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. 111Dave111

    Please Remember to VOTE. ***

    *** VOTE ***
    *** early VOTE early ***
    *** VOTE ***

    October 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • toungelashing

      AND OFTEN!!!!!!!!

      October 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • baman

      And if you are a democrat, don't forget to vote often – even if you are not eligible.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Capedcrusader

      I'm Batman!!

      October 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  2. NY212

    This man has a repugnant god...

    October 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  3. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    The absurdity of the "Gods will" cop out never ceases to amaze me.
    This is why religion needs to stay out of law & governance, if it's believed then everything is Gods will.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • toungelashing

      Horses are as useless as bayonets.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • cristopher hitchens

      How does that work out at the Kentucky Derby?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  4. MennoKnight

    R.a.pe is horrible and evil.
    I have an a great uncle who was conce.ived in r.ap.e during the Russian Revolution.
    My Great Great Grandfather, a Mennonite Pastor, treated him like he was his own son. He looked different than the rest of the family(Darker hair, bigger nose, swarthier complexion) , the descendants of that uncle all looked different than the rest of the family.
    And they are all part of our family.
    I am sure the hurt was enormous, unfathomable but the end result is this:
    Four Children
    Ten Grandchildren
    20 Great Grand Children
    Three Large Dairy Farms
    One large Christian Retreat Center
    And an extended Family that follows God.

    This good all started when my great great grandfather declared that my great uncle Henry was his child from God.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • sam

      I'm not so sure the result was all that terrific.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • 111Dave111

      no wanted you or your family to shun your great uncle.

      Not me nor any other agnostic or atheist.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • == o ==

      Thank you blessed Mennonite for championing rape for a better tomorrow in the U.S.A.!

      October 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • MennoKnight

      So Sam, explain what you mean please.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • MennoKnight

      == o ==
      Explain how my family story champions ra,pe?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • MennoKnight

      And remember I am just sharing my story of how I see God at work through New Testament principles of forgiveness, acceptance and reconciliation.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • cristopher hitchens

      A toast to you and Truth sir knight !

      October 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • == o ==

      You are championing it by trying to make an excuse for it, for trying to soften the reality of what it really is. I'm glad that it worked out like it did for your family, but it is by no means an example to give any rape an excuse or justification, just for the sake of supporting your made-up gods.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • == o ==

      "truth be told" (here as "cristopher hitchens") is the poster who, as "pervert alert"
      writes things like: "que ers the ones who gave aids to america")

      should one really take anything seriously from such a poster?

      "cristopher hitchens" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert" degenerates to:
      "Taskmaster" degenerates to:
      "Ronald Regonzo" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      and many other names, but of course I prefer to refer to this extreme homophobe as
      the disgruntled Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. writer boot camp flunkie.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  5. Argh999

    Go to Faux News...not one word on Murdoch...try and tell me that's not unbalanced reporting. Cry all you want that CNN is "bashing Romney", but Faux News is not even reporting the news. Instead they continue to hammer away on the Benghazi issue. Really biased reporting there.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • sam

      Yeah, Faux News agrees with him.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • baman

      And you think this story is more relavant to current events than the Obama administration lying to the American public about the Benghazi attacks. CNN is just as biased, if not more, than Fox News.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      I hate to be the one to tell you this but .. an obvious administration cover-up at the highest level having to do with a terrorist attack is pretty big news. And right before the election is ridiculous.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • lolol

      Everyone needs to stop politicizing Benghazi, even the ambassadors family has requested that.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • sjajr

      BAMAN or Batman or whatever you call yourself.. How convenient that this Banghazi thing comes up towards the end of the campaign season. Are you still looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq too? Keep watching Fox news. Because sometimes its just nice to hear what you want to hear.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  6. Alina1

    When you vote remember, you vote not only for one person.... you vote for many men and women that will bring their "ideas" and in Republican case "Jesus" to WH. There is a reason why we have separation of Church and State lets keep it that way.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  7. Anybody know how to read?

    Not to worry. SCOTUS has lyin' catholics on board. Even smiley faced women! The mob rules!

    October 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  8. northern light

    "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"

    And this from that same god in Genesis
    "6:17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.

    Sounds a little Bi Polar.....

