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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. nytw

    Jonn South should find a new job since he does not believe in the word or will of God.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • snowboarder

      nytw – there are literally as many interpretations of scripture as there are readers.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Ting

      God has told you this personally?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  2. vdrumin

    It's great when Republican's tell us what God wants.... GOD wants separation of Church and State. Stop telling women what to do with their bodies Play with your own.... And by the why Jesus was not a Republican ......

    October 25, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  3. SILLYMAN MICHAELS

    GOD,S WILL,WHAT KIND OF STUPID BS IS THAT

    October 25, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Ting

      It's using the word "God" to get what you want.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  4. GoatMom

    God prefers spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  5. Ameri2010

    Why aren't my comments going through? Is CNN now moderating non-liberal viewpoints?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • myweightinwords

      There is a word filter in place that keeps "naughty" words out, even if they appear inside other words.

      You have to break up words like consti.tuition and docu.ment.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • midwest rail

      There are no moderators here, only word filters.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • JJ

      There is an automatic filter that looks for horrible disgusting words embedded inside other words such as "t-i-t" Since your eye can be drawn to vile words such as these 3 letters you must separate them in some way..like consti-tution.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Its just an auto-filter, not a conspiracy. You can't use certain words even if they are contained with a longer word. So Consti.tution is banned. See why?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Primewonk

      Or come over to the dark side. We are not subject to the puny WordPress filters. We can say whatever we fucking want.

      Plus, we have cookies!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Rationalintn

      You've been complaining under every article I've read this week. Go cry wolf somewhere else. Oh that's right you can't because Faux News shut down their boards, so that it's members of the Tin Foil Hat Society could infect CNN's message boards.

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

    Religion has been used for too long to cover the human mammals lies and used to deceive people of a reality in witch we all must live . Its the 21st century folks and people are not as non educated as they were 2000 years ago . Remember 2000 years ago there were no cars, jets,tv,computers . Today many churches in Europe are little more than museums as they are becoming in places like New York too . The world has changed and those that do not change with it will perish into the past . Just like the churches in Europe are doing today .

    October 25, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Jeff E.

      So basically what you are saying is that cars, jets, tv's and computers (aka human knowledge and creations) are God?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • MarkinFL

      No, I think he is saying that gods are as outmoded as clay tablets for recording data.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  7. wabob62

    On nov. 7th the day the christian taliban take over with a man from Kolob and a vp with marching orders from the Hitler youth pope is proof that the Myans were right . I just woke up from a horrible nightmare, it is scary.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  8. TheDoood

    We'll see how smart the American people are in the upcoming vote! If Romney somehow gets voted in, it will be plain to see how stupid/smart the American public really is. If I was a long time Republican supporter, I would be cringing at this sort of media coverage. I thought Baboons like this only lived in the 3rd world!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  9. Dave Harris

    Mixing bad politics and bad theology is not going to make a pretty sight, even if it is the Republican mainstream these days. We know that Christian Republicans believe some pretty disgusting things, but why do they have to keep reminding us of that?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  10. this guy

    i wish i could believe in god

    October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  11. BJJSchecter

    Republicans believe conception starts when they are done raping you.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  12. no nothing

    Way to go republicans for showing what you are really made of.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  13. snowboarder

    for what reason does he think the government should have any say in this situation whatsoever?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  14. roadkilled

    “Did I ask God why? Of course.” Did you get an answer? Does God have that baritone voice you find in movies?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  15. concerned

    This person is not fit to hold a public office of any sort. How dare he say that "God intended" that to happen? I am a female and I am disgusted by this man. I think that if this happened to his wife or daughter – he might have a different perspective. What he was the woman he was talking about? Would it be ok then? Everything he has said during this election cycle scares me. Very confrontational – even said he wold eliminate the department of education as a means of cutting costs? What does he want? The stone ages back?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  16. Socrates

    Getting to know your Republican candidate is always very refreshing. I would like to know Clint Eastwood thoughts about his fellow Republican Mourdock who has been an active member of Christian Fellowship Church in Evansville.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  17. BK

    None of these high and mighty politicians would hesitate to allow an abortion if it was their own daughter, wife, or mistress.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  18. Ameri2010

    test

    October 25, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  19. Will

    Media, Media, Media...

    October 25, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  20. Corkpuller

    Nothing scares me more than someone doing GOD's will.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:55 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.