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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. scott

    There is no "God's will" as is being described by this congressman.
    People have free will and influences from both good and evil can and do affect judgement.
    God never wills bad things to happen to people, but people often will it onto themselves.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • ViK100

      "God's will" is referring to the life created. ONLY God can create life.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Humanist11

      @VIK 100 Actually I created life by my own free will. Twice! It is biology and can be broken down into very specific actions and parts. Scientists can tell you exactly what elements and particles compose those first several cells. You would find that they are very common and well known and most certainly do not have a soul, feelings or a brain. All they want to do is replicate in the hopes of one day becoming an organized living creature. I'm not proposing late term abortions out of simple convenience, but early on it is just a glob of cells and there is no more life there than a weed growing in my yard. Your religion turns fact into harmful fantasy and guilts people into doing silly and often dangerous things.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  2. srichey321

    I have opinions about what women do with their bodies, but I also believe my opinion, as a middle-aged white man, is ignorant and irrelevant.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  3. KATHY/Minnesota

    WOMEN! go to draw the line.org and join the fight, for the right to "YOUR BODY".

    October 25, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  4. michaelkeating

    To all the amateur theologians out there, if it was God's will for a perfectly sinless Jesus to be murdered for crimes He didn't commit so He could bear the sins of the world, why are other tragedies so hard for you to contemplate as being inside God's will. He uses terrible sin for our good and His glory all the time. Read Gen 50:20 or John Piper's book Spectacular Sins for some additional insight.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • No Romney

      So women shoudl be forced to develop and birth the seed of their rapist so YOU get a go-to-heaven-free ticket????? how about this==== crowd finds adultress in the act – they want to stone her. Jesus says "you without sins throw the first stone". so, you think a girl should develop the seed of her rapists...uh huh. I say you are sick sick sick twisted dude. But , Jesus woudl simply say, you are not worthy to judge a girl who would abort, nor be her executioner. Go home and worry about your own sins. Nobody is worthy to force a girl to have a baby against her will. The entire issue is mute, Jesus already told you, you're not worthy to crap on women. worry about your own sins.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Humanist11

      It is this kind of thinking that perpetuates and validates the evil that man commits against other men. It is no coincidence the most violent (in terms of people hurting people) parts of the world are also the most religious. I'm referring to the US and Middle East. Europe and Asia tend to be less religious and there is less violence. For evidence do a search on these topics.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Your_mom_should_have_aborted

      So can I use Sherlock Holmes as a source to further my personal beliefs? I guess not. So then please take offense when I say I do not care what your imaginary friend tells you to do. I do not share your faith and should not be subjected to it. This country was founded on religious freedom, you cannot, nor should you, force your religion on anyone.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  5. Ameri2010

    There were no "naughty" words in my post. I can't see anything that would need filtering.

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

      Doesn't mean they aren't there. Check inside other words. One that always catches me is vague. Apparently the letters v.a.g are not allowed. You can use periods or dashes, or use html codes within the word to get around the filter.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  6. Andy Z.

    This article, while well-meaning is written by a MAN quoting other MEN what women should do about their bodies after being violated by a 'MAN.'

    October 25, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  7. Mark

    Hey Jim Walton, CNN head of World wide news. Since your leaving at the end of the year. Maybe you could ask your staff to have some journalistic integrity and actually try to be the credible news source it once was? The desire to be a propaganda tool is just sleazy...i always thought CNN would do its homework, be fair and balanced, but mostly seek the truth. Jim, its not the ratings you have failed at.. its the sleaze have let into the news room!

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

      @Mark- You are in the Belief section of CNN, by virtue of that alone, any article written is of someone's opinion.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  8. MesaMom

    Should be "Where a big foot and mouth collide". It's still disturbing that these politicians are so eager to force their religion on other people.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  9. penquin

    Thank you Rabbi Kushner. That is it exactly.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  10. Troy

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

    Did he answer? No.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  11. Mick

    “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”

    Actually, he sits up in the clouds and twiddles his thumbs while children are abused.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • ViK100

      Don't pretend to know our God when you live far away from him and do your own will. Can you know someone you have never met??

      October 25, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  12. ViK100

    People like to twist this to their convenience and to bash the Republican party. Remember this site is pro-obama. This guy was referring to protecting "LIFE".. The life the baby has regardless of who impregnated who. The baby has a life!! This guy is referring to respecting the life of an unborn, defenseless, blameless child!!!!! STOP twisting his words!!

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

      No need to twist his words..he dug his own grave.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • ViK100

      @MIck – Why?? Because he said killing a baby is wrong?? Who'd digging his own grave here??

      October 25, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Ruth C

      let the rapist stay at your house for a week with your daughters and we will see how you feel after that.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Bob C.

