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    « Isaac Storms Convention, No One Blames An Angry God! | Main | Why Paul Ryan Frightens Me »

    My Akin Heart


    The response to a deeply religious Christian man--however flawed--has been anything but Christian....

    Just a few days ago Missouri Congressman (and GOP Senate candidate) Todd Akin roiled our collective emotional centers with his misguided medical information and his abhorrent choice of words. 

    By now everyone is likely aware of what he said. Speaking on a Sunday morning talk show in St. Louis, Akin responded to a question about abortion in the case of rape, an exception with which he strongly disagrees. In defending his position, he sloppily said that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” It was a blunder of epic proportion, especially when considering that the question couldn’t have been a surprise to the Congressman.

    The responses, immediate and pointed, blanketed both social and traditional media and by late afternoon of that same day Akin had issued an apology, suggesting that he had simply used the wrong words. “In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks,” he wrote, “it's clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.”

    Here, of course, is not where the story ends, but where it begins.

    Reactions were strong and swift; anyone looking for news on other topics likely found themselves at a loss as broadcast after broadcast and post after post offered facts, quotes and assorted punditry on the subject. For once—a rarity in today’s polarizing political climate—everyone seemed to agree: Akin should have dropped out of the race. His comments, it was agreed, made him unsuitable for the role of candidate for the United States Senate.

    On the right, everyone from presumed candidate Mitt Romney to coarse pundit Ann Coulter has strongly suggested that Akin drop out. Romney said that Akin’s comments were “offensive and wrong” and wants the Congressman to “very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country.” Coulter, making the topic personal, wrote that she “won’t hate Todd Akin officially unless he refuses to withdraw from the Missouri Senate race.” Calls for Akin to step aside multiplied, and now include Sean Hannity, Charles Krauthammer and the editorial board of The National Review, among others. (Despite these calls, as we now know, Akin has not dropped out, putting his faith in the people of Missouri.)

    On the Democratic side the responses were predictable; politicians and broadcasters rushed to paint the entire GOP with Akin-colored brushstrokes. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, immediately used the incident as a fundraising opportunity, sending out an email in which she wrote that she was “outraged at the Republicans trying to take women back to the Dark Ages." Ed Schultz, on his August 20th broadcast, called the comments “outrageous,” and then rushed to make connections between Akin’s statement, GOP ideology, and the sporadic and inconsistent positions of Mitt Romney on the topic of abortion.

    All of these responses are self-serving and politically motivated. The Republican responses rapidly coalesced around the ways in which Akin’s continued candidacy might hurt the party’s opportunities, both in its march to hopefully reclaim the Senate (by winning the Missouri seat from Claire McCaskill and thereby adding a plus-one to the count) and the presidency (by putting Missouri more solidly back into play for Obama).  The Democrats, meanwhile, responded with harshness and fervor, using Akin’s words as an opportunity to revitalize the War on Women rhetoric that claims the GOP is looking to reverse decades of gains made by women.

    But few, it seems, have taken a deeper look into either Akin’s heart or their own, recognizing that, despite the words he chose, Akin speaks from a deeply religious conviction, a deeply Christian conviction.  And by ignoring that reality, we also ignore the possibility of our own Christian responses, our own call to forgiveness.

    Neither side has taken a moment to heed James when he says, that “man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires,” nor Paul, who writes in 1 Corinthians 13:1 that “if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

    And no one has remembered the words of Jesus, who said in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

    All of this is not to absolve Congressman Akin, nor to suggest that forgiveness means that we should accept (or, worse, forget) his words and beliefs, but this lack of Christian sympathy on issues most Christian has become a frightening hallmark of politics. Whether the subject is school prayer, the appearance of the Ten Commandments in a courtroom, or the renaming of a traditional Christmas tree as a “holiday” tree, we continually create a sharp, unforgiving divide. We judge and are judged. We are angry and unrighteous. We are resounding gongs and clanging symbols.

