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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. CD

    Men should not be making any kind of legislation telling a woman what she can and can not do with her body period. It should not even be an issue of discussion. It is between her and her Doctor.

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

      Sorry there is no such thing as pregnancy with male involvement.

      What if a father wants to kill his soN? Do women get to make laws about that

      October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • What

      good luck to that, American r so F dumb that voting this dude

      October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  2. Neil

    Without evil in the world, the world knows no good. Of course the argument is made that if we are a god loved planet then why is there evil? The answer is simple in that if we didn't know evil, then we would not know good. In order for there to be good there needs to be evil. And as history shows, in the bible, historical data, and other writings... Good always prevails in the end.

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

      People do bad things because they chose to - free will. Why is there childhood disease? that is a harder question

      October 25, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  3. Yardley

    Bertrand Russell said, "The world we live in can be understood as a result of muddle and accident; but if it is the outcome of deliberate purpose, the purpose must have been that of a fiend. For my part, I find accident a less painful and more plausible hypothesis."

    October 25, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  4. stepren

    Evil is done in this world by the pious hypocrites who use religion as a guise to control people. Like controlling women's bodies or even pontificating falsehood like "evolution is a myth", and lining yourself up with those who have extreme views of racism and bigotry. Look at the Billboards in the South Showing Obama bowing to a Saudi King and you see the face of evil. Or look at the candidate that will say one thing and then just the opposite of that depending on who he thinks his audience is rather then what his real views are. I see all kinds of evil in the extremism of the Republican party these days.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  5. toby

    we live in a sin cursed world that God will some day utterly destroy, It is because of the wickedness of mans heart that evil happens ,,,God left you with a free will, Would you stop blaming God and simply turn and repent to avoid the wrath to come

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

      toby, all of it is your god's creation (according to you)..
      Nobody has anyone to blame except him–he is the source of evil

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

      That is, if you accept the proposition of the existence of a god =)

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

      Does God have the power to stop evil from happening? If so, why has evil continued to pervade our world for thousands and thousands of years? What the hell is God waiting for?

      October 25, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Rob-Texas

      God is giving us a chance to figure it out and come to our sences. Waiting for people to take personal responsibilty, quit hurting each other, start being loving.

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

      We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes. – Gene Roddenbury

      October 25, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  6. apstar

    It has been said that the two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  7. Dionysus86

    Soon enough, Christianity will be taught alongside Greek and Incan mythology in classrooms instead of churches. That civilization will be lucky.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • nii

      Its funny that you will teach it in schools but now you don't want to. It is too dangerous a philosophy for Atheism now and it will be more dangerous if you try it tomorrow. Teaching the Bile creates more Christians. Ask the Revivalists. Christianity is the ultimate religion for Ho.mo Sapiens.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Dionysus86

      It will be taught in schools as history, not as theism.

      Try and keep up.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  8. Occam

    The issue is not about Murdock's religious views but rather forcing a set of values on those who don't agree.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  9. YoozYerBrain

    Let's not forget that this idiot beat Sen Lugar because Lugar was too much of compromiser and had the nerve to work WITH the democrats (occasionally) instead of against them 100% of the time. He's running on a confrontational, obstructionist platform, to overturn such laws of the land as the Affordable Health Care Act and Roe v Wade. So, this is the kind of politician who will keep on attempting to destroy this great country because of his ridiculous superst itions. Gross. If you actually vote for him, you need to look in the mirror when asking the question "what's wrong with this country?"

    October 25, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  10. chitort

    So, why does Romney and the GOP hate women so much?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  11. CommonSense

    Yet another topic where religion makes people crazy and without reason or logic. When will people learn that when it comes to religion, KEEP IT TO YOURSELF and out of the white house, senate, etc. This country will not move forward with these issues until people stop worrying about what "God" thinks and focus on what actually matters in reality. People like this just make me feel better for being an Atheist.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  12. Kingof-Kings

    Its not about a religion or a "God", it is a simple to observe reality. The Creator, who or whatever that may be, with universal law enabled the fruitfulness of life, that at may grow and fill the universe..the biological response will not change, a life has been created? Should the vile act of its inception be perpetrated on the gift of life.. Is it the fault of the fetus? I do agree it is the right of the woman to decide, it is after all her body and life vs a soul not yet realized! It will be a difficult decision no matter what, support and compassion are all we can give!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • CommonSense

      Hold on, I'm trying to find a youtube video of a violin...

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

      I did not know that Common Sense stood for "piece of sh it"

      October 25, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  13. CD

    How come my comments never get posted (excpet this one, if it gets posted)

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

      Most of mine are disappearing too.

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

      because the system filters certain words automatically

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

      Not buying that word filter bit here on the Belief Blog. Mine had nothing but mild words.

