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Public Theology: GOP Politics is Based Today on Old Time Religion: Women are Cause of Sin
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GOP Politics is Based Today on Old Time Religion: Women are Cause of Sin
Sandy Fluke is called a 'slut' by Rush Limbaugh, the intellectual leader of the GOP, revealing an old religious idea about women.

By Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite

Editor's Note: Right now the news media are literally broiling over the contraception issue. Rush Limbaugh has called Sandra Fluke "a slut" and "prostitute" who wants taxpayers to pay for her birth control so she can have more sex. Fluke is a young female student at Georgetown University who testified in congress on the need for birth control. Today President Obama called her to support her, a highly unusual move.

Although religious views are in the news, there is great confusion among the general public about the background of various religious perspectives and traditions. In the article below a respected theologian reminds us of the continuing strength of a very old religious view of women, that women are the source of sin. It is quite strange that a modern political party would become the vehicle by which this old view is being propagated, but it lies at the basis of the way commentators such as Rush Limbaugh are able to speak of women in such demeaning ways. In this view women are associated with sex and sex with sin.

Thinking politically, Limbaugh has succeeded in doing just what the Catholic bishops did not want, making the issue all about sex and contraception, not "religious freedom" for institutions to determine what to provide in health care plans. And now Limbaugh may be in some real trouble, already four of his major advertisers have said they will cancel ads on his program.

The Senate [yesterday] has defeated the “Blunt amendment,” the controversial bill named for Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that would have allowed even non-religious employers to opt out of health care coverage they disagreed with on “moral grounds.”

This defeat is not an end to the GOP’s war on women, however. It is merely a skirmish in what looks to be a protracted struggle for women’s freedom and dignity in this country. This attack on women is, and I am grieved to say it, driven by a particular Christian theological perspective that denigrates women and holds them responsible for sin, particularly sexual sin.

GOP politics today is, in fact, all about Eve.

The GOP war on women will continue precisely because of the conservative Christian theology that drives wedge politics in a campaign season has a fundamental contempt for women and their equal dignity and worth. As the Southern Baptist Convention voted in 1984, “[M]an was first in creation and the woman was first in the Edenic fall.” In conservative Christian eyes, women are the evil temptresses, the sinner “Eves” who lead the gullible Adams astray, especially sexually. Therefore they are “first” in sin, i.e. it’s women’s fault that men get kicked out of the Garden of Eden.

There are “softer” forms of this view of women as sexual temptresses, as in John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter on women, where Mary is the “new Eve.” Women’s “femininity” earns them love, but the implication is clearly only if they stay “Mary,” the good mother, and don’t wander over into the independence of “Eve.” Eve, of course, is the sexual face of women in these theological perspectives. The message is “good women” don’t do that.

The real underbelly of these views of women as the sexual temptress “Eve” was on display in a recent Rush Limbaugh statement. Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University student whom House Republicans would not let testify at the Issa hearings, a “slut” and a “prostitute” for wanting to testify of the need for birth control to be covered by insurance. It is clarifying for the intensity of this denigration of women to remember that Fluke’s testimony for birth control was about a friend who is a lesbian and needs the pill for medical reasons.

The “Blunt amendment” was also called the “conscience” amendment as it was billed by its supporters as about “religious freedom.” The use of the term “conscience” about this bill that is an attack on women’s health care is very revealing. The religious conservatives who now dominate GOP politics do not think that women have consciences, or are entitled to religious freedom, as the statements of Rep. Issa on why he was justified in calling an all-male panel to discuss women’s health care. It’s about “religious freedom and conscience” not birth control, said Issa. So, no women allowed?

In the “Eve the temptress” theology of conservative Christianity, women don’t have consciences apparently.

The GOP’s war on women, fueled as it is by the “Eve the temptress” theology is losing them votes, as Rick Santorum has recently discovered in the gender gap in voting.

Mitt Romney would clearly love to run away from the GOP war on women, but apparently his campaign won’t let him. Mitt Romney’s patented “I was against it before I was for it.”response to the Blunt amendment was very telling. In the initial interview, Mr. Romney’s response sounded authentic to me. “I’m not for the bill,” Romney told ONN-TV, when asked if he had a position on the legislation. “But look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a women, husband and wife, I’m not going there.”

Like the Romneys, my husband and I have been married for four decades and this sounded to my experienced married ears exactly like a sensible husband’s approach.

So naturally, almost immediately Romney’s campaign “clarified” their candidate’s response, saying he was “confused by the question” and actually does support the legislation.

Leaving aside whether ‘dazed and confused’ is the kind of image you want your candidate to keep reinforcing, Romney’s original response is clarifying of the conundrum for the GOP.

Women are not, as a matter of fact, second in the order of creation, and first in the order of sin. Women were created by God, in Genesis, equal in dignity to the Creator. (Gen. 1:27) And women are not, by virtue of being sexual beings, evil temptresses. Human sexuality is another gift of the Creator, who called what had been created good.

But mark my words, the GOP’s war on women will not end because the Republican party has shackled themselves to a theology that sees women as ‘all about Eve.’

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is a Professor and former president (1998-2008) of Chicago Theological Seminary as well as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. This article appeared in the Washington Post.

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Date Added: 3/2/2012 Date Revised: 3/2/2012 12:47:40 PM

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