When Evil Sounds Like You

No one is in favor of murder. And all of us use pretty heated language at times. That’s why all of us have an extra responsibility to denounce violence perpetrated by those who agree with us. It looks like leading GOP candidates have failed at this important culture-war responsibility.


War and Culture War

It is still early days, but it seems as if the terrible shootings at the Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic may have been inspired by anti-abortion sentiment.  Suspect Robert Dear seems to have claimed he was motivated by Planned Parenthood’s alleged sale of “baby parts.”

I would expect every prominent cultural conservative to denounce this sort of political violence in the strongest terms. Yet, as progressive sources such as The Nation and ThinkProgress have pointed out, the leading Republican Party presidential hopefuls have done no such thing.

I am truly stumped.  I would think that every politician would rush to distance him- or herself from such an atrocity.  Especially leaders such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who have campaigned against Planned Parenthood as a retailer of baby parts.

Yet they did not.  Other anti-abortion activist groups have done so, including the National Right to Life Committee, Operation Rescue, and other pro-life activists.

Precisely because they are known to share very strong anti-abortion sentiments, such folks have leaped to denounce the shootings in the strongest terms. This is as it should be. Culture-war activists, after all, stand to be accused of collusion with such crimes. They have a duty to tell the world that such violence is not and never will be part of their strategy.

As NRLC put it,

National Right to Life, which represents 50 state affiliates and more than 3,000 local chapters, unequivocally condemns unlawful activities and acts of violence regardless of motivation.  The pro-life movement works to protect the right to life and increase respect for human life.  The unlawful use of violence is directly contrary to that goal.

The National Right to Life Committee has always been involved in peaceful, legal activities to protect human lives threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia.  We always have and will continue to oppose any form of violence to fight the violence of abortion.  NRLC has had a policy of forbidding violence or illegal activity by its staff, directors, officers, affiliated state organizations, and chapters.  NRLC’s sole purpose is to protect innocent human life.

This kind of talk is not political bravery, but merely common decency mixed with self-protection. Leaders such as Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump, then, could simply agree with these pro-life groups. They could work hard—and even cynically try to appear “presidential”—by weighing in against this sort of terrorist attack.

Yet they haven’t.

This is bad news for all of us, regardless of our political opinions or religious beliefs. If it is true that GOP candidates did not want to appear too energetic in their denunciation of this sort of extremist violence, then our political climate offers little hope for any sort of reasonable discussion of sensitive issues.

When simple human decency, combined with savvy political strategizing, don’t compel prominent politicians such as Marco Rubio to distance themselves in the most forceful way from folks such as accused attacker Robert Lewis Dear, we should all tremble.

Why? Because it hints at a breakdown of our implicit agreement about the fundamental nature of civil society. Aspiring GOP leaders should be falling all over themselves to demonstrate their understanding of this central idea. They should be jostling with one another to show just how leader-y they are in their denunciation of this sort of extremism.

If they don’t, we should worry that they think voters won’t like such denunciations. We should worry that these candidates, with their finely tuned political antennae, have decided that plenty of GOP voters condone or at least excuse this sort of terrorism.

If they’re right, we’re facing a frightening prospect.

We hope that in coming hours and days, GOP leaders will recognize their proper role. We hope they will see that it is their job to police their right wing, just as it falls upon progressives to police their left. Both sides, we must agree, must agree that terrorism is not part of their culture-war coalition. Once someone crosses a line into assassinations, we must all agree, they are no longer part of our civil society.

Only this implicit agreement keeps our vicious culture wars from devolving into all-too-common real culture wars.

Leave a comment


  1. “It seems”. That’s what is bugging me. This guy supposedly lived in a cabin off the grid, with no electricity, in SC. I’m waiting to find out how he came to be in Colorado in the first place. Was he working there, and did he have electricity? How did he even know about the videos regarding the supposed selling of fetal tissue? Do we have the ballistic reports back on which gun killed which person? And, where was the denunciation of all mass shootings? Every act of violence ought to be condemned, regardless of motive. Killing is killing no matter what the motivation. Unless it is in self-defense, we call it what it is: murder.. I agree that the candidates ought to be using their respective bully pulpits to denounce domestic terrorism. Let’s get all the facts, as well.

  2. Because it hints at a breakdown of our implicit agreement about the fundamental nature of civil society.


    It’s more than hints. The Republican party broke that implicit agreement 25 years ago or so. They made a Faustian bargain for more votes, and have lost their soul. That’s why I see the Republican party as unfit to govern.

    They have transformed themselves from the abolitionist party to the racist party. They have gone from being the party of good government to being the party of intolerant religious theocracy.

