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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. tom

    Rule 2 for religious types: god does not intervene on earth as we have plenty of free will to direct ourselves, exception – good things for which he can be given full credit. When the good and bad overlap, you may have a problem explaining to some people, best to keep yr thoughts to yrself.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • onemindamidstmanyofthesameistruth

      I agree Tom well said God Bless you and yours

      October 26, 2012 at 1:18 am |
  2. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    The GOT's war on women continues and yet millions of brainwashed conservatives across the country continue to support these right wing lunatics. Outrageous.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  3. Observer

    It the pregnancy was God's will, obviously the event was too.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • WhatNext

      Don't try to bring logic into this. You will start to confuse people with the facts.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  4. What

    This man should be in memtal hospital. I am so scared. he is not in memtal hospital, but running for public office. People in U.S.A are so sick, I have no words for it.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  5. WhatNext

    Women should be so highly offended by these republican misogynistic dictators, how could one woman vote for this fascism by another name.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  6. gmenfan54

    When Satan found out Romney, Mourdock and Akin were coming down...he resigned.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  7. Journey

    Speaking of members of the evangelical community: Baptist minister Joe Simpson, father of entertainers Jessica and Ashlee Simpson, filed for divorce recently after 34 years of marriage to pursue a gay lifestyle.

    Maybe the evangelical church should just stick to burning crosses in people's front yards...at least you got THAT right when you tried. Everything else just looks plain stupid. Go the horizon please...your time has passed.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • onemindamidstmanyofthesameistruth

      "burning crosses in people's front yards...at least you got THAT right when you tried".
      Please link one article from any news source that has within it's readings of one or any number of professed Christians had set fire to a cross in the front yard of anyones home? and if you say the KKK then I'll say your whole post is null void and without facts and is full of self implicated lies in a mad rage of hatred for a belief that has never really in anyway had direct effect on your life. Peace

      October 26, 2012 at 1:44 am |
  8. DJ

    I have faith that God exists because of spiritual experiences I've had. Science seeks to explain the unexplainable and that's God's work. Do I understand God? No and I don't think anyone can. In regard to the question at hand here's my take. God does not cause evil or pain – he helps people to get through the effects of these things. It's all he or she can do. Why is that? I don't know and none of us can. If you don't believe in God that's cool, but when you are facing very difficult times don't be afraid to change your mind – that's cool too. And let's be clear – God is not religion.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • pointless1

      So cute... You still need a religious nightlight on because you're afraid of the dark....

      October 25, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • this guy

      If you weren't told what god was at an impressionable age, you wouldn't feel that you've had spiritual experiences.

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

      God may exist but is the Christian God? Or is it just an eternal consiousness or energy? Because if it is not a Christian God (ir trinity) then I am pretty sure it has no plans for your life.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • DJ

      I've lost both my parents to cancer and nothing I was told as a kid changed that experience I can tell you. Cute – that nightlight comment was cute – when you are facing death let's see how you do. Let me repeat, God is not religion and as for a plan there is no way I'll understand that. If you have no faith in anything other than what you can see, touch hear or feel that's fine. I'm just saying my experience tells me otherwise and I can't explain with facts why that is, it just seems to be the way it is.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • onemindamidstmanyofthesameistruth

      I agree for the most part on "God is not religion" That is fact and what people don't see is the bible speaks of a smaller group of people referred to as Saints and these Saints or in this world right now the end time truth filled believer of the old Faith that was once delivered unto the saints :) Peace

      October 26, 2012 at 1:49 am |
  9. cassarit

    It was a clumsey way of saying that we are all subject to God's will and that he ultiately determines our fate. But the mockery of the left makes me want to smash them into rubble, in God's name, God willing.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • John Jacobson

      And god wishes you to use violence to support your position. You may keep your god

      October 25, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • WhatNext

      Thank you, but no thank you. Your concept of God is yours. Don't even think for one moment that it applies to EVERYBODY. The murdering terrorist that commit horrendous crimes do so in the name of their god.

