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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. Jesusisdead

    Really folks, are that many of us still afraid of the dark and seeking some spark of light in a fairy tale called Jesus ?

    November 4, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • JayneQP

      You have your belief and others have theirs. I'm not sure how necessary it is for either side to degrade the other for their choice... apart from making oneself feel superior. I'm so glad you got that off your chest.

      November 4, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • MCR

      I've got to agree with JaynQP, and I don't believe in any god myself and even think there are some dangers in Christianity. But what I am not is argogant enough to ignore the fact that I have my own unproven beliefs, or that all humans must in order to function in society. You don't have proof even that the world existed 5 seconds ago. So I work with what I've got, and I suspect that I having fewer unfounded premises is better, And I fight for separation of church and state, but I DON'T treat people who've made other choices as imbeciles. Even when their beliefs threaten me, whichthey often do, I understand that they are humans and that while they are likely wrong about many things, likely so am I.

      November 4, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  2. Mutt Romney

    In a few short days, when I am elected President of these here 52 United States, I will immediately ask for the salvation of all sinners who have not embraced Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and the Church of Latter Day Saints. Next, I will deliver to the new American Mormon congregation the coordinates of my home planet, where I am a God as well as here. The present God, who has been portrayed as the Christian God on plant Kobol will be retired and the mythical Jesus stories ended.

    Next, I will instruct our Armed Forces to move in force to Israel and remove all peoples from that area and ship them to Diego Garcia as their new home; Jewish and Palestinian alike. Mormon Missionaries and Mormon Families will then immediately populate and rebuild this land as our ancestral home.

    Finally toward the end of my first day in Office as the President of the United States, I will use Executive Orders and repeal anything that smells of decency and humanity from the previous sinful Administrations. All government assistance will end immediately except to those Mormon driven businesses that stand prior to my election. All government mandated programs including Women's Rights of Choice and Voting, Welfare, Health Care, Legal Services, Student Loan Programs, NASA, Agricultural Funding, Foreign Assistance Programs, Affirmative Action Programs, Gay Anything Programs will all cease to be funded by the stroke of my pen. Finally, if any have not come to the Mormon fold by the end of my first day and have any debt, all property and possessions will immediately become the Government's. Anyone not complying with these Executive Orders will be detained and summarily sent to Northeastern China as Slave Labor to our Chinese Mormon Brothers and Sisters.

    I want to thank all of the Tea Party Members whose complete hatred and stand fast stupidity allowed me to shove aside those pesky Centrist Republicans and bring chaos to the forefront of American Politics when compromise might have been possible . While you all were bickering and complaining over issues that really did not matter, I have laid the complete foundation to rid America of anyone who is not White, Mormon, Straight, Obsessed with Work and Greed and completely malleable.

    Now I know you haters out there and you know who you are, will cry the blues over my changes. Be at ease, you will be at peace before long. If we can't get you into the Church before you pass, we can after Again thank you for a prosperous America and may I bless these great United States of America.

    Mutt Romney
    Paid for by the Church of Latter Days Saints

    November 3, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  3. PeggySue

    God wills woman to be rap3d but wont save a baby from a hurricane. totally believable ( NOT )

    November 3, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  4. Rob

    Two quick things to consider concerning his comments:
    1. Read the story of Joseph – beaten by brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused and sent to prison, eventually 2nd in charge in Egypt. What were his words to his brothers when he met them – what you intended for evil, God has intended for good (Gen 50:20).
    2. The story of Christ himself – crucified to cover the sins of others according to God's plan. The whole Christian faith is built on this concept.
    This comment has been played by political enemies with very little true understanding of the Bible. The argument against his statement is foolish because it basically states that God is not in control, that he is somehow surprised when something bad happens. Why does an innocent baby have to die for the vile actions of another – abort the rapist if you want but not the innocent life.

    November 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Romnesia

      If god is in control, why does the rape happen at all?

      November 3, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • PeggySue

      if god is in control we have no free will, if we have no free will whats the point of having a bible rules or anything ?

