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October 25th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

When ‘God’s will,’ rape and pregnancy collide

By Wayne Drash, CNN

(CNN) - The pregnant 12-year-old girl was strung out on heroin and looked like a walking skeleton when she arrived at the hospital. The conversation that followed, said Phoenix police chaplain John South, has stuck with him ever since.

“Do you know who the father is?” South recalled asking her.

“She said, ‘Yes, it’s my biological father. He’s the one who hooked me on heroin so he could continue to rape me whenever he wanted to.’ ”

The Protestant chaplain has consoled about 50 pregnant rape victims - typically girls raped by their fathers - in his years working with the Phoenix Police Department.

South describes himself as “pro-life,” but when it comes to dealing with a girl or woman impregnated by a rapist, he keeps his personal views to himself.

“I don’t give them a lecture or preach at them,” South said. “I’ve seen crimes beyond comprehension.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock stirred controversy during a debate in Indiana Tuesday when he said pregnancies from rape are “something that God intended to happen.” The instant reaction in political circles was predictable: Democrats decried him, and many conservative Republicans defended his position as steadfastly “pro-life.”

But theologians were quick with a more nuanced approach, saying the issue of pregnancies from rape strikes at the core of a timeless question: How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?

That said, many expressed outright dismay by Mourdock’s remarks.

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South wanted to know what Bible Mourdock reads because “what he’s saying is absolutely wrong. It’s not biblical.”

The police chaplain said pregnancies from rape aren’t meant to be politicized and said the victims suffer from physical and mental wounds and are often suicidal. About 60% of the time, South surmised from his experience, the women or girls choose to give the baby up for adoption, as long as they never see the child at birth.

“I hurt for these kids,” he said. “Rape is evil.”

Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of the best-selling book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” said Mourdock’s remarks were off-base: “He’s invoking the will of God where it is not appropriate."

People “should have compassion for the person whose life is messed up by this and not make her an instrument for our idiosyncratic, theological commitment,” Kushner said.

“If you believe she has no right to terminate that pregnancy, you're free to believe that,” Kushner said. “But for you to write your preferences into law and compel another person to mess her life up because of what you believe, I think you're going too far.”

“I continue to be bemused by the ultraconservative lawmakers who say they want smaller government and less government intrusion into people’s lives, except when it comes to who you can marry and how many children you should have.”

Plenty of liberal Christians bemoaned how Mourdock was being perceived by some as the face of American Christianity.

"Once again, expressions of Christian faith that honor the rights of women to choose their own health care options and what happens to their bodies are not seen or heard," wrote the Rev. Barbara Kershner Daniel, who pastors the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ of Frederick, Maryland, in a message that she circulated via email.

"The lack of another voice, another perspective, another vision from the Christian community leaves an impression that all Christians share this single perspective about pregnancy through rape," she wrote.

Father Tom Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said he found Mourdock’s comments troubling from a Catholic perspective because “God does not want rape to happen.”

“Someone getting pregnant through rape simply means biology continues to function,” Reese said. “That doesn’t mean God wills it.

“If we look at the Scriptures, we see a God who weeps with those going through pain, who is compassionate for those who suffer and condemns those who do injustice,” Reese said

During the Tuesday debate, Mourdock was explaining his opposition to abortion in cases of rape or incest when he made his remark. “I came to realize life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” said Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer.

Amid the uproar Wednesday, Mourdock sought to clarify his comments, saying he was sorry if he offended anyone but said his comments were twisted and distorted for political gain. “The God that I worship would never, ever want to see evil done,” he said.

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Paul Root Wolpe, the director for the Center of Ethics at Emory University, said Mourdock’s comments were the equivalent “of saying you shouldn't pull people out of the rubble because God intended the earthquake to happen or we shouldn't try to cure disease because it's God who gave us the disease,” Wolpe said.

"That perspective was theologically rejected by virtually every major religion a long, long time ago,” Wolpe added.

Mourdock has been an active member of Christian Fellowship Church in Evansville, Indiana, for nearly two decades, according to Mike Deeg, the executive pastor of the 2,000-plus member nondenominational evangelical church.

Mourdock has gone on missions trips with a group connected to the church to Bolivia and is well-regarded among congregants Deeg said.

Deeg says the church tries to remain largely out of politics. “We don’t think God is Republican or a Democrat,” he said by phone from Evansville, noting they encourage members to vote, the church just doesn’t say for whom.

The pastor said of what he has read about Mourdock’s remarks, they largely lined up with the church’s teachings on the sanctity of life and their belief that life begins at conception.

“I think rape is a horrible thing, and I think God would condemn rape as horrible,” Deeg said. “I think we’re made in the image of God regardless,” he added, “I don’t think the circumstances dictate whether God knows us and loves us, regardless of how our conception comes about.”

