Pregnancy from rape is not ‘God’s will

AP Republican Richard Mourdock, candidate for Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat, participates in a debate with Democrat Joe Donnelly and Libertarian … Continued

AP

Republican Richard Mourdock, candidate for Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat, participates in a debate with Democrat Joe Donnelly and Libertarian Andrew Horning in a debate in New Albany, Ind., on Oct. 23, 2012. Mourdock said Tuesday when a woman is impregnated during a rape, “it’s something God intended.” He was asked during the final minutes of the debate whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.

Indiana GOP U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock has declared he opposes aborting pregnancies conceived in rape because “it is something that God intended to happen.”

No, God does not “cause” either rape or conception following rape, nor is this “God’s intention.”

Rape is a crime.

Rape is an offense to God, and violates God’s intention for human life. I believe the goal of human life, in the case of my Christian faith, is what Jesus taught: “Love God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

Not only is the physical violence part of the sinfulness of rape, so also is one person forcing his will on another. This diminishes the image of God in the one forced against her will, as God created human beings to be able to act and be creative, not to be passive and acted upon (Genesis 2-3).

Rape is sin by the perpetrator and God does not cause sin. Conception following rape is a tragedy, not part of “God’s will.” The capacity for tragedy to occur in human life, and indeed in what we call “natural evil” like earthquakes, is a result of what Christians call “the fall” from perfection as described in Genesis.

When you make God the author of conception following rape, you make God the author of sin. This is a huge theological error, and one that Christian theologians have rejected since the first centuries of the faith.

“Unde malum?” “Where does evil come from?” is one of the most profound questions we wrestle with as Christians and has been from earliest Christian history (see Tertullian, Apology, 39).

It is cheap, easy and wrong to attribute all that happens in the world to God, as this makes God the author of sin and evil, and thus less than all good.

But frankly, Mr. Mourdock, the theological errors pale in comparison to the failure of compassion your comment exhibits. Your comments are contributing to the hurt and the self-blaming of women and girls who have already been violated.

I counsel women all the time who have been raped. They are already blaming themselves for something that is not their fault, but that society and religion teaches them is their fault.

I tell them over and over again, “It’s not your fault. Rape is violence. It is the sin of the perpetrator. It is a crime.”

That does not mean that God is absent when rape occurs. God is present as the one revealed in Jesus Christ as always on the side of the victim, the violated, the vulnerable and the outcast. God is with you, even when you are faced with violent crime and the threat of death, even, in truth, in death.

Rape is an existential crisis, an ultimate kind of threat, because most girls and women who survive a rape nevertheless believe they could have died. Mary Pellauer and I discuss this in our chapter “A Conversation on Healing and Grace,” in “Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside.” Often the perpetrator tells them they will be killed during the assault, or they will be killed if they tell anyone. And we know that many girls and women do not survive violent sexual assaults.

Knowing that God judges rape as a profound wrong is part of the healing and grace for women and girls that can follow. Taking back your moral agency as a person who can make an ethical choice, as Christian ethicist Beverly Harrison helps us understand in regard to the ethics of choice regarding any pregnancy that results from rape.

When you take away the capacity for ethical agency following violent rape, you are contributing to the diminishment of these human beings and impeding their recovery.

Our current political polarization is a failure on many levels, but none so profound as the failure of compassion, of empathy.

There is, however, no failure of compassion so glaring as the way rape survivors are being made into political and religious scapegoats today.

Stop that. In God’s name, stop it.

Former president of Chicago Theological Seminary (1998-2008), the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress
.

About

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and immediate past President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Her most recent books are "#OccupytheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power" and, as contributor and editor, "Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War."
  • itsthedax

    So, aside from Mr. Mourdock’s inability to express a thought without contradicting himself, here’s the main question:

    Is it right for the government to require a woman to bear a child against her will?

  • persiflage

    Brain addled closet theocrats like Mourdock should bother anyone that respects the processes of a secular government.

  • ONE OF MANY, USA CITIZEN

    A person elected to public office must fully comply with their oath of office and leave their religion out of our government. This congress sure needs some changes of the membership.

  • ncooty

    I think it’s interesting to watch people argue over “God’s will”. If you believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God, then God is implicated in everything. That is, if you hold those beliefs, then EVERYTHING is God’s intent. If Sen. Mourdock’s statements sound absurd or offensive (as they do to me), consider that they reflect more on the underlying absurdity of the religious beliefs from which they are logically drawn.

    Don’t take my word for it. Assuming we’re talking about the Judeo-Christian God, consider that in 2 Samuel 12:14, God killed Jacob’s son (a child born from rape) as punishment for Jacob’s sin. (And that was the lenient punishment; the full version God threatened was the public raping of all of Jacob’s wives–plural. Jacob’s sin was kidnapping and raping the widow of a guy he killed, Uriah.)

    Other examples include:

    There was substantial and prolonged incest around the time of Adam & Eve in order to kick-start humanity.

