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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. palusko996769

    God is awesome, he delivers us from evil...or delivers us to evil? Don't remember anymore.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  2. DanC

    Yes, it is that whole Republican "war on women" thing being highlighted just in time for the election. Hogwash! He was asked a direct question and he was OBVIOUSLY referring to the life of the child NOT the act that created it when talking about God's will (it is obvious unless you have another agenda). People are free to disagree with his personal view when it comes to life. CNN, why not provide more homepage focus on the complete failures and indisputable LIES from our president related to the Benghazi attack ??

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

      Gosh, we sure are glad you're here to put things in perspective.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Sorry Dan. I watched the debate. It was obvious he meant what he said. Of course, the fundiot nutters have to try and spin things so what he said isn't what he got caught saying.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  3. 1doctor

    Looks like it was God's will that Mourdock made these comments too. Guess God wants Obama to win!

    October 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • GAW

      No it's time for another piece of rock to hit the earth and let evolution take another and perhaps better course of action.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  4. Blessed are the Cheesemakers

    The great (bad) thing about believing in made up invisible gods is you can make your god support any immoral position or action if you think it is important enough.

    As someone once said 'did you ever notice your god loves and hates the exact same people you love and hate?'

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

      MMMMM I LIKE CHEESE!!! - he shouted

      October 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  5. Argh999

    This also proves that your personal beliefs influence your choices - which includes politicians and our esteem Supreme Court Justices. As much as anyone would profess that their personal beliefs could be separated from legislation, is foolish and naive. That is why it is important to allow people the choice to make personal decisions based on personal beliefs - not on "strong" relisious based opinions and prejudice.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  6. Susan

    Dear GOP: It's only 'God's Will' if you're looking for an excuse. And in this case, the excuse is to bury your head in sand.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  7. Brian

    mama k

    Good post! It does clearly show in what you write that it was a major concern, but there are other writings and statements from that era and beyond that argue for the other side.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • mama k

      I guess this was a reply. Well I'm sure there were all kinds of views back then, like today. But the key founders were sick and tired of the fighting between various sects – like the Anglicans against the Baptists in Virginia for instance (which Madison actually helped establish as Episcopals). Also, as others have pointed out, the key founders were very much into Deism – especially later in their lives and around the time of the founding. So it is no wonder Madison wrote:

      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.

      He was really fed up. So was TJ, and others among the ratifiers.

      (In case someone is reading this mis-placed reply, James Madison was the chief architect of the U.S.Constitution.)

      October 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  8. jim jones

    this is precisely the crap that made me a non-republican. no one is stupid enough anymore in this information age to buy into the faith/god bs any longer. science and facts will prevail. that is unless, we all continue to sink this planet into doom by putting faith in nonsense, and using faith as "fact" to govern us. ick.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • igorsays

      YES!! Now please take your cool aid and lay down over there!

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

      Why do you think Texas is trying to ban critical thought. Keeping people backwards and ignorant, and unable to think for themselves, is the only way they can keep selling this crap.

      And to all you Christians, why do you think all the devoutly religious in Muslim countries are backwards and dirt poor? Because they reject science and keep praying to God to save them. And it's exactly why our Red States are the poorest in the nation. Keep rejecting science, and you'll wake up in a 3rd world nation. Science is what built our economy, not worshiping invisible men in the sky.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  9. Lilith

    It's Gods will that I'm Atheist and since God is omnipotent I have no choice, now I'll spend eternity burning in brimstone .. thanks God! BTW, don't you think the punishment (for your will) of burning for ETERNITY is a bit extreme?!
    One more thing ... God(s), what did you do for the eternity that preceeded your singlehanded creation of the universe?

    October 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • palusko996769

      You can still be saved. There was a time in medieval Europe when you could buy God's forgiveness by paying the priest. I guess he would then put a good word for you to his employer. Not sure if this still can be done and how much you have to pay, but it's worth a try. BTW, I can do the same service for you, for only 5% of your money (remember, that is 50% discount from what Bible wants you to pay). Deal?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • DanC

      I'll pray for both of you since you are a bit lost. God is real and you are not living life to the fullest until he is part of your life. The good news is, his love and acceptance is totally free (don't let anyone tell you otherwise). All you have to do is accept the gift...

      October 25, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Primewonk

      @ Dan – and yet not a single solitary nutter has ever provided a single solitary piece of evidence that their version of a god is real, and that their god is "the" god.