    I am reminded of a 2007 essay by Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of World, who offers this simple advice: “Be New Testament, not Old Testament.” He writes that the Old Testament model is one of subtraction and isolation around rules, laws and norms (a “zero-tolerance policy”), while the New Testament model is one of addition. “American Conservatism,” he writes, “can have a bright future, with God’s grace, if we are strong and courageous in developing positive alternatives…”

    Congressman Akin’s comments provide us the opportunity to have serious discussions, potentially additive discussions, on a topic that has for decades divided our country in mind and soul.  But instead we once again choose self-serving opinions, blasting and excoriating the other side, looking to subtract one set of beliefs or another, Old Testament style.

    Why do we not wish to be better?


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    Reader Comments (33)

    I'm quite troubled by this throat-baring pablum. It's not Akin's person to which people take exception, it's his ideas. Further, to suggest that "considerable debate exists" or that "both sides" are trying to use this for political gain is to engage in a false equivalence that belies the true departure from serious policy discussion that Akin's ideology represents. The GOP has gone off the deep end, and its opponents should not play nice and hold the other end of the rope, to be dragged down with it.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Hudak

    Akin speaks from *false* religious conviction. He thinks he's a Christian, but his attitudes (and attitudes of many in his party that use Christianity for political reasons) fail to be Christianity.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdcl

    Akin's comments are obviously inspired by the Old Testament.

    If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days. -- Deuteronomy 22:28-29

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShaneD

    You seem to be suggesting that it's a Christian conviction to ignore science and facts. Facts are, people can, and do, get pregnant as a result of rape, which Akin said, when speaking from his "Christian convictions" is virtually impossible. It's also not part of Christian convictions to inject your religion into our secular govt. If you want to win people over, STOP playing the "Bible" card in legislation. You oppose abortion - easy - you do everything you can to PREVENT unwanted pregnancy, not make abortion illegal. Making it illegal doesn't stop it. Only prevention of unwanted pregnancy will stop abortion, and that is where you fail, with "Christian" opposition to birth control and sex ed. Enough of the hypocrisy and the erosion of our First Amendment. If you want people to think you're a Christian, act like Christ. Not like people like Bush, Akin, Ryan, etc.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMe

    I don't object to Rep. Akin having his own opinion, even though he's scientifically wrong. Jesus' admonition to us to not judge is, IMO, a judgment of salvation or faith, not of actions. We, as a society, judge actions all the time: the mugger or exploiter of the elderly, the neglect or abuse of a child, even, in my community, the choice of religious groups to not seek health care for their ill children which has resulted in the deaths of many. We make judgments every single day of our lives. Even St. Paul told the disciples to "shake the dust from their sandals" when a community wouldn't listen to the message of salvation; what else is that but a judgment?

    Rep. Akin has as much right to his "deeply held" religious beliefs as I do to mine. But when a man who makes laws for the rest of us uses his beliefs to enact laws that concern me, uses bad science to do it, and attempts to subvert MY deeply held beliefs in favor of his, then I do object and I do make a judgment.

    It is as wrong for Rep. Akin to force a woman to bear the child of her rapist as it would be for me to tell Rep. Akin that he couldn't have cancer surgery because some good might come of his suffering. In this country, we have freedom of religion and having the status of an elected official does not grant the right to override that freedom.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterboomergran

    you are so off in the weeds on this. the man represents that which has overtaken the GOP - he is the face GOP now - especially since he and Mr. Ryan \, the man of the hour, collaborated on and co-sponsered a bill for consideration last year that called for the ban on all abortions including in the cases of rape and incest. Do you think for one minute those two never spoke of this 'scientific' belief of Mr. Aiken's in the case of rape? Don't be naive....the GOP has been hollowed out from the inside by the misguided likes of people such as this. As such, the moderate, sane GOP'ers who stand on the sidelines quietly wringing their hands in distress over things such as this have had this yoke put upon them by their thirst to destroy obama by any means necessary, and they need to own it. The outcry over this from the left (and even more so from center) is the process of forcing them to own it. How many more of these outbursts of inanity are we going to suffer before the 'adults' in the GOP get the picture and stand up to these infidels of the tea party that are in the process of destroying their GOP?

