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August 21, 2012 11:39 AM A Self-Styled Christian Soldier

By Ed Kilgore

When Todd Akin won his Senate primary in Missouri earlier this month, I noted with great personal interest that he held a divinity degree from Covenant Theological Seminary, home of the Francis Schaeffer Institute (named for the highly influential controversialist who had a lot to do with convincing conservative evangelicals to make abortion a top-priority issue) and a training center for the old-school Calvinist Presbyterian Church in America.

Religion Dispatch’s Sarah Posner has an extensive article up on Akin’s religious background, and particularly the views of his denomination on abortion. Here’s some key sections:

Akin is proud of how his religion, and in particular, the Presbyterian Church in America, the deeply conservative Calvinist denomination founded in 1973, influences his political views. Akin has a Masters in Divinity from the denomination’s flagship Covenant Theological Seminary. His campaign website notes, “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.” On abortion, the PCA is absolutist: opposing abortion in all cases, with no exceptions….
A 2001 PCA report on the prospect of women serving in combat positions in the military, titled “Man’s Duty to Protect Woman,” states, “woman is the weaker sex and part of her weakness is the vulnerability attendant to her greatest privilege—that God has made her the ‘Mother of all the living.’ Men are to guard and protect her as she carries in her womb, gives birth to, and nurses her children.”
Yes, that was written in 2001, not 1001.
[T]he PCA view is that its own view of the Bible should dictate laws on abortion (and other matters). On abortion, the PCA rejects what it calls “situation ethics” for exceptions to prohibitions on abortion, including “population control, economic hardships, unwanted children, psychological or physical health of the mother, rape or incest, deformed children, and protection for the mother’s life.” As early as 1978, the PCA was discussing the “personhood” of a fertilized egg, arguing, “conception, then, is not a mere human happening. Apart from the sovereign intervention of God, conception (which Scripture designates a divine blessing) does not take place.” It has concluded that “God in His Word speaks of the unborn child as a person and treats him as such, and so must we. The Bible teaches the sanctity of life, and so must we.”

And yes, the PCA has promoted the very idea that has gotten Akin into such hot water:

On rape exceptions, the PCA report cites a report on abortion by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which addresses rape exceptions by arguing that “Actually there are extremely few cases of this kind: less than one in 5,000 abortions is performed on such grounds, and that figure includes pregnancies arising from statutory rape as well as, we assume, some cases where rape has been falsely alleged.” (emphasis mine). Actually there are more like 30,000 pregnancies by rape a year, but the OPC report goes on, inexplicably, and without documentation: “In Washington, no documented rape cases resulted in pregnancy over a 20-year period.”

There’s a reason Todd Akin has only apologized for using the term “legitimate rapes,” and not for the underlying contempt for women his general attitude reflects: the man is doing what he believes God has ordered him to do:

This is not a situation where Akin sat in the pews of the church of a controversial pastor, or once attended a conference or seminar where controversial views were discussed. Akin has a Masters in Divinity from the PCA’s seminary, and proudly claims he took a political rather than a pastoral path after seminary. His denomination has not only opposed abortion in all cases, including rape, but has suggested that the number of pregnancies by rape is overstated, and even questioned the veracity of rape claims. And Akin, who in a few months could be a United States Senator, wants his religion to dictate our laws.

And that hasn’t changed at all.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on August 21, 2012 12:01 PM:

    If women were the "weaker sex", why didn't GOD give the wombs to the menfolk? I know men are happy to offer to carry my groceries, but I haven't had too many offer to carry a baby to term for me...

  • Diane Rodriguez on August 21, 2012 12:07 PM:

    Atkins is reprehensible on so many levels. I'm pretty sure that my reaction mirrors other women in regard to his delusions about rape and some mysterious, obviously God driven, ability to neutralize rape sperm as opposed to regular sperm. Even that ability is not controlled by women, itís built in to our bodies.
    There are way too many old white guys who have awarded themselves an OBGYN degree. It probably came with the messages they receive from God while in that all knowing pious quiet place. To speak in so intimate a way about women is exactly like speaking about breeding stock.

    Atkins and a lot of other men who want to assert dominance over women through God given superiority, ignorance and restriction of freedoms, are a reflection of pathetic inadequacy - sexually, intellectually and morally.

    I never see the same kind of demeaning language used to discuss intimate details of a man's body. For instance, if a penis is shriveled and unable to perform a sexual act perhaps God is telling you that you are too old to procreate a healthy baby? Isn't the use of an "erectile dysfunction" drug counter to God's will?

