Christian Responses to Akin? by Kathryn House
With gratitude for Michele’s astute and moving blog on Thursday, I have also wrestled with Rep. Akin’s statements last week. Michele’s passionate post is one of several that have helped me to understand how these comments provide a window into a more disturbing and dangerous framework for evaluating women’s experiences, intelligence, and well being. In addition to the incredible piece from Eve Ensler that Michele referenced, I will not soon forget Shauna Prewitt’s brutal honesty and courage in recounting her experience of rape, the child she chose to have, and of her activism now as an attorney. Nor will I forget the considerations of race and class raised by the Women of Color Activists. The recent outcry and counter-protest from Christians horrified by revelations about Chick-fil-A’s investments gave me hope for a plethora of theologically framed responses.
After all, Akin’s Christian faith is foundational to his political platform. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Covenant Theological Seminary, and as stated in his website bio about his time in seminary:
Although most of his classmates went on to become pastors or missionaries, Todd took a different path. For several years he studied the founding of America and the principles which made this country great. His love of country and conviction that leaders must stand on principle led him to run for State Representative in 1988.
His stance on abortion and the context in which these comments were made is theologically grounded as well:
Our founders understood that life is a fundamental right granted to us by our Creator and that the government’s role is to protect this right. A government that doesn’t protect innocent life fails at one of its most basic roles. I believe that life begins at conception and I’m appalled that we do not protect the innocent lives of our unborn children.
Akin’s commitments have won him numerous endorsements from local faith community leaders, at least some of whom cite his apology and have pledged their continuing support. Gov. Mike Huckabee, fresh off backing Chick-fil-A, is also standing with Akin. I was not surprised by this continued outpouring of support, but I have wondered about a lack of dissent. When a politician claims a worldview that is theologically framed, those who passionately hold to an alternative theological framework are often instantly engaged and active. Where are the virtual facepalms, open letters, memes, ironic but heartfelt Tumblrs, and You Tube counter-protests from Christians who found Akin’s views unfathomable? Where was the outcry from an endorsing local pastor for him to explain why rape, in his opinion, is a concept that still needs an authorizing adjective? Why is there anything less than horror that someone would second-guess the wrenching experience of rape?
This radio silence reaffirms my worst fears that Christians, even Christians for whom commitments to social, economic, and environmental justice are central to their faith, will not broach the subject of misogyny. There is a price to be paid when moving beyond issues of “culture war” – which in my estimation is a code word for moving beyond considerations of gender and sexuality – replaces a desire to really reflect on the experiences of human beings or a desire to struggle with biblical interpretations and church teachings around gender and sexuality. The price is paid by those who are considered to be outside of “proper” Christian holiness and whose insistence on being part of church is judged to be a hindrance to unity within the church. Christians’ refusal to talk about sexuality and gender is harmful and hypocritical.
I do not think it has to be so. My hope is that Christians who were compelled to rethink their decision to eat more chicken will be open to considering the implications of Akin’s comments as well. I believe that this recent practice of unpacking and reading between the lines of “family values” might be an invitation to dig deeper into Akin’s comments too, to faithfully consider the harsh truths shared by Eve Ensler and Shauna Prewitt. I challenge other Christians to consider the implications of Akin’s comments, and even of his apology. What do his comments invite you to believe about women’s bodies? About God? If you find that you cannot go where Akin would have us go – what say you?
That radio silence? Shut it down.
Kathryn House is a North Carolina native who has made her home in Jamaica Plain, MA since 2005. She is currently a doctoral student in Practical Theology at Boston University School of Theology. Her academic interests include the constructions of gender and sexuality in evangelical Christian traditions and ecclesiologies. She is in the process of ordination in the American Baptist Churches, USA and a member of The First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, MA. She is also the co-founder of Bridesmaid Trade, an online bridesmaid dress consignment business. Kathryn can be found online at @kharthouse.