Rev. Christy Thomas: What’s the graceful way to handle Akin’s gaffe?

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There is probably not even one halfway awake person in the U.S. who has not heard about the comments made by a formerly obscure candidate in Missouri for a U.S. Senate seat.

Last Sunday, Todd Akin suddenly burst from his obscurity with a comment so hateful to women and so stupid in reasoning that I wouldn’t be surprised if a new phrase is formed. Can’t you hear it now? “Oh boy, I just did an ‘akin.’” People might utter that upon discovering they have just done or said something both imbecilic and hugely insulting to others.

Thanks to the instantaneity of our news media, Akin’s comment ricocheted to every possible publicity source within seconds. News articles reporting it had thousands of comments, the vast majority decrying this man’s ignorance and insensitivity.

Akin certainly apologized for having said what he said. Multiple times, apparently. He is now a political pariah, although at the time I wrote this article, he was determined to stay in the race. But no one who has any hope of political power or influence wants to be affiliated with him.

But I always have to ask this question, “What is the gracious response to this man?” I have to ask because, no matter how appalled I was at his statement, Todd Akin is still a fellow human being. As such, he should be treated with respect.

Keep in mind that I found the comment so distasteful that I refuse to reproduce the contents of his statement in this column (if you haven’t heard about it, just do an Internet search for Todd Akin, Missouri — you’ll find it quickly). Even so, I must search my own soul and say, “OK, Christy, how would you want others to treat you in a similar situation?”

I’d love to say I’d never be so stupid or so hateful, and so would never have to worry about this. But in all honesty, I’ve done my own “akins” on occasion. Not so publicly, to be sure, but I, too, am excruciatingly human.

I suppose that is why the concept of grace has long intrigued me. The word carries lots of meanings. They all seem to be positive. A dictionary offers these possibilities: elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion or action; favor or goodwill; a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior; mercy; clemency; pardon.

Synonyms include: attractiveness, charm, gracefulness, comeliness, ease, fluidity, kindness, kindliness, love, forgiveness, charity, mercifulness, lenity, leniency and reprieve.

While I appreciate the idea of fluid, easy movement and comely appearances, I find myself far more drawn to the concepts of forgiveness, charity, mercy and leniency.

So, in the name of charity, mercy, leniency and forgiveness, should Todd Akin be elected to a spot of national leadership?

Akin has apologized multiple times for having made the comment. However, I did not see a place where he personally disowned the idea itself, although he obviously regretted saying it aloud. But is that enough?

I would guess that he still holds to the core principle behind that remark, a principle that both demeans women and has been proven to be untrue by good quality research.

This seems to me like so much of human experience. When we are caught doing something wrong, the “I’m sorries” are quick to flow. However, often those apologies are not accompanied by a real change of mind and heart. The only plan in place concerns not getting caught again.

Again I ask, “Is that enough?”

Jesus once said that many were called, but few were chosen. Could it be that many are called to lives of leadership and influence in the Kingdom of Heaven, but only a few are chosen because only a few are willing to discipline their thoughts and actions to be conformed to a holy example?

Can willful ignorance be enough to disqualify ourselves from hopes of heavenly grace? What do you think?

THE REV. CHRISTY THOMAS is the pastor of First United Methodist Church of Krum. Reach her by calling 940-482-3482 or by e-mail at christy@krumumc.org .

 


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