    October 25, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      Dude, Freud built his castle on sand. He had a wet nurse.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Mike

      And actually, there is abortion in the Bible, by a priest no less. Numbers 5:11-31

      October 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • bobhunter

      No contradiction there at all. Read everything in context.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  9. MCFx

    Why is it that it's only the anti-abortion stories get any coverage? When will we discuss the Democrat's position, including President Obama's, of Abortion-On-Demand. What does that mean? That President Obama believes that a woman should be able to get late-term/partial abortions. So, a baby in the womb that is almost entirely formed and could survive outside the womb ("viable") , can be partially born (head exposed), skull cracked, and the brain scrambled. 1,000's maybe 10,000's of these abortions occur every year. No one really knows because abortion clinics aren't required to keep accurate statistics on abortion. And the age of the baby after 21 weeks is NOT recorded. Why not? Because there would be outrage!

    It's apparent here that CNN has an agenda when they try to inject an issue, Abortion, that is low on the list of things American's are concerned about in this election. At least, give both sides point of view and report on the disgusting practices that Democrats believe in condone.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Argh999

      It means that women have a CHOICE...that their healthcare is not dictated by someone, amnipulated by someone elses point of view. That's why. I empthaize that how difficult and even why and how, someone could abort a late term baby. On the flip side fo that, though, are the conservative hypocrites who opposed cloning and stem cell research - science and medical research that has promise of nurturing premies born before their due dates. Where is teh compassion in al that?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • gladiatorgrl

      read Roe v. Wade

      October 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • lolol

      It's not reported because its not true. Your thoughts are your thoughts, but that doesn't make them fact. Go visit a psychiatrist.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • dan

      You are also distorting things. My family member had an abortion and it was the best thing for the family and for her health. She already had two children, a husband unable to keep a job – and when they analysed the cells taken from her they were abnormal. If you abhor killing so much, are you truly against our wars, regardless of the context, as you are not willing to look at the context of each abortion? I don't think that death is so scary for an unborn fetus, but for abused and trafficked born children it is Hell – are you doing Everything you can for the trafficked and abused children? Or just being comfortable mouthing off?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • LadyB

      It seems you have missed the entire point of this entire discussion.

      October 25, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  10. ssmeyers

    This is a criminal's will – not God's. Who their right mind would elevate misogynistc perpetrators to the level of the divine??

    October 25, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  11. Ami

    I have to wonder at the chaplain's blind faith, to be honest. He saw these horrors and yet his faith was never shaken? I wonder if these horrors actually touched HIM, if he's begin to question.

    As for me, I left faith behind when I realized that Christian theology was one long hypocritical apologia. Over and over, we are told to believe that god is great, loving, omniscient, omnipotent and that our prayers may be answered, that we must thank god for all the good in our lives BUT that we cannot blame god for any of the bad in our lives. We can think him for answering our prayers and curing our cancer, but can't blame him for ignoring the prayers of a torture victim. Wow, what a gig god has. He can take credit, but accepts none of the blame even though he's omniscient and omnipotent.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • lolol

      We're given free will. It is that where the evil comes from.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • CP in FL

      lolol – The free will argument is a crock of sh!t. If your god was all powerful or if he exists at all where is the evidence? And do not point to those old books written by nomads two thousand years ago. There is no god. If you claim otherwise, show me the proof.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • lolol

      I don't need to show anything. Faith is the belief without physical proof. We don't have to share the same beliefs, but I'm pretty sure you agree we have free will. How can you disagree that it is our free will that we have all these crimes and reprehensible acts? Did your father assist you every single time you had a problem or did he at times allow you to make a mistake to learn from it? If God is the master creator (as I believe), than what makes anyone think they know better than him? Just as when we were children and our parents didn't do what we thought they should. Did they not know better than us?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • A Christian

      Hi Ami
      Thats a good question. If I were you, I would read C. S. Lewis's book called "The Problem of Pain"

      October 25, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  12. pritika

    I am a liberal pro choice Democrat and will be voting for President O'bama to serve another 4 year term in office. I understand what this man was trying to say and though I do not agree with his point of view I see no reason for all of the hoopla about it. This man simply believes that no matter how a pregnancy came about, it should not be terminated because he beleves that all life comes from the intentions of God. He has a right to believe this way, he does not have a right to impose his beliefs on the rest of us through legislation he will support.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • 111Dave111

