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. Mandor

    There is no god except for the ones we invent to try to tell ourselves that we will somehow continue to exist after we die, because by and large, we are terrified at the prospect of one day ceasing to exist. Or more, at the prospect of our spouse or our children one day ceasing to exist. We refuse to accept this so we construct an "afterlife" to comfort ourselves with.

    It's all bunk. The simplest explanation why bad things happen to good people is that there is no great big referee in the sky watching over it all. I'd like to be wrong. But the more I look at various philosophical approaches to the Problem of Evil, the more I see people practicing mental contortions constructing ridculously complex theologies just so that they can hang onto the comfort of a god who has never shown himself in the last 2000 years. And for that matter, most of them blithely ignore some of the parts of the bible where thier constructed god directly orders what I consider to be evil (Joshua 11:12-11:20), namely the razing of cities and the full extermination of every living thing that breathes in those cities, including infants.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  2. caw

    I will believe there is a god the day he 1. Pays me a visit in person and explains why an omnipotent being can't prevent evil (and if he isn't omnipotent, then why worship him?) or 2. a TRUE miracle occurs. A TRUE miracle is one that is IMPOSSIBLE not just very improbable. If say the Eiffel Tower levitated off the ground for a few seconds or my glass of water turned into wine (a nice 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild would be perfect).

    October 25, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Jon

      You have to believe by faith in this lifetime.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • CJB

      How do you explain evil? The answer is simple – free will and because we as human are not perfect, will fail. There are others who have no faith believe that reek in evil. Obama would be defined as truly evil.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  3. Newsfish

    Just goes to show U.S. fascist/existentialists' beliefs, viz everything is either black or white. To the young and dumbed down: there is often a gray area. I know all about how we are supposed to welcome the trials and give thanks, but how would you like to have a baby as a result of incest? That child might even be born a mutant. I love Our Lord and Our God, but if ever I go before him (not; will probably be in Purgatory forever) there are lots of questions I have, with all due respect.

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

    That's not the real issue...bigger issue is this...open your minds and listen please

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]

    God will say, "O Jesus, son of Mary did you say to the people, `Make me and my mother idols beside God?' " He will say, "Be You glorified. I could not utter what was not right. Had I said it, You already would have known it. You know my thoughts, and I do not know Your thoughts. You know all the secrets.[5:116]

    The Messiah, son of Mary is no more than a messenger like the messengers before him, and his mother was a saint. Both of them used to eat the food. Note how we explain the revelations for them, and note how they still deviate! [5:75]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • caw

      Written by a man just like the bible. Sorry no proof of any deity here.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  5. s~

    This is why we shouldn't mix religion and politics.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  6. SC

    What I continue to be amazed at is some people's complete ignorance to proven science. While it haxn't been proven scientifically that religion is a crock of-sh.., it has been proven mathematically (ay back when), through the use of infinite sequences and series, that god does NOT exist, because there's no way to mathematically create something out of nothing. And yet, here we have an overwhelming amount of people who still believe more in the tenets of a religion than they do with their eyes and on experiences.
    What blows me away is that some of these people are front-and-center in the pool of "elected officials" that some people voted to put into the position they are currently in. Sigh.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  7. Romney Is a Disgusting

    The republican party is quickly becoming "The American Taliban." In a few years, we will need Norway to come invade the United States to set us free from the tyranny of the republican party!

    (I suggest coastal Texas as the best spot for an amphibious landing.)

    October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • TheVocalTheist

      I started to label your comment an extreme hyperbole, but in truth, it's just a lie. If you think it's true, then you no very little about either the Republicans or the Taliban.

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

      Nahh – they should com through via Canada.

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

      Intertwining religion into government is a defining characteristic of a fascist government vocal theist.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  8. Jerry

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

    The answer to this question is quite simple. God doesn't exist. It is the year 2012, we have split the atom, sent probes into outer space, and have even cloned living beings......yet a large part of the world population still believes in fairy tales. This makes me so sad on such a deep level.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  9. Rico53

