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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. CINTIJACK

    I have free will, you have free will, and every other person has free will. This is true whether you believe in God or not. Evil acts occur as exercise of free will, not God's will. If you believe in God in the Judeo-Christian tradition, then your faith teaches that had free will in the Garden of Eden and exercised it contrary to God's will (eating of the Forbidden Fruit). If you don't believe in God then its just free will.

    To call the actions of another person having free will as "God's will" is contrary to Christianity, agnosticism and atheism.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • ArthurP

      So God is not responsible for the creation of new life. Then what good is He?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  2. Lou

    1 PETER 1:20 Despite God’s failed experiment in the Garden of Eden, the mass execution of Noah’s flood and the final solution of Christ’s sacrifice, Jesus was predestined to be crucified all along. "He was chosen before the creation of the world,"

    October 25, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • snowboarder

      lou – the entire christian doctrine is absurd.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  3. ArthurP

    If women would keep themselves bare foot and pregnant and in the kitchen God would have no need for rapists to do the job.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  4. Brad

    Honesty has no place in politics. Any other candidate would have spun that instead of answering truthfully. Keep in mind, it's his opinion, based on his beliefs. And frankly, he didn't seem too pleased about having to answer that truthfully. But, since he believes that God is watching, he knew he had to answer truthfully. Maybe the question raised by this article is, how much should a politicians personal beliefs contribute to his policies? If he represents the people, then the answer is none.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Brad

      I meant, maybe the question that SHOULD be raised by this article.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  5. Sharon

    Shouldn't Mourdock be in a mental hospital?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • sam stone

      or a seminary......

      potayto, potahto

      October 25, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Wes Scott

      I think that Mourdock, Aiken, Ryan and anybody who supports them should be turned into buzzard bait. Why waste valuable, precious, limited resources keeping people like that locked away where we have to pay for them?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  6. MarkinFL

    The fact that life happens without the intervention of a god is quite beyond many people. Also a zygote may be human ( as is my left toe ) but it is not a person ( as my left toe also is not ). Just because a zygote CAN become a person ( unlike my left toe, except possibly through some cloning technique ) does not mean it is currently a person. Its that simple. The only gray area is deciding where that line is drawn. Personally I go with serious brain activity ( not random sensory firing ). But that is another discussion. But certainly a forming set of cells just organized enough to stay alive and develop further is not a person.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

      All that really matters is the FACT that the United States is NOT a theocracy. People like Mourdoch who would change our laws to Christian sharia laws are a direct threat to our nation – and should NOT be in a position to create policy.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  7. sim namore

    A "timeless question"? Really? How about: "A question whose time has passed"? They're really coming out of the woodwork now. The Right as suddenly realized that this election is not about issues–look at Willard–a Mormon bishop heaping threats of war and insults upon the American electorate like righteous hail–his motto is "trust." Hahahahahaha. The god of Kolub is pleased. Bow down. Bow down Gentile, bow down before Moroni, His Prophet rises.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

      I agree it's laughable that a man like Mittens, who has flip-flopped on every major issue, seems to suffer from multiple personality disorder (just compare at his behavior during at the three debates!) and lies through his teeth at the drop of a hat, is running on "trust."

      The only trust he can claim is the GOP base are a bunch of scared, ignorant foolish ninnies – and he's hoping they'll once again be convinced to vote against their own self-interest.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  8. birch please

    The universe is random or it is determined. There is free will or there is not. "I have no choice but to believe in free will."

    October 25, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  9. Quasimodo

    Expected remarks. These days politicians wants God to be blame for everything while they are praised for doing all the good things. They believe they are a gift to humanity and the solution for world problems. Same happens with majority of religions. While their religious 'inanimate' icons receives all the praise for the good things that happens to them at a individual level, God is the one been blamed for the bad things. Crazy days indeed!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  10. Lou

    EXODUS 2:12 Moses saw an Egyptian beating up a Hebrew. He looked around, saw no witnesses, killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Read it

      Lol

      October 25, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Sharon

      Old Testament is brutal. I cannot understand why anyone would worship that deity.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • sam stone

      Sharon: Because they are afraid of him.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  11. richunix

