Rape and abortion: a political puzzle

November 1, 2012

The Todd Akin campaign for U. S. Senate from Missouri just got a little weirder. Akin has a rape victim appearing in a television ad supporting his candidacy. This is the response ad to a very powerful spot in which a rape survivor speaks against Aiken. The professional political analysis is that Akin is way too late in responding to the very damaging message with which he has been pounded for weeks. I was in Missouri just two weeks and the anti-Akin spot is far superior in production values. Such tardiness in getting the candidate’s message on the air suggests a very poorly managed campaign.

There is certainly a larger issue here, something of much greater importance than the horse race. Evangelical Christians should be aware that a political campaign is probably the worst possible place to discuss important moral issues. First of all, Americans generally resist any process that demands critical thinking and takes one through various stages. We want an instant scapegoat, easy answers, and quick justice (or should I say “injustice?”). In a political contest, one side must be determined to destroy the opposition. Therefore, any argument, no matter how wholesome, moral and truthful, must be faulted and denounced. The point is to make Mother Teresa look like a street-walker.

Todd Akin does not seem very sympathetic when he discusses any issue of primary interest to women. One can hardly blame him for being a little gun-shy going in and the topic of rape is hardly fit for public discussion. Of course, rape needs to be discussed and that demands more patience than usually attends professional politicians.

The larger problem is that the United States generally tolerates crimes of violence. We permit younger people do all sorts of harm and then gasp in horrified fits of surprise that somebody gets murdered. Violence fits into how we think things should work; scapegoating and bullying. Penalties for crimes against persons, even among juveniles, should be exceptionally harsh. I am proposing decades of imprisonment for first-time offenders. Listen, people who physically harmed others are telling the rest of us that they do not intend to play by the rules.

But you are asking, is this biblical and how does it fit into the discussion of rape and abortion. Stay with me. Let us agree that what I have in mind does not represent a viewpoint that is apparent anywhere in Scripture. There are o prisons in ancient Israel, although the Romans seem to have mastered the art. The bible treats forced sex as a rare event. Two observations: we are not ancient people living under the Mosaic law and we are not required to impose Old Testament justice today, although these practices do give us insight into human nature and God’s intention.

God, in his vast generosity, welcomes every new life  and so should we. This is hard to explain if one has respect for all human life. This is a case where we must be careful to go hard on the criminal and easy on the victim. Abortion is not a good solution to an assault on human dignity. Before those of us who have the highest regard for human life go wading off into these deep waters, we must do a better job demonstrating the humanity, compassion and morality of our position. There are no minds changed on this kind of complex issue during a political campaign. When the dust settles, and somebody gets elected up there in Missouri, the rest of us better get back to spreading the good news of God’s eternal love for human beings.

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