Rape & God’s Solidarity with the Violated

Rep. Todd Akin’s comments about rape last week ignited a firestorm.  His ignorance of female anatomy and human reproduction, and his insensitivity to rape victims caused great offense.

There is much I’d like to say about many aspects of this discussion, but I’ll make just this one point: If I were a policy-maker in power who claimed to be Christian, I would tread very carefully on issues like this so as to avoid God’s judgment.

I say this because those who are violated and treated with extreme injustice have a place near and dear to the heart of the one true God.

Christians confess that in Jesus God himself became a victim of abuse and injustice, his body being violated.

The New Testament is explicit that in being so treated, Jesus was the ultimate and clearest possible revelation of the God of all creation (Mark 15:39; John 17; Phil. 2:5-11).

If, then, God intentionally became a victim and one of the violated, and Scripture clearly indicates that the heart of God is for the weak, the powerless, the mistreated, the violated, then I would avoid making policy that did not take them seriously, or that left them unprotected or caused them to suffer further mistreatment and humiliation.

Israel’s Scriptures teach the sobering reality that when God’s people do not embody God’s care for the vulnerable, they are subject to God’s militant judgment.

In Isaiah 59:16-19, the God of Israel took up his armor and went to war against his people.  God did this because Israel, while maintaining the practices of piety and the rhetoric of righteousness, exploited the weak, oppressed the poor, neglected the hungry, and ignored those who were in need (Isa. 58).

Rather than minimizing the anguish and pain of the violated (a group of which Jesus is a member and for which God cares deeply), policy-makers who claim to be Christian would do well to consider the character of the Just Judge who sees through the rhetoric of pious pretension and who judges fiercely and without partiality.

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23 responses to “Rape & God’s Solidarity with the Violated

  • BradK

    Do unborn children fall into the category of “the weak, the powerless, the mistreated, the violated” to which you are referring, Tim? Obviously, Akin’s comments on rape and pregnancy came across as ignorant and insensitive. I have no idea (does anyone?) what motivated them or what his intent was. But there are multiple victims in this discussion, right? Does sensitivity and love and justice for rape victims require that our laws allow those women to have abortions?

    • timgombis

      (1) Absolutely, without question!

      (2) Yes, outrageous injustices usually multiply victims, which is an example of the tragedy of evil and sin.

      (3) No, not at all.

      Like I said, I had a specific point to make in this post, even though there are a thousand other important things to say about this and related issues.

  • Scott

    Tim, this is a generally good article but I reject the (semi) unspoken premise that “policy members who claim to be Christian” are intntionally “minimizing the anguish and pain of he violated”. Akin wasn’t trying to minimize the anguish and pain of a rapevictim but highlight the fact that pregnancy by rape is rare and that we should not base our laws around around an anomaly. Kind of like admitting that there are times that we might break traffic laws for a greater good (rushing a child who has stopped breathing to the hospital, for instance). Because we might have occasion to break traffic laws doesn’t mean that traffic laws should not be there in the first place.

    You article trends toward Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” inasmuch as it assumes a premise that feeds into the sterotype that Liberals assert. I think that’s more damaging than helpful.

    • timgombis

      Scott,

      I think his comments betrayed a pretty strong insensitivity to rape victims, but the point I’m making is larger than just his involvement in policy-making.

      You’ve got two statements here assuming implicit premises, one at the beginning and one at the end, and I’m having trouble making sense of either of them.

      I can’t see how your analogy fits, either.

      • Scott

        Well let me try again:

        Your article implies that there are (unnamed) policy-making Christians that are ideologically insensitive towards rape victims. Your follow-up states that explictily.

        Name them. If this is categorically true, name 5. Explain SPECIFICALLY what they have done that you deem as “insensitive to rape victims”. Explain what they have done that “(has) left them unprotected or caused them to suffer further mistreatment and humiliation.” As near I can tell it is Conservatives who are looking for tougher sentencing guidelines for criminals, yet according to you, there is some animosity specifically directed towards rape victims we should all know about. Support it with facts – who did what and when?

