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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. Peter

    “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.”

    October 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  2. Kris

    If everyone just gave up this insane s..t and "believe" in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then everyone could go to "pirate heaven" as a Pastafarian which is sure to be a REAL party, with booze and condoms (and I'm sure a few good bands) instead of being on your knees for an eternity placating a jealous and murderous God who incarnates himself for a suicide-mission but doesn't make sure all the contemporary historians of his day are around to be REAL witnesses to all the so-called miracles about his conception, birth and his deeds!

    R'amen.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Sounds like fun. But sill – I'm out. I'll go with my: be a good human, be good to others, be good to the planet and try your best to do the right thing without needing isms, priests or mullahs to tell me what to do.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Kris

      to Reasonably: agreed. =)

      October 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Dan

      "Be excellent to each other......and party on dudes"

      October 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • sam stone

      reasonably: that sounds good to me.

      but, i am leaning toward dudeism

      October 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  3. Randy

    What people forget is that protestantism in America has deep Calvinist roots. Part of the foundational belief of calvinism is the doctrine of pre-destination. Those denominations with a STRONG Calvinist background (presbyterians, some baptists etc.) believe EVERYTHING is God's will. Essentially, man has no free will and all things (good or bad, big or little) are Gods will. This is a long standing theological argument going back to the 16th Century and John Calvin. Did God pre-destine EVERYTHING or do we have free will to choose good/bad? If there is no free will then everything that happens in creation is God's will. If we DO have free will, then it is not necessarily Gods will.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • snowboarder

      randy – the most logical answer is that the christian god is simply the product of the imagination of primitive men unable to explain the natural world with the tools which they possessed.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      And yet they will argue that people are responsible for their actions with seeing the contradiction. I think that is defined as insane.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      They had too much time on their hands. Should have been sweatin' in the fields.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Reasonably

      So maybe they should shut the heck up and realize Obama is in office per god's will...I mean get over it already!

      October 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • midwstrngrl

      makes them real easy to control...

      October 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • midwstrngrl

      if everything is pre decided then why have a brain? why bother to live at all? what is the point? and why should you be judged to heaven or hell when the choice is not yours then? the whole thing makes NO sense.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • TheSchmaltz

      If that was true, then God created me to be an atheist, and I was condemned to eternal damnation before I was born. I have no words to express how stupid that is.

      October 25, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  4. Anybody know how to read?

    Here's a hymn: Gwow, gwow, gwow the Beast, gently down the drain. Merrily, merrily, merrily.....

    October 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • snowboarder

      read – are you suffering a stroke? we could send medical assistance if you really need it.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Kris

      Well, that just doesn't rhyme at all and please don't speak ill of "the Beast." I'm his neighbor (at 667) and He is always quite nice. People have been behaving badly in HIS name for eons now.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  5. Anybody know how to read?

    The atheists who claim no god sure know how to create one. Our father, who art in washington, washing all that moolah......

    October 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • snowboarder

      read – the usual meaningless drivel from you i see.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Right – because the Christian Right will vote for the man in the magic underwear. Isn't religion fun?

      October 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • itsallaloadofbollocks

      You think an imaginary, capricious being imposed on us is better than freely elected government? For all its flaws I'd take democracy any day.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Kris

      HAHA! Ain't that the pot calling the kettle black about "money" washing or money anything considering the "palaces" that this deity resides in no matter what the religion! Hey dumba.$! The only "fathers" atheists have are biological fathers. The people washing money or anything else in DC aren't open atheists more than likely and more than likely, religious!

      October 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • ;p;

      Romney's reality show nickname should be Money Boo Boo

      October 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  6. midwstrngrl

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? – Epicurus

    October 25, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  7. likecandy7

    I would have no problem with religion if people kept it between themselves, their family, and their church – where it belongs. When it comes to MY personal life you have crossed a line. I don't believe in your god, in fact most people on planet earth do not; so keep your preaching, sins, rituals, and holy men to yourselves.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • capable

      Actually candy7 you need to check your statistics, only 12% of the people on the entire planet don't believe in God. out of that only 32% don't believe in the Christian God. And if you don't want to know someones beliefs don't ask them. Otherwise leave them alone, he said what he believed he's not trying to push his beliefs on you. If you don't like where he stands than don't vote for him. That's just common sense.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • OTOH

      capable,

      There are over 7 billion people living on Earth right now... after over 2,000 years of propagnada, 2/3rds of them do not believe in Christianity.

