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. sid rush

    Now all rapist can claim not guilty since they are doing will of God.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • richunix

      yup, remember God got Mary!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  2. Ben

    If religious people want to restrict themselves & abide by what they think their god wants them to do, thats fine, but they can not inflict these views & legislate these views on the rest of us. I still don't understand why the religious think some kind of god cares at all about the doings of a group of biped mammals on an insignificant planet.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • gladiatorgrl


      [one cannot separate their faith from their work] Paul Ryan in the VP debate

      October 25, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  3. Milli

    It is scary how different Republican views are than the way liberals characterize them What liberals say is totally different than what Republicans believe.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      awwww they can dish it out but can't take it

      October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  4. Planet Kolob

    Conservatives are all sinners and going to Hell for rejecting the basic underlying teachings of Jesus.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • sumguy2006

      Based on what?? One guys beliefs?
      I believe they have a word for that....Prejudice.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • MarkinFL


      One of many elected representatives. One that is endorsed by many other leading Republicans that represent many other Republicans.

      The GOP owns this cr@p until they reject it.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  5. Bhawk

    The great thing about using God is that its all gods will. If all the prayer meetings for Mitt fail–its Gods will–not we are out of step with God. If all of this is God's will why vote, or go to work, or set goals, or work hard, or believe in capitalism–its all God" will.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  6. sonny chapman

    Believe what you want; that's between you & the Creator at your death. But don't use Govt. to make ME follow your beliefs. The Tea Party should be screaming if they REALLY knew what the Founding Fathers of this country meant by Seperating Church & State.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  7. FactsRBad

    You have to shake your head in disbelief that people like Mourdock, Akin, Bachman, etc. What is really frightening to me is that they truly believe in the ridiculous positions they advocate – AND that they are in – or are seeking positions of power where they can impact critical decisions.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  8. Emery

    dumbidea, The very worst thing for a kid . So very true. It`s ruined my life. Christans are manipulating narcissistic liars.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  9. John Geheran

    It's another case of Obama's "bump in the road" and "non optimal" outcome of the Benghazi debacle which was accorded a free pass by most mass media. Funny how that keeps happening.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • pana

      You guys see Obama in everything.....he must be God

      October 25, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  10. tv22

    While I don't agree with Murdoch's position, Rick Santorum made a good point on this. We don't execute rapists, why would we abort one of the victims?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Nathan

      Actually, not a good point.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      you could read the answer in Roe v. Wade. Matter of fact I'm sure alot of the questions you have can be cleared up if you would read it. Do you think the anti abortion lawyers sat there like potted plants? made no arguments?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Lynda

      That isn't even a point.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Dillon

      Because the women victim refuses to carry it to term!!! Do you get it!!!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Kimmie

      Because if you don't abort the "victim" then the true victim is forced to suffer and even if she gives up the baby, she will forever know a part of her is walking around, wondering what happened to it – she should not have to spend her life wondering and suffering.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  11. John

    God wills it! rabble rabble rabble, blasphemy rabble rabble rabble, religious nutjobs.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • John Geheran

      Couldn't think of anything more intelligent or just mimicking his highness, the prez, "Romnesia" et al?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  12. us_1776

    This Mourdock has no business being in politics.

    This guy needs to go be a minister somewhere.

    He is incapable of representing the broad spectrum of people that make up a consti tuency.


    October 25, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  13. palintwit

    Countless studies have shown that there is a higher incidence of incest and child molestation among southern, white evangelical families than in any other group that participated in the study. Experts believe that this deviant behavior is caused by families living in close quarters, such as trailer parks. All one has to do is take a casual drive south of the Mason-Dixon line and you will encounter toothless inbreds wherever you travel. In fact, historians have long theorized that the reason the south lost the Civil War is because of the high number of mentally challenged soldiers in the army, a direct result of generations of inbreeding.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • tv22

      Wow, are you out of your mind, off your meds? You mean southerners like Bill Clinton or Al Gore? Funny, here in Charlotte I don't see a lot of those toothless inbreds. Must be when you visit family?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • tv22

      BTW, when did Indiana become part of the south?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  14. GAW

    The problem is that there probably not enough believers ready and available take care of a child that is a product of r ape. Most pro-lifers are armchair activists protesting from the comforts of their white middle class living rooms and churches.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Ellen Zuckerman

      I agree. The pro-lifers seem very quick to forget the 100, 000 children currently living in foster care in this country. Lots and lots of already-born kids out there in need of good homes, but no one seems to care about them once they're out of the womb. I care, but don't have enough money to adopt as a single person.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  15. shipmast

    I didn't know we were still living in the Dark Ages?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • us_1776

      The GOP is certainly living in the Dark Ages.

