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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. Grashnak

    I love how people are selective about what god get's credit for.

    Child recovered from cancer? Hey, thanks god!
    Child got cancer in the first place? Apparently not god's fault.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • James PDX

      I get a kick out of athletes who thank God when they succeed. I'm still waiting for this to happen on national TV: "Thanks, God, for making me fumble the ball at the goal line and letting the other team recover it and run it back 100 yards for the game winning touchdown which cost me a Superbowl ring, a huge endorsement, and a gigantic new contract. Oh, and my mother won't talk to me, now. Seriously, thanks a bunch.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  2. Corkpuller

    Gods will was for him to say that and get out of politics.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  3. Tom P.

    When did the campaign for President become a war of religion? This is why there is "the seperation of church and state.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      you must've missed the "war on Christmas" episodes on Fox...

      October 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  4. Mark

    I don't know if God exists, but what I do know is no man on Earth knows what's Gods will. Anyone who claims to know Gods will, anyone who claims God is on their side on an issue, is a liar or delusional. Believe in God all you want, I don't mind that at all. But don't you DARE ever try to tell me what God wants from me.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • OneWay

      I dare tell you he wants you to model your life after Jesus's own life. Read the gospels Matthew Luke Jonh Mark, its a life worthy of admiring.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Mark

      I have read the Bible in my youth and while it does offer some good moral advice it is still fiction. I follow some of Jesus's teachings in regards to how to treat fellow man, something I see lacking in many self proclaimed "Christians". But I don't do it because I believe the Bible is fact, I do it because it feels right to me. I don't need the fear of hell or the promise of eternal life to be a good moral person, I can be those things regardless of faith. Religion does not own a monopoly on morality.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Grand Poobah

      It's funny how God's will seems to always coincide with the will of the people who claim to know it.
      Modeling life after Jesus, you mean never marry and provoke authorities into executing you by age 33? Or reject any worldly possessions? Or living humbly and loving your neighbors without judging? It's funny how none of these rich old white guys in politics calling themselves christian seem to follow any of those examples.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • OneWay

      I hope your excuses work for your own sake the day you have to meet your Creator, you know the fairy tale one you talk about. "I was a good person and never did wrong to anyone or intentionally never hurt anyone, i gave to the needy in some cases and I believe my rights outweigh my wrongs". His answer will be "I never knew you, depart from me". Good luck

      October 25, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Mark

      So your god turns away people who spend their entire lives being good and honest and moral simply because they question his existence? That is not a loving forgiving god worthy of praise, that is a monster.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  5. John

    It what all Republican really believe ,but It Only two that really said It. Even Mitt Romney believe this way,he just not saying It. But he did said he would get rid of plan parenthood that does a lot more than Abortion for women. I'm from Indiana and I will NOT vote for this man. The Republicans are be coming American Taliban, trying to force there believe on everyone.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Jon

      I forgot how liberals run on a platform of openness to different views in beliefs.....until someone's beliefs differs from theirs.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Tom P.

      I'd bet there are a few Democrats out there that are not big supporters of abortion, too. Generalizations can only get you into trouble, although they often are used by folks to support their own desires and beliefs.

      As for the article and its point: we need to deal with the animals that "do the act". How's our legal system working for you? Now that is a subject for discussion.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • pete

      well said John. "American Taliban" they truely are.

      I think Romney is a much reasonable man than these guys. But if he wins, he will let himself be arm twisted by the neo-cons into supporting these Taliban policies. All they need tell him is he's got no second term if he doesn't support their wishes.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • ghost1959

      I absolutely agree.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  6. Jon

    I don't personally condone his views but fundamentalist Christians (who generally align themselves with GOP Christian values) believe ALL life is scared and a gift from God, no matter how it comes into existence. His take is outrageous but it is his personal religious belief. If the people don't agree, they won't elect him. The only reason this story is news is because its an election season and CNN panders to people on the left who don't think for themselves but let websites make their minds up for them

    October 25, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      ??? people on the left that don't think for themselves???

