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. sean

    Maybe it's time to grow up and admit that your god's aren't, nor were ever, a real thing?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  2. Captian D.E.

    Yes it is astounding how many "Christians" are out there who have no real understanding not only of the real world but also of the religion they supposedly follow. I do believe life is sacred (which is why I do not support the death penalty unless the there is absolutely no reasonable doubt) but in cases like the ones described above I will always side with the women no matter what choice she makes. I also believe that as the USA was founded on freedom and the ability to choose the life we wish, though I may not always agree, I will never stand in the way of a woman wishing to terminate a pregnancy. I believe that the problem is not abortion, it is a rather poor solution, but that unwanted pregnancies are. Outlawing abortion will have the same effect as outlawing alcohol in 1919, people found a way to have alcohol and women will find a way to have abortions, the problem will be the same as with the alcohol in that it will significantly more dangerous and potentially fatal. If we really want to take abortion seriously, we need to tackle the problem of unwanted pregnancies. The best way to do that is to have better education when it comes to contraceptives and to make contraceptives more available and easily obtainable without the stigma generally associated with them. I believe that is more of a real solution unlike those of Mr. Mourdock and others of his ilk who are naive and no nothing more of the real world than heavily biased version they hear in church. As a resident of Indiana I am embarrassed that he is our treasurer. I can think of many times money has been lost so they could cut the budget for education and other services only to find it later to give away as bonus to themselves. I will do what I can to ensure that he does not become one of Senators as well but unfortunately I am only one vote so I will hope that others out there, in my beloved state, see Mourdock for what he is and not allow to have any more power that he will ultimately corrupt and bring more shame to my state and country

    October 25, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • CanisLupis

      It astounds me how you can side with the herroine drug adict who hasn't yet recovered and that you believe she can make a rational decision that will affect her emotionally, spiritually, and physicaly. I feel that the situation happened, but killing a result will not fix the situation. I would assume you agree that someone mentally deranged can also choose to terminate their pregnancies as well then, right? Because both people are severly mentally distrought (ask any psychologist).

      The Bible says we need to help her get cleaned-up, get through her situation, give her support, give the child a chance to live (who knows, the baby may terminate on its own or die shortly after birth), and put the baby up for adoption (who knows, maybe she'll want the child after she is clean, it should be her choie when she is in a sound mind). The father needs to be kiilled by stoning (very slow and painful death) in public display to set the example for all those doing the same thing. That's what the Bible says to do. I see nothing wrong with any of that. Do you?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  3. judith

    Mourdock is a cretin and unfit for public office. He's also a woman-hating monster; his remarks are nauseating and I can't imagine a person with an I.Q. above room temperature voting for him.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  4. Penny Wright

    Science flies you to the moon.

    Religion flies you into buildings.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • drskaplan

      Nice comment. I hae not heard that before

      October 25, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  5. Quasi

    God never has existed!
    And this idiot needs to be locked up and the key pitched into his idea of Hell!
    Please, deliver the world from these religious fanatics and their crazy ideas! 🙁

    October 25, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • CanisLupis

      I will ask you one rational questions, and answer it using the Scientific Method please.

      Question: Based on the complexity of this universe and all its moving parts needing to work exactly correct or the entire thing stops, what is more likely to have occurred?

      A) Material appeared out of no where on its own and exploded creating the foundation for evolution to happen
      B) A Being from another dimension, created this universe like a computer programmer creates a computer program

      October 25, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • YoozYerBrain

      @ canuslupus
      1) Yes, no problem if you ever took the time to listen to someone like Neal Degrasse Tyson talk about it. It's actually not that hard even if it can't be comprehended fully yet by many. Just cuz you don't comprehend something doesn't invite automatic default to supernatural causes. Or it shouldn't here in the 21st century when we know there are no gods in the sky, in space, under water, or in my head. Don't be a dark age superst itionist just cuz you are intellectually lazy.
      2) Absolutely there is no evidence for a grand computer programmer. And the universe is actually very hostile to life so don't bring up the "perfect order" nonsense, there isn't any "perfect order" but random chance DOES actually have room for the conditions favorable for life to exist since random chance in a universe of billions of galaxies of 100's of billions of stars gives plenty of room for life. In fact there's a formula for it that predicts I think a million possible habitable planets with life just in our galaxy. That's scientific method working out the probabilities using stuff like observed data, math, statistics, you know, OBJECTIVE means, not supernatural.

      So get to it and stop defaulting to a fear-based notion of reality that was pounded into you from birth basically. It's called "education" and you should try it, it's fun!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Zeus

      That is eays. I pick choice A

      October 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • fintastic


      "Just cuz you don't comprehend something doesn't invite automatic default to supernatural causes."

