Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Political Expediency, Todd Akin, and the Religious Right

As the days become shorter and begin to cool, it can only mean one thing. Summer is drawing to a close. And being an even-numbered year, that also means election season is right around the corner. Election season, in other words, when I am usually embarrassed to call myself a Christian.

This election cycle is holding to form with the latest soundbite flub of Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin. In case you haven't heard, Akin made a comment about "legitimate rape" not causing pregnancy because a woman's body automatically shuts down its reproductive ability due to the trauma. When I first heard this, I didn't blink and I didn't flinch. I just chalked it up as a politician trying to score some pro-life points. But the statement itself did not phase me. I am a data-nerd so I take any claim by a politician without data to back it up with a grain of salt. So I was surprised to see so much backlash come against Akin. Did he say something stupid? Absolutely. Should he be vilified for it? No, but...

Like I said, it's election season and there's this thing called political expediency. You might also hear discussion on electoral math or listen to prognosticators speculate who will gain or lose seats in Congress to maintain, or regain, control of one or both houses. This is the time of year when logic is set aside for the sake of votes- see Palin, Sarah. (And let's be honest, doesn't most of the pandering for votes by either party defy logic?) So political expediency demands that Akin take the fall for his comments for the greater good of his party. Is that right or is that fair? Well it doesn't matter in the cutthroat world of politics.

But then something strange happened. I knew we were in trouble when I saw the headline, "Kirk Cameron defends Akin". After first asking myself why I should care what Kirk Cameron thinks, I was compelled to click on the link to find out why exactly Cameron was stepping into this political mess. Come to find out, Akin is a favorite of Conservative Christians (somehow I failed to get that memo) so it was only natural during an interview with Cameron on something completely different for the hosts of the Today show to ask him about it. Cameron's comments opened the door for the Religious-Right to come out to support Akin in defiance of their party's wishes.

First Kirk Cameron, then Mike Huckabee and David Barton (really?). Although they have the platform, it is important to note that not everyone who calls themselves Christian agrees. And now there are children conceived by rape and mothers who are the victims of rape stepping out to add their voice to the debate. So now the debate is no longer about an abstract theory, but about real people.

What worries me about this whole ordeal is the precedence it sets. I knew Christian Conservatives were a significant voting block to be pandered to, but I did not expect them to wield this big of a stick to get their way. This also doesn't help the perception that Christianity is anti-science. Add crazy fertilization science to the growing list of anti-global warming, anti-evolution, anti-sun being the center of the Solar System, and so on. Meanwhile this anti-everything faction of the Republican Party is risking derailing the party altogether. Remember what I said about political expediency? Well you can forget about that when these Christians get a bur in their saddle.

And I'm again reminded why I loathe this time of year.

"But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless." (Titus 3:9)

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