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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. Actually

    The question being asked is "When does life begin". I have no skin in this game, which probably makes me pro choice in the end. But if you truly believe in life at conception then how it was conceived is meaningless. The problem with this subject is hyprocracy on both sides abound. Many pro choicers will want a person who kills a fetus during a crime to have murder charges brought, yet that same fetus could have been aborted. And many pro lifers are also pro death sentence.

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

    Seriously people, these Tea/Republican/right wing religious zealots are nuts! They will make women & gils have a rapist's child and then they are enacting laws which require visitation rights for the rapist. I am not joking, they are that loony.....Mourdoch in Indiana and Akin in Missouri, to name just two.”

    October 25, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  3. The Jackdaw

    Republicans should be aborted.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  4. Dana

    People don't know how funny they sound when they talk about what god thinks. It's like people arguing about what the tooth fairy thinks.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  5. Ameri2010

    Hey Jim: It's not the Republican platform. Did you happen to notice whose forum you are posting on? This is CNN trying to make a political statement where there is none. This is why more and more moderates are swinging to the right this election. They realize that the left is trying to focus on social issues when the main focus needs to be on the economy. Romney isn't out there pounding the pavement on social issues like abortion. This is purely an attempt by the left (and a poor one at that) to slam conservatives over nothing. In fact, it's quite intolerant of the left to be running articles of this nature. The smart moderates know that these are trumped up charges in an attempt to scare women. Smart women are focused on the economy.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • TC

      Smart women also look at the planks the Republican platform is built with. If you think that this election is just about the ecomomy for a great many Republican politicians – think again. For many, it's ALL about the social issues.

      All one has to do is look at what they've been up to the last 4 years.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  6. Mike

    And people still doubt the absurdity of religion?

    October 25, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Dana

      It's unbelievable.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  7. The Jackdaw

    Only a Republican would say something this dumb. And we are shocked that our education system is ranked 17th in the world.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  8. Reality

    It's so weird to hear so-called Christians blaming God for everything that humans do. They must have forgotten the all-important part in the Bible that talks about God not interfering with the will of man. Stop blaming God for everything people do. It's stupid.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  9. Feral Urchin

    @Brian

    I think lack of evidence reasonably suggests that we suspend belief: neither believing nor disbelieving. It seems to me that lack of evidence for the existence of God means His existence is "undecidable". Personally, I like to spend time working on solving questions for which there is some methodology (e.g. observing, gathering evidence) that offers a kind of "decidability".

    October 25, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  10. glorydays

    Please keep the GOP folks from breeding.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  11. Sarcasmo

    It's amazing that so many of these people get to walk around in society on a daily basis, interacting with others while unsupervised and unmedicated. I'm not talking about rapists, I'm talking about the people who comment on CNN stories.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • northern light

      People like yourself for example?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  12. tony

    Religion is the root of all evil. After all religion INVENTED evil.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Mike

      Amen!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • yildiz

      @Tony.. people are EVIL don't blame any thing else...PERIOD....

      October 25, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  13. Deb K

    No matter if you're republican or democrat, please vote based on the issues and not because of religious reasons. As the person commented, what happened to the separation of church and state? These men are trying to dictate their religious beliefs to the rest of us, but pretending to care about the economy and jobs. All they really want is to get into office for their personal agendas. They do not really care about the "people" – only their people.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Reality

      Well-said.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  14. Johnny Cash

    Replace "It's God's will" with "It's the will of Allah".

    Sound familiar, America?

    October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Anarchrist

      Thankfully, to me it sounds just as crazy. ;)

      October 25, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Limper

      What's your point?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  15. Stewart's Midget Pills

    Obama is a lawyer that gave hum-drum speaches while a professor at U of Chicago. Wasn't anything special. He's a man without a plan, that tells you what you want to hear.

    Romney, though I'm not a fan of hard-core Republicans, at least has tangible ideas. All Obama and his camp does is talk about the misgivings and idiotic behavior of some GOP members. How about Jesse Jackson on the Dem side? How about Howard Dean? How about Chris Matthews from MSNBC?