    Right after God bombed Sodom and Gomorrah for sinfulness, He orchestrated the date rape of Lot by his two daughters–while God watched (which is how the story made it into the Bible, evidently). Sex with your own daughter is not one of the forms of incest disallowed in the Bible (see lists in Leviticus and Deuteronomy).

    Girls were frequently given as wives (sometimes in multiples) as part of biblical deals (e.g., to Jacob as payment for work in Genesis 29; see also mass murder, kidnapping, and rape in Judges 31, Numbers 21, Deut. 20, etc.). Many of these transactions would today count as sex trafficking of minors (but the laws of God are timeless, right?).

    God killed Onan for not ejaculating into his brother’s wife.

    God evidently endorsed the marriage between Abraham’s brother, Nahor, and his niece, Milcah.

    Sara was Abraham’s half-sister (a relationship God endorses, but then forbids in Leviticus and Deuteronomy).

    Moses’s mother was also his great aunt.

    God tortured Job to win a bet with Satan, so why would you think rape or inces

  • Centsorsense

    Much of what you have listed is a bit off. Lot’s relationship with his daughters was a sign of how far they had fallen etc.
    2,o00 years ago people were barbaric, I am shocked. However when you get to the part of the bible that talks about free will you notice that god doesn’t control man’s actions.
    So god’s will has nothing to do with rape. That is all about the sin of man.

  • Centsorsense

    Why can’t Brooks be a candidate instead of Mourdock or Akin?
    Minds like hers are the change that we need in this country. We need both faith and reason in this world. When faith and reason are set at odds with one another there is no good sense or anything to win. It is a simple recipe for failure.

  • citizen625

    Mourdock is why the founding fathers wrote separation of church and state into the constitution. And that “one nation under God” blather was added a few decades ago to appease the bible thumpers. Look where appeasing clerics led Afghanistan or Iran.

  • Aerin_S

    No, it was not to “protect the churches from the government.” It was to protect citizens from oppression by a “state church” and ensure freedom of religion for all citizens. Government-affiliated churches had a long history of persecuting people who chose to follow different religions. Escaping that persecution was one of the main reasons that people came to America in Colonial times. (For example, my Quaker ancestors were persecuted by the government in England and Ireland.) Our founding fathers wanted to ensure that the U.S. government never established an official church. That is why it is so important that our laws not be based on religious beliefs.

  • persiflage

    Fundamentalists are full of stupid ideas. What more can be said? It’s incredible the guy is a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Some of these states produce politicians more suited for the Middle Ages.

  • persiflage

    ‘The founding fathers wrote the First Amendment to protect the churches from the government, not the government from the influence of Christians.’

    And yet here we are, in dire need of protection from theology-stricken bumblers like Richard Mourdock. No, I think Jefferson, et al devised the separation of church and state concept with just such people in mind.

    Fools like Mourdock can say what they want, but we don’t have to listen – and we don’t have to elect them to public office. Lord knows their kind are steadily pounding away at the gates of government.

  • itsthedax

    Why it’s Scott, the third-string shill for Answers In Genesis! How’ve you been?

    I realize that you aren’t supposed to have opinions of your own, and can only cut and paste misinformation from the AIG website; but other people who read this are actually concerned with facts and, you know, truth. Stuff like that.

    So, here’s a little reality for you.

    According to the USDOJ, an average of 200,000 rapes are reported each year, victimizing women over age 12. The DOJ also estimates that only 37 percent of rapes are reported.

    A study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that 5 percent of single-event rapes result in pregnancy.

    So, even limiting the numbers to reported rapes, that’s 10,000 women each year. You and the rest of your mysogynistic relgiionists want to simply waive away the right of these women to control their own bodies.

    Most offensive, however, is your insinuation that 99 percent of the women being raped are responsible for it. No doubt about it, you need professional help.

  • itsthedax

    So we’re quoting John Adams!

    John Adams: “The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.
    Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths,
    Doctrines, and whole carloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in
    Christianity.”

    and,

    “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”

  • itsthedax

    The funny thing is that Mourdock’s statement that God intended for rapes to happen is actually in keeping with protestant doctrine.

    A central premise of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist and Calvinist/Baptist sects is that of god’s perfect foreknowledge. This means that all human events are predetermined, and that all “saved” people have been known to god forever.

    Since their deity is the creator of all things, and has absolute foreknowledge of all human affairs, then each human action is known in advance and part of god’s intention. Therefore, all rapes are part of their god’s plan.

  • PhillyJimi1

    Centsorsense you said “So god’s will has nothing to do with rape. That is all about the sin of man.”

    If god doesn’t control man’s actions and he only allows freewill then why pray? God therefore by definition MUST and ISN’T ALLOWED to answer prayers. He can’t interfere and therefore doesn’t have a plan for each of us.

