Christian Responses to Akin? by Kathryn House

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?

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.

10 thoughts on “Christian Responses to Akin? by Kathryn House”

    1. Thanks so much, Kris! I’m grateful for the chance to participate on the blog. I hope you’ll check out some of the other contributors’ blog posts – there are some amazing ones here!


  1. I think we can be pretty sure that the Founding Fathers didn’t really have sperm and eggs in mind when they were writing the foundational documents of the U.S. After all, they said “all men” are equal. It took awhile for women to become equal, but I don’t think there’s anything in the documents about a fetus. All those guys are crazy. They don’t have a clue They want to drag us back to the 1950s or before. Thanks for this blog. I hope you’ll start a conversation.


  2. The reason there isn’t the outrage within the left over Akin’s comments, is that patriarchy rules, and rape benefits men. Rape is the terrorism that keeps women in line, that prevents women full access to a city at night, for example. Rape is the tool of patriarchy, and men stand behind their right to rape, force pregnancy and control women’s spaces at all times.
    This is what it is about women.

    And no, women don’t have equality yet, and I believe the very idea of equality with men lowers the bar considerably. Equal opportunity to be in the military, where massive rape occurs? Equal opportunity to rape and pillage the earth?

    Just what are we really talking about here? Akin just tipped his hand, revealed who the puppet master was. No man will publically acknowlege what rape really represents, and that is why there is so much silence over Akin, even in a lot of leftist (read male) political circles. Rape is at the very core of patriarchy, and right wing men up the anti by doing everything in their power to make all abortions illegal with no exceptions.

    Do women really have agency over our bodies within a heterosexual marriage? How much choice do women really have to completely reject all sex with men that could result in pregnancy? Yes, hetero women, you need to seriously consider these questions. You also need to confront the reality of what rape is really all about.

    The control of female bodies starts in the home, as does all major abuse of women. The greatest dangers to women are from men they are married to, dating or living with. Akin makes it very clear that women’s bodies need to be controlled, and that forced pregnancy is the rule of the day. His views are common within right wing circles, just as rape is laughed off among leftist males. Get serious about this stuff. It’s the patriarchy ….. (Bill Clinton campaign slogan insert).


    1. Thank you for your thoughts. I agree that patriarchy has become so evident in much of this debate. It has not been my experience, however, that not all men believe they benefit from rape; I know many men who find it utterly abhorrent and who act, believe, and vote in ways that reflect their commitments. It is my hope that the freedom with which some politicians have begun to share their (in my opinion, terrifying) beliefs about rape might help us all see how deep the patriarchy goes and inspire us to respond creatively and courageously in our realms of influence (and certainly with our votes).


  3. Thank you for the information on Akin. You are very informative. I still believe that religion/Government should not be the foundation for any subject related to women and our bodies, women should vote on their needs through health-care period/ let’s fight for health care for the nation that will take care of abortion, we need to have the choice! Freedoms of choice remember; this was a God given grace.

    The Political arena should not be involved at all; can we kindly think about this for a moment. Some women have valid reasons for needing abortion, we cry over the unborn babies but no one mentions the ones that are already born and struggling to survive; dying in spirit in foster care and orphanages or in trash cans. Women killing their babies after they are born because they can’t cope, who helps them?
    They are not just sick women, they are stressed in one way or another and if we do the homework we can trace this situation to lack of health care and education about our own bodies. What about the women whom died by the thousands aborting themselves or in the chop shops at the hands of unscrupulous doctors or worse people pretending to be doctors; are we going backwards? Why did abortion become legal in the first place? I really think women have to look back and think before we give the power of our humanity to some office to govern or to even judge what quality of life we deserve.

    God gave us Freedom of choice, why it is the women have no choice! We give up our God given rights every chance we get; because women do not become responsible for being women! We believe the crap we are fed by the supper righteous or the hypocrites in religious power; when do we really begin to fight for our rights?

    Call me naive, this really hurts; ladies we are not children and it’s our little girls whom will suffer, just as we did in the past!….. Do not let history repeat itself! Thank you Kathryn. I respect and understand your point. I hope you can give mine some thought God Bless you….. Rafi**


    1. Thank you for your comments, Rafi. I agree wholeheartedly that the conversation should much more broadly encompass women’s well-being, and appreciate your perspective.


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