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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's issues

soundoff (4,449 Responses)
  1. Russ

    Joseph said, "You intended it for evil, but God used it for good." (Gen.50:20)

    That was after his brothers betrayed him, sold him into slavery, told his father he was dead, then he was falsely accused of attempted r.a.pe, wrongfully imprisoned, and nonetheless God used all those horrible evils to position him to save his own family – including the very brothers who betrayed him.

    R.a.pe is evil. Is it so evil God can't do anything about it? No. Look at the cross.
    Evil is still evil – but God is so good he can turn it inside out.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Horus

      So your god's idea of turning the repeated r ap e of a child by her biological father into something good is by giving her a gift in the form of a living reminder of that abuse? Yikes.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • TheVocalTheist

      Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked.
      None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.

      Daniel 12:10

      October 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Russ

      @ Horus: no, exactly backwards. My idea of the cross & resurrection is that those scars on Jesus' hands are not "unhealed evil" but rather trophies – that God is so good he can take the worst evil in history and even heal that.

      That's the "Good News" (literally: Gospel) Christians share. God doesn't just say "yep, that was evil." or even "I'm sorry that hurt." He's out to HEAL it – he will fix it. That's what the resurrection declares.

      or to put it as Dostoevsky does in the "Brothers K":
      "I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradi.ctions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the desp.icable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world's finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood that they've shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.”

      October 25, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • TheVocalTheist

      Russ – good points; I hope Horus and others will at least *try* to understand.

      Have you ever read "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten-boom? Awesome story of Forgiveness AND Redemption in the face of incredible evil! Well worth the read!

      Blessings to you. Continue to speak light into the darkness – you never know who the Holy Spirit might touch through you.

      Grace.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  2. The Tooth Fairy

    ...and they say that Muslims are radical...

    October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  3. Towanda

    I think Mourdock is wrong. There are many gray areas in life. There are many sins in life. I believe totally in God and the soul of each person – but as a human being – I'll never be able to understand His complexity. Abortion is a complex area. My personal feeling, (not trying to push my opinion on all of humanity) is that abortion should not be a method of birth control but that "abortion" can and should be a part of treatment of illnesses or crimes or whatever. What about conceptions that don't go full term and the parents naturally lose their baby? I don't know when the soul becomes part of the living cells but I do believe that God has the "soul" situation fully under control. And that's my opinion.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  4. WWRRD

    : How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?

    This is simple. It is called "Free Will". God gave each of us the ability to think and choose our way in the world. Unfortunately many are consumed by the evil inherent in the world and do terrible things to others. In Christianity , it comes down to the concept of original sin. People are inherently sinful. We live in a broken world.

    That is why bad things happen to good and innocent people.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Hawkeye321

      How do you explain evil in the world when God is loving?

      Easier answer. There is no God.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • David R

      I don't believe in free will and believe our God is a sovereign, all knowing, and all powerful God.. He designed us before we were born for His purpose. Sin is us.. No doubt but free will is the assumption that you are in control.. I don't agree if God is all powerful (e.g. Pharoah hardening of the heart, Jeremiah becoming the prophet, Romans with Paul's writing).. I believe God compliment human responsibility (look at Isaiah 13 I believe with Assyrian's judgment for doing God's Will of punish the sinfulness of the Israelites) and human responsibility. It is something man can't understand but seems to coincide in the Bible.. That is why the Bible for me God inspired and written by God through man... I would never thought I would write this 2 years ago

      October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • David R

      Look at the minor prophets and you get the answer.. God allow it and was compassionate not to kill people for sin.. It complements Jesus message of our depravity and provide a way to salvation... Again, if there is no God... You have to ask why you die? It seems odd that you accept death as part of life but can't explain why it happens.. If the universe is eternal (which most scientists concur it is not), how did death come into the picture?

      October 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • TheSchmaltz

      DavidR

      Forget 2 years ago, I can't believe you wrote that now. What a bunch of incoherent rambling.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • TheVocalTheist

      If Man did not have free will – God would not give us the ability to choose; to wit:

      This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life...