      What do you call someone who doesn't question??? who takes what they're told and believes with NO common sense or reality to support that belief?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Topher

      "ALL life is scared and a gift from God, no matter how it comes into existence."

      100 percent true.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Seriously?

      Um, no, this is not news because it's election season. This is news because it is outrageous for anyone to say this, particularly in the forum of a political debate (vs. amongst his congregation, for example). Just stop for a second and think of your mother, your grandmother, your wife... If some man forced himself inside of her, and deposited unwanted sperm resulting in a pregnancy, you think they should have to bear the fruit of that monster? What on earth gives you the right to determine how I feel about my body. Your Heaven forbid you ever have to experience this in your life with someone close to you.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • bignevermo

      Gladiatorgirl...that would be the definition of Conservative! For someone to say it is the "will of God" smacks of the most fundamentalist type of religion teachings...who can know the "will" of a sky daddy?
      Also almost ALL of these "pro-lifers" are only pro life when it comes to embryos and zygots...not fully formed Humans...these same people LOVE the Death penalty!! How is that Pro-life??????????? hypocrites all!~

      October 25, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • pete

      how about the life of the cow you just eat for lunch?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  7. OneWay

    Funny how much scientific evidence there is about the events described in the Bible. Atheist just like to pick and choose which evidence justifies their claims based on their own opinion and than want everyone else to agree with them.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      please show us where someone has proved talking snakes and the world was populated by a man in a climate controlled boat full of animals that don't eat each other.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • OneWay

      Thanks, you prove my claim of picking and choosing to justify your claim.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Bet

      Can you give specific examples of this "scientific evidence" for biblical events?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Douglas

      Last time I checked, it was the religious whackos forcing their view on the world. Remember the Crusades? The list goes on and on, so you really can't blame Atheists for defending themselves.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • OneWay

      All the cities of the anciet world that have been duggued up, kings from the past, ancient egypt, im sure you have google.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • panger

      My man, you called out gladiatorgrl for picking and choosing to support her own claim, Then, douglas asked you for specific examples of scientific evidence that proves a few things in the bible and you chose, operative word here being chose, cities of the ancient world, kings of the past, and ancient Egypt. How is that any different than what gladiatorgrl did?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • panger

      My mistake, it was Bet who prompted you with the scientific evidence question, not douglas.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Bet

      I asked for one specific example of scientific proof of biblical events and you say things like "cities that have been "duggued" up" and "ancient Egypt"? The fact that Egypt exists doesn't prove the bible is real any more than it proves that the sun god Ra and The Mummy are real.

      October 25, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  8. Bible just a theory

    For you people who think the BIBLE is such a perfect guide for SE X & MARRIAGE, then you haven't read it, because 1) RA PE is NOT one of the "shalt nots" in the 10 Commandments (not surprising since men wrote it) 2) the BIBLE says that the PENALTY FOR RA PE shall be that the rapist MUST MARRY HIS VICTIM (DEUT 22:28 "If a man happens to meet a vir gin who is not pledged to be married and RA PES HER and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must MARRY THE YOUNG WOMAN, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.") 3) DIVORCE is prohibited, even when the husband beats his wife: 1 CORINTHIANS 7:10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. 4) MARK 10:11 Jesus answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” FUNNY how all these Evangelicals claim to be such devout "Bible believers" and they DON'T OBEY WHAT IT SAYS!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • OneWay

      Funny how everything you just posted about is worthy of being called good and yet you preach agaisnt it instead of trying to model your life after it.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Topher

      OneWay

      Exactly.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • richunix

      wow

      October 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • panger

      @ One Way – where in Bible just a theory's post does he preach against those verses not being good? It's fascinating to read your comments and see how you interpret what people say. What I gathered is that he's confounded by evangelicals selective bible beliefs and nothing more. This is reflected in his very last statement if you made it that far. And also, do you personally know Bible just a theory? I ask because, it not so many words, you questioned his current moral compass.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  9. gladiatorgrl

    If you want to know how we as a nation got here – suggested reading: The Family by Jeff Sharlatt

