Forgiving Todd Akin

AP Todd Akin speaks in Jefferson City, Mo., on Aug. 10. Missouri Rep. Todd Akin has vowed to stay in … Continued


Todd Akin speaks in Jefferson City, Mo., on Aug. 10.

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin has vowed to stay in his race for the Senate despite calls from leaders in every wing of his party that he abandon the campaign, and despite comments from presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who found Akin’s ideas about “legitimate rape” and the “fact” that “forcibly raped” women are biologically protected from getting pregnant, to be indefensible.

The basis for Akin’s claim that he should remain in the race? Forgiveness. According to a series of television spots and subsequent statements in the media, Akin has asked for people to forgive his having used “the wrong words in the wrong way”. Is that really a persuasive argument?

Personally, I am a big fan of forgiveness. I believe that there is no such thing as a transgression so great that it cannot be forgiven. In fact, it’s Elul, the month in the Hebrew calendar not only known to lovers of crossword puzzles, but the month leading up to both Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year — and Yom Kippur – a day which promises that whatever we have done, forgiveness and atonement are always possible.

That same tradition, however, also teaches that while anything can be forgiven, we don’t always equate forgiveness with forgetfulness, recognizing that forgiveness is not always the same as atonement. The former reflects a letting go of the hurt and anger caused by a bad act, while the latter implies a reunified or reconciled relationship as seen in the word: at-one-ment.

The desire to be forgiven is only the beginning of the lengthy process of atonement, and it takes much more than an ad campaign, however sincere it may be, to get there.

I am all for forgiving those who genuinely seek forgiveness, but part of that search must include a clear understanding by the wrongdoer of the nature of the misdeed. On that score, Akin falls short. In fact, his stubborn desire to stay in the race, despite the best expert advice he is getting from inside his own party, smacks of the same stubborn intellectual ignorance which lead him to subscribe to the junk science and ugly theories that informed his thinking about rape and human conception.

I don’t believe that anybody should be judged by their worst deeds or dumbest words alone. Who among us could pass that test? And I do believe in second chances, even hundreds of them, so I can even imagine a political future for Akin, whether I would ever support him or not.

Confusing forgiveness with forgetfulness and trying to short circuit the process of genuine atonement demeans a sacred concept. So by all means, people should open themselves to forgiving Todd Akin, but that has little or nothing to do with supporting his candidacy for the Senate.


Brad Hirschfield An acclaimed author, lecturer, rabbi, and commentator on religion, society and pop culture, Brad Hirschfield offers a unique perspective on the American spiritual landscape and political and social trends to audiences nationwide.
  • heynow211

    The first part of receiving forgiveness is acknowledging your transgression. He wants us to believe he “misspoke”, as though he didn’t actually believe what he said when clearly he did.

  • di89

    You can forgive someone and still think they are in the wrong job and belong elsewhere.

  • Catken1

    Because when you are forcibly implanted in someone else’s body against their will, and made dependent on their resources without their consent, that person still has the right to say no.

    Because a woman’s body belongs to her, and not to her rapist’s child.

    As for your “compassion,” what about all those kids who get a death sentence because you view your blood supply, your bone marrow, your liver and your kidneys as your own and not government’s to dole out to innocent children who need them to live? Why can’t you give up your “right to choose” who may or may not use your body, to save some poor kid’s “right to life”? Why can’t you be the one treated as property and used as means to someone else’s end for a change, instead of being treated as a human being and an end in yourself?

  • charlie890

    I forgive him. Now to the issue: he and his party want a constitutional amendment making abortion illegal regardless of circumstances. Is that what you want or not? Vote in November.

  • charlie890

    “Rapist gets fair Trial, Kid Gets death why?” excellent question and an excellent reply by Catken1

    I think Akin is a few screws loose but the question asked by sway and the answer given by Cat is the kind of real dialogue we should have.

  • Kingofkings1

    A good analysis on the Akin fiasco and forgiveness

  • TonyDiaz999

    The concept of forgiving in this case is really nonsensical.

    Would one forgive a person who suddenly takes a saw out and saw his foot off?

    This man is simply unfit for political life in the USA. He is completely detached from reality.

  • tony55398

    I understand where he is coming from, he is saying rape for real, not a woman claiming to be raped, who was not. As it is the woman’s body versus the child, of course she has the power to end a life. It takes a great Love to give life to a child that comes from rape and few women have that deep of Love, let alone those who abort for mere convenience or for monetary problems or other problems. Love is Life itself and few there are who live that kind of unselfish Life. Always there are excuses, but tell those to Jesus who died for us all. His illegitimate children.

  • itsthedax

    “Forgiveness” is irrelevent in this case. Akin has demonstrated that his sense of judgement is not based on fact or reality. He is in a position to to this country great harm and is simply unfit for public office.

  • shilotoren

    In Jewish law the mother’s life is primary to that of the fetus. If carrting the child of a rapist is psychologically to difficult for the mother than she should be allowed to abort.

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