What price conscience? Abigail Disney’s directorial debut, THE ARMOR OF LIGHT, follows the journey of an Evangelical minister trying to find the courage to preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America. The film tracks Reverend Rob Schenck, anti-abortion activist and fixture on the political far right, who breaks with orthodoxy by questioning whether being pro-gun is consistent with being pro-life. Reverend Schenck is shocked and perplexed by the reactions of his long-time friends and colleagues who warn him away from this complex, politically explosive issue.
Now the sad decline is further documented in Schenck's opinion piece in Time Magazine:
As a long-time pro-life advocate and critic of Planned Parenthood, the recent shooting in Colorado Springs affected me in a complicated way. Like so many, I was horrified by the violence and my prayers went out to all the victims, their loved ones and their community. But it’s another aspect to this tragedy, tied to my own past, which leaves me haunted by its implications.
Throughout the 1990s, I served as an organizer and spokesman for the Western New York State affiliate of Operation Rescue, which staged demonstrations and sit-ins at abortion facilities around the country. Our local group was one of the most active and effective expressions of that movement.
A major focal point of our efforts was Buffalo GYN Womenservices, Inc., where Dr. Barnett Slepian worked as a physician. I led numerous large-scale blockades of the clinic, on several occasions personally confronting Dr. Slepian. I denounced him to his face for “the killing of unborn children,” and accused him of “murder.”
In 1998, Dr. Slepian was shot through a kitchen window at his home and died in front of his children. James Kopp, whom I did not know, but was apparently a sometimes hanger-on in the movement, was later arrested after fleeing to France, extradited to the U.S., and convicted of second-degree murder. He is currently serving a 25-year to life sentence.
Lynn Slepian, the doctor’s widow, collected my bouquet, smashed it, and sent it back to me with an angry note, blaming me in part for the violence against her family. She cited the inflammatory language my cohorts and I routinely used about her husband, which she saw as an inducement for Kopp and others like him. Initially, I defended my words. Still, the idea that what I said during those confrontations contributed to her agony was extremely painful. It took a decade for me to realize the damage I had done.
It is time for pro-life activists to examine the unintended consequences of our often over-heated rhetoric. The Bible warns against using language as a weapon, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) The past 15 years have demonstrated that there are plenty of James Kopps out there, and contemptuous words feed their murderous fantasies.
Being pro-life means pro-actively protecting and promoting the sanctity and dignity of every human life. Doing so includes the speech we employ and the way in which we deliver it. If there is any way to reduce the possibility of further risk to human life, pro-lifers like me should be the first to embrace it.