Friday, June 5, 2009

The Murder of Dr. Tiller, Starhawk and morality

The Witherspoon Society has posted several articles on their site, some faulting all Pro-life groups for the murder of Dr. George Tiller, the abortionist who specialized in late term abortions. Via Elizabeth Sarfaty they have posted some of a short essay by the Wiccan teacher and theologian, Starhawk. Her column is in the Washington Post under "On Faith." The Article is entitled “Tiller’s Murder an Act of Terror Against Women.”Picture by Viola Larson

Starhawk writes:

The murder of Dr. Tiller was an act of terror. Although its immediate victim was a man, it was aimed at women's hearts and minds, designed to shatter our oneness and assert control. And it is part of a larger campaign of terror--if we must throw that word around then let us use it where it truly applies. When the murderer squeezes the trigger, when Bill O'Reilly thunders on Fox News or Randall Terry pontificates, they are sending the same message to women, "Your bodies, your fertility, your sexuality must remain under our control, or you will die, along with anyone who helps you."

I found that some of the other ideas that Starhawk wrote about were more interesting and I want to write about them in light of her views on abortion and her references at the end of the essay to her book The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over.

Starhawk begins her essay with the work she and others were in the midst of when they heard the news about the murder. She states that she and some other wiccans were constructing a goddess bench. She writes of the work and the song they sing as they work, “My body is the body of the Goddess.”
Starhawk refers to the ground they scrape as “the greater body of the Goddess. She also writes, “Our minds, our hands, our creative bodies and the body of the earth are one.”

Later explaining her and other Wiccan’s beliefs she writes:

“Witches, Pagans, Goddess worshipers have no dogma, no central body that tells us what to believe or what decisions to make. But if there is one belief we all hold in common, it is this: that we are each our own moral and spiritual authority. From women’s power to conceive, profound and sometimes painful choices arise, and we must be free to make those choice [sic] for ourselves. To deny that right is to deny our most basic human agency.”

Additional information on what Wiccans believe about abortion can be found in Starhawk’s book.

She explains that each woman has her own sense of when life quickens in the womb, some sensing it even before conception, others long after conception. Moreover, some of the rituals found in this book infer that abortion happens to real persons. Other chants or prayers assume that the unborn are simply possibilities. In the first case one prayer is to the child, “How sorry I am/ to close my womb to you/ but now is not the time.”

The latter, the possibility prayer is directed to the goddess. The Chant in part is:

"You are the Goddess of
All possibilities.
Here is one that cannot come to be.
This is a holy act I perform:
to send back to you
this spark, this might have been.
I act as the gardener
that thins the seedlings;
I act as the wolf that culls the herd.
I act with sorrow."

In a longer ritual which includes a trance, the women are directed to the Place of the Mothers where they will speak with their grandmothers, mothers, all mothers of the past and possibly their aborted children. So for many Wiccans the aborted are more than tissue. They are people.

I have several thoughts on all of this coming from my Christian perspective.

First, Starhawk’s complaints about the death of Tiller has, within her belief system, no logical foundation. When she writes that each person is a moral authority unto themselves, then anyone’s decision must be morally right. So anything done both by Tiller or any late term abortionist who kills unborn children, who are actually viable, and the murderer of Tiller are on a level playing ground. In that kind of a moral philosophy there is no difference between Mother Teresa and a serial killer.

Second, the goddess of Wicca, which according to Starhawk is all of creation, offers no moral authority. And in fact if one looks at the prayer to the goddess one sees a picture of a broken creation. The child has been conceived, (or a possibility) by a mistaken deity. According to the prayer, it isn’t time to give birth but nature or the goddess plants the seed anyway.

Third, the women who conceive, or not, are the ones with power and their acts are thought to be holy whether they are acts of giving life or acts of killing life.

Finally, the very sad part here is that while the Wiccans are trying to find morality, even sacredness in abortion, they nonetheless have slipped over into a contradictory world of immorality. Yes, they have become like “the wolf that culls the herd.”

Many believe that the child is real and can be communicated with by one of the very persons who has caused the innocent child both pain and death and yet there is no redemption in their faith. That is, there is no mediator to redeem and reconcile the two people, mother and child.

There is a deeper story here in the very words of Starhawk, plus the words of Sarfaty, and the words of the Witherspoon Society that placed these names on their site. The deep story is not that all pro-life people are murderers. (Shall we insist that Mother Teresa and Dietrich Bonheoffer are also responsible for the murder of Tiller?)

If morality is based on human authority any act can be called holy. If abortion is a moral and holy act made by humans then any death caused by another can become holy.

The true story is that many are missing that grounding in truth that up-holds life and reconciles the wounded with the wounded. They, instead, are laying the ground for another round of some unholy darkness.


reformedpastor said...

