For The Someday Book

God Does Not Intend Rape. Ever.

Posted on: October 24, 2012

Tonight, just across town, on the campus where my husband teaches, Indiana Senatorial Candidate Richard Mourdock said the following:

Life is a gift from God, and even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

My friends, Republican or Democrat, this post is not about politics, even though everything is political and I think this should impact how you think about your vote. This post is not about abortion, even though I strongly support access to safe and legal abortion as a fundamental aspect of securing women’s health and safety. This is a post about theology, and it is written from my pastoral heart, with care and concern for people hurt by misguided, dangerous theology. (Although, as always, posts here reflect my own views and do not stand for the views of my wonderfully diverse congregation.)

Hear this loud and clear:

GOD DOES NOT INTEND RAPE.
RAPE AND VIOLENCE ARE NEVER GOD’S WILL.
GOD DOES NOT DESIRE SUFFERING FOR SOME GREATER GOOD.

If you are a survivor, God did not send your rapist to hurt you or test you or teach you or punish you or improve you. God did not sacrifice your body and your safety and your security, even to bring the most wonderful child into the world. A human being acted out of violence, power, rage or some other sinful place to hurt you. God did not intend for you to be raped.

There can be no equivocation there. God does not afflict us. So where is God in suffering?

The heart of the Christian story deals with just this concern. The cross plays a central role in our faith, and it is a symbol of suffering caused by violence and power.  Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross showed us that God does not desire our pain to obtain salvation, that God does not require our blood sacrifice, that violence is not God’s way, and that God will pursue justice and peace even unto death.

Three days later, our faith proclaims that something miraculous happened—God took the tools of violence and destruction and transformed them into Easter resurrection and new life. To say that God made new life out of something horrible, whether a rape or a cross, is to proclaim that God can overcome anything. God can take the worst this world has to offer, and God can make hope and new life. God can take a murder on a cross and create resurrection. God can take a violent rape and create a beautiful child.

That does not mean that God intends murder and rape. God does not cause horrific things to happen to us in order to make miracles. That’s not sanctified, it’s sadistic.

That also does not mean that every pregnancy resulting from rape is a gift from God. Not even every non-violent conception is a gift from God. To declare that every pregnancy is intended by God conjures a cruel Master who shows only disdain for the suffering it inflicts.

  • Imagine a woman who becomes pregnant as a result of rape. Forced to carry an unwanted child to term, she is unable to begin her healing until the pregnancy is over. Even if she gives the baby up for adoption, she must live with the physical reminder of her violent trauma every day. Every kick, every contraction, every moment of labor causes her to relive the rape again in her mind. Instead of lasting for a night, her trauma lasts for nine months.
  • Imagine a woman who already has three children. Her fourth pregnancy puts her own life in danger. While her unborn child may or may not survive, she will not. Her older children will be left motherless. The children’s father will be unable to provide for them without her income, and they will likely be separated into foster care.
  • Imagine a woman trapped in a violent relationship. She has a plan to get out, but she discovers that the partner who abuses her has also conceived a child in her womb. She knows she cannot escape if she is pregnant, and that this violent man will have parental rights to the child even if she leaves him.

Some women would claim God’s new life in these pregnancies, no matter the circumstances. They will love and raise the child with joy and faithfulness. Others would claim God’s new life and possibility in the freedom to terminate a difficult pregnancy and claim the value of their own lives as God’s beloved. They will live their lives with purpose serving God in other ways. In neither case does God intend the suffering to get to the new life. In both circumstances, God can heal and redeem the suffering by bringing new life.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says:

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendants might live! “

I believe that sometimes the choice to end a pregnancy is a way of choosing life—life for the mother, life for other children, life free from abuse. God can make new life out of terrible things, but we cannot always equate God’s new life with an unborn child. We cannot know how God will work in a woman’s heart, nor can we know the path of life in every situation. I stand firmly against the use of speculation about God’s intentions to legislate forced pregnancy.

