" for what he had done.

"I believe in the short and long term, more and more people will act on the principles for which I stand," he said. Mr. Hill also said that while it was not his choice to die, "I'm willing and I feel very honored that they are most likely going to kill me for what I did." (New York Times, 4 September 03).

It would appear that Mr. Hill has much in common with the 11 September hijackers. They too, felt that their actions ultimately had the divine seal of approval as they commandeered jets into the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and into a field in Pennsylvania.

There is absolutely no philosophical distinction between those two events, no matter how cozy the lies of the so-called pro-life movement are. Mr. Hill believed that he was doing God's work in pulling the trigger of an abortion doctor -- an infidel, as it were. Doctor John Baynard Britton was deemed to be beyond the pale -- a sinner who would not repent of his actions and was tried and convicted in the court of law that pro-lifers have been mandated. In similar fashion, the 11 September terrorists considered their targets (not buildings, but the people in those buildings) to be infidels and sinners as well. They were all merely casualties of war, as the smug argument goes.

And in both cases, the killers expected to be rewarded for their actions in the hereafter. Paradise for everyone, all around!

If someone were to take offense to the comparison of Mr. Hill's murdering two people and someone plowing a jetliner into a skyscraper, well, they'd be beggars to their own demise. There is no difference because both acts are done in accordance with religious beliefs. It's religion that ties the two together: after all, when is the last time you ever heard of someone blowing up a building in the name of secular humanism? If killing an abortion doctor is justifiable homicide, as many of the pro-lifers claim, then killing three thousand people (who are the enemy, mind you) is no different. As I mentioned, these aren't victims just minding their own business. In the Hill case, Mr. Britton would not repent of his actions and needed to be murdered. In the case of 11 September, the victims duly represented a government and system that would not repent of its hostility against the Muslim world. The best way to attack the system? Attack at the weakest point and cause the most damage. In both instances, the politico-religious goal is to stop the system and force change. Mr. Britton's murder is supposed to be a political message to all other abortion doctors: you're next. Likewise, 11 September was a political message to the government (and people) of the United States: you can't stop us.

(As a brief aside, one has to ponder the irony of the pro-life philosophy: deeply offended at abortion yet usually staunch-supporters of the death penalty. Mr. Hill's happy, appeal-less skip to the death chamber offers an interesting look into how a movement can ostensibly be against the terminating a pregnancy but not against terminating adulthood.)

This is one of those cases were the phrase, "in the wake of 9/11" actually has some import. Unfortunately, lazy journalists and cultural commentators are failing to put this into public discourse. Can the pro-life movement sit comfortably when "extremists" use religious vocabuarly to kill an abortion provider? And don't get fooled into thinking that the pro-life philosophy is God-free: on the contrary, it is by default a position that demands a religious framework to make its point. (Like I mentioned, Mr. Hill was not some avowed atheist, shooting people to protest capitalism. He was a former minister. You might think he would know better.) Likewise, the terrorist acts of 11 September needed religious vocabulary to put the atrocity in the proper context. It doesn't matter if some or most of the nineteen hijackers were maybe not so religious in private: they all invoked their god right before the moment of their fiery deaths. It's highly unlikely that Mr. Hill quoted Karl Marx before killing Mr. Britton and his escort.

So, it remains to be seen if the pro-life movement can come out and distinguish the actions of "extremists" and the murderers of 11 September. The number of people involved makes no difference at all -- but of course, lazy minds will attempt to appeal to math to solve their intellectual problem. Either the pro-life movement repudiates all violence or it must accept that its "extremists" are of the same ilk as the nineteen hijackers: killers with a cause.