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterexley

    You seem to decry that the GOP was painted with the same broad brush as Akin. My guess is that you aren't aware of the plank in the GOP platform that calls for a constitutional amendment banning all abortions, WITHOUT EXCEPTION. Read those last two words again-WITHOUT EXCEPTION. No one is erroneously targeting the GOP with a single member's misstatement-Akin, as a Republican did NOT misspeak-he just prematurely spilled the beans about the "No Abortions, No Exceptions" plank.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCranky_Yankee

    Bottom line: The man is unfit to be a representitive of the people on any level. There is no defense of his remarks or his ideas, period...end of story.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterp.k. rossi

    Religious ideology has NO place in politics....he can go to divinity school and be a preacher if it's what he wishes. He has no place in government. The US is NOT a christian nation so why should the response have anything to do with Christianity? Keep your religion to yourself dude!

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterriverratbean

    How can you be a Christian when you only care about life inside the womb. As we've seen from most of the GOP, once the child is born, they no longer care if he goes hungry, has no where to live, is healthy, or dies. Even though most claim to be devoted to Christ in order to win votes, their actions, views, and legislation prove they're anything but. If Christ were alive today, people like Akin would be among the first in line to crucify him all over again.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMe

    The choice of ONE word is so important. I think he meant to say "actual rape" instead of "legitimate rape". I feel he was trying to make a difference between using abortion in rape cases and using abortion as birth control. Everyone has jumped upon the word legitimate instead of hearing him out. He has apologized for being scientifically wrong. This is taking the focus off the real issues in this election, which is by design, I think.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Clarke

    I am not impressed with the author's wish to seem fair and balanced. I don't agree that the responses by Democrats were just 'politically motivated'. Some of us are physically and literally sickened by the comments of Akin and those like him. Imagine for a moment someone wanted to force you to give up your kidney, simply because someone is going to die without it. Sacrificing your health, a few months of your life, and undergoing dangerous surgery can only be avoided by never having sex. Now, you are raped. Too bad, you broke the rules. You now have to do it anyway.
    That is how I feel about being forced to carry a fetus to term against my will. I can not offer the words of terror and horror at being FORCED to spend 9 months sick, listless, often in pain, not sleeping, and uncomfortable at best, unable to work and do my job - only to be forced at the end through one of the most horrendous, painful, and traumatizing experiences I've ever experienced personally.
    On top of this, at the end, you have brought a life into the world which you are now responsible for. Sure you can give up that responsibility, but any woman who has gone through childbirth can tell you it is close to impossible to fight the hormones that demand you love and care for that child. Never mind what you are truly able to do, finically, physically or emotionally. Never mind what resources you may or may not have.
    I understand that some people think of a fetus as the same as a human. What I object to, and will fight fiercely against for the rest of my life, is the idea that another life is worth MORE than mine, simply because I am female. Because that is what people are saying - my life is worth less than a fetus. I reject that.
    And in case you were wondering, I have multiple children whom I love and adore. My choice to carry them and birth them was a choice. We can not take care of the children already on this Earth; why are we fighting to force women to carry children we can't take care of? Feed, Love and Educate the children of the world, "Christians", and I will talk to you about abortion. Until then - I can't forgive your cruelty and disregard of me and women in general, and the children you force on an already taxed and floundering world.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline E

    Nancy, there's no difference between actual rape and legitimate rape. Rape is rape, and for a woman to defend him is simply outrageous. And no one uses abortion as birth control. The real issues of this election are that instead of focusing on jobs, or the economy, the GOP has once again put their focus on crushing the rights of women. There is no way any proud, intelligent woman could vote for someone like that.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMe

    Sorry, not buying your argument. I'd buy it IF the Republicans won't come out with a new Constitutional amendment protecting life at conception - I'd buy it IF "Legitimate" rape wasn't so wrong; I'd buy it IF the science behind his outrageous statement was accurate; I'd buy it IF he was acting alone and NOT as a representative of his state and his country. Since none of these things are happening, then I will fight and JUDGE him up and down the Internet, with friends and with bumper stickers. His kind of thinking is dangerous and need not be in our country's legislature. Your article gave me fuel for thought, but it didn't work in your favor, but rather galvanizes me to fight this even harder than before. No, Akin should NOT step down, he should stay in the spotlight so the American people can truly see what the Republican party stands for today - BAD science, women's body being controlled by government (I thought they stood for smaller government), and in the pocket of large corporations that want control over the EPA. I leave my posts on Facebook and therefore am willing to be judged by the content in them - just as he did when he opened his mouth as a representative of the state of Missouri! The Republican party is a sham (Democrats aren't much better, I'm afraid) and like cockroaches, they are now scurrying from the light being shone on them.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNell Wade