Above all, this is clear: God does not intend violence. Rape is not part of God’s grand plan. Neither is forced pregnancy part of God’s will. God comes to us in Christ so that we “might have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) The prayerful discernment about what it means to choose to “have life, and have it more abundantly” belongs to each woman, her own womb and her own conversation with God—not our legislators.

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31 Responses to "God Does Not Intend Rape. Ever."

I ran across this news as well, just this morning, and I was stunned. But it gets even worse.

Now imagine a woman who has been raped, decides to carry the child to term, and then her rapist sues for partial child custody and visitation rights.

“Astonishingly, in nearly every state, men who father children through rape can assert child custody and visitation rights. Thirty-one states offer no restrictions whatsoever.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/perspectives/child-custody-for-rapists-655141/#ixzz2ADm4Z1nN

This is a different issue than “God’s” responsibility for a rape, or the excuse of “God’s will” being used to prevent abortion, but it is related. I have no doubt Mourdock actually believes that God is involved when an egg is fertilized, and that he believes that a soul is implanted at inception. The problem is that while at the same time saying he understands that others don’t agree with this and that he respects their views, he’s still going to apply his own beliefs upon them. How is this respecting someone else’s views? He’s forcing his own theological beliefs on them. Period. It’s really very black and white. People that support him share his views. Everyone else should vote against him. It’s that simple.

Not only am I angry about the original comments by Mourdock and the others that he speaks for who think/believe the same way that he does, but I am HORRIFIED by this information that the rapist cum father can assert custody and visitation rights and thereby continue to traumatize the woman (and likely, also, the child).

Lord, have mercy.

Thanks for bringing this up, writerdood. The issue of custody was in my mind as I was writing, but you added a lot of helpful info with this post. It’s appalling that the rapist might have more rights than the woman who survived the rape.

I believe he was referring to the life created, NOT the rape. Why would that be the first inference of this quote?

If there weren’t another life involved in the abortion process, it wouldn’t be anyone’s business, just the parents. Are we not supposed to come to the defense of those who cannot defend themselves?

I think our articulate writer does address the pregnancy, not just the rape. The hypothetical pregnancy is not necessarily an act of God and it is not the only possible way to define a new life.

EB,

Mourdock said that himself the next morning, that he meant the pregnancy not the rape. However, I don’t think you can split hairs like that. God willed the pregnancy, but not how it got there? I don’t imagine that a rape survivor would hear that any differently than saying God willed her rape to create her child, whether she wanted the child or not.

If you believe from your faith that the life/rights of an unborn child are more important than the life/rights of the living woman, then you can put forth that argument. However, for all the reasons above, I do not agree–from my faith.

Thanks for the comment.

Thank you for this very articulate and heartfelt post. When I hear these kinds of speech acts it feels very violent emotionally, theologically, and potentially physically. As a Christian believer I can’t accept that God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit would condone other believers’ making me, or any other human, feel so unsafe. Thank you for putting words to my instinctive protests.

Only one comment. The fool that made the comment did not say the rape was God,s Intension, he said the baby was. Even so, this is still a vile statement.

Yes, Mike. I just don’t think the two can be so easily separated, especially with the ears of a rape survivor.

Thanks for the comment.

people use your brain that God gave you. The man is talking about the creation of life being what God intended, not the rape. As far does God allow rape? Just ask yourself one question, Is God Sovereign? If He is, as the Bible says he is, then it had to pass throught His hands first. If you think God would never allow something like that then I would say you need to Read the book of Job. Its in the bible.

John,
Your contempt for people who think differently than you do or interpret Scripture differently than you do (a long held tradition and one found within Scripture itself) will likely have the effect of cutting off open and transformative conversation. Is that your intent?

Is God Sovereign? Do Gods powers have limits?
Your post says that Go does not intend violence or rape. How does it happen then?

