Clergy in Missouri drafted a letter to Congressman Todd Akin (R) Missouri protesting his statement that at the heart of the liberal movement is a hatred for God. They attempted to meet with the congressman, but were told by his office that he was unable to attend the meeting because he never received a formal request for the meeting and couldn't fit it in his schedule. Akin's controversial statement is as follows, and is in response to NBC omitting "under God" during a pre-taped airing of the Pledge of Allegiance which was aired during the US Open golf tournament:
"Well, I think NBC has a long record of being very liberal and at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God. And so they've had a long history of not being at all favorable toward many of things that have been such a blessing to our country," Akin said.[…]
The faith leaders presented the congressman's office with a letter from local clergy and a petition with 200 signatures from Missouri members of Faithful America, an online community of people of faith standing up for social justice and the common good.
Congressman Akin apologized for his remarks Tuesday, saying "My statement during my radio interview was directed at the political movement liberalism, not at any specific individual. If my statement gave a different impression, I offer my apologies."
But religious leaders continue to press Rep. Akin, insisting that painting liberalism as anti-religious is still an inappropriate stereotype and a smear of his own constituents.
Liberalism has long been attacked by conservative pundits such as Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh, among others, as part of the "culture wars" for being a "godless" movement, despite there being a strong Christian liberal movement headed by leaders such as Jim Wallis, The Center for Progressive Christianity, and the Christian Alliance for Progress, and include denominations such as some mainline Protestant churches, "Peace" churches, elements of Catholicism, and some parts of Evangelicalism. The Christian Left is not as organized nor as well publicized as the Christian Right, which some have theorized as being because members of the Christian Left are not as willing to voice their opinions as forcefully as those on the Christian Right. The Christian Left has also had difficulties procuring corporate, political and major media patronage compared to the Christian Right.
The letter from Missouri clergy, who also collected 20o signatures in support of the letter (of which a few signatures are represented here), reads as follows:
"As Missourians of faith, we found your statement that "at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred of God and a belief that government should replace God" to be ignorant and offensive. Scripture clearly warns us to "judge not, lest ye be judged," yet you condemn in disrespectful, stereotypical terms those with whom you disagree. Such insulting pronouncements degrade our nation's political dialogue and are unworthy of a public servant who claims to represent the interests of all of his constituents."And in light of your support for a federal budget that mainstream faith leaders have overwhelmingly condemned as punitive toward the poorest among us, we call on you to reconsider not only your words, but also your moral priorities as a political leader. Accusing others of being inspired by hatred of God while you vote to deprive the weakest and most vulnerable of medicine and basic sustenance is the antithesis of moral leadership. We call on you to apologize, and we pray that you are moved to act in a spirit of civility, compassion and justice in the future."
Rev. Krista Taves
Minister, Emerson Unitarian Universalist Chapel
Rev. Kevin Cameron
Senior Pastor, Parkway United Church of Christ
St. Louis, MO
Rev. Jeffrey Whitman
Conference Minister, Missouri Mid-South Conference of the United Church of Christ
St. Louis, MO
Rev. Dale Bartels
Senior Pastor, St. John's United Church of Christ
Rev. Kevin Gregory
Senior Pastor, St. John United Church of Christ
Rev. Frank Proctor
Interim Minister, St. Charles Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
St. Charles, MO
Rev. Thomas Tupper
Retired Minister, United Church of Christ
Rev. Richard Simonson
Retired Minister, United Church of Christ
M.Div Student, Eden Theological Seminary and member of Parkway United Church of Christ
St. Louis, MO
Conservatives such as Bill O'Reilly have, for many years, asserted that liberals are waging a culture war on Christianity, but Akin's comment about "hatred for God" proved a bridge too far. After initially telling KMOX radio that "I don't think there's anything to apologize for," Akin elaborated in a follow-up statement Tuesday, the St. Louis Beacon reports:
"People, who know me and my family, know that we take our faith and beliefs very seriously. As Christians, we would never question the sincerity of anyone's personal relationship with God. My statement during my radio interview was directed at the political movement, Liberalism not at any specific individual. If my statement gave a different impression, I offer my apologies."
Which is the classic, conditional non-apology: If I offended you, I'm sorry. The congressman apologized for that offense and redirected his criticism at the political movement, rather than individual people. Akin said more, but not much more, in an interview with KMOV TV.
There is, of course, a healthy liberal Christian movement in the U.S., one that includes advocacy groups like Faith in the Public Life, Sojourners, and Catholic Democrats, though the corpus of faith-motivated liberalism sometimes gets overlooked. Akin's apology isn't sitting too well in that sphere.
As you can see, Akin's 'apology' doesn't really work. He continues to try to smear "liberalism" as anti-God and his clarification that he was differentiating between the "institution of liberalism" and liberals as people (many of whom come to their political convictions through their faith) doesn't make any sense.
Akin is currently running for re-election. Some in the media suggest that his controversial statement may not bode well for his re-election, although his staff are now trying to spin his statement as "off the cuff." The Salt Lake Tribune reports:
Akin spokesman Steve Taylor said the point his boss was trying to make was that conservatives believe rights are granted by God, and it is the responsibility of government to aid in protecting them.
“Liberals believe rights are granted by government,” he said. “Congressman Akin believes those two concepts define the basic debate between the two ideologies.”
Akin’s comments were off the cuff, Taylor said, and with more time to articulate his point he could have “provided a more artful answer.”