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. Ingrid

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I'm a Theologian, and incredibly faithful....But God's Will vs. Human "Free Will" can be worlds apart. God is all about LOVE. I try to spiritually guide my friends, family and those placed in my path wisely that when harsh experiences are presented to us that to think of these experiences as gifts so that we can help others. But some humans are more fragile than others, and everyone has a cross to bear....I still don't understand a lot as a child of God in a world that the devil is rampantly marching through. How one finds God is the answer.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  2. Syed

    Rapist should get death penalty. That is the only thing they deserve.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  3. braindart

    This is the clear, unmasked face of the GOP. And Romney fully endorses this psychopathic magical thinking. Voters beware, this is war on women (and the poor, and the different, and the environment as a whole). If the GOP gets into power, we will be cast not into the '50s, but into the Dark Ages.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  4. Quasimodo

    I don't understand how a politician that claims to be from a given religion, is willing to be the commander in chief of the biggest military force in human history? Every Sunday they go to church to listen to messages of love and peace? Don't they?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  5. gladiatorgrl

    [one cannot separate their faith from their work] Paul Ryan – VP

    Be afraid Be VERY afraid

    October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  6. Bernard Webb

    Why are religious conservatives so heartless and uncaring? I thought they worshipped the God of Love. These people put their fictional god before real living people, just like they put their wretched party before the good of the nation. Talk about messed up priorities!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  7. joe

    So its not gods will.... But he has the power to stop it and just chooses not to. How exactly is that different from it being his will? Apparently his will is that it is ALLOWED to happen when he knows that it will happen, which is supposedly significantly different from his will being that it does happen.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Bernard Webb

      "So its not gods will.... But he has the power to stop it and just chooses not to. How exactly is that different from it being his will? Apparently his will is that it is ALLOWED to happen when he knows that it will happen, which is supposedly significantly different from his will being that it does happen."

      The reason you are having such trouble making sense of their little story is that it doesn't make sense.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  8. Lou

    The Order of Creation

    Genesis 1:11-12 and 1:26-27 Trees came before Adam.

    Genesis 2:4-9 Trees came after Adam.

    Genesis 1:20-21 and 26-27 Birds were created before Adam.

    Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Birds were created after Adam.

    Genesis 1:24-27 Animals were created before Adam.

    Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Animals were created after Adam.

    Genesis 1:26-27 Adam and Eve were created at the same time.

    Genesis 2:7 and 2:21-22 Adam was created first, woman sometime later.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  9. Rob Shircliff

    I am a fiscal conservative .., why oh why does this nonsense come with the conservative ideology?? This Statement is made by a fool.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Leo

      fiscal conservation is a totaly rational thing. Be vocal about your disdain about such nonsense!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • JS

      Barry Goldwater said the same thing...and warned his fellow GOPers against this alliance that started developing in the 70s and 80s between evangelicals who wanted to infuse their faith into political matters and fiscal conservatives. That alliance has turned a lot of social moderates like me away from the GOP...

      October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • MarkinFL

      That pretty much makes you a moderate which means your voice is secondary to the right wing myth pushers and only has relevance when the GOP courts the center. I used to vote slightly left of center and easily voted Democrat and Republican, but now I have had to abandon the Republican party on moral grounds since the mid 1990's.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • DB

      You're right on with your comment. It's getting to the point where any Republican who is moderate (not liberal, just moderate) on social views can't get through his party's primary. What has happened to Reagan's party?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  10. TexanDF

    Does this guy have daughters? So he would enjoy that kind of gift from his god to his daughters?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  11. prettypiper

    Evil exist in this world and no one is immune from it. There will be troubles and man days are few. God is a healing God. H'e's steadfast and true. No child is a mistake in God's eyes and who are we to judge. Life begins at conception. Now man can abuse, misuse and choose what that means. I have no right to tell anyone what to do with their own bodies, but once conception has occurred, it's no longer a choice. If conception wasn't true, man would not exist. God is exactly where he wants to be, in the conversation.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Wow, what complete gibberish. You last several sentences literally had no meaning at all. Looked like a bad attempt at circular reasoning without the reasoning.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • bobdevo

      You are delusional. Women should have control over their own bodies without interference from religious fanatics.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Evil exist in this world and no one is immune from it.

