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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. nola

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

    The answer:

    2 Tim. 3: 1-5
    " "But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self‐assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self‐control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God,5having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away" "

    October 25, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • CP in FL

      Save your sermon, there is no god.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  2. A Good Man

    I'm an Atheist, but Mr. South is the best kind of Christian that is more thoughtful than most Atheists, Christians, Buddhists,
    etc., that I have met. He's simply the most broadly intelligent and wisely introspective type of person there is. I respect him
    and his overview tremendously.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • AmericanSam

      I agree. Beautiful soul.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Yet he still believes in the power of prayer and sky wizards and considers them to be major tools in his counseling kit.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • GAW

      Your more extremist friends may not see it that way. For some of them he's only a good person if he becomes an atheist. If not he's still wallowing in sea delusion.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Religious people can certainly be good. It is the religion, its dogma and its blind faith in irrational things that is bad.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  3. mama k

    If Mr. Mourdock had tried a little harder to keep his religious views out of his politics, he might not be in such a mess.

    Christians are experts in telling each other they are "not the right kind of Christian" in one way or the other. This has always been the case. Different Christian sects were even feuding and persecuting each other around the time of the founding of the U.S. in several states (or soon-to-be states). Because this feuding between these sects annoyed our founders so greatly, they made it a top priority to establish the separation of church and state (and to make it Amendment #1 of our Constitution). This is also reflected in what they had to say on the matter:

    James Madison (our 4th President, was the chief architect of the U.S. Constitution):

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    (A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the Virginia General Assembly, 1785)

    and then ten years later:

    Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?

    (A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of VA, 1795)

    Thomas Jefferson (our 3rd President, was the key author of the Declaration of Independence)

    Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.

    (Letter (as POTUS) to the Virginia Baptists (1808))

    and then of course we have clarifying moments in history such as:

    President John Adams and the U.S. Senate on behalf of the U.S.

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;

    (from Article 11 of the U.S. treaty ratified with Tripoli in 1797)

    Senator John F Kennedy said on Sept. 12, 1960, just prior to his winning the Presidential election:

    I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Elroy

      Thanks mama k. wise words from wise people indeed.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  4. L

    The Republicans have a very simplistic way of viewing the world that is very troubling. Everything is very black and white for them with no place for grey or nuance. They see abortion as something a wayward middle class girl gets when she gets pregnant by a boyfriend, they don't deal with the sadistic reality of violent incest committed by fathers or other relatives. And in a way they have a very sympathetic view of the attacker. This GOP politician essential said to all rapists and potential rapists, the lord is working through you, to bring a child into the world. That is just warped and puts all women in danger. The Republicans really need to back away from the hard line theocracy talk and deal with reality. Don't give them your vote and encourage them to run these religious extremists. This type of backward thinking is bad for our society.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  5. steve-o

    True Christians can not vote for these evil fools.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      True Christians have no one to vote for. How could any of us put our name next to any of them?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • CP in FL

      Christians should have their heads examined for their delusional belief in the magic sky daddy.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Perhaps ALL religious folks should realize that we are a secular constîtutional republic, and not a theocracy. There is a reason that our constîtution contains Article VI, Section 3.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  6. Peace

    Gullible Americans still listen to these religious crap.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  7. John Smith

    Man of little mind. Misguided.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  8. James

    There is no "god". And yes, Ms Palin, "retards" exist.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  9. Anybody know how to read?

    The mob has everything under control. What happened in Vegas didn't stay in Vegas. The mob has the Big O and the Mormons in its pockets. Remember Harry Reid?

    October 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • CP in FL

      Can I please get a translation?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  10. ankhdls

    The Christian Taliban strikes again. Is this guy serious???? Being in public office you should be able to engage properly in public speaking. Read from approved notes in the future if thats not what you meant. I think he meant it though. Those old guys need to move out of the way and bring in a new generation of clear thinkers.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  11. Gaunt

    For the last three days, CNN has posted a series of Obama-damaging news articles and pro-Romney op-eds.

    Today they post a thoughtful comment about the horrific nature of a Republican candidate's statements.