      November 3, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • JayneQP

      Romnesia: Karma. Karma is how the soul learns the lessons it needs to learn in order to return to God. We stay on the wheel until we get it all figured out. See, God wants us all to come home. We have free will, which is why we experience karma. But if you look at God like the ultimate parent, he has no illusions about what choices we will make, but he lets us make them on our own. It may take us a long time or it may take us a short time depending on those choices, but ultimately we all go home. Karma. Simple as that.

      November 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  5. Rock

    Dear politician , I just had my way with your daughters...enjoy the results...idiots

    November 2, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    November 1, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  7. WASP

    i say we file a class action lawsuit against god for back child support along with charging him with child endangerment and for neglecting his adult responcibilities toward his "children". let's not forget he will need to appear before a tribunal for charges of crimes against humanity for all the natural and artificule diasters he caused.
    i will be expecting my repatriotation check in the mail once we can find him. :) XD

    November 1, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • nope

      @wus p ...
      nope

      November 1, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • WASP

      NOPE MONKEY i know i keep you on a short leash, but please when you do you business go in the corner.
      i'm sorry everyone i have tried to teach my dancing NOPE MONKEY better manners but he loves to throw poo at himself. lmfao such a sweet NOPE MONKEY, i can't find it in my heart to disipline him.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  8. augustghost

    Mourdock is republican...need I say more?

    November 1, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • Peter Clark

      Maybe it should be God's will that safe abortions are available

      November 3, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
  9. Bloghead

    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”

    So his first instinct is to lecture or preach? What a jerk!

    October 31, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Tom Scott

      Where did you read that Mr. South's first instinct is to do what he just said he DOESN'T do? Sounds like you're the jerk here. Don't you have anyone at home or work to argue with?

      November 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Romnesia

      Tom. Why would he say “I don’t give them a lecture or preach at them,” if the thought wasn't in his head?

      November 3, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  10. donner

    If you owned a small company and Richard Mourdock walked in the breakroom and said this to your employees, he would be fired and probably beat up in the parking lot. But here in lunatic land, the idiot is a candidate for US Senate. Want to know why America is struggling? Here's exhibit A, B and C.

    October 31, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  11. terrilynnmerritts

    This is exactly why church and state must be separate. Those who are ignorant enough to be brainwashed into believing old christian myths always want to infect everyone else with this miserable bacteria. The antibiotic is to not allow those who insist on trying to get elected to office in order to use their office to inflict their ignorant beliefs to do so. Any woman who would vote for Romney or any Republican is a fool. No intelligent or decent man who cares about women would vote for these people. There are no gods and goddesses and adults should have no need to believe in ancient fairytales nor have an imaginary male boss/friend in the sky. We are just such a backward nation.

    October 31, 2012 at 3:13 am |
    • James C Edgar

      Very well put!

      October 31, 2012 at 6:35 am |
    • Rich

      This man spoke poorly. Abortion continues to be the greatest human rights violation in the world. At conception the embryo is entirely human. It has all of the chromosomes and characteristics of being human. So at the moment of conception we need to begin to decide what is most moral now that there are three people involved.

      This is not a woman's rights issue. This is a human rights issue. Every year hundreds of thousands of woman are killed. The baby has different dna, different blood, etc. The baby is not the "mother." We cannot kill humans for the convenience of the mother, for the sins of the father, or because of the laziness of society. Mourdock was trying to say that every life is important and valuable. Though his words were a dismal failure. Assume the baby was born... yes I would stand by that child and say that "God can make beautiful things out of the worst things that man can do." I would stand by the child and say that they were valuable and had purpose despite their father's crime. We Americans really need to rethink this issue.

      October 31, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • donner

      This man spoke poorly?? That's like saying Hitler had a slip of the tongue when he called for the elimination of Jews. This country will begin to thrive again when you Christian conservative trash are tossed on the scrap heap of history.

      October 31, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • tonykeywest

      You keep waging that war on God fool. God has spoken to you in the whirlwind.(sandy) get a clue, youre gonna lose.

