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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. weedouthate

    Like weed seeds in the ground, our "inner weeds' can germinate and begin to suffocate our inner garden, given the right conditions. Only by being vigilent and taking pro-active measures to weed out our inner HATRED on a daily basis, can we ever expect so sow the seed of peace, love, and respect within ourselves and each other. Too many well meaning individuals have been misguided throughout history, believing that their own religious redemption depends upon weeding out other's beliefs.Sowing the seeds of hatred will only create a denser weed patch in us all and inflict that much more pain. We will be forced that much harded to rise above it. God created our evil inclination and the Bible as a means to cleanse our soul and garden our spirits. The German pedagues were on the right track when they invented the 'kindergardening' concept...to condition the spirit as well as the mind and body. Let's weed out hate and sow the seeds of peace.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • PK Experience

      German what? You mean weeding out evil what? Was Hitler not a product of "KINDERGARDNING"?

      Ignorance beyond belief

      October 25, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • GAW

      FACEPALM

      October 25, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • I'm Alive

      Hitler was a Catholic.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • weedouthate

      Regarding comment on German kindergardening. I was inspired to create the 'weed out hate' initiative after visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp...thinking about the kind of positive symbolism to counteract the holocaust. What I came up with was a bigger than life tribute to the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. in which the President of the United States would call upon two billion children two root out a symbolic weed of hatred. Regarding the comment about Hitler, this is what happens when dictators take on a godlike image in society. There is a difference between egoistic gardening and genuinely spiritual gardening for weeding out impurities in the individual soul and gardening the spirit. The Nazi party was more interested in literally weeding out Jews and other minorities. This is a perversion of the inner laws of Nature. Even the justification for invading other countries to give land for German warrior farmers was a perversion. Nowadays, allotment gardens make it possible for every inner city apartment dwellers to experience gardening. This is the spirit of kindergardening...as a pre-emergent method rooting out bullying instincts and worst.

      October 26, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  2. Sour Diesel

    Can I for once watch a video without a commercial in my face?

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

      No you cannot, because you live in AMERICA, BABY!! And putting ads in your face is how a lot of people get rich so they can live the American Dream!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  3. Anthony

    I dont know how much more evidence we need to see that the GOP is out of touch with Reality and logic?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  4. PK Experience

    Wayne and Eric

    I guess the question you needed to as South was:

    When you asked God; WHAT was His [GOD's] response?

    Amazing how time and again pastors, priests, reverends, etc all say the same thing. "Do I ask God? Of course I do..."

    But no one comes up with a response.

    PK

    October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  5. GAW

    The will of God? If you would ask most Republican Evangelicals if having a Democrat like Obama in office is the will of God they would say No! But in the case of all pregnancies they would say Yes! Like Indiana Jones me thinks that most Evangelicals are making this up as they are going along.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  6. parvo00

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

    You don't.

    You acknowledge that to do so would be attempting to explain preposterous fairytale nonsense by applying rationality and logic. You realize that the two are thoroughly incompatible, you grow up, and you move on.

    Seriously, how many man-hours - or man-millennia - have been wasted philosophizing about completely ridiculous, false moral dilemmas like this, stemming purely from ludicrous beliefs in invisible magical super-beings?

    We could have f@%*ing flying cars by now, with all the time that's been wasted.

    But no, instead we're still sitting here wasting yet more brain power on a question that should be a foregone conclusion: whether or not Richard Mourdock is a complete fruitloop who should be disregarded out of hand.

    I despair.

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

      if only we had flying cars, the world would be free of problems.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  7. Jeff

    So many Christians, so few lions.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  8. Jon

    Although God is absolutely holy there is no evil without God because then there is no perfect moral law and therefore no perfect moral law giver. Who is to determine what is evil? God does not make evil happen but he does allow it. All things happen for the best for people that love God and are called according to his purpose. God also has the unique ability to make things right in eternity.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • PK Experience

      OMG how mislead you have been...

      October 25, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  9. Michael

    Moron men. If you vote this party of GOP fools into power, then you deserve the the Government you get.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  10. dave

    society has a right to make laws and protect the innocent -– can you prove that a fetus should have no protection - what about the rights of the father? There is no Pro Choice argument that stands up to logic. No one has a right to do whatever they want with their own body - prove that a fetus is part of a woman in the same way a finger or a finger nail is - a fetus, if it is not killed will be born – if a woman can chose to terminate a pregnancy, why does a father have to be bound to child support -- Shouldn't the father have the right in the first two trimesters to say "I am not supporting this fetus"

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

      a fetus, is a health risk to the mother, it can killer. it suckes all the nutrition from her body so that it can grow. it can lead to other diseases both physically and mentally. there are still very high risk pregnancies and many women suffer post partum depression. in all litteral sense of the word, a fetus until it is born and can breath on its own, is letteraly a parasitic organism. no different from hook worm, tape worm, ringworm, leeches, ticks, mites, and fleas.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  11. One one

    Don't believers ever get tired of rationalizing the irrational or excusing the inexcusable ?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • dave

      don't abortion advocates ever get tired of trying to excuse the inexcusable

      October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      dave: Abortion is not inexcusable considering the christian god is one of the biggest baby killers. If life begins at conception as most christians believe, then miscarriage is murder by that god. What kind of good loving god would make it his will for a woman to suffer such a horrific act at the hands of a purely corrupted mind and to becomes pregnant as a result?
      It's simply time that people learned that what a woman does with her body is her business and only her's.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      oops should have read that Abortion is excusable.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • midwstrngrl

      the problem is the definition of what is inexcusable...