      As we see in clear display here in Murdoch.

      There will be troubles and man days are few.

      There have always been "troubles" and people have been saying man's days are few for 2000 years.

      God is a healing God. H'e's steadfast and true.

      Which god? Certainly not the one in the bible. He was clearly much more about destruction and rule following than anything else.

      No child is a mistake in God's eyes and who are we to judge.

      You mean the we who has to carry, care for, pay for, feed, house, clothe said child? Really, who are we to say "No I'm not capable of this" if god decrees we are? Seriously?

      Life begins at conception.

      That is debatable.

      Now man can abuse, misuse and choose what that means.

      I have no idea what you mean. How does a man abuse a meaning?

      I have no right to tell anyone what to do with their own bodies, but once conception has occurred, it's no longer a choice.

      The first part of your statement is correct. You have no right to tell anyone what to do with their own bodies. Including conception. I suppose you're going to pay the medical/housing/clothing costs for the 16 year old meth addict who has already given birth to two children with severe birth defects that are now wards of the state so that she can give birth to a third that will also become little more than a vegetable who has to be cared for also by the state?

      If conception wasn't true, man would not exist. God is exactly where he wants to be, in the conversation.

      What? If conception wasn't true?

      What does that even mean?

      I don't think anyone doubts the truth of conception. It happens. We even know how and why. And, we know how to prevent it, but that isn't always enough.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • DB

      You don't plan on opening a church in Waco, do you?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  12. voxx

    It is people like this that give God a bad name... God does not cause evil people do..They believe satins lies.. One of satins better tricks is to make you believe HE does not exist..

    October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Blasphemy

      If you try to wear improperly cared for satins you will know they exist because of the chafing.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Bernard Webb

      "One of satins better tricks is to make you believe HE does not exist."

      A rational person would recognize this as circular reasoning, a logical fallacy. You, however, do not see this. Oh, and it's "Satan". Come on, man.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  13. JustMe

    It always strikes me as funny, when people try to equate God to people, or better yet, try to judge God. Its as if you can never consider a bigger picture than whats immediately around you. Free will is not just the ability to make a decision, but an allowance of decisions to be made. If God prevented evil, there would be no free will. He does not want us to endure pain and suffering, but humans, and satan, cuase it. That is why He is there for us, in the best times and the worst times. There is a greater good at the end of our worlds existance, and all things are a part of the path there. All this aside, I believe conservatives should fight to keep abortions unfunded by tax dollars, but should make it known that they will never seek to make it illegal. See, its all about choices, and the big picture, and who are we to stand in the way of either? 🙂

    October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • sam stone

      "If God prevented evil, there would be no free will"

      How does the idea of free will jibe with that of an omniscient god?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  14. Lou

    EPHESIANS 1:4-5 Despite all of Jesus’ instructions to accept him as savior, Jesus also says God "predestined" those will be saved according to His pleasure.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • michael

      Sorry Lou but I still believe in God and will ALWAYS believe in Him no matter what you say. My faith is much stronger than your lack of it, and I'd rather be a fool who believes in God and goes to Heaven than a than a "genius" who denies his existence and goes to Hell as a result.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • sam stone

      michael: your logic is faulty. but, being a believer, logic is not necessarily your strong point, right?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • sam stone

      michael....us "geniuses" are apparently more rational than your snivelling worship

      October 25, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Pete

      Since you are a believer just to be on the safe side you might want to consider worshiping all of the other gods out there just in case you have picked the wrong one. As it stands now we might both end up in hell if Odin is the god you should have been worshiping.

      October 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  15. Bob B

    This is one sick dude. Where does the GOP find these wackos.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • mpouxesas

      where? they are all over america. Last time the put (twice) bush in office....

      October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • prettypiper

      the same place that found you..haha

      October 25, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  16. HenryMiller

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

    The most direct way out of this conundrum is to sacrifice the already-unprovable assertion that any sort of god exists. Why religious people insists on holding on to that fairy tale in the complete absence of proof and in the face of the huge philosophical contradictions it entails, escapes me.