      Religion was developed in all societies as way of controlling people, and taxing them. It remains the same way today.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • mirted

      As a Republican, I say it was far beyond "clumsy"! It was idiotic and uncalled for, too say nothing of it being impolitic in the extreme. As a Republican, I'd vote this guy out of office in a New York minute. He deserves that. The pro-abortion/pro-life issue will not be decided by fiat. Public funding can be decided by vote/fiat. The basic issues will be decided by persuading people's hearts and minds. This guy s a jerk, regardless of party.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • mirted

      As a Republican, I say it was far beyond "clumsy"! It was idiotic and uncalled for, too say nothing of it being impolitic in the extreme. As a Republican, I'd vote this guy out of office in a New York minute. He deserves that. The pro-abortion/pro-life issue will not be decided by fiat. Public funding can be decided by vote/fiat. The basic issues will be decided by persuading people's hearts and minds. This guy s a jerk, regardless of party. He has his match with the extreme opponents who think that total absense of responsibility should be covered by taxpayer dollars....no matter what.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  10. jb1963

    This man is dangerous to the country and should not be allow ed to hold office. No matter what you view is on the issue. This man has no business running.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • cassarit

      What do you mean he should not be allowed to hold office?
      That's for the people to decide during an election, not garbage like you.
      Take your arrogance someplace else.

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

      @cas

      I fail to see how expressing an opinion suddenly turns jb into a pile of garbage. I agree, this man should not be allowed to hold office but if ignorant people want to vote him in then the only thing I can do is allow them to suffer for their poor choices.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  11. Dana

    We are going to turn into the Middle East if we keep listening to religious nuts. It's time to get rid of this absurd, magical religious nonsense. People act like they are channeling their imaginary friend god to serve whatever purpose they want.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Rob-Texas

      and devalueing our currency at the same time.Print print print away...

      October 25, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  12. this guy

    Let me give you a little inside information about God. God likes to watch. He's a prankster. Think about it. He gives man instincts. He gives you this extraordinary gift, and then what does He do, I swear for His own amusement, his own private, cosmic gag reel, He sets the rules in opposition. It's the goof of all time. Look but don't touch. Touch, but don't taste. Taste, don't swallow. LOL. And while you're jumpin' from one foot to the next, what is he doing? He's laughin' His sick, f*****' a$$ off! He's a tight-a$$! He's a SADIST! He's an absentee landlord! Worship that? NEVER!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Ron

      Problem is, This Guy, is that you're forgetting about the Devil that lavishes in every poor, mean, and hateful thing you do. It's the Devil, not God, that is celebrating when you screw-up and make poor decisions...meanwhile, God is weeping.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • this guy

      well @Ron...that's bc he's a FAN OF MAN!!!!!!!

      October 25, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Damocles

      @this

      Wasn't a bad movie.... not great, but not bad.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • this guy

      @Damocles

      it was a GREAT performance tho...not good, but great!

      October 25, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  13. William Demuth

    The fable clearly inplicates Christ and his cohorts as child killers already.

    The Christian God of the Bible, has slaughtered millions and promises to commit genocide again

    Even if he existed, he would be worthy of nothing more than rebellion.

    Death to the Cult Of Christ!!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • ES

      Exactly. The Old Tesament makes your hear stand on end. It is a book of scary horror stories for primitive men,

      October 25, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  14. tom

    The religious-types have to remember – never blame or suggest god is responsible for anything bad that happens; ignore any implication relating to god. Tive god plenty of praise and thanks for anything good that happens. Let it go at that and you are ok no matter what.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  15. Nick

    When I was a child, I assumed that by the time I was a middle aged man, religion would have become something of the past.

    Man, was I wrong.

    Bummber, eh?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  16. Just_Facts

    It all boils down to when you think life begins. Many people believe it begins at conception; others believe it begins when the fetus is viable outside the womb. But – once life begins, abortion is killing a child. What is the rationale for killing a child because something horrible happened to its mother?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • ES

      No , it all boils down to fairy tales. As for life – sperm is also alive, so are pig and cows who we eat. So are elephants and dolphins and primates who we exterminate and who are by far more intelligent than 4 cells.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Just_Facts

      So you are saying that a person's life is no different than a pig's life? Really? You must think cannibalism is ok then.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  17. Lawrence

    It must be god's will we have abortion doctors so it's ok to have an abortion.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Zeus

      I think Christians should be pro abortion, that way they can keep the child from committing the sin of being born.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  18. derp

    “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.”

    This is the exact reason I stopped voting for Republicans.

    I could not have said it better myself.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  19. Puddin

    My God is a good God. My bible says that EVERYTHING that happens is NOT "God's will." Remember, there is not only God's will, there is "Man's will," and the devil is out there doing just fine. God will allow man to do those things that man knows in his heart are not right, but God will also allow the consequences that follow.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  20. Veritas

    There is nothing to explain. Theism doesn't make any sense, never has, and never will. As Albert Einstein so eloquently stated: ""...The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can (for me) change this..."

    October 25, 2012 at 9:34 am |
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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.