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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. pawnyourhalo

    When he said it didn't shake his faith, I wondered why not. If God could NOT stop the girl's father from hooking her on drugs, raping her throughout her young childhood, and impregnating her, God isn't all-powerful and therefore is not God. If God COULD have stopped all that, and did not, God is evil, and not worth worshiping.

    Either-or logic rarely makes sense, but when you are dealing with a being defined by omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, there are enough universal absolutes to apply it.

    If someone chooses to ignore the theodicy problem, he has to admit he's indulging in wishful thinking. Which is fine. But I wish people would cop to it. Faith is a miracle. God is a fraudulent loophole in the world contract.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  2. Margo

    I am so disgusted with the comments by these idiot republicans. How could any woman accept any of this and vote for romney, or yeah except for his stepford wife ann...the stupidity is beyond comprehension. These tea party fanatics need to stay out of govenment. We don't want their beliefs shoved down our throats. They have every right in the world to live by their own convictions but so do we...

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

      You make a blanket complaint statement about all republicans but fail to state which comments you disagree with. Thats typical of many on the left. I for one am a pro-choice conservative Republican.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  3. sanjosemike

    As an atheist, I say: "There is no god or gods, so evil happens."

    Let the victim make up her own mind. That said, if there is the "possibility" of a relatively healty infant coming out of this, you can make some people very happy by giving them a chance at adoption, as well as the child.

    But there are caveats: The babies usually have to be white (in order to get adopted) and second, they should not suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, which is a life-long disability.

    Nothing's easy, is it?

    sanjosemike

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

    "How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?" I question: How do you explain evil in a world where God is absent? She abandoned us a long time ago. We are on our own, and evil is human made. Only we can change that.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  5. Ingrid

    One more thing....
    I'm a pastor to pastors, and the one thing I've leaned about Academically Faithful people is they may not know or let alone have any experience with how the God/Jesus/Holy Spirit works. Most pastors have this "job" not necessarily a "call" in the world. This politician was placed for a reason by God's will to rile us up, challenge our thinking and our hearts. Think also about how God and the Devil worked in Job's life. It felt like a game.

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

      As a former altar boy . "not" !

      October 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  6. sortakinda

    A new law is being pushed which will require every politician to speak one word per minute with a five minute delay in between so that every word can be diced, sliced and pureed before the public has the opportunity to hear it. And this blog will become obsolete.

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

      It is horrible that the citizens scrutinize their leaders when they should be closing their eyes and praising the lord?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • midwest rail

      Delusional gibberish. The man said it, he has to deal with the backlash.

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

      I refer you to the words and wisdom of Joe Biden, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and ANY number of politiicans on either side of the aisle, out in the hall or hiding in the woods. You all think I'm only talking about your horse in the race? Sniping must be your full time jobs.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  7. Hookiecop

    So the rest of the country is finally getting to know the crackpot Mourdock. He is an idiot that found a home with the radical conservatives and runs for political offices(check out his political resume'). The saddest part part of this is that Indiana voters have voted him into office..... I hope now people see that this is a person who in interested in the power he derives from holding office rather than serving the people.

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

    “Did it shake my faith? No,”
    "Am I retarded? Yes."

    October 25, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  9. Woody

    We are but mammals on a planet ! Religion being man made to explain things we fear as one being death the other nature's fury . Thats all .

    October 25, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  10. Matt

    Welcome to the Republican's version of Evangelical Sharia Law... If you think it won't happen, you're fooling yourself.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Beth

      Agreed! Its time we stop allowing religious extremists from any background to dominate our conversations and try to their laws upon us. Religion doesn't HAVE to be a bad thing, although the religious right usually makes it that way.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Huff

      The radical religious right is just as bad as the radical socialist left.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  11. Romney Is a Disgusting

    At least Mr. Mourdoch is open and honest about how he feels about God and women.

    And thank goodness we have republican men like Richard Mourdock (and Mitt and Paul too!) to tell women what it means when their bodies are violated, and most important, to decide what they must do about it.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  12. Darw1n

    I'm not even going to be polite to religious nut jobs anymore. I'm just going to punch them in the face without a word.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  13. Joe Smith's #4 Wife

    Why would ANY WOMAN ever vote for a Republican?

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

      Great question. I ask myself the same thing every time one of these stories emerges.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  14. jj

    The GOP seems to have a growing number of public people who feel this way. But give it a day or two and people seem to forget...probably because they want to.

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

      And the left has a growing number of voters who support a bigger more socialist and regulatory Govt. Both radical sides are bad for the country but you don't hear many on the left talking bad about radicals among their own party. I for one am a pro-choice conservative Republican and firmly disagree with Mourdocks views.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  15. mk

    “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.”

    Perfect.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  16. Bill

    Me: Hey God what do you think of all this?
    God:
    Me: Hey God?
    God:
    Me: Hello Is anyone there?
    God:
    Me: I guess I have to make up my own answer.

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

      It is all clearly written in the scriptures! You have many versions to choose from. They are written as parables, you have many interpretations to choose from. Assuming you choose the scriptures of Christianity over other old scriptures. There are many to choose from.

      How is that confusing?

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

      I like your comments,

      Common sense (which is not very common) says this is precisely what seems to be happening

      October 25, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  17. Cynthia

    So, by Mourdock's logic, erectile dysfunction is also God's will. Sorry guys – throw away your pills or be damned!!!!

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

      According to booming sales of specific pills I need not name.....those men who would follow Gods will and allow their, ahem, function to go away are in the minority.

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

      The only problem with that is that ED pills exist so they too must be god's will.

      October 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  18. Margarita

    If we woke up tomorrow and men suddenly were the bearers of children and not women, abortion clinics would spring up on every corner like Starbucks!

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

      The problem with your theory is that Women are in the majority but in this democracy they have not voted to change much.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Huff

      Are you suggesting that only women not in a relationship are having abortions? The main reason for having an abortion isn't that they don't want to be pregnant for 9 months, its that they do not want a child.

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

      I'm suggesting that men would suddenly stop calling this a "side issue" or a "distraction" and become extremely concerned that abortion is legal and readily available...almost overnight the focus would shift if suddenly a condom broke and it was a man's responsibility to figure out what to do...perhaps they would stop patting us on the head an telling us about all the other "important" issues we should discuss....

      October 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  19. James Stevens

    We elect a Republican in office of the Presidency and the country will go through the same thing we did with BUsh, same tactics, same ideas, same thoughts of wars, and same ideas of making the 1% even more rich, not that they could ever spend all the money they have in a life time, and you would think that as many people that are educated, that religion and God would not even be in the mix, I mean you should be treating others with goodness and kindness, but haven't we already proved that religion is nothing but a form of control on human beings, can you not take responsibility for yourself and just be good, and do good things, but as far as a god coming from above to save and recuse anyone, you are sadly mistaken, and i guess you as a person needs this to help your anxiety of dying one day, we all can be sure of two things in a lifetime, death and taxes...these have been going on throughout civilization, if you don't believe read your history and get your head out of your ass, as far as a being flying down from heaven to save you, not gonna happen, so educate yourself, before you loose the most precious thing you have ...your life, there are no re-takes

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

      Anyone can copy and paste liberal talking points such as 1% vs. 99% etc. Solid self thought out researched reasoning seems to elude so many.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  20. dsangiovanni

    Keep voting for these people, elect MITT ROMMNEY !!

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

      that is why religion and government do not mix...that idiot should be banned from politics! People need to keep religion to themselves, don't care what god you worship...it is poersonal, and for hese morons to legislate based on religious beliefs is primitive...go join the taliban if you wnat to govern based on religion

      October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
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About this blog

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.