      October 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  12. Cfwood

    ...And Obama becoming our president was gods will so everybody get over it! So are people being born gay. God is wanting to see who is racist, who is tolerant, and who spouts religious retoric for their own purposes!!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  13. nsam

    Simple. There is no God period. If there is a loving compassionate God who create life, it would not let those creations act evil or be victims of them. However, if one choose to believe in an imaginary thing to help them, it is fine. Only thing is that it should not become public policy. That is wrong.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Jon

      That argument collapses on itself because there is no moral law without God so who then is to determine what is evil?

      October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  14. Kevin

    Please provide some proof that god exists and that he gave us free will – i can't find any.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • nii

      If he didn't give you freewill you will be dead for what you just wrote. If you have live in a dictatorship you will know what free will is.

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

      Dont worry, if you cant believe it as its written in Scripture, you'll find all the evidence on your last breath on earth.

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

      Jesus Christ is proof.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • I'm Alive

      Wow. You don't need proof as long as God lives inside you. Hard to prove a magical sky friend, who lives in you, who is his own father, who is a zombie too. It's hard to prove stories about magical trees and talking snakes, but if it's real for you...I say "enjoy!" But, I fully reject your version of reality, and must warn you to keep your thoughts out of my pants and your hands from my pockets. And don't ever, EVER touch my children.

      Now, where's my copy of those Mithraic Mysteries? Oh, here it is...right under The Life and Times of Hercules.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  15. Slender Bender

    To poster Ruth

    Yeah this "god" wants us to love him and if we do not, he sends us to hell.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • jimbo

      Hell is just separation from God- Since God is all good and holy and every good thing comes from him, wouldn't it follow that away from him would be complete torment? God cannot tolerate sin, but he loved us enough to send his son to bodily come to earth and literally take our punishment for us. That kind of love is beyond anything I can think up.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • monica P

      You better believe it!!! Get right!!

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

      @jimbo

      If nailing your supposed son to a cross is an act of love then I don't think I want to be loved quite that much. I'd rather go with something like mutual respect or frenemies.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  16. I'm Alive

    Ummmmmm, who said God is loving? This guy's a monster. Man-made of course, but a monster just the same.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  17. OneWay

    I would like the "there is no God" people to enlighten me with their explanation as to where these evil acts come from and how they can be stopped for good. Please oh please do tell.

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

      According to the Bible, in Isaiah, God creates evil. The answer is simple, sometimes people are just evil. We may never do enough to stop it. There are people who are just controlling and will do ANYTHING to keep whatever control that have established for themselves. At least with religion removed, we can also remove excuses.

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

      Is this a serious question? Evil comes from man, because we are inherently greedy, selfish and self centered. It's the very instinct of survival. That we can overcome that instinct to be good people is not some magic fairy god in the sky, it's our own will to overcome our instinct to only care about own well being. Babies are born caring about no one but themselves. You, as a parent, teach them how to care about others. When they aren't taught that skill, they become sociopaths. It's not magic and fairy dust, it's real biology and psychology, that we can track and monitor and show how it works.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • I'm Alive

      Monotheism creates most of these evil acts, and raising children with the truth would go a long, long way toward helping. Universally, children learn by example. We now know that the violent, constant and hypnotic religious beating of the modern (and ancient) childhood is a stupid and poor way to create a generation. It's big, bloody theatre, and it is in control of your life on this lonely, distant planet. History proves we should change our ways, only this time, going forward, we should admit we know very little, unlike religion, which "knows it all."

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

      Pray tell, is it coming from god? Gotta be kidding, right? 6000+ years of modern human history, and the "devil" is still on the loose. Why? Please, enlighten me oh wise one. How many billions have to suffer and die before god makes his point, whatever point that is? And once he makes his point, what good did it do those who've already died and suffered.
      The after-life? Huh huh, ask King Tut how much of his gold crap he is using in his after-life. Boy, that was real !

      October 25, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Anthony

      Rick and Matt be careful you are using logic for an illogical question, the correct response is, "Just read your bible and all will go way, ignorance is bliss".

      October 25, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • theotherjimmyolson

      they come from the free will of humans, and no, they cannot be stopped.The idea that there is an all knowing, all loving god who punishes people is absurd and irrational. I will ask you what is evil?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Damocles

      @one

      Seriously? Evil and good flow from people. Some are bad, some are good and every so often a bad person will do a good thing and a good person will do a bad thing. The way to combat it is twofold: you teach your kids right from wrong and to have respect for themselves and others. If this fails and it does sometimes, you punish the crime based solely on that crime, not who the person is or how much money they make or how famous they may be.

      You won't ever get rid of bad things happening, but you can lessen the impact when they do.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  18. JJM

    It's no wonder we are all discouraged with our choices of people running for elected offices. Our choices seem to be only the most narcissistic personality, the do as I say not as I do personality, the I am smarter than you so I know better personality or complete morons like Mourdock.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  19. JonathanL

    Pedophiles like Sandusky and Jimmy Savile And the millions who are not famous, are all driven by God's love. They are devoted to satisfying their religious urges in strange ways. They believe.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  20. donner

    When Mitt Rmney takes the oath of office, he will place his hand on the Book of Mormon. and and that instant, Jesus Christ will turn his back on America. Mitt Romney is the false prophet we were warned about. His election will signal the beginning of the End Times. Take 10 minutes and research the Book of Mormon. Or the White Horse Prophecy. Do you realize that Mitt Romney believes that when he dies, he will be transported to the planet Kolob? Is there a planet Kolob in your Bible?? Will you betray America and vote for a cult member? Forgive them Lord, they know not what they do.

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

      Mitt learned a great deal from his grandmother - numbers 1 through 5.

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

      Well we WON'T have to worry about that...BECAUSE HE WON'T BE ELECTED!

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

      I have taken more than a few minutes to research the book of Mormon and all other religious tracts, and they are all useless to any rational thinking person.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:11 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.