    I am convinced that women, regardless of their political affiliations, feel shades of the same revulsion I do when I hear some pathetic withered and useless prick like Atkins.

  • Ron Byers on August 21, 2012 12:12 PM:

    Akin is not alone in the Republican party. His extreme views are very, very common among the religious right. He is a true believer. Unlike Paul Ryan he isn't into nuance and shading the truth so his comments are likely to be very entertaining as the campaign progresses.

    Todd Akin is the face of the "modern" Republican party. Get used to extremism. They deeply believe are on a mission from God.

  • stormskies on August 21, 2012 12:15 PM:

    For historical background it is interesting to note that the original Calvinists in our country had one way, and one way only, of having sexual intercourse: the women was on one side of a wall, the man on the other side, with a hole in the wall between them. Yep, this is how they had sexual intercourse ......

  • jjm on August 21, 2012 12:46 PM:

    Ryan CO-SPONSORED the forcible rape bill with Akin, and he CO-SPONSORED the proposed "personhood" Amendment to the US Constitution.

    How on earth does Ryan come out moderate in this? he's as looney as Akin, maybe more so because like a real psychotic, he claims to have THE truth. And remember Steve King of Iowa has Ryan's ear, too.

    Nate Silver says the Ryan pick was a desperation measure to juice up Romney's flagging candidacy. But it may quickly become Romney's millstone.

    We need to expose Ryan on this fully and completely before they 'shade and nuance' us into a new and very dark age.

  • c u n d gulag on August 21, 2012 12:57 PM:

    Why is it that these same motherfeckers, who wouldn't give anyone a piece of bread from off their loaf without a promise to repay, are so willing to share Christ with us, to the point where they feel they have to force-feed the rest of us like we're Terry Schiavo and Jesus was a feeding tube?

    This in your face piety, and I'm gonna make you do what I want come-Hell-or-high-water rightiousness, isnt' "Godly," or "Christ-like," it's egotistical and freaky - both, very, very human traits.

    Traits not unfamiliar to the worlds most horrible dictators.
    Something the Jesus in the Bible would abhor.

  • Josef K on August 21, 2012 1:01 PM:

    The more we learn of Akin, the less and less sympathetic he looks. I'd initially wrote him off as one of the multitude of fringe-loons who've emerged from the Tea Party woodwork.

    Now, I'm really not sure whether to be utterly disgusted or just mostly disgusted. On the one hand his beliefs seem truly sincere, if utterly reprehensible and retrograde. On the other, he's a politician, so who knows what he really thinks.

    I also read this morning that his poll numbers were more or less the same as last week's, leaving me to wonder if anyone is actually listening to him. Its a very unpleasant thought that he will be in a position of genuine authority in the near future.

  • Quaker in a Basement on August 21, 2012 1:06 PM:

    Shorter: It's menfolks job to protect women always except when she's a slutty slut who claims she was raped after she had slutty sex.

  • rfb on August 21, 2012 1:06 PM:

    Those who sincerely believe they are doing God's work whether Muslim or Christian can be quite dangerous primarily because they are irrational and can not be reasoned with. If one believes human life begins at conception than all abortions are murder. Of course, even conservatives hesitate to follow the logical consequence of this view, that is charging women who undergo abortions with murder. The cynic in me thinks that is because for most religious Americans being rich covers lot of evil.

  • T-Rex on August 21, 2012 1:23 PM:

    I'm embarrassed to admit that my own mother subscribed to this same kind of idiocy, but her version was a little different. She's say, "Rape victims don't get pregnant because as soon as they report the rape the police send them to the emergency room for a 'cleansing.'" When I asked her what a "cleansing" was, she explained that meant a D & C -- in other words, an abortion. But when I pointed that out to her, she'd say "No, it's not abortion if it's done before conception!" This is a woman who had three children, but didn't know that a) conception happens in the fallopian tubes, not the uterine lining, and that b) if you prevent an already-fertilized egg from implanting, then according to the Right To Life definition, that IS abortion. But she would insist that no, it wasn't the same thing. Why not? Because she called it by a different name, apparently.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on August 21, 2012 1:35 PM:

    I also read this morning that his poll numbers were more or less the same as last week's, leaving me to wonder if anyone is actually listening to him.

    Local NPR here in Missouri had a reaction from an "independent" voter about Akin's comment, and the voter's take was that while he and his wife cringed at Atkin's statement what they care about and want to hear more about are jobs and economic issues.