John–Dissent is welcome, insult is not. Further comments that include name-calling and insults will not be allowed.

John & Steve–There are many ways of understanding God’s power. I do not believe that God wills murder, natural disaster, rape, or anything like that. I could and would not worship a God who caused those things. I do not have any way of knowing or understanding the depth of God’s power. However, I do not believe that God’s relationship to the world is one of direct control. There is free will. Sovereignty is not the same thing as controlling every event–God can exercise power in other ways.

So god isn’t in control of anything ‘evil’ that happens, he’s only in control of the ‘good’ things.
Did god create the universe? Where did ‘evil’ come from?
What other limits are there to gods powers?

Steve,

I don’t think power and control are synonymous. God’s power is vast and unknowable, and without limit. That does not mean that God controls every detail of life, or that God is coercive in the use of that power.

My own faith and response to the problem of evil is deeply influenced by process theology, which you can check out through a basic Wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Process_theology

Gods power is without limit.
God does not know what will happen tomorrow.

God does not will evil.
God created satan.

These are irreconcilable statements.

I’m an atheist, but surely if you believe nothing happens on earth without god willing it, then god meant the rape to happen.
People who believe in god can’t have it both ways.
Hence, god doesn’t exist.

Simon, I don’t believe in the same God you don’t believe in. I do not believe in a God that wills every act and event on earth. Nor do I believe in a God as oversimplified as the one you dismiss so easily.

wonderful post! God bless yoju!

Ummm…in the bible it says you can wait along side the road until a woman you want comes by. You can rape her and make her your wife.

I take it as a given that we don’t take the Bible literally–because of passages just like that one, and so many others. One can claim that the Bible shows the Word of God without actually thinking it is the words of God.

You can believe in the bible and be literal. Or you can just pick and choose what your flavor of the month is. But…if you believe in the bible then you believe in the words in it. God has himself killed and has ordered the death of many more. He gave permission to rape and have slaves. Sounds like an evil god. I would recommend going to Evilbible.com to see all the passages and more i have quoted. Even if there was a god…(and i highly doubt it) i would choose not to worship such a sinful god.

Please do not accuse me of being ignorant of the Bible’s “texts of terror,” or think that I have not considered them in my faith journey and understanding of scripture. There are many ways to approach the Bible that acknowledge the hate and violence of those texts and the God they portray, while arguing that the prevailing image of God remains loving. It’s far more thoughtful and holistic than picking and choosing a “flavor of the month.” That seems far more like the position of Evil Bible, which is dedicated to simply picking and choosing any texts that could make faith look unreasonable.

If you have come to contribute to a discussion, you are welcome. If you have simply come to equate my faith practice with ignorance or try to debunk it from your own hatred and misconceptions, your insults are not welcome.

Posts from angry atheists are no different in their tone and tenor than those from angry fundamentalists, and there can be no fruitful discussion in either case.

Faith is a cop out. You are encouraging followers to be ignorant of truth. And you should be ashamed of yourself. What you do every Sunday is making people believe in a imaginary friend which makes them feel different than other religions. Which in turn breeds hate. We are all the same and should encourage reading a book of science and try to encouraging intellegence instead of a book of myths of giants, talking animals,wizards and witches. If i am wrong prove it. Great claims require great evidence.

And that post is why I will not be engaging with you any further.

Scared of a little debate?

I’m an atheist and a sceptic and I still want to thank you for your post, revjmk. It restored my faith that there are still people who believe in god who are thoughtful and compassionate and most of all, tolerant. It is good to hear that even from a Christian point of view the words of the senator can be considered wrong. Just like you, I believe in free will, but in contrast to some other atheist that posted here, for me that free will does include the choice to believe in god, even if I don’t. After the last posts I really want to say that there are still atheist who believe – in the power of respectful communication, that is.

*Comment deleted by revjmk because name calling is not allowed.

How about this. I have two cats. They are atheist. Viva la resistance!

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About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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