South, the chaplain in Phoenix, said the 12-year-old girl he met years ago opted for an abortion and her father was ultimately convicted of rape. He said he grappled often with “why she was subjected to such horrendous pain and torture, mentally, physically and emotionally.”

“Did it shake my faith? No,” South said. “Did I ask God why? Of course.”

CNN’s Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Rape • Women

soundoff (4,449 Responses)
  1. tms therapy nyc

    Trifecta Health and Psychiatrist Dr. Fruitman offers Adult ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, Substance Abuse, Weight Management and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for depression in New York City.

    April 27, 2013 at 2:27 am |
  2. Aldewacs

    Just reading this, and it's January 2013.
    Amazing how the God crowd was 'assuring' us that the Repugnant party would sweep the floor with Obama.
    As mom always said: listen with a grain of salt, and speak with a grain of sugar – because you may have to eat your words.
    History is a great teacher – but some just ignore it.

    January 21, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  3. Grace Farmer

    One of my outside vendors told me that women get what they deserve based on who they vote for. That company is no longer an approved vendor.

    December 30, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  4. ET

    WOW ........I feel sorry for all of the confused souls regarding the Bible and the Word of God

    December 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  5. Conspiracy

    What if this was said by the politician deliberatly to malign certain groups? Ever wonder about that? I can't believe someone who is smart enough to be that wealthy would be dumb enough to say something like that unless there is a different motive.

    December 12, 2012 at 4:33 am |
    • Yuzuya Haruhi

      I think there are different kinds of smart, and what he said was mainly a belief nothing to do with how smart someone is. Like if one is stubborn enough to stay with one view regardless of what it is or what impact it may have. To simplify, good at making money, living however he wants. Not that I agree with him mind you :)

      December 20, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  6. Muff

    Coat hanger

    December 11, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  7. Kindness

    kindness
    This is my experience... Thank you.

    MY personal testimony.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    I Accepted Jesus christ as my lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
    We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

    Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,
    And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
    The, looking in, I saw upon the floor
    Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
    “How many anvils have you had,” said I,
    “To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
    “Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
    “The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
    And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,
    For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
    Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
    The anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.

    Truth is..exclusive

    I read. And found

    November 24, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • AJ

      Insanity.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  8. Jo

    Our government should never dictate personal choices. And medical decisions should be between you and your doctor. This whole line of argument during the election was sickening – and needs to fade into history along with the strange, old, white men who support it.

    November 9, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      Agreed!!

      November 9, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • fourteatwo

      correct but they should make the public debate personal choices so they can form laws on paper for those who do not understand the logos. And if it is my personal choice to kill a new life why should the government object. Life is after all a medical issue, not an ethical one.

      November 15, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  9. Jesus is the most powerful figure known to mankind (Fact)

    First I would like to say God is not to blame for world that is currently ruled by man. This is what the world wanted and this is what God allowed. THe world is witnessing mans self-rule. Look at the shape the world is in now because man wants nothing to do with God. Mankinds self-rule is almost up and soon the Kingdom of God will be here. The world will be ruled by the Son. And Why do Christians and atheist constantly fight and debate each other? @ Christians: All who believe in the Son of God was chosen and destined to be children of God before the world was created. If you are a TRUE Christian you should accept this simple truth. John 8:47-"He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." Why argue with fools? Why argue with children of death? Why argue with people who are and will no longer be? Why argue with the ones who will be forever forgotten and seperated from the Living God and His children? @ Atheist: Why argue with Christians? You cannot provide the smallest piece of evidence proving the non-existence of a Creator. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. @ Christians go to the right, @ atheist go to the left. Agree to disagree. Soon enough the truth will be revealed to everyone. If you are elected as the Son og God says, you will come to the light and the truth will not be hidden from you. If you were not elected the truth will be kept from you due to the hardness of your hearts and the blinding power of your father satan. Remeber it is God who chooses us first to come to Him. Love Him who first loved us.

    November 8, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Brent

      Yea, because the bible is full of facts. Get your nose out of that silly book you poor soul.