    Gods are not philosophically necessary. No observation, so far, has ever been shown to require the existence of a god. Contrary to ancient belief, the sun isn't a god, it's, mostly, a lot of hydrogen atoms being fused into helium atoms, releasing energy in the process. That process isn't the result of a god doing things, it's a well-known interaction of atomic nuclei, and so forth. At no point is it necessary to posit a god–when you get to something you don't understand, it just means that you don't understand it yet, not that some god is making it happen. Medieval scholastics spilt a lot of ink trying to prove that it was necessary that the Christian god–and they failed. In fact, they refuted themselves at every turn.

    So why do people insist on hanging on to a myth, a fable, a cosmological/physical "explanation" for which there are better, proven, explanations and which does little but introduce contradictions and inconsistencies? It baffles me.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • James

      Really? How about the law of causality? Every effect must have a cause. Your theory of the beginning of the Universe doesn't have a cause. So, right from the start God is necessary.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • badyardboy

      The scary part is that these are the people leading this country,,,obviously anyone can be a senator even this idiot. Those who think this Gods will fall into the same category. We can argue that anything bad that happens has some divine purpose if we apply this logic.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      the real kicker is that "God" isn't an explanation at all. It's a way of avoiding an explanation in the face of having insufficient knowledge. The moment you propose the idea that "God did it" all searching for the real answer stops.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • sam stone

      perhaps right from the start a creator is necessary, but there is no reason to equate it to a "god"

      October 25, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  17. Random Person

    I wonder if he ever consider it might be satan at work?

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

      yes let's just throw in the talking snake for good measure....

      October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  18. Jon

    The irony here is hilarious. CNN politicizing an article that says this stuff shouldn't be politicized. Will you libs stop at nothing? Obviously this is not how the majority of conservatives think. If it was, it wouldn't be news. Are there seriously not more important issues going on in the world right now?

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

      Clearly you aren't a woman and have never been raped.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      There's BEEN more important issues going on YET the GOP has spent its time passing bills on ultrasounds, access to contraception etc.. get it???

      October 25, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Jon

      Guess what? You're right. I think that sort of thing is abhorrent. Not to defend his view but fundamentalist Christians believe ALL life is a gift from God. Regardless. His words are not something I condone, but this is a super right wing wacko. Super left wing wackos have made just as outrageous statements before. The only reason this story is news is because its an election season and CNN panders to people on the left who don't think for themselves but let websites make their minds up for them

      October 25, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • sheepguts68

      This is the main news story AGAIN today, CNN what are you thinking? Leave the guy alone, it's not nice to keep beating him up.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Chia

      The irony here is hilarious. You conservatives stop at nothing to impose, what should be quietly held personal religious beliefs, upon everyone else who does not share the same. Are there seriously not any legitimate causes more worthwhile for your time and money than enslave the rest of us?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • JS

      The problem is when it comes to a whole host of issues you will never move someone whose politics are motivated primarily by their religious beliefs. I don't think our founding fathers would be proud of this bloc of GOPers who are so self assured in their beliefs that they're willing to gum up the entire legislative process...these rigid social positions are part of the package you get with this group.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • MarkinFL

      The reason the moderates are up in arms is that these people are actively trying to put their extreme beliefs into law by trying to take of the Supreme court and get Roe vs. Wade overturned or at least made completely toothless and also trying every trick in the book to get these laws passed inspite of Roe V. Wade. This includes a certain VP candidate.
      This IS political because the GOP has made it so.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Randall

      Wow Jon, to not be stopped in your tracks after reading this article, dismissing it as non-important is disheartening.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • redzoa

      It's not always a function of minority/majority view, that makes these issues relevant, it's when so-called moderates tolerate these extreme views within their tent. This useful apathy is abhorrent whether it's politics, religion or whatever.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • SeanNJ

      What's more important than personal liberty?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  19. ROBERT


    October 25, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  20. Penny Wright

    1,000 anti choice bills were introduced at the state level by Republicans in the last two years.

    Women wake up. The Republican Party's war on women will take away your right to choose.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:22 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.