        It appears that you are taking the ignorant statement of one mis-informed person who is feebly trying to argue the point that one does not rule out an entire law merely because there may be exceptions, and you apply it to some mythcial group of unnamed Christian legislators. Do you think that is fair?

        Make your case – lay out a pattern of insensitive acts specifically made by Christian legislators towards rape victims, and then lay out your cautions about how we Christians should act.

        I hope I made my point more clearly this time.

      • timgombis

        Scott, you’re assuming I’m implying something that I’m not.

        I thought Akin’s comments betrayed an insensitivity to victims of rape. I then reflected on how I’d approach making policy if I were an elected official. Since I make a Christian confession, I would think that I’d want to be far more sensitive toward victims of extreme injustice than his comments indicated.

        That is all. I am not intending a critique of conservative legislators in general nor am I weighing in on whether this or that group is tougher on crime.

        I do realize that a range of issues connected to this one are ones about which there are passionate feelings, and, as I said, there is much to be said about them. In this post I am only addressing how I’d want to approach policy-making when it comes to the victims of rape.

      • aubee91

        So assuming you were an elected official making policy, specifically how would you be more sensitive to rape victims, Tim? As a prospective elected official making policy, and aside from making an apparently ignorant and careless comment for which he has since apologized, how has Akin demonstrated insensitivity that risks God’s judgment?

        You would agree that in weighing concerns of one victim (the person raped) against the concerns of another (a potential unborn child) there is a great risk for, at the very least, the appearance of insensitivity in even discussing the issues, right? If you were running for office like Akin and were asked questions about legislation relating to exceptions for rape victims in laws prohibiting abortion, do you think it would be possible for you to commit a gaffe like Akin? I agree that the man comes off as very repugnant, but shouldn’t he be given the benefit of the doubt? This is why I mentioned in my first response an ignorance of his motives and intent. He could have had no intention of insensitivity and may even be grieved over his comments.

      • timgombis

        Just to reiterate, I’m not piling on Akin, beyond taking this episode as a point of departure for reflection.

        I do recognize that to express concern for rape victims is to be regarded as not being concerned for unborn children. But isn’t that a sign of the perverted character of the public discussion? It seems to me to be entirely possible to strongly oppose abortion and to care for victims of abuse. That somehow these aren’t compatible in the Christian mind is a tragic failure of the Christian imagination.

      • aubee91

        Oh, I agree, Tim. I was just wondering specifically how you would go about doing that? How would you have liked for Akin to have responded instead of the way he did? I understand that you aren’t piling on Akin, but can see how some might read you that way. Would you agree?

      • timgombis

        I’m certainly not commending him, but I also didn’t make him the point of the post. Reading back through what I wrote, it seems if some read me that way, they’re reading more or beyond what I said.

  • LW

    As a victim of abuse and injustice I am grateful for your post.

    • Scott

      Tim,

      The real problem is your ambiguity. I think Aubee91 is picking up on that as well by asking you a direct question which you fail to answer.

      You say to me that you are not trying to paint with a broad brush, but you state, “policy-makerS (plural) who claim to be Christian would do well to consider the character of the Just Judge…”. If this is specific to Akin’s comments make it specific to him. Maybe you didn’t really mean to write that. Maybe you meant to write “a policy maker who claims…”, I’m not your Editor, I just read your words.

      Akin made a stupid comment and you make the assumption he is insensitive towards rape victims. Is it at all possible that the emotion his words “betrayed” was his compassion toward the second rape victim (the child)? Or does it just HAVE to be that he is insensitive towards rape victims?

      The way I see it is that the bias Akin leaked through his comments was his compassion towards the child-victim of rape. This is supported by his legislative pro-life record.

      Your read is unsupportable by any other actions he has taken….unless there is a litany of anti-rape victim activity you left out of your post.

      My conclusion is based on placing his words in the context of his actions. Your conclusion is based on his words and how they fit a conclusion you want to reach. That’s poor journalism.

