By now we’re all aware of Missouri Congressional Representative and Senate hopeful Todd Akin’s inflammatory comment about women rarely becoming pregnant as a result of a ‘legitimate’ rape. Several others have already posted (ranted) about the insensitivity, ignorance, and sheer idiocy of that statement, and, since I have nothing new to add to that particular discussion, I’m content to let their words stand in regards to how I feel about the whole thing.
One detail caught my eye, however, that has received much less attention, and I think it needs to be highlighted. The New York Times ran an article two days ago entitled, “A Politician Whose Faith is Central to His Persistence.” It describes Mr. Akin’s Evangelical Christianity, as well as his desire to return America to its “Judeo-Christian roots.”
Putting aside for the moment the fact that America has never been a theocracy, nor should it ever be, I personally get interested whenever a politician tries to legislate according to his or her “Christian” values. What are the Judeo-Christian values that Mr. Akin embraces and believes we should all pattern our lives around?
The best way I could think to answer this question was by looking at his voting record.* I’ll confess that I stopped after reviewing the last two years because frankly, the House votes on a lot of bills, and I don’t have days to spend on this. I think his record over the last two years should be sufficient to extrapolate Mr. Akin’s values from his votes.
We all know how Mr. Akin feels about abortion, so I’m sure it comes as no surprise that he consistently voted against everything that included any provision for abortion or any support for any entity that might somehow be related to an abortion provider (i.e. if it had Planned Parenthood anywhere in the text of the bill, Mr. Akin voted against it, even if it was for something like breast cancer screening.) The overreaching aside, I’m willing to consider the rights of the not-yet-born to be a legitimate Christian concern. Whether those rights are absolute and always override the rights of the mother is still a matter of debate, and something I have absolutely no intention of tackling in this post or on this blog. But trying to protect those who are unable to defend or even speak for themselves, yeah, I’ll agree that that’s a value I recognize as Christian.
Except Mr. Akin’s concern for the not-yet-born seems to disappear once the mother makes the decision not to abort. He voted against HR 3470, Infant Mortality Pilot Programs. What this bill did was identify areas within the United States that had unusually high infant mortality rates, and provide funding for those communities to better support pregnant women and new mothers, to improve the health of mother and child alike, as well as reduce the odds of preventable miscarriage. Keep in mind that this bill was in no way connected to Obamacare. Yet Mr. Akin’s Christian values didn’t inspire him to support these efforts.
He also consistently voted against everything to do with Obamacare, because he doesn’t believe the government should be involved with health care at all. Caring for the sick is not a priority, according to his Christian values.
Mr. Akin voted against H Amdt 1127, which would have repealed indefinite military detention provisions. People suspected of terrorism can sit in military prisons–without charge and without trial–forever, as far as he’s concerned.
Fiscal responsibility is a big concern of Mr. Akin’s. It’s also a big concern of mine. I believe the government is going to have to realize that it can’t have everything it wants, and is going to have to make some hard decisions about what it can and can’t afford. So does Mr. Akin. Let’s look at what choices he made, based on his strong faith and desire to legislatively recognize the Creator God.
Despite the deficit, small businesses should be entitled to hefty tax breaks. Individuals, however, should suck it up and lose the payroll tax holiday, pay more income tax on their social security benefits, have unemployment benefits reduced, and lose all federal assistance to stay in their homes.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense should get every penny they asked for, but funding should be reduced for the United Institute of Peace, and food assistance to low-income families and children should be reduced or eliminated.
And federal funding should be prohibited for the financing of presidential elections and National Public Radio, but allowed for NASCAR sponsorship. (Seriously, H Amdt 92. I wouldn’t dare make something like this up!)
When I think about what a Christian is called to do, I think about Matthew 25:31-40:
31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (NRSV)
To me, that is what a Christian looks like. Someone who gives food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and clothes to the naked (social programs to help people make ends meet). Someone who welcomes the stranger (sane immigration policies). Someone who takes care of the sick (health care). Someone who visits those in prison (recognition that even those who wish to do us harm are human beings, and deserving of the respect and courtesy they would never dream of giving us). Jesus never made a distinction between the ‘deserving’ poor and the ‘undeserving’ poor. Jesus certainly never identified the mark of the righteous as those with the strongest military, but rather emphasized the role of peace in God’s kingdom.
I don’t have a problem with Todd Akin voting according to his interpretation of Christian values; I do have a problem with Todd Akin and others like him defining for the world what Christian values are, and using his warped voting record to do so.
It seems to me that there are two types of Christians in America today: the care-for-the-poor-and-needy-because-that’s-what-Jesus-taught-and-did type of Christian, and the you’d-better-live-according-to-a-strict-moral-code-that-I’ll-define-for-you-or-else-you’re-going-to-burn-in-hell type of Christian. I’m in the first category, and I’m happy to report that I’m not alone here. But Todd Akin is in the second category, and he has a lot of company there, too. Unfortunately, they get all the media attention. Their voices are louder than ours, so they’re defining for everyone who isn’t in either category what Christians believe and value. That is unacceptable.
I’m not suggesting a screaming match, because a) I don’t think that would do any good, and b) that kind of infighting would seriously damage the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. But I am asking that some of you other social-justice-oriented Christians make yourself known, and let it be known that the Todd Akins of the world don’t speak for all Christians. There are other voices out there; let yours be heard.
*I used VoteSmart.org to see Mr. Akin’s voting history.