Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Revisiting "Inconsistency and Sharia Law" — the Todd Akin test case

About a year ago, I blogged about the Christian culture's inconsistency with regard to the restriction of "Sharia" law (a critique that is generally true about political conservatives, too). I want to come back to that topic, and demonstrate a bit further what I mean by it.

I said then that, "where my concern is today is that the broader laws, restricting any reference to "foreign" laws, are problematic in their inconsistency" and later claimed that, "the problem is that the laws being passed that restrict any reference to 'foreign' laws implicitly do two things at once: first, they erect a view of religious law as inherently "foreign…" [and] second, they establish a precedent that reference to religious law has no place in a constitutionally-sound court system— or alternatively, anyone who is informed by their religious laws is unfit to serve in the courts."

I concluded that, "if 'foreign laws' include Sharia, which is derived from the Quran, then it is only a matter of time before they also include, by definition, the 10 Commandments or any other ethical structure based on the Bible." It is this conclusion that I want to focus my attention upon today.

Perhaps you caught wind of the recent political gaffes of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, who is currently contending for a Senate seat in Missouri. Rep. Akin, a conservative and a Christian who, in expressing his opinion that pregnancy was not often a consequence of rape, made a few unfortunate comments that suggested both that he believed that some rape was legitimate and that women have a unique biological defense against pregnancy in such cases. Rep. Akin later apologized for his comments, and essentially recanted his statement — at least insofar as it suggested these particular claims.

Cutting to the heart of the matter: Rep. Akin was responding to a direct question about whether women who become pregnant by being raped should have the option of abortion. His clear position — and that of many other conservatives, including many Christians — is that abortion is never an ethical option or choice. This position is the result of his convictions as a Christian about the sanctity of life and the unethical nature of abortion. These, too, are shared by many conservatives and Christians.

Rep. Akin doesn't hide his connection to my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, nor the fact that he earned a Master of Divinity degree from Covenant Theological Seminary, the PCA's denominational seminary (and the same institution that I graduated from. These are plainly noted on his campaign website, in the "Bio" section.

The connection of Rep. Akin's faith and convictions, and his PCA background and affiliation, to his position on abortion — and, indeed, to his statement, however poorly expressed, in that interview — has not escaped the notice of the media. Indeed, more than one article noted these as contributing factors; and, I would point out, it has not been noted favorably.

One article in particular ("The Theological Roots of Akin's 'Legitimate Rape' Comment" by Sarah Posner, posted on the Religion Dispatches website) goes into detail about the PCA's position papers on "Man's Duty to Protect Woman" (approved by the 2001 General Assembly, speaking to women's service in the military) and on abortion (approved in 1978 by the General Assembly), even quoting sentences and paragraphs from them. Apart from some mild editorializing amongst the quotes and summaries, Posner does not misrepresent the PCA's positions, though she clearly disagrees with them — which is her right.

It is her final conclusion about the matter that gives me pause:
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 [sic] 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.

Did you catch that? Her essential concern isn't so much that Akin holds the views that he does, nor that he derives them from the theological positions of his church. Rather, her concern is about how much his religious views and convictions might shape his service as a Senator.

Sound familiar? This is basically a re-articulation of the exact same concerns that Christians and others espoused about Muslim judges and their belief in the continuing validity of Sharia law. In other words, pretty much what I warned about a year ago. Don't think this an isolated case, either — Salon.com (far from an esoteric or unpopular news source) also picked up on the connections.

I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet; to draw the conclusions I did doesn't require prophecy, just consistency. Christians need to be FOR freedom of religious expression, even when it is the expression of other religions. If we dare to target others in this way, don't think for a second that we won't be next.

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