    He is kind of like a dead beat dad. He created us but leaves us on our own to fend for ourselves. Nice god you have there why in the world would you think that kind of monster is worthy of worship?

  • PhillyJimi1

    itsthedax – You’re funny. Why think for yourself when you can cut and paste answers!

  • itsthedax

    Philly, researching, evaluating and quoting statistics isn’t cutting and pasting. I leave that for the AIG crowd.

  • fishinfool

    Or the middle east.

  • AnotherThomas

    Or, most sadly, politicians suited to the people they represent, the uneducated, bigoted, right wing-nuts that pay no attention to anything but their religion.

    People who think everything the government does is bad. People who run away from science and want to go back to the 1950′s. Sadder still is the volume of people in this category.

  • AnotherThomas

    “The founding fathers wrote the First Amendment to protect the churches from the government, not the government from the influence of Christians.”

    Just one more example where our founding fathers could not possibly see how screwed up our political system could become. Americans now need protection for the christian Taliban.

  • AnotherThomas

    ScottinVA: nice comment A$$HAT. Way to contribute a valid,important thoughtful response.

  • fishinfool

    Mourdock and so many other religious hypocrites demand protection for the fetus but abandon the child. They allow unwanted children to be ignored to the point of turning into criminals and then they send them to the electric chair. Just plain weird.

  • wmconelly

    Uhhhh. The author is a woman talking about women and therefore, obviously, can’t know sanctity of life as it pertains to politics.

  • kahnkekker

    “When you make God the author of conception following rape, you make God the author of sin. This is a huge theological error, and one that Christian theologians have rejected since the first centuries of the faith”..note to moddock….a bible scholar you are…not….

  • Secular1

    SinVA,”exactly right, to keep the government out of the church business.” You as usual mis read the history. It has always been the church that has been meddling in the state business that instigated the persecution. It never was teh state taking over a church to persecute people. Left to itself state has no reason to pick between the churches. It is always the church of the majority not content with the its adherents opted to meddles in the state to dominate others – occasionally it was the minoroty church too, they are all cut of teh same cloth.

    “But it was not to relinquish religious people to the backwater of politics.” It was the intent to relegate the religion to the backwaters of politics. Definitely not the religious people, as long as they left their religion in the pews before coming to the public square. Mr. Billy Graham and the equally notorious scum bag of a son Franklin Graham are welcome in the public square as long as they leave their honorifics in their pews and came to the square as Mr. billy Graham, or Mr. Franklin Graham. Same is true for Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. If you cannot make your case without claiming the sanction of the mythical sky daddy, then do not.

    “It is not the Christian church that is politically active, but Americans who are Christians fulfilling their civic responsibilities to elect people of character into office and petition the government for redress of grievances” what a rhetorical flourish SinVA. We have seen the redressal of grievances before with literacy tests and poll taxes and the claims of mark of cain, etc and recently teh Voter ID laws in 37 states. Yes, the great redressal of grievance of having to see mixed race man in teh White House. Yes redressal of grievance that this man does have a birth certificate from Hawaii.

    “But you Leftists would have only those of your ilk running things because you are so much more intelligent than we mere proles.” perhaps we are, as long as you stick your heads dee i

  • bnutz79

    God has people brutally raped. It’s his will. Some of these rapes happen to small children. It’s all part of his diving plan. God’s never ending love is what drives his divine plan. God is good. Rejoice. Ha.

  • Rongoklunk

    Everybody seems to know what god has to say about everything, yet there’s nothing that even says he exists for sure, while history teaches us that the our forebears were forever inventing them.
    Duh? Don’t we get it? How clear does it have to be? Gods are man made.

  • mduck99

    The omnipotent God would actually sit there and let a woman be raped and then decide later to allow a pregnancy. That is God’s will. Yeah that makes sense just like all these stupid religions and idiot’s that blindly follow them. Wouldn’t God just intervene in the first place, Oh yeah I forgot there is no God and he never intervenes in anything.

  • mduck99

    The only reason we can sit here and have a debate about this is that the founding father’s purposely kept the Government from declaring a State Religion. They saw the problems with mixing both from the problems in Europe. Read Jefferson’s letters to the Danbury Baptist Church. He was even more radical than what he put down on paper. These fundamentalist won’t be happy until we all are under the banner of their religion and worshipping their God. Sounds like the middle east to me….

  • mduck99

    Exactly we shouldn’t be taking a 2,000+ year old bronze age book written by backwards thinking, raping, incest loving, violent, polygamous, ignorant humans seriously in this day and age….

  • SODDI

    Sure he does, he helps Tebow win football games. That’s more important than any old rapes, innit?

  • GeniusPhx

    not only are we taking a leap to say there is a god, now we are taking a bigger leap to say that we know what god thinks or wants (as if god were a person and not an entity). attributing human characteristics to something clearly not human (if it exists at all) is what humans do to make god understandable; because if god is an entity then he has to be responsible for the bad and the good; like gravity or the weather.

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