Our hearts have been heavy this past week with the tragic news of shootings in both California and Colorado. As I write, details of the rampage in San Bernardino are still coming in. We’ll be processing and evaluating the news in the coming days.
Garrett Swasey, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police officer who was murdered last week outside a local Planned Parenthood clinic, will be memorialized on Friday afternoon, just up the road from our ministry’s headquarters.
Ironically, the funeral will be held at New Life Church, the site of a tragic shooting in 2007 when a gunman took the life of two sisters, Rachel and Stephanie Works.
Much has been written about Officer Swasey, a devout believer in Jesus Christ who lived in both protector and pastor mode serving his community, family and his church. Some of my colleagues here at Focus knew Officer Swasey and have nothing but the highest praise for him. He was staunchly pro-life, yet voluntarily responded to the call for help at Planned Parenthood. He was willing to lay his life down for anyone in need, regardless of their moral or political convictions.
Unfortunately, a lot has been written, too, about how those of us who support the preservation and protection of every life allegedly incited the very violence that led to the death of Officer Swasey, along with civilians Jennifer Markovsky and Ke’Arre Stewart.
Those who hold to that view couldn’t be more reckless or wrong.
Media reports suggest the alleged gunman, at least at one point, considered himself to be a Christian. However, if someone chooses violence over the love of Christ, I would question their understanding of the Christian faith. As a Christian, my God is a God of life, not death. Such violence is a crime against the values of the Christian community.Former spouses of the alleged gunman have also told reporters that he was violent, unfaithful and mentally unstable and didn’t actually follow the Bible.
And so, it’s irresponsible, at best, to suggest that someone who perpetrates such evil outside a Planned Parenthood clinic is somehow connected to those of us who peacefully oppose abortion. The pro-life message is a non-violent one by definition. Broadly painting millions of pro-life Americans as violent or inciting violence is in itself dangerous rhetoric.
As Christians, we categorically condemn violence at any abortion clinic. The murder of three innocent people outside the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic was tragic. It is never right to harm or take a life in the name of the pro-life movement. It is incompatible with the Gospel, plain and simple. It’s the antithesis of what we stand for. It is abhorrent and sinful.
But if we want to truly honor the memory and life of Officer Swasey, we must also continue to voice our passionate and peaceful opposition to abortion. To do any less would be to dishonor the memory of the man who gave his life for others.
What we’re striving for is to create a culture of life that welcomes all, especially the most innocent and vulnerable among us. We want this because life is always the better choice. We want to see a nation where every child is a wanted child. In fact, we believe every child is a wanted child. There are thousands of people looking to adopt a child. Our efforts are designed to encourage women to carry their baby to term. Give them a chance at life.
Is that unreasonable? Of course it isn’t.
To those who suggest that principled and peaceful opposition to abortion incites violence, let me ask you: how should we express our moral objection? How are people of conviction to engage in the public square?
Shutting down free speech is not the answer. But why are these who oppose our push to protect life so reluctant to dialogue and debate?
I don’t want to underestimate the challenges we face today. But our ultimate foes are of a spiritual realm. As Christians, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). But here on earth, we’re commanded to reach out in radical love, not lash out with vitriol, to those who see things differently. This command includes those who accuse us of inciting violence at abortion clinics.
I’m reminded of an incident in the Bible, on the night before Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross. He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane when guards descended to arrest Him. One of His apostles, Peter, was enraged at the injustice and lunged with his sword toward the high priest. There was a guard standing next to the high priest. His name was Malchus. Peter’s sword severed one of Malchus’ ears. Jesus was incensed – at Peter. He told him to stop. And He healed the guard’s ear.
As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is about truth and justice. I believe He’s opposed to abortion and appalled by the industry. And yes, I believe He thinks the industry is evil … because Jesus is about life, not death.
But Jesus is simultaneously about grace, peace, forgiveness and making all things new. He loves the woman who is struggling with the decision about abortion. He forgives those who come to Him who have aborted their baby. But He wants any woman in that situation to choose life and give that baby a chance to live.
We continue to pray for the families of those murdered and all of those traumatized by the senseless carnage both here in Colorado Springs and in San Bernardino.