Not long ago, our nation experienced another tragic shooting; this one perpetrated at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado. In the aftermath of any such violence, even (and especially) carried out against the office of an organization at odds with Church teaching, one feels the need to pray for both shooter, victims, and all others involved. No easy sense can be made out of any tragedy: no matter what our media outlets, Right and Left, might tell us. What the situation, however, has corroborated for me is the reality of concupiscence in human life, especially when one compares reactions to this tragedy with those from the recent Paris attacks.
To that end, I recall a friend of mine (we’ll say he leans “Right”) saying something to this effect following that ISIS-perpetrated tragedy: “the media is saying that no motive can be determined, but that’s ridiculous. We all know why this happened.” I recall agreeing. To my mind, a coordinated series of attacks in a major European city (not to mention the multiple extremist-executed shootings that had taken place in France not long before then) made Islamic extremists the likely culprits. For him, it was an example of media bias toward Muslims, as well as a corroboration of his beliefs regarding the tendencies of that religion.
Following this tragedy, I’ve seen much the same rhetoric from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum. On Facebook, I saw a post declaring that the media’s handling of the situation proved that the man was white, if not Christian (to paraphrase): “guy shoots up a Planned Parenthood clinic, remaining inside almost the entire time, and yet the media doesn’t know what his motive is…Definitely a white guy.” And the reality is that the clues point to the distinct possibility that he was after Planned Parenthood in particular; it doesn’t take logical gymnastics to assume it very well might be because he opposes abortion (yet the media has refrained from declaring his motive). And so, for many, especially on the political Left, the shooting appears a logical consequence of pro-life rhetoric. The movement itself is held responsible.
In both of these cases, however, the opposite side always seems poised to defend one movement while declaring the other a logical prelude to violent action. Of course, in reality, it is more complicated than both these positions suggest. Perhaps Islam does offer textual support to violence in a way Christianity and Judaism do not (though this says nothing about the inevitability of terroristic action). Perhaps the pro-life movement does emphasize abortion (to the neglect of other life-related issues), increasing the probability that activists will come to hate those involved in the abortion industry (though this says nothing about the inevitability of violence against Planned Parenthood workers).
The point here is not to argue one way or another. The point is to recognize when we’re allowing our biases and prejudices into arguments that we immediately dismiss when used against our positions. In fact, even post-shooting, many have lauded Officer Garret Swasey as the “pro-life exception” in the same way there existed the “myth of Zouheir” following the Paris attacks. Giving in to a pre-existing desire to hate is not the work of God.
Something about splinters and beams seems pertinent, but it is not my place to sermonize; rather, it is mine to look for my own beam(s).