    Regardless of whether that sentiment was coming from a "true" independent, there's a lesson in it for both McCaskill and the White House. Tie Akin, Ryan, and the whole 112th Congress to the disconnect between their voting record of jobs rhetoric and what they actually voted on. Instead of jobs, jobs, jobs after the 2010 midterms, we got a whole lot of this culture war crap instead. Time to educate the public.

  • Kathryn on August 21, 2012 1:46 PM:

    Mentioned the writer Frank Schaeffer before, but it bears repeating. Frank Schaeffer is the son of Francis Schaeffer of the theological "college" Mr. Akin attended. Michele Bachmann is another devotee of the senior Schaeffer, probably that hideous Steve King is too. Anyway, the son Frank was right on the ground floor of this movement but now, while remaining a Christian, writes books and articles about what they stand for and how dangerous this group is. his writings are worth checking out, seen him as a guest on MSNBC sometimes, He is a very intense guy and quite informative about what this gang of true believers are capable of. The sooner we root out members of this ideology from elected life the better.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on August 21, 2012 1:52 PM:

    Actually T-Rex, I think you've hit upon something important: how abysmally ignorant modern men and women are with regard to the birds and the bees (both on the Right and the Left). I would guess that most of the people who've birthed their little clones into this world couldn't provide a step-by-step biologically-correct analysis of how pregnancy actually works. Unless they actually had to pay attention to the mother's fertility cycle to sync the gettin'-busy part with ovulation.

    I'm in my mid-twenties and I didn't learn until a couple of years ago about the biological nuances of my own equipment. This might have had something to do with the sub-par sex ed I had to sit through in middle school, as well as a rather modern tendency to take for granted modern methods of birth control. There are probably a lot of under-30 (and over 30) folks who believe a lady will automatically get pregnant if she has unprotected/non-birth control-assisted sex, regardless of whether ovulation has actually occurred. I know, I was one.

    Which is why it's mucho importante that we get rid of these abstinence-only sex ed programs.

  • Zorro on August 21, 2012 2:05 PM:

    I love how such lovely... individuals pick and choose what they think needs to be taken literally. No lying w/a man as w/a woman- take uber-literally (although, even though Scripture says nothing about lesbianism, they condemn it as well). Ditto abortion, although that's really reading more into "be fruitful and multiply" than is actually there.

    But, all of the Levitical commandments regarding dietary laws are ignored entirely; ditto the Scriptural (both Tanakh + the Christian Bible) condemnation of great wealth and their requirement of charity. Ditto the Christian Bible's teachings about rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's and its statement about a rich man no more being able to get into heaven than a camel through the eye of a needle.

    And, oh yes, they completely ignore Jesus' statements that he did not come to invalidate a single word of The Law.

    Their Fundamentalism is *very* selective.

    -Z

  • G.Kerby on August 21, 2012 2:41 PM:

    Since Akin's probably too old to have been home-schooled, I'm going to venture a guess that either he attended a school where sex-ed was not taught, or his parents opted out on his behalf due to their "morals". Nothing else could explain where he got these insane ideas of the female reproductive system. And you can bet all of the home-schooled right-wingers of today are learning this crap as fact.

  • Freder on August 21, 2012 3:07 PM:

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  • jsjiowa on August 21, 2012 3:45 PM:

    What these folks want to do is not about protecting women, it is about controlling them. It is a condescending, patronizing attitude that they know better, and that what women think and feel doesn't matter. Women are not to be believed, therefore. Akin has since confirmed this today, saying his "legitimate rape" comment was about women falsely claiming they were raped.

    It is the kind of attitude that this writer writes about:
    http://www.motherjones.com/media/2012/08/problem-men-explaining-things-rebecca-solnit
    "At the heart of the struggle of feminism to give rape, date rape, marital rape, domestic violence, and workplace sexual harassment legal standing as crimes has been the necessity of making women credible and audible." These people are trying to undermine that, as they did for centuries.

  • boatboy_srq on August 21, 2012 3:52 PM:

    I had classmates like Akin at university, who came from remarkably uninformed parts of the Deepest South, who got a real education about what the world was really like in about two semesters. This is conceivably why investing in higher education is anathema to these volk: teaching even the basics allows people to see through the Xtian flim-flam.

    T-Rex and ATTT make flavors of the same point: the followers of the FundiEvangelical Xtian wingnut set are either part and parcel of the culture war, or too ill-informed about how the world works to understand when the Xtian wingnut is lying out their a###s.

  • Mitch on August 21, 2012 3:55 PM:

    @Zorro,

    They are very selective, indeed.