      *** He does not have a right to impose his beliefs on the rest of us through legislation he will support. ***

      October 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Think First

      "he does not have a right to impose his beliefs on the rest of us through legislation he will support"

      I have some news for you. If he is elected he indeed has that right – the right to vote his conscience. When tested it is exactly what most lawmakers do.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  13. Sam

    Jennifer, I applaude you for being courageous enough to tell about your experience as I decided to end a pregnancy as well, and I too have no regrets about my decision! As an American citizen, It is an amendment that I voted for and will fight to keep as a law, and the rest of these stupid, backward-thinking religious wing-nuts finally just need to MTOFB!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  14. Dean

    The phrase “god of this world” (or “god of this age”) indicates that Satan is the major influence on the ideals, opinions, goals, hopes and views of the majority of people. His influence also encompasses the world’s philosophies, education, and commerce. The thoughts, ideas, speculations and false religions of the world are under his control and have sprung from his lies and deceptions.

    When the Bible says Satan has power over the world, we must remember that God has given him domain over unbelievers only. Believers are no longer under the rule of Satan (Colossians 1:13). Unbelievers, on the other hand, are caught "in the snare of the devil" s Timothy 2:26, lie in the "power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19), and are in bondage to Satan (Ephesians 2:2).

    So, when the Bible says that Satan is the "god of this world," it is not saying that he has ultimate authority. It is conveying the idea that Satan rules over the unbelieving world in a specific way. In 2 Corintians 4:4, the unbeliever follows Satan's agenda: "The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." Satan's scheme includes promoting false philosophies in the world—philosophies that blind the unbeliever to the truth of the Gospel. Satan’s philosophies are the fortresses in which people are imprisoned, and they must be set free by Christ.

    Satan—the god of this world—has tempted mankind to follow his pride instead. Satan sets the agenda, the unbelieving world follows, and mankind continues to be deceived.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • mama k

      More crap from Gullible's Travels. That's why this man is in trouble – for putting to much of his religious nonsense out as his political view.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  15. sjajr

    Sadley, this person has been nominated to run against someone for a high office. This is what this country has come to. Sad.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  16. av

    “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.”

    Republican believes should not become law to control lives and family decisions of American.

    I guess all Republicans should answer this one.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • toungelashing

      I believe what he believes is the wrong thing to believe. Further I think all Republicans (I will speak for them) all believe that you should believe but dont believe what he believes.... believe me this.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  17. Jenny

    The issue is not God is pro-life or not. The issue is a Senate candidate should not use his religious believe to guide the policy making. He is not running for a pastor, He is running for a law maker for the people of a secular country..

    October 25, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  18. Marie

    I think people should just have the right to decide for themselves what to do in situations like these. I chose to have my chldren, because I never wanted anything more than to be a wife and mother. I have seen others in other situations choose abortion. I have been blessed to see relatives adopt and raise children because they couldn't have their own. This is not for the government to decide for us. This issue shouldn't be in the spotlight politically, I feel it is just being used to distract us from what is really important politically right now. This is a rather personal issue for most people, and it sparks emotion in people, a great divider. It's a tool of distraction.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  19. toungelashing

    Conservatives, they be crazy.

    CCN interrupts its regularly scheduled Romney bashing program to bash some other conservatives. The regular Romney bashing will continue at its scheduled time.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Pam R.

      So you think what he said was correct? is your name really Todd Akin or Foster Friess?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • midwest rail

      Repeating the same delusional nonsense over and over makes it no more true the 12th time than the 1st. It just makes it repeti-tive nonsense.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • ann

      Well they deserved this bashing!

      October 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • David

      I would not say that they are crazy. They are bad people, for the most part, but not crazy.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • igorsays

      My name is Clay Aiken, some call me Slim Shady some call me Bond. James Bond....

      October 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • igorsays

      Some call me the space cowboy but i prefer the gangster of love.... i dont care for Maurice

      October 25, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • sjajr

      Why don't people call things like they really are . Not conservative, no liberal but bat sh.. crazy. People have become simpletons putting everything under labels irreguardless how skrewball ones position is. Just call these peole what they are -nutjobs.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  20. DaveInPA

    Frightening that some people today still attribute everything that happens to God's will. Did you forget the biblical supposition that we're created with free will???

    October 25, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • PRISM 1234


      October 25, 2012 at 12:03 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.