      The population of the world at present is a bit over 7 billion.
      There are approximately 2.1 billion Christians, which is around 33 per cent.

      http://chartsbin.com/view/3nr
      http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0904108.html

      October 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Kris

      Here, here! ...... and "Hear, hear" too! =)

      October 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  8. Rajan

    This is not God's doing. All good & bad that each living-being expereinces is because of karmas/deeds from his or her past life/lives. The true Divine-Being (call it God or whatever) does nothing because he is accomplished. Doership or any action only occurs when one is unaccomplished and unsatisfied. If you are free from desires then you are free from actions and therefore, actionless.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • midwstrngrl

      yes. you are dead.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Rajan

      If there is such thing as "eternal afterlife", then in order for a person to experience that eternal afterlife, his own Soul must be eternal (neither created nor destroyed) to experience that eternal after-life. Thus, the Divine-Being(s) is not the Creator or Doer of anything. Only the Knower of everything.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • midwstrngrl

      a nonaction existance is pretty much the same as death

      October 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  9. joe

    How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?
    -------–
    Why is this such a difficult question? There's only two possible answers. It's either because God is not present or because God is not loving. .

    Only when you insist on stating that God is present and loving do you encounter the problem. So get a reality check.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Dave Crockett

      actually, the correct answer is because as a loving God, he gave us freedom in the form of free will to make our own decesions. we all die someday. how we die matters little to God since we will all end up in the same places.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • ME II

      @Dave Crocket,
      So, you are saying that God is incapable of creating a world where free will exist but evil does not.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      At least your god is not omniscient and knows not the future and lets everyone into heaven.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • OTOH

      Dave Crockett,

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

      October 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "actually, the correct answer is because as a loving God, he gave us freedom in the form of free will to make our own decesions"

      sorry but that doesnt explain why evil happens to people. You may have free will to do bad deeds but where is my free will not to have them happen to me? where is my free will to decide 'you know what, i dont feel good with the idea of you murdering me today thanks'?
      why does this free will only seem to extend to those that want to do evil but not to those that dont want to be a victim of evil? Why cant god allow the person to attempt evil but protect the victim of that evil?

      October 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • OTOH

      On second thought, Dave Crockett, after re-reading your post, I can see that you'd never be able to understand that dilemma of evil.

      Stick with your old Middle Eastern Hebrew fantasy, kid; I think that you are incapable of accepting reality.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Dave Crockett,

      "as a loving God, he gave us freedom in the form of free will to make our own decesions" [sic]

      So ... the r@pist acted with "free will". How then can a resulting pregnancy be "God's will"?

      You don't get to have it both ways. Free will OR God's will.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  10. Snow

    “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.”

    How many people understand this point? if you do, you would be pro-choice. Where, the choice is still left to the mother as to whether they want to have the baby or not.. No one is forcing the women to have abortion.

    On the lighter note, I have to say that if they were brainwashed well enough from their birth, they would opt not to have abortion. So, really if someone opts for abortion, it is their parents and their local church's fault for not brainwashing them well enough.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  11. sammy

    Totally delusional

    October 25, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  12. midwstrngrl

    if they are able to start defining the rights of a human to begin at conception then you will have to outlaw most infertility treatments, many forms of birth control and the ability to take the morning after pill to prevent implementation of a fertilized egg. Then you can throw people in jail for causing a miscarriage, you tie up courts trying to decide the guilt of someone who "may have" worked too many hours, not eaten the right foods etc. In fact one senator from N.Dakota just created a bill to make"intentional" miscarriage a life sentence crime. This stuff gets real crazy, real fast.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Of course. Because there is no rational thought or reason behind it. As soon as you declare a fertilized egg a person there is an inescapable chain of absurdity.
      There will have to be an inquest and autopsy on every miscarriage to find out how that person died. All of our death rate stats will have to be revised upward with the deaths of millions more a year. If you do not report a miscarriage and file a death certificate you should be treated as any woman that hides the death of their child. And you better have an explanation of why you let this child die.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • midwstrngrl

      in fact many of the numbers of abortions cited every year include women taking some forms of birth control, morning after pill, etc. They include a lot of estimates on their version of what abortion is – personhood starts at conception.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • TheSchmaltz

      50% of fertilized eggs fail to implant and pass from the body. Shall we prosecute every one of them?

      October 25, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  13. ozmodcon

    Wait a moment here, let me see if I understand this. It has been empirically proven that those of the impoverished sects of society have less adequate means to support a child, often have more children when contraception or abortion is not available, and are more likely to be impoverished when they reach maturity. Also, coming from such a background makes one more predisposed to crime if financial help is not available.

    But, the GOP wants a smaller social safety net, and less government spending on the impoverished and to limit, and in some cases, get rid of abortion entirely?

    Anyone else see a real contradiction here?

