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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. aRealwoman

    WHY does this story get front page news and Benghazi is hardly mentioned????? Could the media be any more biased? This is not REAL journalism. This is a SCANDAL. This is the media's agenda to destroy the conservatives and "stand behind" Obama. Give me a break. The mainstream media is a JOKE. Let's see some coverage on BENGHAZI, where we actually lost 4 Americans lives. Obama screwed up and the media is covering his ass. PATHETIC!!!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Indiana-stan

      4 lives? How about Iraq and several thousand lives, and for what?

      October 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • aRealwoman

      Indiana-stan : FOR WHAT??? How about to keep YOUR ass safe. Way to turn it around and avoid the real question. I wasn't talking about Iraq, although equally important....OF COURSE we lost more lives in Iraq. WE lost our U.S ambassador out of neglect and poor decision making from our President. And now OBAMA is trying to cover it up. FOR WHAT??? So he can win an election. What a joke. He lessened the security our people received while they were working to keep you and I safe. Our American president LIED to you and to me. I had a friend in Iraq, so don't you dare question for what? What was his death for?? Could you stand in front of my friend and ask him what he died for?? Like I said...our President is a JOKE.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  2. ColoradoJoe

    How do you endorse someone you do not know??? I blame McCain, Romney and any other republican that endorsed this type of person as they SHOULD have known before they endorsed him. There are no excuses for this type of person, never mind the people that vote or endorsed him. How does an apology "fix' what his thought process is? Indiana, you get what you deserve.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  3. PaulieJ

    Going from just the headline:
    It's easy to explain.
    Step 1: Toss out your religious doctrine.
    Step 2: Realize that there are, for a host of reasons, bad people in the world and despite efforts by others, are going to do bad things.
    Step 3: Realize that bad things and/or adversity is going to cross your path many times throughout your life. How you choose to respond is what will, in part, define who you are. Do you rise above and grow from it (ie. "That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger") or will you let it suck you down into a wallowing mess of self pity?
    Step 4: Bend down, lace up your own boots (ie. take some personal responsibility), and take a look inside yourself and realize that each and every day you have the opportunity to be a better person than you were the day before. And all it takes is the willpower and belief in oneself to take that step towards making that a reality.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  4. this guy

    if you could reason with a religious person, there would be no religous people.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  5. JVB

    CNN: "How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?" No CNN writer that is not the question for this article. Nice try attempting to save his carrier through diversion. The correct question is this. How do we allow individuals like this man, to make it into power? The answer is simple, a lack of research. We elect people from what we learn through the media. The media is paid by political parties to release the information of their choosing. We would all be better off researching our elected members prior to putting them into power. We research people prior to hiring them for a job, why should this be any different?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  6. DaTruth

    As a a white, male, Indiana resident, I find Mourdock and his comments to be disgusting. This is another far-right, tea party nut-job. He is a danger to himself and the United States. I never considered voting for this man for a second.

    Joe Donnelly is opposing him from the democratic party. He is a good man and an intelligent politician, looking to get things done and work with both sides. He has my vote.

    Obama 2012

    October 25, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  7. Jeff

    "It's God's will" is a catch-all that tries to wrap up all questions regrading injustice and unfairness that the Bible doesn't otherwise discuss or handle. If it wasn't there, I think Christianity would be quite different than it is today. For a believer, it's a large part of what makes the Bible a perfect, infallible doctrine. For a nonbeliever, it's maddening because it's a cop out.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  8. The Obvious

    When the Founder separated Church and State they had good reason and experience to appreciate the need. As far as I am concerned every time a candidated chooses to leverage religon to get a vote, they have made a deliberate decision to skate on the line. This guys get no quarter from me, he played with fire, now he needs to burn a bit. tough luck.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  9. longtooth

    Buddhism says that trying to understand God is impossible. People who try to make rational explanations for the horrors that occur in life are attempting to shrink God down into something we can all grasp. We are all gods, gifted fools who take for granted a magical Universe, and never stop trying to have it make sense. The fact that Einstein rejected religion doesn't make atheism necessarily correct. He made very poor choices in hairstyles, too.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  10. BlindFaithisSin

    How does he know it's not Satan's influence instead of God's will? The answer, he doesn't. He's just guessing and using faith to justify that his guess is right. Why do we have freewill if we are not accountable for our choices? He can't blame this on his God with some sort of feable reasoning. That's the problem with religion - it makes unproven statements and then tries to rationalize them.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  11. tom

    To those who don't believe in god – when you die and go to heaven god will be a woman who will nag you for the next million years, and make you plenty sorry you didn't believe while you were still alive.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  12. Slender Bender

    Ah!!!! Religion and politics how inseparable the two are. It never ceases to amaze me how the ultraconservatives are always willing to inject their religious beliefs into policy and at every opportunity.
    Religious beliefs need and must remain in a person’s home and place of worship; it has no place in the public sphere.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  13. mjbrin

    i don't have a problem with someone believing this, I personally don't ........what i have a problem with is someone believing this then not jumping in to help these children for the rest of their lives. it seems that once they have life they are suddenly less valuable

    October 25, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  14. Scot

    This just show how little people really read the Bible. God did not cause this to happen, He allowed it. Why? Because we chose to disobey Him and do things our way. He's allowing us to fail, to show us that our ways won't work just as any good parent would do with their children. Be comforted though because He has promised to make all thing right again and He never breaks a promise.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Kevin

      Thats the dumbest thing i have ever heard

      October 25, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      millions of people must suffer so he can prove a point, my way or the high way. he sounds loving

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

      So because humans defied God, he is going to allow us to be r@ped, murdered,a and tortured? Why would you worship such an evil creature?

