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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

When Labels Matter

The news says that the man accused of opening fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs says he was opposed to abortion. So now we have the motive. An anti-abortionist killed people over abortion.

I've complained before about the problem of labels. To tag people with "fundamentalist" without regard to the truth is to lump the "fundamentalist Muslim" who returns to the core values of his faith and kills people with the "fundamentalist Mormon" who returns to the core values of his faith and marries multiple women or the "fundamentalist Christian" who returns to the core values of his faith and loves God and his neighbor. These three are not the same. The label simply serves to confuse rather than to clarify or even properly label someone.

The same is true in this case. An anti-abortion guy has walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic and committed murder ... including a pro-life guy. Garrett Swasey was an elder at his church, believed in the inerrancy of Scripture, and was convinced that killing babies in the womb was evil. Garrett Swasey lost his life trying to save lives in a place he found abhorrent. Garrett Swasey was pro-life, not anti-abortion. His killer was anti-abortion and not pro-life. There is a distinct difference.

Too many people throw around labels as if they don't matter. The labels are often ignorant and inaccurate and potentially dangerous. (If you've read any comments from people on news stories about this Colorado Springs shooting, you'll find many of the anti-pro-life statements appalling and menacing.) They are often intended to be a strawman, an ad hominem, a false demonization of a group. Because if you can use a term that produces an emotional response -- even if it is not accurate -- you've succeeded without requiring a rational argument.

So let's be clear. From the Christian perspective this killer is not Christian. He didn't recognize the God-given value of humans made in His image and he didn't value life. That is neither Christian nor pro-life. Genuine Christians that do value life will be labeled with this "killer" tag as "anti-abortion" ... "just like him", but it's not true. We are as grieved and outraged over his actions as anyone else. And in contrast the pro-life officer who died defending lives from an anti-abortion nutjob is heroic to us. Sometimes labels matter.

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