    No, he did not apologize for being scientifically wrong. He said he "misspoke." I can't judge his sincerity or his heartfelt beliefs or his relationship with God, but I can say, without being judgmental, that this position on rape renders him unqualified to hold office in which he makes decisions that affect people's lives.

    He subscribes to a line of thinking that is not only scientifically absurd, but leads directly to political policy that is destructive to other human beings and ruinous to their bodies and lives. He's free to hold that line of thinking, but he should not hold office at the same time. The fact that he's on the House science committee while espousing this false information is appalling.

    There's a saying: Don't judge the tree, but do inspect the fruit. If the fruit is good, gather a basketful. If it's bad, leave it alone. In this case, the fruit is bad and it's not leaving us alone.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerri

    As a member of the American Jewish community (and a rabbi), I fail to see how "Be New Testament, not Old Testament" is a helpful comment in this context. The Hebrew Bible (not Old Testament to me) has many examples of compassion and forgiveness, not just what many people see as rules and wrath and zero-tolerance. In trying to be balanced, this article has perpetuated a long-standing unfair and inaccurate impression of biblical text that I revere and study. Serious discussions among people from a wide range of faith perspectives would bring us much further than Olasky's comment and advice.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLawrence Karol

    I join with other critics of this article. Akin's belief has no factual basis. Ignorance, excused as being well meaning, is NOT equivalent to conclusions that touch on empirical data. To me, he and his ilk, who apparently either never took civics and social science courses or failed them, are our equivalent of the Taliban. Very bad for modern times.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDan Klenke

    Rule 1. No-one has the right to interfere with another's right to choose what they do with their body, no-one, not even you.
    Rule 2. Unless you have a vagina, you should not be making rules for women, any women.
    Rule 3. If a man puts anything in a vagina when it was not invited, there should be dire and perhaps lethal consequences for the man and absolutely no question that the woman should be allowed to do as she thinks right for her, notwithstanding anyone else's religious beliefs. It is not your body, get over it.
    In the event of any argument, Rule 1 applies.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

    I'm going to have to disagree with you. Rep. Akin sits on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. As a representative on that committee, he has the responsibility to understand science and it's implications in today's world to best serve his constituents and the United States of America. Clearly, he did not do so last weekend.

    The whole episode shows how he justified his position on abortion and his position on rape. He uses his misunderstanding of biology to back up his position on abortion and then further goes on to basically say that 'if the woman was pure, she won't get pregnant' and therefore, any woman who gets pregnant isn't worthy of abortion in the first place. In effect, "She's a sinner! She must be punished!" (apparently, the original sexual assault wasn't enough). That seems more than a little judgmental to me. Kind of like, if she floats, she's a witch. There are not many women who sink.

    We are asked by our society to judge him and, indeed, everyone who runs for election in this country every time we vote. While he, as a man, should and can be forgiven, his stance on those rights must be judged, if not openly, then in the ballot box in November. If he has such little understanding of biology, we would be all better served if he admitted it and recused himself from sponsoring bills such as the 'No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion' bill. In my judgement, if his science is informed by the Old Testament and not by rigorous exploration of provable hypotheses, he is not doing the job for which he is responsible. He should be fired.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave Schlier

    It's important that we keep talking about these things, all of us. I can forgive a person for his or her imperfections, but it doesn't seem he's learned anything from it. I thought he would do the honorable thing and stand down, but nope: indeed, his policies are front and center for the Republican Party. So, he needs to be pilloried. The man is on the House Science Committee. He should absolutely be removed from that committee. Sorry, but it is now the year 2012 and it is time to wake up. The Republicans have made ignorance a credo.

    August 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdcrow27

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