      And his love is totally free? Well, except for th whole "worship me unconditionally or I'll torture you for all eternity" crap.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  10. Think First

    Another misguided soul, trapped by a belief in something that cannot be proven, based upon a collection of essays written by a an unknown group of iron-age, middle eastern storytellers, and later translated to conform to an English King's specifications.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  11. It's gods image

    If we were made in gods image, then god must be pretty messed up.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  12. Rufus T. Firefly

    I believe that Mr. Mourdock's diabetes is God's will, therefore he should not be allowed to be treated for it.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • mama k

      I tried to find a like button to press, Rufus, but evidently it is as elusive as the God of Abraham.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  13. Vic

    Good and evil have existed in many cultures for thousands of years without ever knowing anything about this christian god. They survived and thrieved. Who would have thunk it! God doesn't apply everywhere nor to everyone, especially the Christian god.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  14. Random

    If someone doesn't practice a "Religion that is against abortion" why should they ever be forced to abide by it's rules? Isn't that in itself a conflict of "Freedom of Religion?" I do understand the views of the Church but people in general should understand that their view isn't the only view. I am catholic but I am absolutely pro choice. I don't believe that anyone should force their religious views on anyone else.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • snowboarder

      random – that is contrary to the very nature of religion.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Norm

      Listen to what Newt Gingrinch said in a primary debate. He said, paraphrasing "The belief that abortion is a sin against God is so prevalent, that it should be written into federal law". They think that if they have the majority, that gives them all the right they need to force their religion on us.

      It's no different from the Taliban in a Muslim majority country forcing everyone there to be Muslim. No different at all.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Random

      Snowboarder-Can you elaborate a bit further?

      Norm-That's precisely what I was thinking.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  15. igorsays

    CNN, MSNBC called and they are tired of you trying to steal their viewers/readers.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Noro lim Asfaloth!

      Hey idiot igor, I went to f oxsnooze yesterday to leave atheist rantings and had to search hard for anything about Mourdock and couldn't leave a response when I did find the article (blaming dems for "misrepresenting" his quote, of course.) so don't single out cnn, they all have their biases. Fox is sooo bad and soo amateurish, though, WOW was I surprised! Guess I shouldn't have been given the dumbing down of America by the right wing religio-fascists...orcs and balrogs all of them! Iluvatar, send help please!

      October 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  16. Rationalrantings

    Wow!! This makes the CNN headline but the Libya cover up and recent emails proving it are hidden away with other minor stories. What a stunning example of the liberal, democrat bias in the media. So much for fair reporting.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • igorsays

      Listen, we here at CNN have lots of other stories to run and would appreciate it if you would just accept the fact that we are not I repeat NOT trying to sway the vote.

      Now, please read our additional stories on the following:
      Catholics are they the REAL EVIL ONES?
      Why do conservatives not like babies, old people, the poor or the young?
      Is Mormon the new black?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Norm

      What Lybia coverup? You mean where Congressman Ryan cut funding for US Embassy security? That whitewash and coverup?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • sam

      Faux News is waiting for you.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Argh999

      CNN is reporting on Libya;
      CNN is posting news on on how close teh race is;
      CNN is posting other stories where Romney is gaining ground.
      CNN does have a wide range of stories.
      Is CNN a little to the left? YES.
      But, go to Faux News - they ONLY report the conservative slanted news stories;
      Faux News does NOT have a forum that we nejoy and can insult each other - :) - freely.
      Faux News, what are you afrad of that you do not provide this same opportunity for debate amonsgt readers? ........................... I know why, it's all about CHOICE, and Faux News is not about giving voice, to CHOICE....

      October 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • YoozYerBrain

      @ irrationalrantings
      I recommend the book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" if you still parrot that line about "left-wing media bias". Even though the book is about 10 years old it will open your eyes, maybe, to what's what in media bias. YoozYerBrain, please!

      October 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  17. Jt_flyer

    We're falling into the religion Abyss. Just like the Muslims only a little slower pace.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  18. wanda Cody

    How many girls as well as women have commited. Suicide or tried because of these judgemental narrow minded predominantly male religious so call ministers who really haven't got a clue what GOOD NEWS MEAN. MITT and his religious unmoral majority scar me the most not to mention scare me!

    October 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  19. Youdakidding

    I am sure these politicians are well-educated lawyers, accountants, business people. But when it comes to common sense, they have none. I believe in order to work for government, all politicians are required to take biology 101, period.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  20. Todd

    Truth: no matter how men feel about it, women are still going to get abortions. If it's illegal – the rich ones will go to Canada and the poor ones will use home remedies. Women have been finding ways to get rid of unwanted pregnancies pretty much since time began. In the Roman empire women women were using oleander to induce abortion. You may not like abortion, but it's never ever gonna stop. Just accept it, try to influence the women near and dear to you if you're so inclined, but blowing so much energy and political capital on a doomed fight.

    And focus on the economy.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Larry42

      Truth: no matter how men feel about it, men are still going to commit murders. If it's illegal – the rich ones will hire hitmen and the poor ones will use "home remedies". Men have been finding ways to get rid of unwanted men pretty much since time began. In the Roman empire men were using knives and swords to induce death. You may not like murder, but it's never ever gonna stop. Just accept it, try to influence the men near and dear to you if you're so inclined, but blowing so much energy and political capital on a doomed fight.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:26 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.