    I mean, if Joe Biden was help accountable for all the stupid and racist things he says, he would be in jail if he was a Republican. Forward with Obama, to me, says that he'll continue to serve his highly leftist party and will not work with anyone in Washington, like he promised he'd do in 2008.

    I think we need to look at the laws, and limit a presidential term to 4 years. That's it. Keep things level. In addition, I wish there was a party that represented the real American, who may be against abortion, but wants Obamacare, who doesn't want gun control, but wants to improve the infrastructure and educational system. That wants the immigration process to be less of a burden for those seeking citizenship.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Jim in PA

      Republicans want to force little girls to be mothers. There, I thought maybe you needed a little help to get back on-topic.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Stewart's Midget Pills

      Ah yes, a neurotic, emotional post from a lefty. Get back to the fryer Jim, the onion rings are burning.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • tony

      Yeah, like America needs to be "strong". What breathtaking detail and specific explanation for curing so many domestic problems, like losing your job and health insurance at the same time, then being hit by an uninsured motorist, ending up in hospital and missing your mortgage payments. How easy the 47% have it – no problems there!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Reality

      ...and you need to get a grip on reality. If you look at things objectively and impartially, you see how it's actually the other way around. It helps to view the big picture without bias.

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

      374 filibusters by republicans since Obama took office. Who's not practicing bi-partisan politics???

      October 25, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • odk1

      Romney, though I'm not a fan of hard-core Republicans, at least has tangible ideas!!

      What ideas are you talking about? i know you won't admit but Romney confused you every time he speaks.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  16. Jim in PA

    I agree with the GOP trolls here; Enough with these distractions! Let's talk about Sensata for a while.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  17. G. Baez

    Religious conservatives and the looney left, what a country. There is hardly room for an independent to squeeze between these two nut bases.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • JayJ7

      The "loony left" is a figment of Fox news imagination. When have you ever heard a prominent liberal politician advocate some insane view. It is a ruse to call the Republicans conservative. Eisenhower was conservative, the Republicans are anti American extremists....Ex Navy officer.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • northern light

      America needs more than two political parties.....

      October 25, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  18. Methusela's Grampa

    Senator....I think not. Dog catcher.....maybe. On second thought.....no.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • northern light

      Not dog catcher either ....they deserve better care.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  19. Jim in PA

    A complete ban on abortion is a plank in the 2012 GOP Party Platform. This is not an isolated incident.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  20. Anarchrist

    In the bible, god told people to murder entire cities but to keep female virgins as their slaves, sanctioned slavery, dictated laws that warrant the mistreatment of women and children, controlled the minds of people like puppets, sent plagues to kill millions of innocent people, approved cleaving pregnant women in half to prevent the birth of their children (quite an abortion, don’t you think?), sanctioned incest, punished (or will punish, for eternity) the entire world’s population for the misdeeds of two people, and drowned the entire world’s population because of his vanity.
    Today, god tells people to beat up or kill gays, fly planes into buildings, join the military to kill brown people, murder doctors who work for planned parenthood or clinics, and touch people on the forehead while telling them they “are healed” while robbing them of all their money.
    Why is this any different? Oh, it’s different because you don’t like or agree with it, right? If that’s the way you feel, you’re a pathetic worm – a sheep.

    And you people think Andrea Yates was crazy!? She was a truer xtian than any of you because she followed “god’s” monstrous commands.
    The fact that any religious person can find this man’s act reprehensible while approving of and believing the bible makes me sick, and they should be ashamed of themselves. The world would be better off without your ignorant, hypocritical ilk.

    Most religions are unconscionable, and xtianity is one of the worst.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Mike

      Thumbs up

      October 25, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • northern light

      "And you people think Andrea Yates was crazy!

      That same god asked Abraham to kill his son too....old Abe had better sense I guess.....

      October 25, 2012 at 11:47 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.