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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. Bonnie

    So sick of these so called Christians....

    October 25, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  2. james gordon

    I am very sad at what the Christian community has done to our Country , Shame on them .

    October 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  3. Name*Scott

    By the candidates logic,would't abortions be god's will?

    October 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  4. ND

    How come the female leaders of the GOP are too busy calling the President a "retard" and accusing him of "schlock and jive schtik" and letting the men speak out on women's issues? Why are women's issues more important to the GOP men than women?

    October 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Cuz them Republican women are real Christians and good wives. They know their place and keep their mouths shut when appropriate.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  5. Democretin

    Kill the white men and take their women out to the barn to show them God's will. No! What's that ? Yaah! It's a White Horse come to rescue all these white folks. We'll never be able to destroy the Constitution like we planned. Curses!

    October 25, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • The truth

      It would be you that would be killed by this white man.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  6. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    Rape, hideous murder and dismemberment are most certainly biblical. Just look!

    Judges 19:20-29
    20 "You are welcome at my house," the old man said. "Let me supply whatever you need. Only don't spend the night in the square." 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.
    22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, "Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him."
    23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, "No, my friends, don't be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don't do this disgraceful thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But to this man, don't do such a disgraceful thing."
    25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.
    27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, "Get up; let's go." But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.
    29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Snow

      oh boy!! no wonder people who read that book so closely get so retarded.. what is the point of that part? really... what is it? keep the guests safe at the cost of all the women in the house? and thats morality?

      October 25, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  7. Indyswimmer66

    Mourdock is a throwback to the Dark Ages... real dark.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  8. floyd

    I think it was God's will to let this idiot from the GOP say such a utterly stupid statement,so that president Obama will win this election.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  9. Jaimie

    And people are ok with this sheet:

    stuff from Genesis 19

    "30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.

    31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth:

    32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.

    33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.

    34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.

    35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.

    36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.

    37 And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day.

    38 And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day."

    Do little kids really read this stuff in sunday school ?

    October 25, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  10. I'd like to share the Good News with you . . .

    The Republicans just lost another Senate seat, and their presidential candidate will spend the final weeks before the election explaining why he continued to support this religulooney.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Indyswimmer66

      Can you believe Indiana dumped arguably the best U.S. Senator..., for this Teabag loser?

      October 25, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • meagain

      Many people quoted in this article claiming to know what God means. That is the problem with organized religion..a lot of ordinary people that believe that they and they alone know what God wants and what God means and all with different interpretations of the same book. Unfortunately, these interpretations seem to be strongly influenced by cultural and political beliefs.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The tea party, the American Taliban (you may know this as the religious right) neocons and the fiscal conservatives all fighting each other for control of the souless GOP.

      Usually a senior Senator is the safest job in politics. From Lugar's bio:
      ------------------
      Already the longest serving U.S. Senator in Indiana history, Senator Dick Lugar is also the U.S. Senate's most senior Republican.

      Sworn in on January 3, 1977, Senator Lugar is recognized by the Secretary of the Senate as the 1,705th person to serve in the U.S. Senate.

      Senator Lugar is the third most senior member in the U.S. Senate. The two Senators preceding Senator Lugar are (in order): Daniel Inouye (D-HI) #1614 sworn in on January 3, 1963, and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) #1692 sworn in on January 3, 1975. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was sworn in on the same day as Senator Lugar and is listed as the fourth most senior member and the 1,708th person to serve in the U.S. Senate.
      ------------------

      That the tea party would want to take down the most senior Republican senator demonstrates just how messed up the GOP really is.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • An interesting dilemna

      If a clear definition of what Christianity is cannot be ascertained from the Bible, and so very many people can put so many spins on what is or isn't correct, and nobody can say with any certainty what is correct, then the book is effectively unusable and Christianity undefinable.

      In other words, if Christianity has been so many things to so many people, then Christianity is as much what people have imagined for themselves as anything Christ said. Which means that it is made up, imagined, not real.

      What true god would leave instructions that were so unclear and so prone to misunderstanding and misinterpretation?

      October 25, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  11. Indyswimmer66

    "South wanted to know what Bible Mourdock reads because “what he’s saying is absolutely wrong. It’s not biblical.” I was wondering that myself.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  12. Francesca Hawk

    Hate to hear all this crap being played out, religion and politics do not mix, keep your beliefs to yourself. These jerks are worst then any fanatic's.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  13. Innerspace is God's place while outerspace is for the human race

    I am God-fearing woman idolizer who believes that the choices women make to or not to abort is for them and their mate(s) alone to decide. Afterall, aren;t our bodies merely but buildings built by and inhabited by God and the Godly? I tout this due to scripture. 1Corinthians 3:9 "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building."

    If a woman so chooses to abort for any reason whatsoever, it is her choice to so do. Keep religion Godly and His buildings wholesome!

    October 25, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Ann Coulter

      Sometimes you have to evict those little freeloaders.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Democretin

      Want a fetus smoothie babe?

      October 25, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  14. DNA

    If you look at this from a scientific perspective you see that the rapist wins. His DNA has now passed down to another generation. The only way to stop that from happening is to have an abortion. There are no moral values there. Only justice and science.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • JJ

      I just wonder why it's the rapist who always has the free will and never the victim.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  15. Debbie

    Welcome to Sharia law in the USA under the guise of being Christian.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  16. Paco

    Goes to prove HE'S brain washed by religion, It's not a Republican Issues is more about someone who can't
    represent in this Country and should not be in PUBLIC OFFICE.....How in the hell can u depend on someone w/
    that type of thinking. Not me, not any parent.
    OUT...OUT, OUT.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  17. PATAY KHAN

    This guy & others like him in GOP are exactly like Taliban in Afghanistan and will love to take country back in time.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  18. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    Republikkkans want to illegalize abortion because Gawd knows it was Gawd's will them whores got knocked up. They know that women who are gittin legitimately raped would know how to clamp down on their vaginas or something in order to stave off any insemination that is not ordained by Gawd, thereby justifying the act. Besides it's always the woman's fault. Why was she lookin' so hot and all anyway?

    October 25, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  19. billybob

    “The God that I worship would never, ever want to see evil done,”

    So, explain the old testament God please... how can he switch from death and destruction to loving? BUUUUULLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL SHIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT

    October 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      God created evil.

      Isaiah 45:7
      "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, AND CREATE EVIL: I the LORD do all these things."

      Amos 3:6
      "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be EVIL in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?"

      October 25, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  20. John C.

    More like Satan's will

    October 25, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.