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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. Planet Kolob

    The tea party will destroy the GOP- I can't decide whether this is bad in the short term as we have to deal with them or good in the long term when it leads to a weak GOP split into two camps.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  2. Jim in PA

    What a coincidence; Once again the opinion of a Republican politician just so happens to be the Will of God.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  3. Texas dude

    I am voting democrat for the first time. Why because of the people like this person in the article who could be writing our laws. The right has been hijacked by the Tea Party and I want nothing to do with it. This country was build on compromise and hard work. To me the far religious right is no different than the Taliban. You both want the same thing, total control over the country, government, women. And you will not stop until you achieve it. For the record I grew up in the church and attended and was active my entire adult life until recently. The two groups that are the most danger to this country are the the far right and the far left.

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

      So are you a Christian?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  4. Chris

    There is no fate, except for that which is forced on us by other people, or what we make for ourselves.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  5. Ca

    All I can say is "WOW", I realize out of context how absurd this public servant sounds making a statement as he did. He was voted into office, and helps direct our government, our future, we are so screwed!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  6. Pepou27

    And Romney supports these morons! That says a lot.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  7. Planet Kolob

    This is a symptom of the outdated, hateful, medieval views of the tea party.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  8. PopeOnARope

    Why does this guy even bother talking or trying to run for office if its gods will he will be blinked into the job

    October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  9. glorydays

    Well. the GOP actively recruited the slowest thinkers among us. Now they're stuck with them.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  10. Planet Kolob

    Mourdock is absolute filth.

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

    CCN interrupts its regularly scheduled Romney bashing program to bash some other conservatives. The regular Romney bashing will continue at its scheduled time.

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

      awww reality biting too hard? I'm sure Fox News has something more to your liking. Or maybe you can visit Billy Graham's website and they can explain how Mormonism suddenly isn't a cult anymore.

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

      Someone should take all the major news networks aside and remind them they are supposed to be unbiased. I would normally say CNN is usually the best at disguising that fact, but it's like they've lost their minds this election season.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  12. bill

    These republican fools need to stop asserting their will for that of God's will, and though God redeems all that He allows the GOP needs to stop legislating what they think God's will should be! The reason that bad things happen is because we live in a fallen world and we are far from Glory on this side of Heaven. Ever since the Garden of Eden we have been given free choice and it is NOT that God allows bad things to happen as much as we ABUSE that free choice. We are all sinners and all fall short of the Glory of God. But, God has a purpose and will for each of His children and that is for each of us to find out, but it is NOT for these stupid republicans to legislate.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  13. MombaLoma

    Fail #987298729827 for religion

    October 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  14. Lisa

    Republican's are pro-life so long as that life is not a woman of childbearing years. They simply don't count as a person. Neither do post-born children in the event their family can't provide for them.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Sam235

      You are dishonest. You do not believe what you wrote.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  15. FairyTales Kill

    This conversation only makes sense if there is a threat to outlaw abortion. There is no such threat. A better conversation to have is why we have politicians that believe they can explain God's intentions and/or will. Religion is dangerous, followers are idiots and seperation of church and state has to be mandatory. We can't have policy makers and politicians being directed by their invisible man of choice.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Norps

      Anytime republicans get power the first things they do is attack abortion rights so the conversation IS relevant. Especially when you consider the Supreme Court. I know the republicans would like Americans to forget their history with this and would prefer everyone to not talk about it, however they you dont get to tell people what is important to them.

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

      really no threat? Have you read what happened in Mississippi?

      They'll steal an election, voter intimidation whatever it takes to stack the Supreme Court with crazy judges and then bring a case to overturn Roe v. Wade. Reagan said he'd only appoint Judges who were anti-abortion didn't work for him but make no mistake they'll keep tryin.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  16. cinceo1

    People like this annoy me. They have ONCE AGAIN used God as a scapegoat for their moronic philosophies. They have confused "God's will" (which they DONT really know anyways) with the FREE WILL of man. Throwing God in this equation in this manner would make God an absolute BIGOT (which is something that religion does very well). God does not control human decision making. If this were true, then the world would be PERFECT.

    This is one of my MANY beefs with the church. You have one on every corner preaching what they would like for you to believe is "Gods word" but its really nothing more than one man's interpretation of a book of lies. God didnt write a SINGLE WORD IN IT. This man (and just about every other church) preaches ignorance and bigotry "In the name of God"......and its absolutely disgusting.

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

    This is good news, since an all powerful god controls everything we don't have to do anything ( just pray ) we don't have to be responsible for our actions. Nothing !! we are mere puppets of old man in the sky. Even though galaxies collide and black holes swallow stars - lighting candles, praying and wearing robes means something !!!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  18. And so.....?

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

    And did God give you an answer??? Well,.... did he??????????????
    Didn't think so!
    Epic Fail!

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

      Not getting the response one wants is not the same as not getting a response from God.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Humberto

      Your as putrid as the black robed judges that abuse power in the USA.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  19. Margarita

    When one of these white, older, male politicians who are so ready to legislate their high moral standards on us uneducated, morally bankrupt, women, get one of their mistresses pregnant on accident, where do you suppose the first place he will drive her is?

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

      You could be right. That's a long line of immorality that would be going on to get to that situation. But how is adding one more going to help? He's just continuing his male dominance by 1. Telling the woman she must "get rid of it." 2. Committing murder. 3. Lying about it. 4. Probably going back and doing those same things over again because he didn't get caught.

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

      Ah. Scott DesJarlais, anyone?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  20. Nathan

    Any god who's "will" includes raping an innocent teenage girl just so that she can have an emotionally damaged life and a baby she cannot support is a god I want NOTHING to do with.

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

      But that god still wants you. Wants you to worship its wonderfulness as it creates life through r ap e.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • us_1776

      There is no Sky Fairy. Get over it.

      .

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

      I do hope Markin that you are a troll who thinks what you said funny and not someone who meant it. But since modern Christianity has become so perverse, I honestly cannot tell the difference in a poe and a "true believer" any longer when they say such sick things.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:49 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.