In the late 1970s my evangelical pro-life leader father Francis Schaeffer and Dr. C. Everett Koop (who soon become Surgeon General in the Reagan administration) went on the road with me taking the documentary antiabortion film series I produced and directed ( Whatever Happened to the Human Race?) to the evangelical public. The series and companion book eventually brought millions of heretofore non-political evangelical Americans into the antiabortion crusade. We personally also got people like Jerry Falwell, Ronald Reagan and countless Republican leaders involved in the "issue."
In the early 80s my father followed up with a book that sold over a million copies called A Christian Manifesto. In certain passages he advocated force if all other methods for rolling back the abortion ruling of Roe v. Wade failed. He compared America and its legalized abortion to Hitler's Germany and said that whatever tactics would have been morally justified in removing Hitler would be justified in trying to stop abortion. I said the same thing in a book I wrote (A Time For Anger) that right wing evangelicals made into a best seller. For instance Dr. James Dobson (of the Focus On the Family radio show) gave away over 100,000 copies.
Like many writers of moral/political/religious theories my father and I would have been shocked that someone took us at our word, walked into a Lutheran Church and pulled the trigger on an abortionist. But even if the murderer never read Dad's or my words we helped create the climate that made this murder likely to happen.
Angry speech has become the norm in American religion from both the right and the left. Words are spoken which -- when taken seriously -- lead directly to violence by the unhinged and/or the truly committed.
Schaeffer addressed the hateful rhetoric from those like Bill O'Reilly during the interview and O'Reilly's unwillingness, unlike Schaeffer, to take responsibility for his words.
Schaeffer: And when you look at what happened to Dr. Tiller, there's a direct line connecting the rhetoric that I was part of as a young man and this murder. And so people like me are responsible for what we said and what we did and the way we raised the temperature on this debate out of all bounds. And so when O'Reilly talks about the fact that these people of the far left are against Fox or against him or trying to muzzle debate, he's telling a lie.
I am not a member of the far right. Until I voted for Barack Obama in the last election I was a lifelong Republican and I am still pro-life. I also believe abortion should be legal, but I agree with Barack Obama when he says we ought to find ways to help women, help children, give contraceptives, sex education to lessen the number of abortions. I think abortion is a tragedy. But I also think that pretending that you can call abortion murder and Tiller the baby killer, etc., etc., etc. and that these words don't have an impact is crazy. So this is what helps unhinge a society, talking like that. And I apologize and I will apologize again. I am sorry for what I did.
I commend Frank Schaeffer for speaking out and bringing some sanity to the conversation and acknowledging how the right has hijacked the religious community for political gain, and just what the consequences of that political decision have been.