This is of a piece with what I perceive to be the founding principle of Wicca, which is the provision of "spirituality" without ethics. It is emotionally based, and aimed primarily at allowing people to indulge their every whim without any guilt for anything. After all, if I'm my own moral authority, why should I ever feel or think that I'm wrong about anything?

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Viola Larson said...

The problem here, I think, is that there is some morality among Wiccans, (not on abortion) but on other issues but there is simply no foundation. It is in the end based on nature and nature can get very ugly and so goes morality.

And there is no means of redemption at all.

Anonymous said...


Are you kidding?

Have you so soon forgotten how Christians across America were wholeheartedly in favor of the invasion of Iraq? Killing people, some on purpose and others by mistake because we thought WE would be better off with them dead?

I wonder how often a Christian soldier offers a prayer and weeps for his enemy as he is about to kill him in combat. Or after, for that matter. Or even for the innocent bystanders who get in the way.

We fully accept that they are people, with feelings, love, dreams and aspirations for the future, children, parents, family... Yet we choose to kill them in their homes. To take away everything they have and everything they were ever going to have. To make us feel safer in ours.

This is one moral leg we Christians have sadly given up. We don't have it to stand on. Let the Wiccans give it a shot. Don't be contemptuous of their perspective.

Who knows, maybe they really can find a moral way where we have lost our own.


Viola Larson said...

I am not sure what any of that has to do with what I wrote? What do you think of a morality based on each person's own "moral and spiritual authority"?

Viola Larson
Sacramento, Ca

Anonymous said...

"What do you think of a morality based on each person's own "moral and spiritual authority"?"

What do "I" think?

"I" think that someone who admits up front that their own morality is based on their own "moral and spiritual authority" shows a great deal of self understanding in making such an admission. Even self love.

It is my experience that such people are quite open to "loving their neighbor as they love themselves". It can be a very effective and powerful source of morality.

As Jesus pointed out.

My point was that people who claim to hold an outside reference for morality do not exhibit any greater morality or superior ethics than those who claim it comes from within. An unexpected result if what you say is true, that we Christians have a better foundation.

The question of redemption is more difficult. How do you propose to redeem the Christians who wholeheartedly embraced the invasion of Iraq? If after we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and profess allegiance to the Prince of Peace forsaking all other lords and masters, we then proceed to give ourselves to such an orgy of sin and violence, where then is our own redemption to come from?

We threw it all away.

"Great God, I'd rather be a pagan,
Suckled in a creed outworn..."


Dave Moody said...

The hole in Starhawk's moral universe is a big one, Tom's attempt at changing the conversation to Iraq and millions of unnamed Christian supporters, not withstanding.

Thanks for pointing out the hole... and darkness indeed is what I suspect is lurking over the horizon. Ah well, its what the light came for... I suppose as American christians, if we're entering a time of suffering, we might be able to look our brothers and sisters in the face on that day.

grace & peace,

Viola Larson said...

Praise to the Light Dave. And yes, we just might be able to look them in the eye.

Anonymous said...


Not changing the conversation. We are still talking about the hole.

I'm just saying that given the hole in our own moral universe, I am quite sure we are in no position to point at holes in the universes of others.

But what pride is this, that even if we suffer you still want to look, now in the eyes of those who have suffered before you, and say even there you are unbeaten?

I don't think it works that way.


Viola Larson said...

You seem to have mistaken what Dave has said with something else you are thinking. Neither Dave nor I were talking about any kind of victory over anybody else except perhaps the victory that Christ has bought on the cross over sin, death and hell.

Of course we all have holes in our own moral worlds especially when we also decide to be our own moral authority, which I believe we all attempt from time to time. The difference being that we who claim to be under biblical authority never intend to make that our ethical philosophy. But sinning is what often happens when we claim the right to our own moral and spiritual authority.

After all isn't that the story of Adam and Eve, the right to have our own knowledge of the difference between good and evil rather than listening to God’s words. P.D. James wrote a mystery about that once. One of her best, Original Sin

I will not argue with you about the other things you keep side tracking with. The point of my posting is that if killing the unborn is a holy act because of human moral authority then any killing of another human can be made a holy thing.

Anonymous said...


"The point of my posting is that if killing the unborn is a holy act because of human moral authority then any killing of another human can be made a holy thing."

My point exactly! And we Christians have done just that! Not a side tract, just an example that proves our point. Claiming to be under biblical authority did nothing to stop us.

My question is "Why not?"


Viola Larson said...

This posting is not about the war in Iraq. If you want to justify Starhawk and Wicca's belief, "that we are each our own moral and spiritual authority," you will have to do it some other way.

