Monday, June 01, 2009

The Burning Sun - The Shooting of Dr. Tiller & the Army Recruiter

What ground there was for this distinguished consideration
shall duly appear in the natural course of this lecture. I wish however to say just here that there was no foundation whatever for the charge that I in any wise urged or instigated John Brown to his dangerous work. I rejoice that it is my good fortune to have seen, not only the end of slavery, but to see the day when the whole truth can be told about this matter without prejudice to either the living or the dead. I shall however allow myself little prominence in these disclosures. Your interests, like mine, are in the all-commanding figure of the story, and to him I con-secrate the hour. His zeal in the cause of my race was far
greater than mine — it was as the burning sun to my taper light — mine was bounded by time, his stretched away to the boundless shores of eternity. I could live for the slave, but he could die
for him. The crown of martyrdom is high, far beyond the reach of ordinary mortals, and yet happily no special greatness or superior moral excellence is necessary to discern and in some measure appreciate a truly great soul. Cold, calculating and unspiritual as most of us are, we are not wholly insensible to real greatness; and when we are brought in contact with a man of commanding mold, towering high and alone above the millions, free from all conventional fetters, true to his own moral convictions, a " law unto himself," ready to suffer misconstriuction [sic], ignoring torture and death for what he believes to be right, we are compelled to do him homage.
Source: Full text of "John Brown. An address by Frederick Douglass, at the fourteenth anniversary of Storer College, Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, May 30, 1881" via the Internet Archive
So spoke Frederick Douglass on the Fourteenth Anniversary of John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry Virginia. Recall John Brown was tried, convicted, and hung for treason.

John Brown attempted to solicit aid from Frederick Douglass for the Harper's Ferry venture. Frederick Douglass attempted to dissuade John Brown from the venture.

In both cases, I am quite sure the assailants fancied themselves as God's tool to destroy wickedness or at least rebuke it. However, how are proper Christians supposed to view this? Thinking about this leads to all sorts of contradictions not only in the viewing of current day events but in historical as well.

John Brown is advised by Frederick Douglass not to launch his raid, not on account of the violence entailed, but because of the likelihood of the plan's failure & Brown's death or capture. In the end, Frederick Douglass comes to hail John Brown as a martyr to the abolition cause. An even more interesting irony is the man who prosecuted John Brown is on stage sitting behind Frederick Douglass when he gave the above speech. Does the fact that Frederick Douglass praised John Brown and also agitated for violent action (though a more subtle form of it) make him and the cause bad? I hardly think anyone today will dispute the justice of the cause for which Brown hung.

If Dr. Tiller's murderer is subject to the death penalty then I hope it is applied. The pro-life movement and its supporters need to remember the story of Icarus, get too close to the burning sun and your wings melt.