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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. S.R

    God or creator yes! Religion's written and created by humans no!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  2. Syd

    Scary people like this are why we have a first amendment. Be as religious and fundamentalt as you like in your private life. Do not force your religious edicts on the rest of us.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  3. Mateau

    HAHAHA This is hilarious! You should have definitely kept Lugar in the Senate...what were you thinking, Indiana!?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  4. Jess Sayin

    This is why there is a separation of church and state. There is no place for mythology-based lawmakers. Murdock, Akin and the other extremists (in any party) are dangerous for America, and especially for women.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  5. theJexster

    Still trying to figure out why in a world made for us by god the sun kills us in so many different ways. Quickly if we lay in it for a couple days without water, slowly with cancer, extremely slow when it burns out and life on earth ends. Did someone make a mistake when they made the sun or is it just that crazy science stuff confusing the details again?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    October 25, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
      "Kindness" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to
      "Bob" degenerates to
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert"

      This troll is not a christian..

      October 25, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  7. pslongley

    Um...So God is a flip flopper now?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  8. ab initio

    Were there no God, there would be no religion. Were there no religion, there would be no charities and no hospitals.

    Then, where would you atheists go for your care? That's right. Nowhere. Then you could test your theory that much quicker.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • midwest rail

      " Were there no religion there would be no charities and no hospitals. " False.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Joshua

      Why do you think there would be no religion without a God? That is preposterous!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  9. bluey

    How do these people get elected? Another whacker just stuck a massive blow to true Christianity, by simply opening his mouth. You wonder why the country is such a mess? The problem with the world is 'free will'...Man was given free will to make his own decisions. You would think that would be a great gift...but we blew it, big time. The notion that God allows wicked things to happen is foolish. God keeps his Word, and we were given choices and the freedom to decide for ourselves. It will come to a head some day (nobody should even pretend to know when) and the wickedness will cease.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  10. boyd

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

    I wonder what God answered...

    October 25, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  11. dumbidea

    Mean Born "Again" Church........oops

    October 25, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  12. bczu

    God wanted me to cheat on my wife and have an illegitimate kid....

    October 25, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  13. mm

    Conservative "Christians" must believe that God hates women....just a mistake from day one of his creating them...

    Why else would they practice such misogynist behavior?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  14. Stewart.

    Whether you believe in a God/ess or not, the point people are missing, is that religion has no business in politics. Ethics belong, but they seem to have gone missing.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • bluey

      I disagree...idiots should have no place in politics.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • singularity

      @ bluey where have you been in the last 40 years even more lol

      October 26, 2012 at 12:58 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Only idiots (mentally ill people) are truly religious (the rest are hypocritical liars) so banning religion and idiots from politics is redundant.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:03 am |
  15. WhatNext

    Please don't forget this person is applying for a position of power!!!!!! The rest of the world is watching and their collective jaws just hit the ground. No wonder other nations are skeptical about the USA, they can't understand how we can vote for complete morons.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  16. dumbidea

    Religious phanatics take it too far, and say very offensive things, all in the name of God. I know. I was raised in a Born Against Christian Church. The worst thing you can do to a child, I tell ya.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  17. ThinkerInTheSun

    How can believers constantly be chanting God is Good whenever the slightest pleasant thing occurs without remembering all the pain and horror innocents around the world experience on a daily basis? Where is their god when the bad stuff comes down?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Rob-Texas

      Letting it happen because that is the outcome of having free will.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Damocles

      @rob

      Such a horrible copout.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • singularity

      Well I could be all boohoo about all the bad that goes on around the world and end up in a fullon depressed state of mind ending in me being put in prison or killed for something that I could have avoided by being in this world and if the trouble comes handling it but at the same time have my mind on Christ giving me a stable mind and hope that no matter what evil shows its ugly face I have a rock to stand on

      October 26, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  18. Tiong

    If your God is really loving, then why are there so many punishments in this world from God. Why can't he make this world a loving place to live? Why are there so many God fearing believers? Wake up, people.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  19. David

    These people want government out of our lives but they themselves continue to intrude into our lives. What shameless hypocrites.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  20. Michael

    “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."

    Rabbi Kushner hit the nail on the head with this observation. Fundamentalist neocon Christian hypocrisy at its finest.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:29 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.