    This question has been asked "How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?", yes there is a great deal of evil in the world these days , but you have to understand which days these in fact these are and if you know that it answers the question.You see these days are in fact the End Days prophesied in Revelation. The reason for all the evil is easy to understand if you know about the first Earth and Heaven ages,during the first earth age the earth was inhabited by dinosaurs and heaven was inhabited by all of us, Then came the rebellion of Lucifer where 1/3 of the inhabitants followed Lucifer and the other 2/3 with GOD. Now comes the plan for us to come here in the flesh to be tested, the second age is where GOD prepared the earth for flesh man.In that plan GOD decided that he would send many of that 1/3 that followed Lucifer to earth in the end times so they could follow LUCIFER again here in the flesh. That`s why we see so much evil in the world today, these are the same souls that followed him the first time and they are here with us to serve him again when he arrives.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • mama k

      Revelation?? Everyone knows some dude who wrote that was exiled to an island and must have crashed his camel into a lake of bath salts or worse to come up with that mess. "St" John, the opium addict, evidently. Horrendously unfounded junk from Gullible's Travels, Part 2.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • YoozYerBrain

      Rico53 there are so many problems with your rant it's hard to know where to start. Your belief in the bibble as the revealed word of god is simply ignorant and stupid in this day and age, so I recommend a better education for you. But here, lemme help educate you on your own superst ition once (btw- studies show that atheists have a better, more accurate working knowledge of the bibble cuz we are always looking at it to reinforce our point, which is pretty easy actually) Anyway, here ya go....sorry about the ad, can't be helped...


      October 25, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • ES

      No, actually this time is the best time ever in human history. There was much more evil in middle ages or ancient times. It was just not considered evil but a way of life – like slavery, killing, early deaths, all forms of abuse.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • hansdick


      October 25, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • mih

      That's a nice fairy tale.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Rico53

      well you are all quick to criticize my explanation for evil , whats your explanation for all the evil going on ? or are you afraid to post your beliefs for others to criticize.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  10. Chedar

    When the foot got stuck in the mouth, you suffer the consequence Mr. Mourdock. You said it and you mean it. This is evident that God exist in you Mourdock when your mouth his faster than the mind, you get Romney and the rest of the Teapublicans into trouble.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Mandor

      actually if you deep down to your toenails believe that god zaps a new soul into existance the moment a sperm touches an egg, I could see where this guy is coming from. the new life would not be tainted by the sins of its' father.

      However, since I don't believe in god or souls, and I don't consider a microscopic blastua to be the same thing as a human being, this is not a problem for me.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  11. Vader

    The concept of an omnipotent being whose "will" is the reason for all things is the epitome of a helpless victim mentality.

    Why should I do anything to improve my situation if my situation is "God's will"? Why should I bother to stop my car at an intersection if whether or not I get killed (or kill someone else) is "God's will"?

    Attibution to "God's will" is just an excuse for taking a proactive approach to anything.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  12. Will

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

    Easy Answer: People are fallible.

    I won't get into a battle about God's existence on a CNN comment board, because "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels."

    That said, I am a bit disturbed by one contradiction. There have been people already post today that science 100% disproves the existence of God, but that simply isn't true. I could cede the point that science has difficulty proving God exists, but science cannot prove God doesn't exist, either. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Anyone that claims "science" should at least be consistent enough to conclude that God's existence is a possibility.

    I wish you all a blessed day, and I urge everyone on both sides to not get too worked up.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • jlac

      Thank you, Will. You posted almost exactly what I was thinking.
      One thing I'd like to add, in response to the comment about "God's will." God gave humans FREE WILL. We are imperfect. We make mistakes, we sin, we do horrible things. God does not always stop evil, because he gave us the ability to choose. Now I'm not saying the 12 year old chose her fate. Her father made a choice, and it was an evil one. That man will pay for his sins. And all that girl can do is ask God to guide her in finding her way, and he will do just that. The people who believe in God are not the ones to be pitied. We have a purpose and a guiding light. The people who should be pitied are the ones who haven't seeked him out. What a terrible, lonely, empty existence. Find God. It is the only way.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      ", but science cannot prove God doesn't exist, either. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

      Sure but science can't prove unicorns don't exist either. This is a red herring argument. The only reasonable position to take on any proposition without supporting evidence is to suspend belief until such time as said evidence is provided. How is it possible, without evidence, to say anythig whatsoever about something for which no evidence exists? Theists are very clear on specifics about the nature, needs, wants and expectations of their particular deity despite the total lack of evidenciary support. Faith alone is the house of cards they base their belief upon.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  13. Alger Dave

    Now Obama, desperate to make political hay over an issue that most of the GOP has distanced itself from, says that male politicians should not make abortion decisions for women. So, I guess that leaves the females in Congress to vote on these important issues alone. I love this!! Not only does it show how desperate Obama is (he's not his usual calm self), but it points to how far over he is on the left on this issue (and presumably many more). Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado – these are all places where far left politics doesn't play well, and Obama continues to distance himself from the moderate voter in these states with this type of rhetoric. It also doesn't play well with black and hispanic voters, who already were concerned over his liberal stances on social issues. You go Obama!!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • donner

      You ignorant trash.

