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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. Jim in PA

    Republicans keep using the word "freedom." I don't think it means what they think it means.

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

      Awesome Princess Bridge reference.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Mel

      Or, for those who can spell, Princess Bride :)

      October 25, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  2. mike

    Why is this the headline story or CNN? A right wing extremist that represents less than a fraction of 1% of the population. We have much bigger issues to deal with than this such as the millions of people out of work and trying to figure out how they are going to provide for their families.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Jim in PA

      It is not the 1% he represents that is relevant; it is the 51% he wants to control that is relevant.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Scott

      mike,
      Because Communist News Network is doing EVERYTHING it can to try and get their beloved Dear Leader re-elected.

      Scott

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

      If this nut was just some private citizen who has this mental illness then yeah, it shouldn't make news but thsi is an elected congressman representing us in government. He should be exposed for the Talibangelical that he is. Would you rather they just quitely infest our governemnt while you blissfully stay ignorant?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • MarkinFL

      And he is supported by people that are currently supported by almost 50% of the country. Scary.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  3. WHAT

    PLEASE DONT CONFUSE THE WILL OF GOD WITH THE DEPRAVITY OF MAN

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

      Read the bible. “God” is the most depraved, horrible, sinister, misery-spreading, monstrous tyrant the planet has ever seen. Thankfully he does not exist. Sadly people do similar horrible things in its name.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • MarkinFL

      It is impossible to separate the two! Just read the bible! It describes a VERY depraved god except that its actions are OK since it is a god.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  4. LoveGod

    What those being cynical don't understand is that there is a difference between God's will and Free Will. God never intended his creation to be mindless automatons. God never intended for his children to be so destructive against one another. God gave us free will and placed on our hearts what is wrong and what is right, it’s up to us to choose. That being said, murder is also an unforgivable sin. My heart bleeds for the victims of this hate crime who choose to abort a child. A child is a gift from God, and if you can rise above the hate crime committed against you, that precious child can still be a gift. If you cannot rise above being a victim, at least give another an opportunity to love that child instead of murdering it. I pray for all those who have to face this difficult decision.

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

      Grow up. It's a myth, a fable and nothing more. You want to raise these children, then man up, shut, get your wallet out and do it. Quit trotting your imaginary friend out.

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

      You know, Jesus can heal that hatred in your heart, if only you would believe.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  5. PumpNDump

    From Seneca, a Roman senator:

    "Religion is regarded by the Common People as true, by the Wise as false, and by the Powerful as useful"

    From Epicurus:

    "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?Then he is not omnipotent.Is he able, but not willing?Then he is malevolent.If he is both able and willing?Then whence comes evil?If he is neither able, nor willingThen why call him God?"

    October 25, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  6. riptin

    Within the last twenty four hours the twit has been asked several times if he still backs this idiot and he said on two different interviews he backs him 100%. Why is this guy even being consider as a candidate to be the leader of the free world. Every women living will regret the day they voted for this guy and wonder why they are being brought back to the turn of the century and all the the hard fought rights they have gained are now being taken away from them. Even my husband has changed his mind and will now vote for Obama

    October 25, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  7. John

    Mourdock has to think 'what if this happens to one of the my female family members?'

    October 25, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Scott

      Scary though John. If either of my two daughters were rаpеd and became pregnant I'd prefer that they not have an abortion, BUT I'd fully support them in which ever way they decided. Then I'd personally kiII the rаpіѕt.

      Scott

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

    Well said Frosty

    October 25, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  9. Alexander

    Republicans – please tell me how you manage to continually associate with a party that welcomes and endorses such horrible human beings. Beyond just including them, hateful individuals such as Mourdoch and Coulter are offered up as spokespeople for the party. Do you really feel good getting up every day and reading about r.ape as god's will, and the president being called a r.etard, knowing that by voting Republican you are supporting these values, actually advancing these issues and giving them more power? I am all for reasonable government and I don't want to see the government grow too big, and take no issue with that Republican view. But the hate and violence that your party represents is something that your party should be absolutely ashamed of. As a Democrat, I don't always agree with my party's policies, but I can say with 100% certainty that I have never felt ashamed of the manner in which a single Democrat has ever spoken about another human being's rights and freedoms. The Democrat tone is always respectful, reasonable, humane. Those elements are far more important to me than fiscal or foreign policy issues. Any Republican who votes for their party is automatically demonstrating an approval for the policies of hate and violence which your party so heartily promotes. If you've got a humane bone in your body, take a good look at the left and the way they behave themselves when it comes to tolerance, respect, and human rights. Which party do you feel best reflects your values as a human on this earth? It shouldn't be difficult for most of you good people to look past Bible verses and see which party reflects your good values.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  10. PumpNDump

    1. The earth is approximately 4.5 BILLION YEARS OLD. Radiometric dating proves this.
    2. "god" and "jesus" are no more relevant than the Greek or Roman Gods and are just as real/true.
    3. The whole parting of the red sea, noahs ark, adam/eve, rising from the dead, walking on water, just like "miracles", are all myths. Just an FYI.
    4. There is absolutely no legitimate, academically accepted peer reviewed proof that "jesus" ever existed. None whatsoever.
    5. Evolution is a scientific fact. Get over it. Our ancestors are over 6 Million years old.
    6. How can anyone "hate" a myth? It's like me proclaiming I hate "Batman". Batman is just as real as "jesus".
    7. http://godisimaginary.com/
    8. The bible was written by men to control/manipulate and profit from man. It's that simple.
    9. Roe vs. Wade is the law of land.
    10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District
    I don't care what myths or fables you believe in provided you keep them to yourself and don't inflict them on others. Keep them out of public schools, science/math, public policy, foreign policy, law and jurisprudence. If you want to raise your children to flip burgers, dig ditches and believe in myths, bully for you. We don't care as long as you don't inflict them on others.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  11. toydrum

    I am glad to see the moderate, common sense views of religion finally getting airtime to counter the minority, extremist views.