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

      CD- you have to make sure to split up certain words or the filter will stop you. The one that gets me all the time is superst ition cuz in the middle is ti t....believe it or not. So any word that has a suspect letter combination you need to seperate or put periods in, etc...good luck

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

      Look out for the world filters

      October 25, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  14. Iowa Voter

    Does any loving parent shield their children from every consequence of their actions?

    God is not a helicopter parent.

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

      So your god is neither omnipotent or omniscient?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  15. Elliot Dash

    The Old Testament is extremely clear on what should happen to convicted rapists and those responsible for initiating incest . . and it has nothing to do with jail time if you get my meaning. As far as evil existing on Earth it is man that allows it. A divine being has nothing to do with the responsibility of man to be good or evil to one another.

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

      So we should pick and choose what parts of the Bible to follow depending on how it suits our needs eh? That is the problem most people have with a book filled with contradictions, fallacies, symbolism, and some good life lessons. My problem is when people deign to know "God's Will" or that something is "God's Will" like they are an authority over me or anybody else.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Primewonk

      "The Old Testament is extremely clear on what should happen to convicted rapists"

      Yes it is. It's also clear what should happen to the victims -

      If the rapist victim is a young unengeaged virgin, he has to pay her father $250 and then marry the kid and never divorce her.

      And if the victim is engaged? Well, if she doesn't scream loud enough while being ràped? Well, then you have to stone her.

      Any reason you fundiot nutters aren't following these laws from your god?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • onemindamidstmanyofthesameistruth

      Wow really have you never read anything about This boy that God told the Israelites I will send you a king it says that in scriptures that a king would be sent and this king was Christ his only son and on that cross is where I set my burdens down and he picked them up and had redeemed me before our father so in a way the old testament laws are for the Jewish Israelites and the new testament is for all that came to Christ in his time up to this day

      October 26, 2012 at 2:14 am |
  16. Sark

    "“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.”"

    This A thousand – a million! – times this. If religious leaders can say and believe this, why can't our politicians and citizenry?

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

      WRONG society has a right to make laws and protect the innocent -– can you prove that a fetus should have no protection - what about the rights of the father? There is no Pro Choice argument that stands up to logic. No one has a right to do whatever they want with their own body - prove that a fetus is part of a woman in the same way a finger or a finger nail is - a fetus, if it is not killed will be born – if a woman can chose to terminate a pregnancy, why does a father have to be bound to child support -- Shouldn't the father have the right in the first two trimesters to say "I am not supporting this fetus"

      October 25, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  17. Primewonk

    The problem is that realistically, there is no way to reconcile freewill with a god that claims omnipotence and omniscience.

    If you believe your god is all powerful and all knowing, then your god is responsible for ràpe and the resulting pregnancy. If you do not believe your god is all powerful and all knowing, then your god isn't much of a god, is he?

    And if your god is omnipotent and omniscient, then your god purposefully creates billions of people for the sole purpose of torturing them for all eternity.

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

      That is an extremely Narrow minded view of God.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Primewonk

      Instead of just claiming it's narrow-minded, why not show us exactly how you can reconcile omnipotence and omniscience with freewill.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Will

      Check out Chaos Theory. Freedom and determinism exist side by side. It's strange and glorious.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  18. Praise Jebus

    God sends rapists to brutally assault and terrorize women so that they can make more babies that Republican lawmakers will refuse to support. Mitt Romney approves.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  19. palintwit

    This article pretty much describes life in a southern republican/ teabagger family.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  20. ES

    It is simple, there is no God in a sense Christians see it, i.e. powerful, wise and immortal human. Even if GOd exists as a supernatural immortal being, life force and universe wide consiousness, it is too unlike human to understand or care about our concepts of good and evil. Even our own perception of good and evil changes significantly over years. For example, treating people like property, using them as slaves, selling 6 y.o. girld into marriage were all perfectly acceptable just a few hundred years ago. Now we think of these things as evil.
    The bottom line is, live your life to the best of your ability and don't worry too much about God.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Elliot Dash

      Amen

      October 25, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • What

      Live your live the way you wanted, and live other alone, Stop f cking come to my door. All religions

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

      ES
      Are you saying that without social protection and legal sanctions slavery and child labour will not stop since humans have evolved better morals. Well think again. A CHILD CALLED IT was written in America. Everyday slaves arrive in the vans of child traffickers. This time they are paid and then its all taken away by their "benefactors". Modern man has not advanced one bit. Its law enforcement in your country that is better but even there the police still arrives late.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Damocles

      @nii

      I think what he was saying is that back in the day it was acceptable for certain things to happen that we now consider wrong. Man has advanced a bit in that some practices are now punished when before they were not.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:47 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.