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. alexander

    Jeff: I would vote for YOU

    October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  2. Blasphemy

    An omnipotent being should not be blaming all of the flaws in his plan on someone else.

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

      "Omnipotent being"??!! who????.....where????

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

      I don't know. But you should be able to recognize this omnipotent ghost by all of the holes.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  3. kate

    Republicans are for the rapists...plain and simple!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  4. William Demuth

    Gang bang his wife and daughters, and ask him again

    October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  5. pugilist1

    Mourdock is one twisted s/o/b

    October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  6. Mark

    What is the controversy? EVERYTHING is God's will, good or bad. Muslims always say (phonetic) Insha Allah, as god wills. Christians used to always say, "God willing". God does not cause evil, he sometimes allows it. Why? The clay has no right to ask the Potter why. The Potter does as He pleases. If you think you are in control of your life, you'd better think again.

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

      So can someone kill you and then tell the judge it was God will that you needed to be killed?

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

      Ahhhh...ignorance is bliss isn't it sir?

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

      Mark, evil is not God's will. As Jesus said , get thee behind me Satan.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Mark

      No, Jim, your ignorance isn't blissful. You don't have to believe or accept. It is what it is. Thomas, if you are that stupidd test your theory and see what happens. duh

      October 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Mark

      Alexander: evil is the exact opposite of God, as you well know. One word sums up God...........love. God does not cause evil but He does allow it to happen for reasons known only to Him.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • leludallasmultipass

      Well if everything is God's will, then the same can be said about women getting abortions. According to your logic, God controls every aspect of our life, including the millions who choose not to give birth. Who's to say "pro life"-ers aren't disobeying God's will??

      October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • panger

      Mark, I started to compose a comment, which would've helped explain why you can't understand how Mourdock's remarks would cause controversy, but after a sentence or two, I realized it would probably fall on deaf ears. Good luck in your life buddy.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  7. Deez

    When your worldview tells you 2+2=5, you should be in no position to make decisions that affect others.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  8. Robert

    Has this old bird had a vasectomy? How about vasectomies? Wouldn't that be thwarting God's will as well?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  9. Jeff

    Ask this guy if he looks both ways before crossing the street... life as we live is not dictated by GOD.. its dictated by our actions and the actions of others around us. Its a shame that religion has blinded so many people into complete ignorance.

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

      Isn't that the point and purpose of religion as practiced by man?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  10. Ken Rothey

    For those of us who believe, Gods plan did not begin at birth and will not end at death; it is an eternal plan and we are part of it. For those who do not believe, there are several billion potential responses to this issue. The God of The New Testament says He did not come into the world to judge the world. He also gave persuasive theology as to why we should not be judgmental. So why, I ask, do we spend so much of our time making judgments where God has not. More particularly, why do we allow our pastors and our politicians to speak of God's judgments when each of us will only be judged by Him at the final judgment, and not before.

    Doesn't it make clear sense that those who chose to judge others are really the people who are disobeying God's will; and that being the case, aren't they servants of the devil. They are, after all, violating God's will when they make judgments. They are also serving someone other than God when they encourage others to make judgments when God, in His own words tells us not to !!!???!!!???

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

      what does all this crap actually mean?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • jen

      Ken, that is what I've been saying for several years now. The religious right doesn't believe in God, they think they are God themselves. Whether you believe in God or not (and I'm not sure that I do), Jesus is the model for how we should live our lives and treat each other. Jesus helped the poor, gave counsel to criminals, and threw out the money changers. The religious right doesn't want to help those who are in need or have lost their way, the religious right wants to pass judgment against them.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Alexander

      People who do evil in word or deed must be stopped in their tracks. You don't stick you head in the sand and say God will judge them later for if you do then you will be judged with them.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  11. Coco

    Seriously, is this man for real!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  12. Big Carl

    KILL RELIGION YOU KILL THE HATE IN THE WORLD " Albert Einstein" now he's a smart guy who did not fall for the lie.

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

    You know if God held himself to the same standards that we hold ourselves too the world would be a much better place.

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

      That's because we have progressed over the passed 2,000 years and God hasn't.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  14. john

    This man is a politician and decision maker for more them himself, so yes when his personal beliefs, I repeat his personal beliefs, cross over into what he thinks should be public policy and implemented on all it is relevant. Here is the sum total of what should be the relevance of what he believes to other individuals-ZERO. If this is not true than be prepared for the day when a majority of people think those that want to personally believe in religion should not be allowed to by implementing public policy to disallow it.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  15. Harry

    This kind of twisted thinking/logic is very scary. You could say "God's Will" about anything then. "Oh, it was God's will that made that tire come off that truck and careen into the windshield of that car and de-capitated that mother of three young children, who were unharmed in the car." This actually happened near where I live. The truth is-and nobody wants to admit this-IF there is a God , we know absolutely nothing about God. God, if God exists, is beyond our understanding. Always was; always will be.. Talking about what god is, what god wants is all just gibberish and conjecture. The bible and all other "holy writings" were written by people that were scared of their own shadow trying to make sense of the world. These writings that many of our species cling to have brought nothing but division, ridiculous assumptions, faulty reasoning and ultimately sorrow for humankind.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  16. Jeff

    Am I the only person that couldn't care about abortion either way? Don't we have far more important things to worry about this election?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Margarita

      You coudln't care either way because they are not your rights being threatened....just be careful, if you turn a blind eye to half of the population having their rights taken away, yours could be next. I tell my husband, pretend it was movement trying to take away all your guns, THEN he gets it.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • nanna9999

      I care but I don't think it belongs in the hands of politicians.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  17. Wow

    Flip flop Romney endorses this "politician". These guys are a danger to society. Pretty soon they will ask women to completely cover themselves and wear veils across their face.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Huff

      Romney as did most other prominent Reps. stated they do not agree with his statements on abortion. Dems defend their ilk, Reps do not.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • == o ==

      @Huff – yeah we see that Repubs have to come out and distance themselves liek this as frequently as Romney flips to a different stance on something for political convenience. They can't help it – it just comes natural to them.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  18. J E

    WWJD? The Cross, scandalizing the worldly-wise for two thousand years. God does not will evil, but obviously permits it. Something to do with free will. There will be those few who, out of their own love of God will heroically choose not to kill an innocent child in order to punish a malefactor. Make sure society has a plan to support those people as well. -"If salt loses its saltiness with what will it be salted?" (Matthew 5)

    October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  19. ken

    What an idiot. Some people in the republican needs to shut his guy up.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  20. stephanie goodrow

    Why are we as a country not talking about the Libya attack where our Ambassador was killed and three security personell!! I as an American citizen want to know why the white house, and the people under him did NOTHING in those 7-9 hours to help these people, when they were being attacked. And I want to know why obama and his people lied about the attack being carried out by terrorists. Obama is the leader, he takes full responsibility for anything that happens regarding our country. He needs to be questioned and brought to justice!! The liberal media is also a disgrace by not reporting this most urgent story...what is our country turning into?!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Yo

      Yo bad stuff happens. Stop being a shill and go contribute to creating jobs or something useful.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Vic

      Oh, that's an easy one...because it's God's will 😉

      October 25, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • paul

      Please go back to watching Fox News..

      October 25, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Pete

      What is there to talk about? It was god's will.

      October 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
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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.