      We're not twisting his words. It's the final phrase in his statement that it was according to God's will which has everyone upset. Most Christians believe God doesn't work like that. He doesn't cause the tough times, He just helps you get through them. You can argue that if He were truly all-powerful and loved us that He wouldn't let us suffer. You can also argue that if He did that we would be "spoiled rotten," and we would never learn anything or appreciate what we have.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  13. Alex

    Interesting to note that Mike Deeg, the "executive pastor" at Mourdock's church, has a BS in Business Administration and is not a trained theologian himself. No wonder Mourdock has trouble with the Bible. This is the single largest problem we have regarding religion in our country right now: any flim-flam salesman can hang a shingle and start a nondenominational church and lead well-intentioned people down very dangerous paths.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • ViK100

      I don't care about the denomination.. I'm Catholic myself but ARE YOU saying the unborn baby should be killed? is that what you're saying?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Ruth C

      yes thats what he said, why dont you raise the child then

      October 25, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  14. Kool Kev

    @Stephanie. Did you feel the same way with Presedent Bush regarding Hurricane Katrina?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  15. Lisa

    Do not mistake man's freewill to commit crime for God's will. Man has free choice. This thing that happened was not of God. This man chose to do what he did. God gave him free choice, he chose this horrible path. This victim also has the right to choose how to deal with the aftermath of this horrendous act. Don't judge her, support her, in what ever she chooses. Hasn't she suffered enough. God be with you my girl.

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

      Did your god know that this man would choose to ràpe? If your god is omnipotent and omniscient, then yes he did. In fact, your god knew he would be a rapist before god created him. Hell, your god knew he would become a rapist before he created the universe. Yet, your god created him anyway. Plus, since your god knew he would become a rapist, how could this rapist choose not to become a rapist? That would mean that your god was wrong. There is no way to logically spin this to justify "freewill".

      October 25, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  16. Apotropoxy

    - Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    – Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    – Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    – Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
    Epicurus
    Note: The standard response by Christian theologians to Epicurus’ conundrum is to say that god gave man Free Will and is thereby divorced from his creature's decision making. The problem with that answer is that this all-powerful deity, the creator of all things, also created Free Will.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • ViK100

      Ok, so that makes you very smart, correct?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • reason is the answer.

      thanks for pointing out this logical fallacy.no theist has ever been able to come up with a sufficient answer to this problem so they choose to ignore it. if there is a god (which most logical arguments show their is not) he is most surely a masochist and is not worthy of worship in the first place.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • reason is the answer.

      actually it does make him very smart. an omniscient, omnipotent all good god is logically impossible. it can't exist in any world, any time or place. it is an irreconcilable contradiction.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  17. 1984

    This guy is a idiot. To allow someone like this to be in office is unreal. These people walk around with a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other. These religious books are like law books its all in the interpretation. One person believe it reads this way and another person believes it reads a different way. Give me a break. Let me believe in what I want to believe in and be responsible for my actions, Do not punish me because you think your GOD is the one in charge. Do not force me to follow the same religious rules that your particular GOD has laid out. Please lets separate faith from reality.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  18. scotty

    The trap Christans commonly get into is where we seem to speak for God, or know what God thinks. Only Christ can know what God thinks, not Joe Smith. Christ said forgive and love. Oddly, this is too simple to absorb. The absence of love and forgiveness leads to all kinds of social ills we experience and learn from media.
    stephanie goodrow, the attack was televised live. Romney wants you to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and take charge. Why didn't you catch a plane and fight them terrorists for your fellow Americans? Is it because you are a Jihadist or you're a bad Mormon?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  19. No Romney

    by rising these private personal human issues ---- yes, they SHOULD be personal, but they're not, are they? Republcians are actively pursuing, have been, pursuing to take AWAY women's freedom over their own body. And this isn't a 'women's issue" either! I have daughters! I dont have to have a uterus to know that someday I wont be here, and my daughters will be on their own, and i've seen men look at them with predatorial looks in their eyes!!! Iwant my daugthers to forever be free!!! God forbid if something does happen to them, I want them in ful command of their bodies to do what they want to do, with no one's permission! no one's judgement! I dont know how long i will be in this world, but my daughters carry on my family line and i want to be free! NOTHING ELSE matters to me! No really. freedom is the most important thing in life. If my daughters were force to have a baby they would have to drop out of school, maybe not work, or their entire lives changed. I wont have that. I wont vote for that. Nobody who cares about their daughters will vote for it. Freedom frist. Freedom is paramount. Freedom is job 1. you're talking about taking away freedom for women. that's beyong huge. It trumps everything. I will not vote for Republicans until they get off this abortion issue. Obama for president, Warren for senate and any other democrat I'm straight across the board until republicans get the message to et OFF abortion!!! LEAVE IT ALONE!!! or you loose. Freeom is #1 before any other issue.

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

      I agree! For the first time in my life I am voting a straight ticket for the Democrats. The GOP will never get a vote from me again until they get off this thing they have about telling women what to do with their own bodies.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  20. Larry

    A "good" christian can explain away everything, by using the bible as an answer to far ranging questions such as how life was created, or why a 12-year old child was strung out on heroin and impregnated by her father. The only thing they can't explain is their childish belief in the ultimate fairy tale.

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

      No one, let alone a former Attorney General has no legal authority to prepare and enter into a illegal contract with criminals to absolve past and future crimes.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:04 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.