So right now there’s a political and media firestorm over a creepy white Southern man after he said some appalling and untrue things about the victims of rape.
Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., was caught off-guard by the response to his comments, because he wasn’t saying anything new. He was simply repeating things he’d heard said, for years and years, by his fellow “pro-lifers,” his fellow Republicans, and his fellow leaders in the Presbyterian Church in America.
Todd Akin is not a fringe character in any of those groups. And Todd Akin’s views are not fringe views in any of those groups. His views are typical, customary, widespread, commonplace and — within those groups — utterly uncontroversial.
For his fellow pro-lifers, fellow Republicans and fellow PCA leaders, Akin’s only crime was one of candor, not heresy. For them, his mistake was his tactlessness, and not the substance of what he said.
Here, again, was what he said:
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
In Akins’ PCA community, no one blinks an eye at statements like that. Akins’ views are extremely common and typical in the ultra-reformed strain of Southern-Gothic Presbyterianism he inhabits.
Todd Akin was a follower of the late D. James Kennedy. Kennedy, founder of Florida’s Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, was not a fringe character in American evangelicalism. He was well-known and well-respected — and his views on rape victims were the same as those expressed by Akin.Todd Akin is a product of Covenant Theological Seminary — that’s where you go if you want to be trained in patriarchal misogyny with a side of disturbing nostalgia for the Old South.
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.
Go into any PCA church south of the Mason-Dixon line and you can routinely hear the same arguments Akin made this weekend, stated just as off-handedly as he stated them — casual remarks about what everyone just sort of knows to be true about rape victims, sluts, abortion and lady-parts.
Todd Akin is not unusual. Todd Akin is not alone. The pernicious, ridiculous lies he got in trouble for are widespread and blandly typical in his subculture — in the PCA, the GOP, and throughout the anti-abortion movement that has replaced what used to be evangelical Christianity.