      October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • ES

      Riight. And this all-loving God keeps tabs on what billions of people do every minute of their lives. Some disobety and are given a pass. But some disobey in much lesser way and get abused in the worst ways imaginable . He sounds more like an evil Santa Claus, if you are ask me.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  15. Black Jesus

    Just FYI. It looks like there is no god, but there is a lot of scary people populating this earth.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  16. SC

    What I continue to be amazed at is some people's complete ignorance to proven science. While it hasn't been proven scientifically that religion is a crock-of-sh.., it has been proven mathematically (way back when), through the use of infinite sequences and series, that god does NOT exist, because there's no way to mathematically create something out of nothing. And yet, here we have an overwhelming amount of people who still believe more in the tenets of a religion than they do with their eyes and on experiences.
    What blows me away is that some of these people are front-and-center in the pool of "elected officials" that some people voted to put into the position they are currently in. Sigh.

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

      SC, it is due to the lack of education you do not believe in God. Scientist have discovered the entire universes were created in .01 148th power of a second from nothing. That is the big bang theory. Only an intelligent being could have done this. The secular evidence of Jesus Christ is overwhelming. God gave humans the right to make choices. Choices have consequences good and bad. A very small percentage of scholars deny the historicity of Jesus Christ. God loves everyone, he does not condone every ones conduct. Study first century christianity then make a decesion.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  17. terry

    Mourdock = GOP= Bible Thumper ( but did you ever really read it ?) = Bigot = " how can 50% of the nation still think that way ?".
    Belief is a PRIVATE affair... If you choose to avoid neurosis or psychosis by adhering to a creed, this is not a bad choice. Just stop ramming it down the throats of every other human being on the planet. And IF you have read the Bible, remember the word "compassion", however "miserable" that word can be at times.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  18. Brian

    First, let me say at the outset: I'm not a theist, of any stripe.

    Having said that, what Mourdock said *does* follow logically from Judeo-Christian theism, whether its adherents like it or not.

    It's very simple:

    1) God (in the Judeo-Christian conception) is omnipotent. This means that God can do anything.
    2) God is omnisicent. This means God knows and is aware of everything.
    3) Bad things happen.
    4) Because God is omnipotent and omniscient, he knows these things are going to happen.
    5) Because he is omnipotent, he could stop these things if he wanted to.

    Ergo, since these things happen, and he could prevent them from happening, he wants them to happen.

    QED.

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

      I agree. The only logical way out there which was discovered a few hundred years ago – God wants people to have free will and for this reason he doesn' interfere and stop bad things.
      But when good things happen they forget about this whole free will thing and priase the Lord.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • terry

      Uhhh..

      If he is Omnipotent, then " bad things do not happen " just per se ...... it should follow that " HE causes bad things to happen".

      That is what Omnipotence essentially means.

      Ergo, there is no need for the last 2 propositions.

      Ergo, if we believe in a God who wants bad things to happen, we should take a harder look at the belief, and, since we have created God in our own image ( yes I know, the scriptures claim the opposite... but what can a man do, faced with so much evidence..?), we should take a harder look at ourselves and stop spying on every other person.

      Marx said that "religion is the opium of the people"...Freud said that religion is an effective way to avoid a personal compulsive neurosis , replacing it by an compulsive social neurosis...he also said that religion shares the traits of neurosis and psychosis...

      This is all good, as long as it stays within the psyche of the individual.. Once it starts getting out, it is akin to every other imposed creed and looses all its ethical values.

      But discussing Ethics with , most especially, US citizens, is like trying to explain why Creationism is simply wrong.... " Credo quia absurdum" is the motto of most uneducated, parochial, self centered and bigoted Americans, and they do not even know it.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • steelerguin

      It is not that simple Brian. God has also given man free will. God could make all of us love him and worship him. As you said, he has that power. However, he has given man free will and we make decisions to sin in this fallen world or to even reject him. I don't pretend to know why evil happens in this world, but I do believe God is good.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • steelerguin

      To Terry.......If you believe all of us American Christians are dimwits, may I suggest reading the writings of a European who is an Oxford professor of mathematics and physics who believes in Creationism – John Lennox.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  19. abc123

    The quickest way to lose all credibility is to claim to know what God intended.

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

      I would say Amen ... but that would imply that I know what God intends.

      Good point.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  20. Saganhill

    "How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?"

    Simple, god doesnt exist.

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

      It called free will. By the way only a fool says there is no God. You'll see one day who exit

      October 25, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      i agree good is does not exist, or he hates us.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • wes

      Or, why are his 'churches' just organizations of hatred.

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

      Many Christians misunderstand this concept. It is common for Christians to say, "the lord works in mysterious ways" or "everything happens for a reason" however; these statements are not taught in the Bible. They are junk drawer theology. This, however, is what the Bible teaches: "the world is random and cruel." This is the result of "falleness" or the first sin of man. As a result of "fallness" the world is random and cruel. However, God will redeem mankind and the world. He began the work through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, and one day God will make a world gone wrong right. Christians place their hope in this truth. This concept, in theology, is called "already but not yet" for it states that the work of redemption was begun in the first coming of Jesus and will be completed in the second coming of Jesus Christ. I hold on to hope in a world without hope because "He who began a good work will see it through until Jesus Christ returns." This is what it means: "for we know that God will work all things for the good of those who love Him."

      Peace.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:53 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.