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

      Alger, look in the mirror and ask yourself, "what's wrong with America today?" and you'll see the answer staring at you. THERE IS NO GOD and to make policy based on fallacy seems to be the modus operandi of the TparT, and how anti-American is that? The answer is 100% anti-American. Fix it if you're one of them, don't continue it, cuz then you are the enemy of the country created by the Founding Fathers of the Enlightenment (so-called because of the advance of science and intellect concurrent with the tossing of religious control over the mind, the state, and the education system- thank Newton/Franklin/Jefferson et al!)

      October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  14. Sue

    It's called Free Will.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • WASP

      @sue: sorry free will is for atheists only, christians get an all knowing all powerful god to rule their life.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • falcon7453

      Yes ma'am, he'll push you along here and there, but remains largely NOT INVOLVED. In the Christian faith after the mass flood, we demanded free will and got it. Tragedies happen sure, but if you read the Forgotten Books of Eden (an excluded book of the bible), it clarifies things a bit more.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  15. CD

    If a woman can shut that thing down and a child by r & a P E is God's will, then is a woman more powerful than God, or if a woman can't have a child by said act, than does that mean if she does it is immaculate conception?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  16. heyguru1969

    How does Evil live in a world with a loving God? Very easy explanation. Life on Earth is an ongoing test. We're shown good and evil and have to make personal decisions throughout our lifetimes. If there were no evil on Earth, we'd already be in Heaven! If you have faith and trust in God, each person should try to make the best decisions possible in life, and God will ultimately decide peoples' fate based on the paths they follow.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • this guy

      why would god create us just to WAIT for the POSSIBILITY to hang out with us? it's the most boring existence imaginable!

      October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • CD

      Or you can just accept that it is all B S

      October 25, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • NoTheism

      yes, of course, IT'S A TEST!
      Why did I never think of that? Hundreds of thousands of years of people dying atrocious deaths ... kids dying from starvation or because of no access to potable water is a test? Is it a test when a baby is born and dies because of 'complications'? Is the baby, in this scenario, the bait?
      If reality is a test, then your god is playing an evil game. (not that I believe a god exists anyway)

      October 25, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Or...there is the simpler explanation. There is no God and shit just happens. Bad people do bad things and good people do good things. Hopefully the good people catch the bad people because there isn't going to be an ultimate judgment after death. In this light all the mystery disappears and your fate depends instead on a just and fair society with secular rule of law and clear basic human rights.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  17. this guy

    If god was so powerful, as i'm told by many christians, why is it that when he's questioned or has the "ability" to stop evil atht eh most crucial times...he always comes up short???

    Lebron James is more clutch than god.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Indiana-stan

      To quote Sam Harris: “Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn’t care to, or he doesn’t exist.
      God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  18. Ztom

    “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.”

    That quote above is exactly why, even as a Libertarian, I almost always vote Dem. Libertarians agree with Dems on social freedom issues and with GOP on fiscal issues. That is the theory... But in practice, I have noticed that the GOP preaches fiscal restraint during campaigns, but after they are voted in, they focus on pushing through their social agenda only. They focus on flag burning laws, abortion, contraception, saving Terry Schiavo, etc.

    At least if I vote Dem, I know that I will get half of what I want.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • agreed

      couldn't agree more!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  19. CRBurt

    Mourdock and the girls father should be housed in the same cell together. They seem to be cut from the same cloth.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  20. CD

    Men should not be making any kind of legislation telling a woman what she can and can not do with her body period. It should not even be an issue of discussion. It is between her and her Doctor.

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

      Sorry there is no such thing as pregnancy with male involvement.

      What if a father wants to kill his soN? Do women get to make laws about that

      October 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • What

      good luck to that, American r so F dumb that voting this dude

      October 25, 2012 at 9:43 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.