      Deuteronomy 30:19-20

      October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  5. Slender Bender

    Poster SC

    Spot on... Perhaps that is the reason why the United States is so far behind other nations when it comes to science.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  6. Leigh

    Mourdock (and ever so many others) is assuming there is a God and that God takes a direct interest in and affects what happens to every single person on the planet. I am not willing to assume either of those, especially the scale of God's interest and action. And MOST especially when such sweeping claims are made by those who have never actually met the Gentleman.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  7. TheVocalTheist

    I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

    Mark 10:15

    October 25, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • J

      Circular "logic" from a book of fairytales.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • TheVocalTheist

      The fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of knowledge,
      but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

      Proverbs 1:7

      October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • HA25

      No, Fools call a book written 2,000 years ago by unknown people who didn't have refridgeration "Truth" and ignore science and philosophy and critical thought and twist the word "Wisdom" into being linked to "belief".
      Being like a little child is great for love and play and all. But not for deciphering the eternal question of 'why are we here'.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  8. palintwit

    Countless studies have shown that there is a higher incidence of incest and child molestation among southern, white evangelical families than in any other group that participated in the study. All one has to do is take a casual drive south of the Mason-Dixon line and you will encounter toothless inbreds wherever you travel. In fact, historians have long theorized that the reason the south lost the Civil War is because of the high number of mentally challenged soldiers in the army, a direct result of this inbreeding.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • TheVocalTheist

      Thank God I live in Texas. I don't think I could take many intolerant and ignorant neighbors like you!

      October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  9. crankyoleman

    This is precisely why I left the Republican Party and became an independent...don't like the Democratic spin on other issues (not related to this) either. Far too easy to be stereotyped when you attach an R or a D to your name.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Tom

      That is very true.

      I consider myself a conservative, who is republican on some issues (and where it counts – at the voting booth).

      But, I'm not lock-step with republicans.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  10. Neil

    Abortion isnt an issue of right or wrong anymore. There is nothing anybody can say that will change people minds or the legality of it. There does need to be legislation though that addresses the father and mother. For example:

    If the woman wants the child and the man doesnt, she has the power to make him pay child support for the next 18 years of the childs life. On the flip side, if the woman doesnt want the child and the man does, then she has the right to kill his child.

    There needs to be legislation regarding this issue.

    It is inconsistent.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Tom

      Good points!

      October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Read it

      I agree, we should use the power of the state to force women to do with their bodies what the state says so!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • TheVocalTheist

      The issue of a woman's right to do what she will with her body has limits when it includes the right to kill the body of another person. Any sane person will admit that.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  11. 1plus1

    How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?

    Easy.
    There is no God.

    And if God does exist, and he allows evil to exist, then I don't want to worship a god like that. If God allows evil to exist, then there must be some evil in him (after all, he KILLED almost EVERYBODY on earth with a flood – everybody.) If God is love, then why is there such a thing as the Wrath of God? Yea.. it doesn't make any sense.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • J

      Well, that's religion for you, it's certainly not for anyone with a lick of common sense and reasoning skills.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Forrestal

      If you why God allows evil to exist, God may ask you the same question back. Why do you allow it to exist

      October 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Ting

      That sentence jumped out at me also. Do these people even read the Bible? As Richard Dawkins puts it: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, hom ophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

      October 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • cdonyi

      I understand where you come from but I disagree. I think you have to look at evil and why evil happens in the world in the larger biblical context. Of course I am giving you a Christian viewpoint which I choose to subscribe to through faith in God and Jesus. I would recommend an excellent sermon series that gives a Christian point of view of "Why Crap happens". You don't have to be a "bible thunping Christian" to listen to these messages. So I invite you to if you have the time. http://whchurch.org/sermons-media/sermon-series/crap-happens

      October 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • summer91

      Because God is real and because He loves His children, He sent them to earth to learn and grow. One of the greatest gifts God gave us is the ability to think for ourselves and to choose good or evil. God doesn't control our actions and He doesn't alter the consequences of those actions. Some people choose evil and someday those people will stand before God and answer for the things they have done. God weeps for the innocent who have been harmed and His love can heal them.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  12. wes

    Why are my comments disappearing with incredibly mild words and tenor...It's not a word filter in use here...it's censorship.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • midwest rail

      False.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • wes

      Absolutely true. I used completely mild words, as I am here. And the tenor of my comment was calm. But I've had about 4 comments of mine to disappear within about 15 minutes.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Zeus

      the bad words count even if they are in the middle of another word like. consti.tution.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  13. Calbikerman

    "Keep Thy Religion To Thyself " George Carlin

    October 25, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • TheVocalTheist

      "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." - Jesus Christ

      October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  14. TheVocalTheist

    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

    "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."

    Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

    For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

    1 Corinthians 1:18-25

    October 25, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Damocles

      @tvt

      So you don't want scholars or wisemen or common sense mucking up your belief. I gotcha.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • TheVocalTheist

      I think the apostle said it well enough. But, live by your own wisdom if you choose. It will be a short life, however.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Bulls hitter

      Ok and explain to me how the Easter bunny lays eggs or is that also god's will? Fool please, scientists today know more and more about how this world came about. Maybe ignoramuses like you don't understand, but god hasn't made scientists look foolish once.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Hawkeye321

      You sound like a brainwashed fool, citing ancient texts like a senile old wizard.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • TheVocalTheist

      Hawkeye,

      This is what the Lord says:

      "Stand at the crossroads and look;
      ask for the ancient paths,
      ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
      and you will find rest for your souls.

      But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'

      Jeremiah 6:16

      October 25, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • TheVocalTheist

      Jesus said: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." (Matthew 5:11)

      I want to thank all my verbal foes here this morning – I have been VERY BLESSED!
      :)

      May the God of Peace open your hardened hearts and your blinded eyes to His marvelous truth, and may each of you, in His perfect timing, join me and my brothers and sisters on the narrow road to Life.

      Shalom!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  15. Draxta

    Firestorm?? Oh my god! You liberals are so desperate that you pull this story out of your A$$es and are trying to hype it to the fullest!
    Let's forget about "Gods Will" and focus on Obumblers failure and outright lies with regards to the four dead Americans in Libya!! Why oh why has CNN so conveniently forgotten this tragic story and outright deception??

    October 25, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • MikeH

      I rely hope you were far more angry over the lies of the right that lead to the deaths of thousands as our brave men and women were sent to Iraq based on a hoax cooked up by Republican leadership. That is far more tragic and concerning than a single breach. I really don't get what the big deal is about Libya. It is an unfortunate mistake, which cost lives, but it is nothing compared to the lies that lead to the conflict in Iraq and is little compared to the oppression championed by the religious right.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  16. Watnen

    Just another example of how "F#$%'ed up" religeous people are.....

    October 25, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  17. Cpat

    Where do we get the idea that "God picked us to hear the truth. Sounds like self centeredness. The kind children need but adults need to be rid of. God is the cloak behind we hid our self-centerness so we can force other to do it our way.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  18. ruth

    God gave us free choice, to follow Jesus or the world. God allows yes but He does not want to control man. He wants us to love Him as He loves us, not by force therefore choice. It is these choices, the consequences of ones actions that result in tragedy. We, as followers of Christ, have dropped the ball so to speak, we quit telling others of Jesus, what God has done for us or so change the gospel around that ones believe they can get away with anything and it is okay.Pray, reach out to others. tell others of Christ crucified for us. One sin is no greater than another is what our Lord says, do we just sit back and say oh this is Gods fault.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • TheSchmaltz

      "we quit telling others of Jesus"

      I hear about him all the time. The story is no less ridiculous, and frequently more so, every time I hear it.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  19. sputnick1

    This man needs professional help !!!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  20. Slender Bender

    To poster Scot
    Your comment >>This just show how little people really read the Bible. God did not cause this to happen, He allowed it. Why? Because we chose to disobey Him and do things our way. He's allowing us to fail, to show us that our ways won't work just as any good parent would do with their children. Be comforted though because He has promised to make all thing right again and He never breaks a promise.<<

    How typical from a religious person

    October 25, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • TheVocalTheist

      .. and how right Scot is! You would do well to listen!

      October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • rexdogcanadien

      Pastor Scott: You say that you believe in god. Can you prove that there is a god? I believe Biblical stories are myths. Is our belief a Fact or an Opinion? What say you?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • TheVocalTheist

      rexdogcanadien,

      You say 'there is no God' - can YOU prove that!?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:24 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.