Anonymous said...


I don't get it. You used abortion, I used war, what makes an example of immorality off limits?

I really don't understand why you seem upset and why you keep dismissing my basic observations.


Andrea said...


Why do you need to put the two topics together? Why not discuss this posting on it's own merits and facts?

Are you trying to persuade the readers that unborn children are involved in a war? Or, is your point that the war in Iraq is taking it's toll on our unborn children?

Yes, I am being overly-facetious in trying to make a point.

Join us in discussing this issue. We can discuss the war in Iraq in another posting. Why muddle the two events?

Andrea Hightower
Sacramento, CA

Anonymous said...


"Why do you need to put the two topics together? Why not discuss this posting on it's own merits and facts?"

To try to answer your question, the topic is morality and ethics and whether one can rely on internal references to determine that which is moral as the Wicca Starhawk reference claims, or whether Christian morality, because it presumably relies on external references, is in any way superior.

Viola claims that it is.

So I used the Christian support for the war in Iraq as the counter example to show that her claim is false. Christian morality is clearly not superior.

However the question I cannot resolve is why. Is it because having an external reference does nothing to improve your morals and ethics, or is it false that we Christians actually have an external reference as we claim.

The Christian embrace for the war in Iraq, specially before it began, proves that one of those two assertions is not true.

To answer your second question and your assumption that we can compartmentalize morality, that we can discuss Christian ethics with respect to one aspect of our lives and ignore another, let me just respond by saying that it is my belief that for Jesus to be Lord of my life, he must be Lord of all of my life. If he is not Lord of even one part, then he is not my Lord.

I think this applies to the whole community of Christians, what we call the Church, as well. The Church cannot say, as it has by its actions, that Jesus is Lord when it comes to abortion, but not Lord when it comes to war.

Either He is Lord, or He is not.

So that raises a final third possibility, and that is that we Christians are not really Christian.

We can only critique this version of Wicca morality from the Christian point of view if Christ really is our Lord. I believe that IS the topic of this discussion, on its own merits, nothing muddled.

(that was kinda long winded but I don't know how to shorten my answer right now)


Viola Larson said...

I am going to try and clarify some things for you and maybe that will help.

First of all I am not insisting that Christian ethics is superior to all other ethics, I am insisting instead that God’s commands in the Bible, because they are God’s, are the only true basis for any ethical stance. (It is possible that there could be an ethical system that conforms totally to Scripture without being Christian.)

I am also insisting that humanity is fallen and as the Scripture states our hearts are “deceitfully wicked” and to rely on our own “internal references,” as you put it, means that we can very easily turn to darkness.

If there are no absolutes but only human impressions about what is right and wrong then we will always be at the whim of whoever has the most influence or power.

I am not saying that Christians always follow the word of God; I am simply saying that because it is the Word of God it must be the ethical foundation for Christians.

On top of this I am also saying that we are all sinners in need of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Without the cross there is no hope for anyone because each one of us will fail and we all need a redeemer.

And finally I am insisting that to make the killing of an unborn baby a holy act can/may lead to the act of making other deaths holy which is a very dark road to travel down.

Viola Larson
Sacramento, Ca

Anonymous said...


"Without the cross there is no hope for anyone because each one of us will fail and we all need a redeemer."

But what do we do when we claim to accept the redeemer, yet refuse to follow his teachings?

"And finally I am insisting that to make the killing of an unborn baby a holy act can/may lead to the act of making other deaths holy which is a very dark road to travel down."

I agree. Except I believe we Christians have already gone down that path, even without making the killing of an unborn a holy act. We have made the killing of the born a holy act. We have accepted, no, even embraced the role of making widows and orphans of the innocent poor.

Where does that leave us now? Where does that leave our ethics?


Viola Larson said...

To make something holy is to dedicate it back to God or goddesses as the case may be. I don’t believe that any Christian except perhaps some fringe ones have used killing as a means as of dedicating a human life back to God.

You have commented seven times now; that is undoubtedly enough, I think you would probably enjoy your own blog where you could truly express yourself.

Anonymous said...


"You have commented seven times now; that is undoubtedly enough"

Fair enough.

For the record, if I just wanted to make random posts to the ether then maybe I would start my own blog.

But I was trying to have a conversation, with you, Viola, and not just post a string of comments.

Maybe next time. And hey, we didn't even mention homosexuality this time.

(Oops, just did ;-)


Viola Larson said...

Here are some hints on how not to make random posts to the ether.

First start your own blog and then start making comments on other people's blogs who you agree with. They will want to know who you are and look to see. If you are writing about important issues and in an intelligent way they will start reading your posts.

It is very satisfying writing about issues you care about and it seems you do have some you care about.