This Week in God

First up from the God Machine this week is a right-wing congressman getting in trouble by questioning the faith of everyone who disagrees with him.

After NBC Sports edited down the Pledge of Allegiance before a golf tournament, omitting “under God,” Rep. Todd Akin (R) of Missouri used the incident to argue that “at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God.” This did not go over well in Missouri, especially in prominent faith communities. One St. Louis rabbi noted that Akin turned a broadcasting gaffe “into a grotesque politicized attack.”

Soon after, Akin declared, “I don’t think there’s anything to apologize for…. I’m not going to apologize for what I see liberalism doing in trying to take God out.”

As the criticism intensified, Akin, also a U.S. Senate candidate, this week issued a statement this week to “clarify” matters. As the far-right lawmaker argued, liberals don’t necessarily hate God, but liberal beliefs are predicated on God-hatred. This, apparently, was supposed to be conciliatory.

“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.

“My point was to object to the systematic assault that attempts to remove any reference to God from the public square.”

This quasi-apology — he’s sorry if liberals didn’t understand what he meant — hasn’t made the problem go away. “Congressman Akin continues to insist that liberalism is anti-religion,” said the Rev. Kevin Cameron of Parkway United Church of Christ in west St. Louis County. “As a pastor and a constituent of Congressman Akin’s, I find this deeply offensive.”

Also from the God Machine this week:

* With New York joining the list of states that allow marriage equality, radical TV preacher Pat Robertson warned his viewers that God may punish us by destroying America. He wasn’t kidding.

* And speaking of religious radicals, Timothy Phelps, a leader of a Kansas-based Christian group that holds anti-gay protests at funerals, spoke at the FBI Academy at Quantico recently. From the group’s perspective, the purpose was to teach agents “how to stay measured when they are speaking with a witness or a suspect with whom they have a strong, visceral disagreement.” From the FBI’s perspective, they “invited Westboro members to the class so police officers and agents could see extremists up close and understand what makes them tick.” Neither Phelps nor his so-called “church” were paid by the FBI for the session. [edited for clarity]