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Paul Hill: Martyr or Murderer?

At 6:00 pm, September 3rd, 2003 the state of Florida executed Paul Hill, Christian minister turned murderer of abortion doctors. Paul Hill is not a martyr, but rather a murderer in the tradition of Barabbas. 

War in the HeavensSo called “believers” today, like Paul Hill, who mistakenly seek to execute God’s judgments, and sadly join the ranks of Barabbas, not Jesus.  Since his 1995 conviction of killing an abortion doctor, extreme anti-abortion factions such as “The Army of God” have sought to turn Paul Hill into a modern-day martyr. While others, such as Gary North, have sought to distance their “Christian Reconstruction” views from Hill’s actions.

Two years ago I wrote a feature entitled, “Unmasking Religious Terrorism.” It shared why religion needed to resist violence, in the face of Timothy McVeigh’s Oklahoma City bombing and Paul Hill’s abortion clinic murder. Up to the end, Hill was unrepentant, claiming Old Testament sanctions gave him the divine right to kill the abortionist. Hill believes he was a modern-day prophet. I disagree. Hill was not acting as a legal covenantal agent.

Despite his piety and professions, Paul Hill was a sleazy terrorist, as much as Eric Rudolph, the accused Olympic bomber, or Osama Bin Laden, the twin-towers butcher. When he died, Paul Hill was not “received” into heaven.

Jesus told Peter to put away the sword. When faced with systemic violence–fostered by years of state oppression and counter-rebellion, Jesus did not kill. Jesus allowed that cycle of violence to fall upon himself. He saw his death as a vicarious one for his nation. This is the heart of the gospel.

The Cross was the final battle, the end of redemptive violence, the end of levitical sacrifice and the end of judicial atonement. We need to resist evil today as Jesus did, not as zealots, but through non-violent means. For more on how the kingdom of God ought to counter the “dominator” system in today’s world, see Walter Wink’s book, When the Powers Fall.

On the Army of God website, they have posted a ballad written by Paul Hill, in part which reads,

I dreamed I saw Paul Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, “But Paul, you’re ten years dead,”
“I never died,” says he
“I never died,” says he.
“Paul Hill ain’t dead,” he says to me,
“Paul Hill ain’t never died.
Where unborn children face the knife
Paul Hill is at their side,
Paul Hill is at their side.”

Even in this, Paul Hill showed he was a phony. Rather than a folk poet, Hill is a rip off artist. Tampa Tribune readers claim his “poem” is a 95% adaptation of a 1936 song written by Earl Robinson and Alfred Hayes titled “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night.” Unlike Paul Hill, Joe Hill died by a mob violence, before receiving a fair trial. No, Paul Hill will not live on. He died on September 3, 2003, never to murder again.

Paul Hill’s misguided millennialism set back the pro-life movement twenty years in America. Because of his “zeal,” millions more unborn will suffer. And Paul Hill will not be by their side.

So when a “true believer” asks what you think of Paul Hill, tell them that you are on the Lord’s side, and that you will not betray Jesus, nor cry out with the Zealots to release Barabbas.

In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Jay Gary is president of, a foresight consulting group. Over the past twenty years he has helped non-profits, foundations, civic leaders, and strategic alliances to create more promise filled futures. He also teaches strategic foresight, innovation and leadership at the graduate level and through professional development courses.

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