    The Family is about the other half of American fundamentalist power—not its angry masses, but its sophisticated elites. Sharlet follows the story back to Abraham Vereide, an immigrant preacher who in 1935 organized a small group of businessmen sympathetic to European fascism, fusing the far right with his own polite but authoritarian faith. From that core, Vereide built an international network of fundamentalists who spoke the language of establishment power, a "family" that thrives to this day. In public, they host Prayer Breakfasts; in private, they preach a gospel of "biblical capitalism," military might, and American empire. Citing Hitler, Lenin, and Mao as leadership models, the Family's current leader, Doug Coe, declares, "We work with power where we can, build new power where we can't."

    October 25, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  10. JJ

    CNN – this guy is front page news two days straight? Dumb comment, but your coverage on front page, like last week's overhype of "binders of women" shows you clearly want to create issues that somehow benefit the Obama/Democrats. All this why Libya story gets worse and worse for Obama yet that isn't 'front page'.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Its not about making a comment. Its about who he is and what he represents. It is not his words that are a problem. It is that he believes all women should be forced to live by his personal beliefs and that he is trying to get elected to a position which will give him a say in future laws that can effect real people.

      He represents the growing forced birth movement.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Rationalintn

      Folks on the right seem so desperate to throw a tantrum about semantics in regards to the Benghazi attack. They even post their tantrums on topics that have nothing to do with Libya. They are jumping up and down and screaming so loud, it makes me wonder if they actually did learn a lesson about George W Bush and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. THey just sat back and let that happen without question. That must be why they are now pressing the Obama administration on semantics and how the word terror was used.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  11. MnTaxpayer

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

    And what did God tell you?

    That's what I thought.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  12. Jeff E.

    Creation (what we interpret as good) and destruction (what we interpret as evil) are the nature of the Universe (aka God) and are in our nature as well. Perhaps we really were created in God's image.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Woody

      Look up the human mammal sometime to see what we really are . Mammals on a planet looking for an answer when being mammals is all there is to be .

      October 25, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Jeff E.

      Woody, it requires as much faith to believe that your statement is the truth as it is to believe in a God. You simply direct your faith towardthe tiny bit of understanding contained within your intellect. And the word God has as many meanings as there are people. It doesn't necessarily refer to the one in the Christian Bible.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  13. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    No surprise he is supported by the Teafascists.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  14. darrenhankins

    what and idiot.....Romney are all the GOP clowns

    October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      and in some polls they're leading which is really really scary...

      October 25, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • mdbill

      pay attention independents and free thinking repubs, this guy IS the mindset of what the republican party offers. if you have no problem with that, then by all means vote away. if his words make you cringe inside, and you know who you are, think twice before punching that mittens button...

      October 25, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  15. Steve

    Good thing "faith" is dying, albeit a slow death. But their numbers decline every year. I work with teens and notice that many of them, many with religious parents, are self-described atheists. How awesome they found the truth so early in life!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  16. Michael

    It's quite simple. God isn't real.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Brian

      The definition of God is the problem (the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe, yada yada). The universe itself is God and the physics that dominate our reality, that day after day we gain a better understanding of through mathematics and science. You want to talk about creation? Every atom and element in your body was originally sourced from the result of an exploding star. The universe gave birth to the elements that allowed for our creation, and will most likely eventually end our puny place in the cosmos.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  17. Woody

    The bible is a place for adult children to run and hide when they cant handle the realities of life . I was an altar boy that grew up and past fantasy !

    October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  18. Steve O

    When's the last time a Democrat politician said anything remotely as shocking and disgusting as the things that come out of Republicans' mouths every week?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  19. Ken

    I won't repeat what others have already commented, but it never ceases to amaze how stupid people can be. It's not a coincidence that the the most ignorant comments come from the conservative, religious right wing nuts. They really need to take their head out of the bible and get a grip on reality.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • richunix

      that won't be happining anytime soon

      October 25, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  20. Kelsey

    I wonder if he would still feel this way if it was his daughter? Besides that, if you have never had a uterus you should not have a say

    October 25, 2012 at 10:29 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.