      November 8, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Ex-Muslim now JW

      What you're saying is pretty interesting – I whole-heartedly agree with what you said about man's self-rule being over soon. I also am eagerly awaiting the Kingdom of the Son.
      About what you said on being chosen: Couldn't a "child of satan" repent and be chosen by God? Do we have no exercise over our spiritual choices according to the Bible? I'd love to discuss that with you, if you'd like to email me at alainalameddine gmail com :)

      November 9, 2012 at 4:54 am |
    • Just a thought

      "Atheist: Why argue with Christians? You cannot provide the smallest piece of evidence proving the non-existence of a Creator. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE"

      Here's a little piece of evidence for you. For all the times in the bible it is written that god will answer prayers and for all the medical recoveries that christians call miraculous and attribute to their god. Not once has he ever restored an amputated limb. Perhaps the "miracles" can only happen for things that could have happened any way

      December 9, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      Steve Jobs is the most powerful figure known to mankind (fact)

      December 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  10. Ann

    Even though I'm pro-life when it comes to abortion, I think what Mourdock said is very,very unchristian,insane and wrong. In addition, even though I'm pro-life I respect people's opinions who are pro-choice and think judging people who have had abortions is very wrong, and we don't know what that person went through to make that decision.

    November 7, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • fourteatwo

      Now you could of course try to reinforce the sterotype that bad comes out of bad or give the woman a chance to turn her personal defeat into a victory over the person who violated her. Giving up the child to adoption allows her to know she has not bowed to the violation and that a bit of her is living somewhere to be wittness to that but she might turn around entirely. you should consider if you want women defeated by rapist men for the rest of theri life thinking "yes he paped me and in revenge I killed that bit of him and that bit of myself" or do you want her to think yes he pared me but I did not kill a bit of myself but allowed it to fluorish.
      Women may have been looked at in the past for being inferior to man and treated as chattel but were superior to men as they were holding the key to life. Thus they wer not equl to man but superior. Ever since they claim to be equal to men they have made themself inferior by throwing away the key

      November 15, 2012 at 12:58 am |
  11. MCR

    I wonder what it feels like to know you were the nail in the coffin of the Republican dream?

    November 7, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  12. MCR

    If Mary's baby was, as Many have theorized, the product of an attack bt a Roman soldier I think If the pro-lifers spin it right the family could be a useful example to use for living with this "gift from god" Stats in the US show such assaults unfortunately generally lead to divorce, but if we are to believe the history, Joseph was very supportive.

    November 6, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  13. MCR

    Testing...I've posted twice with no offensive language or anything and the posts haven't gone through...

    November 6, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Brent

      ^^ more thought provoking than any religionite post defending religion.

      November 8, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
  14. Overseasvet

    These politicians absolutely represent the face of American Christianity. The largest sect, Catholics, have it as doctrine and many lesser sects preach the same. The only cure is to start spreading the true word: god does not exist and the church exists for power and money. People should run from them and only then without the peer pressure opression can they be civil to those who have gone through tragety.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  15. Ex-Muslim now JW

    The best discussion of "Why does God allow pain?" that I've ever read is Chapter 11 of this book: http://www.jw.org/apps/index.html?fileformat=PDF&output=html&pub=bh&langwritten=E&option=TRGCHlZRQVNYVrXF&txtCMSLang=E

    November 5, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  16. Chad

    @Jesusisdead "Really folks, are that many of us still afraid of the dark and seeking some spark of light in a fairy tale called Jesus ?"

    =>in the atheist view, how in the world would humans ever have "evolved" the desire to hallucinate the existence of some supernatural being?
    How does that help? How would such a thing be preserved in the gene pool?

    If you are in the jungle and hear noise that you cant identify, there are 4 possible options:
    1. The noise represents a threat and you react to it as if it is a threat
    2. The noise represents a threat and you ignore it
    3. The noise does not represent a threat, but you react to it as if it is a threat
    4. The noise does not represent a threat, and you ignore it.

    now, two of those choices (#4 and #1) are appropriate responses, #3 is a paranoid response, and 2 represents a delusional response.

    Since it is better to be paranoid(#3) than dead (#2), natural selection will favor the paranoid over the delusional.

    so.. how did we get to be delusional then (in thinking that a supernatural ent ity exists)?

    November 4, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • Brenton

      Ever heard of schizophrenia, mania, bipolar, or epilepsy? When in the Atheist Book of Atheism did it ever say "And no god said unto atheist Moses there is no such thing as a crazy person.". Furthermore there is no atheist worldview because it is just the lack of belief in one idea. Natural selection doesn't select based on peoples beliefs it just matters who continues their lineage. Also why would a good god permit schizophrenia, mania, bipolar, or epilepsy to exist? I mean its not like its something you can learn to get over. At that point you can't even describe their life as a test.

      November 5, 2012 at 5:10 am |
    • SoSueMe

      Poor Poor Chad, You my friend are in the fairy tale world. Wake UP. and stop the religious persecution on Christians.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Overseasvet

      Paranoia is a type of delusion. They are not separate disorders. This invalidates the enire hypothesis that paranoid is a good trait and delusion is not. It does enforce the idea that god is the product of a delusional mind.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:53 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.