    October 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Nope. Not me. Sounds quite reasonable. Vote Romney.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • ozmodcon

      I would hope that's sarcasm, otherwise, man the USA really is hopeless...

      October 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  14. Harvey

    I lean very much to the right, but I will be the first to say Richard Mourdock is an idiot of the highest order. I would vote for the most rabid liberal or even Karl Marx beforre I voted for this nitwit.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  15. billym67

    “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. What bible is this guy reading? In the bible god orders his followers to kill thousands who do not believe....where's the love and compassion in that?

    October 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • What

      Dumb A$$ there is no god

      October 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Anthony

      i also remember reading about how god showed his compassion for sodom and gomorrah, didnt "god" kill all of egypts first born children? Didnt he leave his people roaming the desert for 40+ years? didnt he flood the earth and kill everyone execpt for 2 of every species? Hey didnt this guy also make plans to kill his only son? I mean this guys sounds more like Tzar Ivan the terrible then all loving benevolent all powerful being.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • GAW

      A God who weeps? If there is a God he needs to do something not just sit upstairs and cry. Waaaaaa!!

      October 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  16. KawiMan

    Richard Mourdock is an id!ot and an insult to women & GOD!!!

    Plain & simple.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  17. What

    I will F them all religions, Did I say ALL?

    October 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  18. Dave Crockett

    There is no "God's will". He gave us all free will. Blaming the evil of mankind on God is just a way of lying to yourself that we are the only true evil in the world.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Carrie

      Why is it when bad things happen we say "why God???" instead of saying "dam you Satan!!!"
      Man has free will, God doesn't force us. Unfortunately, most people choose evil & sin. That's not Gods fault.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Name*montbleau

      So if there is no gods will, that means god is not all powerful, that means he cant control the future and doesnt know whats going to happen. Doesnt sound like a god worth worshiping to me.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • YoozYerBrain

      @ Dave Crockett
      DaveDaveDave, why do I have to keep skoolin you christards in yer own religion? Here, America's Best Christian will explain Gods Will to you. Ready?

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cq3U09DeKpg&w=640&h=390]

      October 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  19. Brad

    A Few hundred years ago our forefathers/mothers came to America to escape Religious and Political persecution, it seems to be coming full circle again with the NEOcons agenda's.... except – now where can we escape to?

    October 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Merb

      That is not why they came. They came in order to persecute; that is, live as religiously conservative as they pleased

      October 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • MikeH

      Somebody needs to learn some real history. The pilgrims were religious radicals who were tossed out of Europe for persecuting others. Of course, they didn't spin the story that way because they saw everyone else as wrong and destined to burn for not believing and worshiping the same way.
      Our real Founding Fathers came largely out of Virginia, which was a colony founded for economic reasons and hopes. Step away from the text books. They are filled with half truths and miss a lot of important details. Read the writings of the Jefferson, Hamilton, Franklin, Adams and the like. They all carried different views, but here is an interesting fact, the Continental Congress made the deliberate decision to not open any of its sessions with prayer because the vast majority believed in a very strict separation of church and state.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • midwstrngrl

      Merb what are you smoking?

      October 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Brad

      Pilgrims came to America because in England, the king made a law that if you live in England you had to believe his beliefs. The pilgrims didn't like the law, so they left England in search of religious freedom and other things.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @midwstrngrl

      -Merb... is actually correct to a certain extent.

      The people from the Mayflower, and many others of the early colonists did leave England to escape persecution...and... to find a place to practice their *even more* conservative views of Christianity. They quite often were extremely hostile and persecuting of others who did not believe in their ways.

      So... -Merb is actually correct, basically.

      Peace...

      October 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Perhaps the modern fundies can be the first to colonize another planet where they can be free to practice their extreme religion without interference of the Consti.tution.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @MarkinFL

      LMAO ! :D Beautifully said, brother !!! :D

      Peace...

      October 25, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  20. billym67

    "How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?" I'm pretty sure all the people in the bible that god had killed wouldn't agree with that statement. Just saying...

    October 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Kris

      I'm a nonbeliever and I think all you religious people are more nuts than anyone else, but billym67, I must say: "Amen brotha!" (or "sista," if you happen to be a GIRL named "Billy.")

      October 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Anthony

      i also remember reading about how god showed his compassion for sodom and gomorrah, didnt "god" kill all of egypts first born children? Didnt he leave his people roaming the desert for 40+ years? didnt he flood the earth and kill everyone execpt for 2 of every species? Hey didnt this guy also make plans to kill his only son? I mean this guys sounds more like Tzar Ivan the terrible then all loving benevolent all powerful being.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:08 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.