      In this case, you are a critic, which is the easiest job in media. If you are going to lecture the rest of us Christians, then stand up and say what he SHOULD have said (the question Aubee91 asked that you dodge), and explain why he should rhetorically “walk on water” and never make a mistake. Explain what actions he has TAKEN that prove he is insensitive to rape victims which could support your case. When you do that, then put on the black robe and tell us all what you think we should do.

      • timgombis

        I am not interested so much in Akin as the specific point about an approach to policy in light of God’s concerns for victims of injustice. I used this public episode as a jumping off point and then concluded with a clear statement about what the concerns of Christian policy-makers ought to be.

        It very well may have been that Akin was intending to be strongly supportive of an unborn child and defending its interests. I assume so, but in so doing demonstrated that in the conception of some policy-makers, there has to be a choice between the two concerns. Why is this? I think this is an extremely unhelpful and unjust approach, setting women against babies.

        At any rate, my point was simply to put front and center God’s concern for victims of injustice and not to pull apart every facet of the many larger discussions. If that’s an interest of commenters, I don’t feel obligated to chase down every line of discussion.

      • timgombis

        Scott and Aubee91,

        It seems you want to take my post and make it part of a discussion that I did not intend. I’m not sure your accusation of poor journalism on my part is appropriate so much as perhaps you aren’t being a good reader. To note an incident (one that no one argues didn’t occur) and offer a personal reflection on it is poor journalism?

        I cannot figure out how you can take a reminder of God’s care for the oppressed and turn it into a vehement defense of someone’s voting record. The non sequitor is giving me whiplash! I do wonder if you’re reading me for what I’m actually saying.

  • lamehousewife

    Whoa! What a firestorm above. All I was going to say is this, yes, those in leadership positions ought to be extra careful how they say things, especially if they are Christian. I agree with you on that. They have a high standard to live up to. It is a part of the Christian calling. If they goof up, they should promptly apologize, and those of us who are watching ought not get too carried away when someone misspeaks. I know I have wanted to pull my words back into my mouth a few times, and I am so grateful it is never when I am on TV. He is being humiliated plenty. I sometimes see the media as being pretty unforgiving, especially in political seasons like this. I just finished reading a post about an old woman in her 80’s who tried to do her own renovation on an old painting, which has caused a media firestorm, and now she’s practically having a nervous breakdown because she was trying to help. It’s so judgmental to be so inflammatory with these sorts of things.
    What Akin said was wrong–absolutely, but, geez, nobody does every second of their life perfectly. So, did he apologize? Was he remorseful? Did he think he had said something wrong? Just curious. I haven’t had time to look at this portion of the news lately. God bless…

    • timgombis

      I do think that a huge part of the media activity is just that August is usually a boring month and “news” outlets survive on fanning into flame “stories” that are otherwise largely unremarkable and then making everyone comment on it. The poor guy is just the latest victim of all of this, which is why I only mentioned it and then moved to make my point.

  • Lance Collins

    “The just ruler will as his reward be near God and stand at His side inasmuch as he has faithfully exercised the King’s divine office over his people…” –Thomas Aquinas

  • Richard Armour

    This is what happens when you try to make sense out of one non-sensecal statement. It’s kind of like how we got Roe vs. Wade which was built on a case of rape that did not exist according to the “victim”, Norma Macorvey (Roe). Please forgive my misspellings.

  • Patrick

    Tim,

    I agree with your thoughts here except the last sentence. Policy makers, IMO, have nothing to do with God. That’s Caesar. Whether or not he may be in government is a side issue with me.

    This gentleman’s commentary deserves your response as a fellow believer. Both in his anti intellectual nonsense as well as his apparent unconcern for the potential victims of rape.

    • timgombis

      I’m not entirely sure about that, Patrick. It seems to me that the Christian confession of policy-makers would impinge on their policy-making in some way. For me, it would do so in ways that ensure justice, especially for those in vulnerable positions.

      I’m also not sure what gentleman you’re speaking of. I remain befuddled at a few of the comments above and can’t quite figure what they’re saying nor how to respond.

  • BradK

    There is no way for us to know which comments above are befuddling you, Tim. Maybe you should ask them for clarification. Is failure to do so a form of passive aggression? ;-)

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