    • Gordon

       /  November 30, 2015

      You don’t know how true this is. In 2008 the mainstream media briefly noted some things the Anglican/Episcopal church already knew: the Ahmansons, one of several billionaire Christian Reconstructionist and far right family foundations (Bradley, Scaife and other groups) helped precipitate a split in the Anglican communion where their politically influential DC area Falls Church and others like it (including CCCU college parishes in Naperville/Wheaton and Grand Rapids) broke away to come under the jurisdiction of Uganda and at least one other African country. Some hoped for a larger breakup in the AC worldwide. The issue at stake was gay marriage, which connects to Islamophobia, the anti-jihadist movement, and the clash of civilization narrative that increasingly dominates the right and not just its fringes. To Ugandan archbishop Peter Akinola, homosexuality undermines the demographic and cultural war he sees himself and his church involved in against Islam. He also gave a wink and nod response when asked if he knew about the murder of 700 Muslim Ugandans by men identified with a Christian organization he presided over.

      The bloody impact of Christian right wing or Reconstructionist influences in Uganda, Belize and other countries has started to come to light, and it involves people and organizations — principally the Alliance Defending Freedom — that have parasitically attached themselves to mainstream Evangelical media and academic institutions since the early to mid 1990s. Roberta Ahmanson in particular has softly translated her husband Howard’s prior 1970s-80s career to mainstream Evangelical and Reformed institutions. Initially known for funding Rushdoony (Chalcedon Foundation) and Whitehead (Rutherford Institute), Howard Ahmanson has continued to bankroll anti-LGBT legislation, but Roberta was the face and force behind WORLD Magazine’s startup. They funded Intelligent Design and almost made that stick at Baylor. They’ve successfully raised a generation of journalists who “get religion” via a program of the CCCU — journalists who tend to who treat all these facts as silly conspiracy theories or else simply ignore them. But the facts are there, and they are piling up.

  3. Agellius

     /  November 30, 2015


    Comments like yours are exactly the sort of thing we need in order to restore civility to our political discourse.

    • Gordon

       /  November 30, 2015

      Please take a look into the career of theonomist influenced Catholic natural law culture warrior J. Budziszewski of UTA, the Discovery Institute (Intelligent Design), and the First Things gang. A Blackstone Fellow of the ADF, he wrote a key text for them, Natural Law and Lawyers. (ACW Press and The Blackstone Legal Fellowship.) In it you can find Rushdoony and the like. In 2003-04 J-Bud was preaching natural law in a Pew and Ahmanson funded annual CCCU faculty seminar at Calvin College where he brought in Antonin Scalia, who has many ADF and Blackstone connections. J-Bud left as the chair of the Ahmanson’s Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) when the Atlantic Monthly and other media broke the story of its connection to the militantly homophobic Akinola in Uganda. J-Bud himself is the author of a book guiding Christian college students at secular colleges thorugh the jungle of drugs and sex they will surely encounter. His ratemyprofessor site rating profile features UTA students perplexed by his warnings about the dangers of masturbation. it is crazy but these are influencers.

      • Gordon

         /  November 30, 2015

        Take a look at this Moral majority figure also, Martin Mawyer, who is part of the growing link between international Islamophobia and the American religious right: http://powerbase.info/index.php/Martin_Mawyer

        His movie on the threat of Islam, its birthrates, and a west weakened by contraception, homosexuality, abortion and secularism is part of the growing trend toward a politics of the right in the US that connects with the old throne and altar types in France, the Le Pens and Front Nationale, and so on. These people are united in feeling an existential threat from the enemies of Christendom, be they sexual racial or religious minorities who it is feared will soon be a majority in western countries.

  4. Patrick

     /  November 30, 2015

    I understand your point here, and haven’t followed the story enough to know what kinds of public statements the candidates have made about this atrocity since then. Having said that, I find it somewhat astonishing that they should need to distance themselves from something abominable like this. Speaking as a staunch GOP voter who mostly hangs out with other staunch GOP voters, I am positive I have no friends or acquaintances who would be troubled by such denunciations because next to no one approves of this kind of thing; furthermore, I cannot imagine the candidates worrying about losing votes over condemning this sort of thing. I think it may say more about us than about them that this would concern us.

    • I think the point is not to speak to staunch GOP voters, but rather to do something else. I see a moral duty for all of us to condemn political violence. Such condemnations are especially important when they come from people that generally agree with the position that has inspired the violence. In other words, if I generally agree with recent campus protesters that schools generally need to do more to promote truly inclusive atmospheres on campus–and I do–then I have a moral responsibility to denounce the anti-liberal tactics of folks such as Missouri professor Melissa Click. Not only reluctantly, when prodded, but energetically and forcefully, without being asked. Just as in international diplomacy, if a citizen of one country does something violent to or in another country, diplomats in the first country rush to denounce the violence and to firmly separate themselves and their nation from that single act of violence. Sorry, that last one was a terrible sentence, but I hope it clarified a little the point I’m trying to make.

  5. Agellius

     /  December 1, 2015

    Your post comes across as rather tone-deaf to pro-life ears. You want the shootings condemned in the strongest terms as being incompatible with how things are done in a civil society, but an underlying assumption of the whole post seems to be that the atrocities occurring every day in America’s abortion clinics are perfectly acceptable.