      November 2, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  12. GaryV

    If we were to follow the Republican platform to a "T", the rapist would be executed, the child forced to have the child and then told to get off of her lazy ass and get a job with health insurance and raise the damn kid herself without asking for a welfare bum handout. Spade's a spade, THAT IS the GOP platform.

    October 30, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  13. Meg

    Awesome. So in the event I have to make a decision about my own health/body, I will be sure to consider the opinion of someone like this whackjob. If you don't agree with abortion, dont have one. Guess what? You don't have a uterus Murdock. Why is this so difficult to understand?

    October 30, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  14. Lamb of dog

    I wonder how he would feel if his wife was impregnated that way. Would it still be a gift from god?

    October 30, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  15. donner

    Google the White Horse Prophecy before you vote for Mitt Romney. The Mormon church has had a plan to take over America for 150 years.

    October 30, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      They want revenge for Smith.

      October 30, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Tom Scott

      Keep in mind, though, that there are checks and balances. Many thought the Vatican was going to take over America when JFK got elected.

      November 1, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  16. John Smith IV

    God's will? God's will is that we have the capacity to bear children and the capacity to terminate pregnancies. God is not evil, God is not challenging us....The truth is people can be evil while God simply does what must be done for life to exist in the Universe, and will not change the laws because a dumb child of his does stupid things. I mean by that that bringing God into this debate is wrong and has always been wrong. God's laws are general, it is up to us to judge our own actions....as the Great poet Alexander Pope once said...."presume not God to scan....the proper study of Mankind is Man" God lays down the laws, it is up to us how we choose to live by those laws...and if we live wrongly then we will suffer...but not because of God, but because we were stupid and disrespectful.

    October 30, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • John Smith IV

      The laws of God are inviolable whether we understand that or not. Our task is to live in the best possible harmony with those laws, and the majority of those laws are in some way or other natural. Our problem is that at every turn we presume ourselves as great as God...which we are not and never will be. We are small and will always be small and we must understand that and not make presumptions about the nature of God especially while assuming we are his sole mouthpiece......everyone must be free to develop a relationship with God on their own.

      October 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      Your ability to reason is very small.

      October 30, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Our problem is that at every turn we presume ourselves as great as God...which we are not and never will be."

      Our problems is not only that some presume to know the mind of god, but that they preach it.

      November 1, 2012 at 3:52 am |
    • the AnViL

      "Our problem is that at every turn we presume ourselves as great as God...which we are not and never will be."

      our problem is there is no god, yet delusional, ignorant, retarded people who believe in the imaginary man in the sky insist on making moral decisions for others, based on their delusional religious idiocy.

      tolerance of religious idiocy has to end... enough is enough

      November 1, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  17. Pam Hamilton

    I like Jerry (the WWII vet)'s take on God in ROOM FOUR (great book) "if God cared where every jack@$$ dropped a bomb he would have a lot of colleteral damage to explain." And I wish politicians would remember that we have the separation of church and state in this country.

    October 30, 2012 at 4:35 am |
  18. Irene

    fnskzldcf

    October 30, 2012 at 2:40 am |
  19. Irene

    is this okay?

    October 30, 2012 at 2:38 am |
  20. GOD

    Other then posting on cnn, I do not will anything its all up to you !

    PS: Religion was made by men not me !

    October 29, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • JohnK

      And you can't blame men for anything, we are just stupid animals evolved from apes!

      October 29, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • Athy

      Not evolved from apes. Evolved from a common hominid ancestor.

      October 29, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • truth be told

      A totally undiscovered ancestor but it's there it just has to be there – damn that hide and seek game ! At least the sob won it.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • WASP

      @god: i have to agree with johnK...............well except the whole "evolving from apes" thing.
      i am officailly informing you that as a representative of the human species that we intend to see you in court for back child support and have you answer questions as far as where you have been this whole time while you were neglecting your "parental" duties. XD ROFLMFAO

      November 1, 2012 at 9:32 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.