      October 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  6. Hawkeye321

    God is an impotent wretch. Or would be, if he existed.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  7. A Joke

    Is this writer kidding? THIS is the issue that has been raised by this ignorant man's comments? Look up, CNN...it's the point flying way over your head.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  8. snowboarder

    attributing anything to the "will of god" is intellectually dishonest.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  9. charles

    This is news for Indiana..And not a big story at all..The guy wont get elected anyway...CNN please report the REAL news..

    October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  10. TheSchmaltz

    It is important to ridicule religion at every opportunity, lest it gain the illusion of credibility.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  11. saurov

    only the system of Vedanta originating from India and based on timeless truths applicable to every living being (it is not narrow as religion) can explain this paradox. Please read The System of the Vedanta by Paul Deussen, or Three Lectures on Vedants Philosophy by Max Muller or The Complete Work of Swami Vivekanada.

    Om Tat Sat, Om Shanti Om Shanti Om Shanti.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  12. Paul H

    So continuing with that thought we can assume that a killer also folllowed Gods will, so why punish the killer!!!!!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  13. Andrew

    Vote for Religious Extremism: GOP. They'll take us back to the Klan Era.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  14. Horus

    How many times have tragedies like a child dying from cancer, disease, famine, violence been justified using phrases like "it's god's will", or "god wanted them to be with him"? How comforting it must be to the parents that their child was chosen to be a victim in order to satisfy the selfish needs of an absent god. What a bunch of BS. The answer to the "age old question" of how such evil can exist in the presence of a loving god is simple: The various gods worshipped by humans were all created by man. Pssst....they don't really exist.....

    October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  15. Dagobert II

    I can't claim to know 'God's" will on this or any other matter.

    For me the question is when human life begins – and conception seems to be the only rational starting point – and what rights, if any, accrue to being a living human. To be sure, a pregnant human is human life and has rights just as a conceived human is human life and thus has rights as well. Is there a hierarchy of rights between humans with one right trumping another? If so, what is the most basic right? The most basic right, if rights exist in a hierarchy, would, in my opinion be survival for in the purely secular paradigm, without survival there can be neither existence nor rights. Both mother and conceived child would thus have the right of survival making an abortion a human right where necessary for survival but a violation of human rights where it is not necessary for survival. How could this necessity be determined or discounted and who should so determine? Well in cases where deadly force is used in self defense we have courts adjudicating the justification of the use of deadly force in self defense verses the deceased's right to life on a regular basis. Rationally, I see no reason this judicial process should not be applied to the deadly force of abortion. On a case by case basis, its either justified or its not on the basis of the laws governing the use of deadly force.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  16. Rick McDaniel

    The truth is......there is no God. There is NO ONE looking out for YOU, but yourself.

    God doesn't do all this BAD STUFF, to challenge you. The bad stuff just happens, because there is no control on the bad stuff.

    The perversions, occur, in the conversations of people, BECAUSE they believe in a lie. They believe in something that doesn't exist, because humans can't COPE with being responsible for themselves, so they turn to a concept that SOMEONE ELSE is assuming that responsibility.

    It is nothing but a myth.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Peter

      Rick I would encourage you to examine the evidence all around you that God does exist. What are you basing your response on. Examine your life on how you were born, how were you created and look at the word **LAMININ**. with Respect Peter

      October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  17. CommonSense

    "How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?" Hahahah.... Oh Zeus, here we go again!

    Well, we could use simple reasoning. God either 1) Is not watching because IT is a ridiculous myth or 2) God is a hateful, sadistic creature who either enjoys the evil and suffering or simply doesn't care.

    More pressing still..... Why hasn't the Hubble Telescope found "Heaven" yet?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  18. ann

    It is not His will for someone to be pregnant from that kind of act! Even if you are not a Christian and do not believe in God, it is clear that each person can decide to either be good or bad. Therefore, if someone does something bad it can affect others and thereby causing someone else pain. Therefore the pregnancy is a result of the evil of the person who chose to be evil. The unfortunate and atrocious but unavoidable side effect of free will. If we were all automatons that will programmed from birth to be good all the time there wouldn't be bad things happening. However that is not how humans are. This world has weather, moving plates, etc all of which can also cause negative things to befall people as well. It is just the way the world is and we live in the world.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  19. Jenna NY

    Women have been taking herbs as abortives since the dawn of man. All this "religion" is personal and if one wants to believe something, then fine. But don't shove it off onto others. As this poor kid testified in the article, and I read in Peyton Place as a teenager, I firmly believe that girls should have the choice of birth control and abortion, if needed. Jesus taught us to be merciful and non-judgmental. Keep people like this guy our of Congress. There is no place for him there.

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

      Good for you, Jenna NY, right on!!

      October 26, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  20. holspark

    Good question, in most colleges it is an advanced Philosophy course. Go take it, then report back.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.