    I have this conversation with theocratic friends/family about once a year:

    Theocrat: The Bible is the literal Word of God, with no metaphor or contradictions.

    Mitch: So you admit that it's easier for a rich man to get into heaven than a camel through a needles eye?

    Theocrat: No. Jesus was talking about a place called the needles eye. A gate into Jerusalem.

    Mitch: Um, that's not true, and has been debunked again and again since that "explantion" was invented in the 15th century. By Christians.

    Theocrat: Well, that's what I believe. Why do you have to insult my beliefs?

    Mitch: I am not. I am simply pointing out that - if you take the Bible at face value, then Jesus was either straight-up condemning the wealthy, or speaking in a metaphor.

    Theocrat: Whatever, you can't prove me wrong.

    Mitch: Okay, then. Let's move on. What about Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32. You know, when Jesus say that "this generation will not pass" before the end times? That generation passed about 2,000 years ago.

    Theocrat: He wasn't talking about His generation. He was talking about whatever generation lived in the end times.

    Mitch: Where do you find that explanation in the Bible itself?

    Theocrat: STOP INSULTING MY BELIEFS!!

    Mitch: *sigh* Okay. What about the entire Song of Songs/Song of Solomon? It literally reads like some pretty hot love poetry between a man and a woman, but you (Baptists) insist that it is really about the Lord's relationship with the Church? Isn't that metaphor?

    Theocrat: It's poetry. That doesn't count.

    Mitch: I'll let that one slide. Although it does break the no-metaphor rule. Let's move on to contradictions.

    Theocrat: There are no contradictions in the Bible!

    Mitch: Why do none of the genealogies in the Bible match? For example, who is Joseph's father: Jacob (Mat 1:16)or Heli (Luke 3:23)?

    Theocrat: Well they are genealogies, not chronologies. They aren't literal.

    Mitch: I thought the Bible was the Literal Word of God?

    Theocrat: Well maybe one of them refers to Mary's father and just says Joseph because the Bible writers were focused on men.

    Mitch: It says: (Mat) "And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary" and (Luke) "And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli." So it literally states that Jacob and Heli were both father's of Joseph.

    Theocrat: STOP INSULTING MY BELIEF!!

    Mitch: Relax. Relax. What about the creation of man? Was Adam created before or after animals?

    Theocrat: After, man. Don't you know anything. On the sixth day, duh.

    Mitch: Okay. That's taken from Genesis 1:25-26, right? What about Genesis the second chapter of Genesis
    Theocrat: What about it?

    Mitch: *opens Bible* "(2:5) And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. (6) But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. (7) And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

    Skipping down a bit...

    "(2:18) And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. (2:19) And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof." That sure sounds like Adam was made first, doesn't it?

    Theocrat: You think you can use the Bible against me? Well the Devil can quote scripture, too. STOP INSULTING MY FAITH AND LE

  • Mitch on August 21, 2012 4:02 PM:

    (continued)

    Theocrat: You think you can use the Bible against me? Well the Devil can quote scripture, too. STOP INSULTING MY FAITH AND LET ME BELIEVE WHAT I WANT TO BELIEVE!!

    Mitch: I would, partner, but I've never met a Christian who was content to let me be an atheist.

    I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. Sorry for the verbosity. But this is one of the most dangerous aspects of the theocratic mind. They cannot/will not open their mind to, well, anything. Who needs facts, reason or logic, when you have faith and a millenia old mythology?

  • st john on August 21, 2012 4:04 PM:

    I'd like someone to ask Paul Ryan, or his wife, how he, as a good Catholic man, was able to limit his number of children to only 3. Abstinence, rhythm or sheer, dumb luck!

  • Quaker in a Basement on August 21, 2012 5:13 PM:

    Abstinence, rhythm or sheer, dumb luck!

    Maybe it's a narrow urethra.

  • Diane Rodriguez on August 21, 2012 5:18 PM:

    @St John on limiting the # of offspring. Low sperm count?

  • Anonymous on August 21, 2012 8:16 PM:

    @ Mitch

    lol. I'd love to be a fly on the wall at your family shindigs.

  • boatboy_srq on August 22, 2012 8:43 AM:

    @Mitch:

    BRAVO! BRAVO!

    FYI you sound just like my Theology professors debunking the "literal truth" wingnuts in my religion classes, who were shipped off to university convinced of the Literal Truth of Teh Buk by their pastors and youth ministries. There was a time when these misreaders of scripture were called out from within as well as without.