      And the rest of us want nothing to do with it.


      October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  16. richunix

    1. TruthPrevails
    I came across a recent article of quotes from the founding fathers of the USA...this is a reasonably long read but it goes to prove that the USA is not a christian nation.
    1. “Christianity is the most per.verted system that ever shone on man"- Thomas Jefferson
    2. "The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs." -Thomas Jefferson
    3. "It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet the one is not three, and the three are not one- Thomas Jefferson
    4. "And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be cla.ssed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors."- Thomas Jefferson
    5. "There is not one redeeming feature in our superst.ition of Christianity. It has made one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites."- Thomas Jefferson
    6. "Lighthouses are more useful than churches."- Ben Franklin .
    7. "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason."- Ben Franklin
    8. "I looked around for God's judgments, but saw no signs of them."- Ben Franklin
    9. "In the affairs of the world, men are saved not by faith, but by the lack of it."- Ben Franklin
    10. "This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it"- John Adams
    11. "The New Testament, they tell us, is founded upon the prophecies of the Old; if so, it must follow the fate of its foundation.'- Thomas Paine
    12. "Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst."- Thomas Paine
    13. "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all."- Thomas Paine
    14. "Take away from Genesis the belief that Moses was the author, on which only the strange belief that it is the word of God has stood, and there remains nothing of Genesis but an anonymous book of stories, fables, and traditionary or invented absurdities, or of downright lies."- Thomas Paine
    15. "All national inst.itutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."- Thomas Paine
    16. "It is the fable of Jesus Christ, as told in the New Testament, and the wild and visionary doctrine raised thereon, against which I contend. The story, taking it as it is told, is blasphemously obscene.”- Thomas Paine
    17. "Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by the difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be depreciated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society."- George Washington
    18. "The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession."- Abraham Lincoln
    19. "It may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency to unsurpastion on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded agst. by an entire abstinence of the Gov't from interfence in any way whatsoever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect agst. Trespa.sses on its legal rights by others."- James Madison
    20. "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."- James Madison

    October 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • GAW

      Nice job text mining Just like Fundies do with their Bibles.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • richunix

      @GAW, get the point across....next time post a blank page...as yours thoughts point to a blank mind.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  17. buttout

    OK, religious idiotic Taliban Republicans say some scary things, but so do some of the left wing nuts. Seems like CNN is always ready to jump on the stupid Republican comments but never the stupid Democrat comments. They both have crazy people so why is it we only see the right wing nut comments? This is why we need stronger third, fourth...party offerings! If you are more fiscally conservative but socially liberal then please give the Libertarian party and people like Ron Paul or Gary Johnson a chance. They have a lot of great ideas and are not the least bit worried about your personal life. If you are more fiscally progressive then try the Green party offering Jill Stein. Just give someone else a chance!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Lynda

      The right wing craziness is more entertaining.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • buttout

      Maybe, but they are both scary

      October 25, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  18. Mark

    All these anti Pro Life post, do you know that the Democrat he's runing against is pro life as well

    October 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  19. gah

    i wonder if mourdock also believe rapists should have parental rights. after all, victims shouldn't have any rights at all. (i am using sarcasm for those who like mourdock are stupid beyond comprehension)

    October 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  20. earlbowden

    I think that's the best way I've seen to express how I, and the majority of Americans feel. Well said Rabbi!

    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."

    “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.”

    October 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • snowboarder

      earl – this should be true for any religious based belief.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Ellen Zuckerman

      Agreed. I've read quite a bit of Rabbi Kushner's writings. Smart guy.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:54 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.