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. musings

    Would you treat a gunshot wound of a boy shot by his mother? Or would you think that bullet is there by God's will and you shouldn't remove it? What else is God's will? That some are obscenely rich and some are dirt poor? That some are masters and some are slaves? That some are at the wrong end of drone when it kills civilians?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  2. jac

    Mourdock is a man that stands up for what he believes... He will be a great addition to our Congress!!!!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • this guy

      what if he believed that his left pinky toe told him what to do?

      October 25, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Horus

      Morning sarcasm....needed a laugh....thx!

      October 25, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Hoosier Dem

      If someone assaults his wife and she has multiple stab wounds, I am assuming he will not attempt to get her medical care. If she bleeds to death, it is "God's will" as to what happens as a result of the attack.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  3. "God"

    really whats the difference between a fetus and a non lethal parasite living off another animal?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • this guy

      dam i forgot to change my name!!!!!

      October 25, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Rob-Texas

      Does that really have to be explianed to you?

      October 25, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Cindy

      New York City's Pastor Tim Keller gives the answer, Wayne, to the question, "If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world". Download his sermon from 10/1/2006. Christianity does provide the answer. God bless!

      October 25, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Andrew

      It is so obvious that CNN has a profound, one-sided pro- Obama agenda. So, one can conclude, very little is going to change between now and the election that restores balanced reporting. It just amazes me that somehow you consistently fail to report the obvious and that is Obama'seconomic performance over the last four years and in light of this who is best suited to lead for the next four years. It really is the economy guys. Not abortion, not binders, and most certainly not foreign policy.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  4. William Demuth

    God is a lie sold to enslave the feeble minded.

    It's existence is being refuted, so it's interpreting its benevolence is merely another red herring.

    America is waking up to basic realities that shall be seeing profound change over the next few generations.

    God is dead, Science has killed him.

    Good Riddance

    October 25, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • and as always

      William demouth is wrong

      October 25, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Chance

      @william actually science has strengthen the belief in God within church. The best theory of the origin of our universe points to a finite past meaning a beginning. In other words nothing could not have produced something. By nothing I mean absolute nothing as in singularity. Your delusional if you think science has diminished the idea of God.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Horus

      @Chance – then by the same logic "something" must have produced your "god". If you want to define "god" as the ever-shrinking unknown, then I'm with you. As soon as you apply characteristics and creeds through one species' lens (human) then you are talking about gods created by man.

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

      @Horus actually God is defined as eternal...Look up the meaning of eternal...in summation something eternal is without cause or in other words it does NOT have a finite past...Science best theory of our universe points to a finite past. So again something finite needs a cause; something eternal is without cause. Your argument is lame.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  5. Horus

    The rationlizing skills of the religious are astounding......

    October 25, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Mark

      What would his stance be if it were his wife or daughter that were impregnated by some thug punk? Not wishing it on him or anyone else, but it's easy to reach conclusions when the risk is not your own.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  6. David

    And yet there are still women who will vote Republican.

    This is one messed up world.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • YesGuy

      I agree .... these women simply keep their minds and eyes closed when it comes to choosing the right candidate. They instead let the grumpy old men in the country lead them to the polls.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  7. Michelle

    When will we FINALLY give up the idea of a sky-god(s) and grow up and take responsibility for our own actions? It's infuriating to watch adults still believe in Santa Claus and yet insist that I take them seriously.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Chance

      actually @ Michelle if your speaking of Christianity accountability of personal choices is a main pillar of the religion. If your view of the world is atheistic then you presume we are a function of our brain chemistry. In other words we have no free will; we are fatalistically pre destined to carry out what our evolved brain has been wired to.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  8. allens

    don't be upset with him. like huey and aiken, he is the mouth of the new republican party. dangerous for america. i guess the hristians have it right, satan is taking over. his name is gop

    October 25, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  9. Ignorance is Dangerous For All People and Living Things

    Wisening up changes things.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  10. kahn keller

    “Did it shake my faith? No,” South said. “Did I ask God why? Of course.”... and what did your "god" give you for an answer?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  11. MikeH

    Could always choose to take personal responsibility for our own thoughts and actions and accept that we do not have nor need a nice, neat answer for everything that happens, but that is way too tough for some people.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  12. Greg

    When you come to the conclusion that there probably is no god everything makes perfect sense.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • dave duffey

      if you need god, remember that god is everything, so-called good, so-called bad.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:11 am |
  13. Arthur

    God gave us free will – that does not mean that it's God's will when we do something wrong.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • NoTheism

      unsubstantiated claims, that's all you're offering.
      Let me ask you this, if your god is omniscient, that means that determinism for us exists. If determinism is true, how do you have free will?

      October 25, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • kahn keller

      ...what a load of crap... you can not have free will when your god is all powerful and all knowling (said by your bible) and
      you can not have free will when you are punished for exercising your free will and that violates the all powerful and all knowing gods...rules....this is nonsense .... is you believe in this god...you must acknowledge that everything... evil, sin, wars, suffering...etc...all come from the same god...why do christians run away from that ?by the way... at last count there are some 5,000 organized religions...with 10,000 major gods (many more minor gods)... which "god" rules?

      October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Zeus

      There is a reason they call me the King of the Gods.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  14. Lagos

    What's this, taking comments that are admittedly terribly phrased in-context and analyzing the underlying issues? THIS HAS NO PLACE ON CNN, PLEASE TAKE EVERYTHING OUT OF CONTEXT KTHX

    October 25, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  15. Chat Pata

    God is pro-life, because he likes killing. If there is no life, whom will he order to kill? Thousands of years of massacres in his name would not have happened if he was not pro-life.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Justin

      So if I do something in someone's name, then that person if responsible? Are you suggesting that God condemns every act that has ever been done when people claim his name?

      October 25, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  16. Dana

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

    That's an easy one. There is no god you brain-washed morons. Grow up.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  17. Eric Palmer

    Easy. God is a D I C K

    October 25, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  18. Chip

    No god.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  19. Meade21

    WOW....way to go CNN!! Why not get a Christian Pastor on here to explain the intricacies of this....Loving God in a horrific world...........

    October 25, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • chris

      A pastor? I could grab 10 pastors and get 10000 different answers to the same question. A pastor is about as accurate as a shotgun at 10 miles

      October 25, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  20. chris

    Easy.... There is no god... Its a made up fairy tale

    October 25, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Pop cored

      Ditto. If there were , he must have been strung out on heroin when the concept of creating a F'd humanity

      October 25, 2012 at 9:25 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.