    He's got a good argument if you believe in the book of "Job"

    Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    October 25, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Chia

      A wonderful quote

      October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Wes Scott

      The quote from Stephen F. Roberts may just well be the most logical argument against a belief in god that I have ever heard! The entire concept of gods was to explain the unexplainable to uneducated people in a world devoid of scientific discovery. Today's christians (and other religions) have never moved any closer to knowing and understanding science. As a child my church told me that when I went to colege science teachers would try to tell me things that were untrue, and that I should not let them alter my (christian) perspective about who god is and what he does. That pretty well summed it up for me, though it took me a few years to finally realize how archaic and antiquated religious beliefs really are. It has been 40 years since I left that wilderness of religion and entered the free world of rational thought, science and discovery, and it has been 4 decades of freedom from the shackles of people like Mourdock, Aiken, Ryan, Bachmann, Billy Graham and the rest of those idol-worshipping miscreants.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  12. Steve

    The probably think, "Its not a sin, why the god impregnated his own mother and didn't let her have an abortion"

    October 25, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  13. amazing-brains

    wow – yet another bizarre comment. when will these republications get some sense into their heads? i think these guys need some serious rehab and education.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • amazing-brains

      Republicans

      October 25, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  14. pimpernickel

    You should have asked him what God said at the end so I could have a laugh.

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

    What if I do not believe in God?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  16. Beavis

    Someone put this clown in a nut house.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  17. GO_GOP

    HE works in mysterious ways and it's sheer ignorance and arrogance to claim we understand HIS ways. Be humble and accept whatever HE gifts you. Seek Jesus.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Matt

      as I mentioned before, what if I do not believe in God?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • SnYGuY

      There is nothing mysterious about being a complete douch3

      October 25, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Huebert

      To paraphrase Go-GOP: Believe what I say, and don't ask any questions.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • GO_GOP

      Matt: Then I feel sorry for you. There is a special place in hell for you. Seek Jesus before it is too late.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • The Right is Wrong

      I hope he gifts you a couple of rapings. Perhaps then you will start to question the BS you have been force feeding others.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Which God?

      I did seek jeebus. Found him under the same rock you crawled out from.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Ting

      So there is a special place in hell for Matt? That's nice. I would rather be in hell with Matt then be in heaven with you, murderers, rapists, and your f'd up deity.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • terrance e boyle

      Is this statement sarcasm?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

      The only mystery is your inability to accept that God does NOT personally control every aspect of every person's life. There's this thing called free will and accountability – and the fact that most things are out of your control. Grow a pair and start accepting this!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • logic hurts

      You're delusional. "HE" doesn't exist. Get real.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Ted in Dallas

      What if HE doesn't exist?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  18. MeinNJ

    "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.”

    What an awesome man.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • kari martin

      Per Rabbi Kuschner, "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.”

      I, too, love this man. If only all could be so enlightened.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

      Thank you for providing the quotes. I read his book years ago and agree with his conclusions. When considering Mourdoch's statements, I think everyone, especially voters, need to be reminded that the United States is NOT a theocracy and that this push on the part of the GOP to shove their particular brand of Christianity down our throats is unacceptable and very un-American.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  19. blogo

    Wow. How long are we going to take this hoax (religion) seriously? Why is religion exempt from being disclised as a fraud it is?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  20. JD

    Benevolent God and evil in the world?... Hmmm... How does that occur.... It probably has somethin to do with God being a fairy tale.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • James

      If there is no God then why does evil exist?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • blogo

      One would think this is still the 5th century. Some things never change.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Read it

      Benevolent is what preachers would have you believe. Read the bible, it will turn you anti-theist

      October 25, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • SnYGuY

      @ James

      It is simply in our nature

      October 25, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • michael

      Yes, JD, if there is no God, then how do we define evil?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Huebert

      James

      Evil is a social construct. Events have no morality. People designate events as good or evil, and the definition changes over time.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • JD

      You don't need a God to define concepts of good and evil and put things in the good and evil bucket. They're social constructs that evolve over time.

      Just like God was a social construct created to keep people from fearing death and nature and then evolved into a means of consolidating power and controlling people.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:30 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.