    For all the people shouting that the average Muslims should loudly condemn the extremists, I suspect they have been doing so all along but being ignored by the press in favor of the nutcases. "If it bleeds, it leads" sells papers, but is neither responsible journalism, nor reflective of any society.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  12. palintwit

    Countless studies have shown that there is a higher incidence of incest and child molestation among southern, white evangelical families than in any other group that participated in the study. Experts are in agreement that this type of deviant behavior is generally a result of living in close quarters, such as trailer parks. Anyone requiring further proof only has to take a casual drive south of the Mason-Dixon line where you will encounter toothless inbreds wherever you travel. In fact, historians have long theorized that the reason the south lost the Civil War is because of the high number of mentally challenged soldiers in the army, a direct result of generations of inbreeding.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  13. Brendan

    "“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.”

    - Smaller government. Not no government.

    I hope that you people realize that laws are (for the most part) put into place because it is widely accepted to be the "right" thing to do. As if people of the Republican party are somehow benefiting by preferring to not permit abortion. In fact, they are probably facing more troubles by having children born into a world in which they may/may not be supported. They believe that it should be outlawed because they believe it is wrong to murder the most innocent form of a human being. Referring to the above quote, it is wrong for republicans to want murder, theft, etc; to be outlawed. Not sure if liberals want anarchy, or communism.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • jennymay

      The 'right' thing for a government to legislate should never be how supposedly free citizens treat their own bodies.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  14. Ameri2010

    For heavens sake, I guess words that CNN use are considered not repeatable in posts. Good grief! Is the grade school forum?

    October 25, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Humberto

      You think their religious banter is bad. The news attempts to brainwash people into believing that a former US Attorney can abuse power and prepare a illegal contract absolving past and future criminal activities that a comoetant court should not only uphold but lawyers can play without getting disbarred.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  15. Schlomp

    If people aren't smart enough to realize that Mourdock’s statements do not represent the majority republicans, then god help this country. I am smart enough to recognize that Nancy Pelosi's and Harry Reid's ridiculous diatribes are not really representative of the majority of democrats.
    This story on the CNN banner is just a clear indication of how CNN is burying the Libya facts. That story has 15,000 comments from yesterday and no longer exists on the CNN homepage anywhere>
    Seriously CNN ? ?

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

      However, there IS a concerted effort by these nuts to pass laws to force women to give birth any time they become pregnant, no matter what the women think about it or the circ.umstances of the conception or her age or her ability or interest in raising the child, etc. etc. etc.

      Oh yeah they are also trying to reduce access to birth control so there would be more unwanted pregnancies to enforce on women.

      This is NOT an isolated problem it is a part of the GOP PLATFORM!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Weathervanemitt

      Baloney- there are two different links on the CNN homepage right now about Libya along with dozens of other topics. You chose to click on and then comment on this story. If Mourdock is elected, it will be BY the majority of Republicans in his state. His views are not so much different than Paul Ryan, who basically made the same statement.

      October 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  16. lance corporal

    I DO NOT UNDERSTAND HOW THESE RADICAL CHRISTIANS CHERRY PICK THE BIBLE..........

    so the ra pe is NOT god's plan but the resulting pregnancy is?????????????

    how does that work? let's see god just didn't notice what was happening until AFTER the ra pe??
    it is just mind numbingly stoooooopid and they say with a complete straight face
    and this guy has the balls to act like HE is being attacked, those evil atheists are out to get him... WOW!!

    OK, I'm not an atheist but it is so obvious that this jewish/christian/muslim concept of god as an interventionist score keeper is unworkable and............well....... childish

    I have my own ideas on god but I think the first thing we have to do is recognize that NO MAN can define or codify god and that those who do are doing so for ulterior motives 99/100

    this man is just a mean spirited little puutz who gets off on controlling others.... unfortunately many in the USA are like him so we have the current success of the PROFESSIONAL h ate mining co that is the modern GOP

    rule of thumb:
    if it doesn't come from LOVE
    is does NOT come from GOD

    and this mans spewing h ate has nothing to do with anything divine

    October 25, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  17. Bill11

    A contractor for the Republican Party of Virginia was arrested on October 18, 2012, and accused of disposing of voter registration forms in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The integrity of our elections is paramount, and every Virginian should be assured that their vote counts.

    The Virginia Attorney General (a republican) has refused to investigate this situation, even though there are indications that this voter registration fraud may be more widespread. The firm which employed this contractor has worked for the Republican Party of Virginia in multiple localities, including Chesapeake City, Fairfax County, Prince William County, Loudoun County, and Virginia Beach City.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  18. Ameri2010

    Romney has repeatedly stated that he does not opposes ab*rtion in cases of r*pe in inc*st.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  19. The Obvious

    When desperate politicians reach into the Bible to when votes they get to be taught a harsh lesson on why the founding fathers separated church and state. I have no sympathy for desperate candidates, play with fire and get burned. Tough luck.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  20. Phllyphan

    Mourdock is a pompous A$$ and if he gets defeated in a crash and burn landslide, it's because his "god" intended it.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:02 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.