    People who see abortion as an ongoing series of atrocities on an enormous scale might find this concern over a single instance of anti-abortion violence as valid, certainly, but a bit out of proportion. As a GOP voter, I would have no problem with a candidate condemning the shootings, but I would have a big problem if he submitted to the liberal establishment’s demand to cease condemnations of Planned Parenthood. The shootings are just as bad as what happens at Planned Parenthood clinics all the time, and therefore deserve condemnation. But it’s still true that what takes place at Planned Parenthood is as bad as the shootings, even if a hell of a lot more commonplace.

    My point is that as a GOP voter, I would not be offended if a candidate condemned the shootings, but I don’t find their failure to condemn them any more inimical to civil society than the Democrats’ support of the gigantic offense to civil society that is abortion.

    I realize your point is that abortion was brought about “peaceably” and “civilly”, that is, through the courts, and not by violence, and the effort to end abortion should proceed equally peacefully and civilly. That sounds right in theory, but surely it’s understandable that some are impatient for the slaughter to end, and may consider the murder of some 50 million more children too high a price to pay for the preservation of civility. Some indeed believe that government-sanctioned evil on such a scale undermines the legitimacy of the government itself. Yes, this is scary, but from the perspective of the other side, we’ve been experiencing a living horror for several decades now.

    • My problem is with the part of the pro-life movement that condemns birth control–all of it, not just the ones they think cause abortions (and the jury is still out on that). The Catholic church I attended taught that the introduction of the Pill is actually one of the causes of higher pregnancy rates. I also do not think it is right to force a woman to stay pregnant & have a child by force. Making all abortions illegal will do just that, all while the pro-life community blocks contraceptives and calls women sluts. I understand that pro life people believe that abortion is the brutal slaying of the unborn. They can choose never to have an abortion. Women who do not want to be pregnant should not be forced by the government to stay pregnant. People do not want the government interfering in their health care decisions. It’s ironic that those who hate the Affordable Care Act for that reason, also want to enact laws designed to hurt women. Hypocrisy.

      • Patrick

         /  December 1, 2015

        Sheila–The difficulty with the “if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one” argument is, of course, that it would be like telling a 19th century abolitionist, “if you don’t like slavery, don’t buy a slave.” If a human being’s life or liberty are at stake (and abortion is, as you rightly point out, a “brutal slaying” in the view of pro-lifers), then the force of the law ought to be justified to protect that person–just as the force of the law was used 150 years ago to force slave owners to free their slaves (or, as the slave owner’s saw it, their “property”). The government certainly should intervene in order to protect the innocent. It’s not merely about the government forcing people to stay pregnant–it’s about the government forcing women to refrain from killing their children. As much as one can (and should!) sympathize with a woman who is pregnant and does not want to be, it’s hard to say “let’s just agree to disagree and let people do whatever they want” when the stakes are so high.

      • Sorry it took a couple of days to respond. Comparing slavery to abortion is not apt. No slave ever lived inside of a master. The unique thing about abortion is that there is a separate entity inside the body of a woman. So, in order to eradicate all abortions, you must face the reality that a woman must, by force of government, remain pregnant. And therein lies the rub. The fetus is given special rights that the woman does not have. After all, once the pregnancy ends in birth, there is the matter of who will raise that child.

      • Patrick

         /  December 5, 2015

        I understand the distinction–but permitting abortion means giving the mother special rights her baby does not have. I fail to see how this is better. Either way, someone is forced to do something. If abortion is illegal, the mother is forced to spend 9 months carrying her baby to term. If it is legal, the baby is forced to die.

  6. Patrick

     /  December 5, 2015

    It seems to me that the only way around the dilemma is to say the baby has no human rights or that not all humans have the same rights–two ideas those on the pro life side of things couldn’t more strongly oppose.

  7. Gordon

     /  December 5, 2015

    “No one is in favor of murder.” <= What Adam would LIKE to believe.

    The fact is, a lot of people are in favor of KILLING their enemies and believe their God calls them to do this.

    Chuck Colson himself, supposedly representative of a moderate Evangelical center, published a novel in 1995 called Gideon's Torch in which the heroes are militant anti-government anti-abortionists. The violent ones kill people at abortion clinics and are later killed by the lawful authorities along with the non-violent Christian activists, who are both depicted as martyrs: https://books.google.com/books?id=UZDxyVcLKh4C&pg=PA110&lpg=PA110&dq=colson+novel+about+abortion&source=bl&ots=_114CK7TYg&sig=IJd_TFcgTfcOU8QdP1ivcLTv9qM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwijufCJr8XJAhXtq4MKHbGGBLUQ6AEILjAD#v=onepage&q=colson%20novel%20about%20abortion&f=false

    The discourse of radicalization is the same for Christians as it is for Muslims and anyone else. It leads them all to see killing (and being killed) not as murder and regrettable but a sacred duty.


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