    Predictably, the tea baggers are out in force condeming any article that might reflect in any way badly on a Republican (even if his comments are evil and horrific) as being examples of the leftist media.

    Dear tea baggers: grow the fu ck up. Signed: everyone else.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  12. Angela

    Reason #58346 that church and state should remain separate... dunno when all this got to be one big jumbled mess.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • columbus

      "dunno when all this got to be one big jumbled mess"

      When? I'll be willing to bet it has always been this messy and ridiculous. The problem of our modern world is that we have this magnificent network of information called the internet, but the technology has far out paced our ability to scrutinize real information over nonsense. People like Mourdock are out there and they are legitimate, there are segments of the population who believes in the same things he does. But they are no more the majority than a Taliban representing all Muslims, there will always be extremists.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  13. Billy

    The conservative use of the phrase Pro-Life needs to be changed to Pro-Birth. Call anti-abortion for what it is. They only care about the image of cute little babies on the day they are born. Once they're born and go on welfare they consider them useless sponge sucking lazy welfare rats. The church only takes care of it's own (usually for a fee) and wants no part of supporting non congregation citizens. The government is expected to do the same.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  14. David

    Christianity has been hijacked by the Christian Taliban (Conservative Christians) and we moderate Christians must take it back. We scream about how moderate Muslims don't voice their opposition to or distance themselves from Muslim extremists; how about we clean up our own house first and let the world know that the Franklin Grahams, Jerry Falwells, Rick Santorums, Sarah Palins, Richard Mourdocks, etc. are the Christian extremists who do evil in the name of God and they don't represent the loving religion that we true Christians want it to be.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • CP in FL

      It is time that we did away with religion and the misguided belief in the magic sky daddy. You do not need to believe in the supernatural to live a good life and do right by your fellow human. Religion is the oldest scam that there is. There is absolutely no proof of any god or gods. If people were not brainwashed since birth to believe that crap then no one would believe it anyway.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Gary

      See this is what I've been talking about for so long all it takes is one off the wall Christian radical AKA extremist and most people will stereotype all people who profess Christianity.

      Peace & love to you and yours

      October 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  15. marianne

    Men are the ones doing the raping. why should we listen to their opinions at all?

    October 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Gary

      Hello "Man" here I'm telling you now I love Christ but do understand that I have no business stepping into your life and telling you how to live it's not my place. We Christians should keep our minds and thoughts on that of the things of heaven and if we can stay out of worldly matters the better off we and our sisters and brothers of no Faith will be.

      Peace&Love 2uanurs

      October 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  16. gladiatorgrl

    baman

    And you think this story is more relavant to current events than the Obama administration lying to the American public about the Benghazi attacks.
    _____________________________
    MANY problems were more important YET the Republicans in the States and House spent their time on NUMEROUS bills restricting womens access to healthcare...

    October 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Considering that Romney and Ryan are running on a GOP platform that says supports the same thing as this guy?(except they try to use the consti.tution instead of god)
      Yes it is FAR MORE RELEVANT as it could affect ANY woman or girl in the country. More than 100 million citizens at risk of being forced by the government to have a child with any man that can take her by force.

      I have daughters, I'm voting for Obama in case you did not guess.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  17. Janet

    Any person who claims to be pro-life is a raging hypocrite if A) They believe in the death penalty and/or B) They own a gun (the sole purpose of which is to kill living things)

    October 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Gary

      @Janet At one point them guns and their sole purpose of which is why you are alive in the USA so lets not sell ourselves short just yet. In a non life threatening situation yes you can get away most times with a turn of the cheek and a step of the foot but if it comes down to me saving my kids or spouses life then you better believe and hold it as fact I will do so at all cost

      October 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  18. NICKELASS

    REPUBLICANS= BRAIN WASHED CULT FOLLOWERS

    October 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  19. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    But officer .. just the mere fact that I was speeding proves that it was my God's will and to go against God(s) is blasphemous. Also, if you pursue this I will fight that this is my religious belief & therefore my consttutional right!!

    October 25, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  20. Dl

    Stup1d is as stup1d beleives

    October 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Lilith

      and stupider is as stupider actually says out loud

      October 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
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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.