Rape pregnancies, God’s will and Christianity

A week or so ago, Richard Mourdock said that when a girl or woman became pregnant, that was God’s will and she should have the baby. This article examines that statement not in terms of politics or sociology, but in terms of whether it’s at all an accurate interpretation of religion.

It begins by recounting the story of a police chaplain interviewing a pregnant twelve-year-old girl whose father addicted her to heroin in order to make it easier to rape her whenever he felt like it, and her baby is his.

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.

Emphasis mine. I don’t think people realize how common incestuous rape is. And while I certainly don’t mean to imply that any form of rape is more or less hideous than any other, I’m emphasizing this because most people think of unwanted pregnancies as something that happens to women who had other options and should have known better, even in cases of rape which they tend to downplay. But when your society has enough of a problem of perverted men raping their own flesh and blood that these cases form the bulk of this chaplain’s counseling experience with the police department, you can’t even start with the “well, she shouldn’t have been out drinking… I mean, at home with her father… um, wait…” arguments.

After introducing the problem, the article goes on to quote a number of Christian and Jewish clergy who disagree with Mourdock’s interpretation. Mourdock, by the way, attends a non-denominational evangelical Christian church. And even his own minister refuses to ardently back him up: “I don’t think the circumstances dictate whether God knows us and loves us, regardless of how our conception comes about.” That’s a safe, defensible quote that accurately represents Christianity, but doesn’t touch the question of whether rape pregnancy is God’s will. Nor does it attempt to define how God would want a society comprised of many religions (not all of which regard abortion the way evangelicals do) and secular philosophies to address abortion as a matter of law. That’s what Mourdock did, and in so doing:

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.

The belief that we should just let stuff happen because “it’s God’s will” or “the Lord will provide” is fatalism, not faith. Christianity says “God helps those who help themselves” (not a biblical quote, but a summation of philosophy):

Many Christians ask God for help, but then expect God to do everything Himself. They excuse this by pointing to the fact that God will provide according to His will and in His timing. However, this is not a reason for inactivity. As a specific example, if you are in need of a job, ask the Lord to help you find a job – but then be active in actually looking for a job. While it is in His power to do so, it is highly unlikely that God will cause employers to come looking for you!

So how does this apply to the example of the 12 year old girl, who ultimately got an abortion? Her father was eventually convicted of rape, but most rapists are not. Let’s consider how Mourdock’s prescription plays out in the more common scenario: the rapist father/grandfather raises his child/grandchild as his own child (lying about who the mother is) or as his nasty slut daughter’s child (lying about who the father is). This perpetuates the daughter’s abuse, and has the added bonus of making the grandchild vulnerable to the rapist whenever he decides he wants to rape it. Remember, the FBI has seen victims as young as two hours old. Yes, hours. That is not a typo. If girls are forced to have these babies, then we are providing rapists a way to factory-produce new victims. What a gift! They don’t have to risk being seen on the street picking up prostitutes. They can just do it all in the safety of their home. The rapists would for sure feel God’s love – just look how He’s providing!

Think this doesn’t happen? You need to get out more. That’s all I’m saying. If you actually talked to people, you’d find stories of mult-generational abuse like this are not rare – and ending abortion will only make them more common.

Is that God’s will? Sometimes you have to choose the lesser of evils in life, especially when you’re dealing with people who’ve chosen to be unspeakably evil. In the big picture, does God want us to end abortion more than He wants us to end rape? Is He misguided enough to think legally ending abortion will actually end it, anymore than outlawing rape has ended rape? Or would He prefer us to use our brains and work on reducing both problems at the same time? If your God is more concerned about abortion than rape, even knowing many of those un-aborted children will go on to suffer rape and other abuses, and maybe kill themselves or end up on death row or raise more unwanted and abused children, then your God is not the God of the Bible. Your God is some reflection of your own mind that you’ve dressed up in Christian terminology to give him legitimacy.

It is indeed in line with scripture to assume God would prefer no abortions ever happen. But the funny thing there? The whole human race is actually in agreement on this. See, no one wants or enjoys an abortion. Even an empathy free person who doesn’t care a whit and is getting her abortion for free is inconvenienced by the appointment – and that’s the least negative an abortion experience is ever going to be for anyone. Making abortions illegal won’t end them – we know that because they happened before they were ever legal. But reducing the reasons people abort – that could make abortion very rare. The problem is, reducing the reasons for abortions would mean improving women’s rights, and a lot of pro-lifers are also misogynists who’d rather see children suffer and die than make the world more hospitable to women.

What it all boils down to is this: passing a law that won’t/can’t be followed does not constitute doing something about the problem, and the Christian God wants people to take positive action. Don’t think being pro-life in your politics will make God pleased with you. If you want to please God, do something to reduce the reasons people feel they need abortions. This may mean working together with feminists (gasp!):

  • Make sure everyone has access to effective birth control, and knows how to use it, and feels a social responsibility to use it.
  • Educate kids about just what goes into being a parent so they actually feel the urge to avoid parenthood until they’re truly ready for it.
  • Put rapists in jail even when they’re really nice white rich smart precious pillars of society. And stop believing their mock tears of remorse and letting them out on parole. Introduce more psychological info into courts so judges can make more informed decisions about their incarceration.
  • Teach girls that they are entitled to only have safe, wanted sex.
  • Stop teaching boys that they are trash unless they’ve screwed lots and lots of girls.
  • Many people abort because they learn their fetus is going to be a child with special needs. We could make sure parents of these kids get the resources they need so that the financial and emotional stress is no worse than it is with any other kid.

There are many other things that would reduce abortions. Outlawing it – a merely symbolic action – is not one of them. Jesus in particular expressed great displeasure in symbolic actions when he criticized the Pharisees for making spectacles of their prayers and religious activities rather than actually doing something. Does God want your symbolic actions, or does He want you to actually do something?


  1. says

    Great piece, and thank you for writing it.

    And IMO, if your god is more concerned about abortions than rape, your god is a monster and I don’t know why you worship him.

  2. TansyJ says

    This is an excellent post.

    I have known people in the church who told a woman after she told them that she had gotten an abortion when she was 16 and on drugs and homeless except for her 30-year-old abusive dealer/boyfriend that she had committed an unforgivable sin and that they could never speak to her again, and then turn around and defend the church leaders for not exposing a convicted pedophile who came to their church and started dating a woman with a young daughter, because “everyone needs forgiveness.”

    I can not even wrap my head around that mindset.

    I would add to your very excellent list of ways to lessen the amount of abortions without making them illegal:

    It should be considered completely disgusting by society to be an absent father. People look down their noses all time at single mothers, but you know? They are actually stepping up and taking care of their child, and also, NOT getting an abortion? But I’ve known of guys who were older, controlling, abusive who convinced young girls that they were infertile and ended up getting them pregnant and taking off. I know of at least one who has 15 kids with many different young women. He goes in and out of their lives when he feels like it and is always moving on to another young woman who will put him up so he doesn’t have to work, so he doesn’t have to pay child support. But when he walks into a store or a church or a party no one knows, because he never has all of the children he’s abandoned following him around. When I started watching my niece full time I was constantly getting ignored or glared at for being in public with a young child and no man, but society barely talks about the fathers who take off, just calling the women who fall for them “stupid” or “sluts.” If you want young women to raise their children, then make sure you A: Have resources in place to help support them if the fathers take off and B: Make it completely uncomfortable for men to get women pregnant and then abandon them.

    Sorry if this is long, but it’s one of those things that really gets to me.

  3. SunlessNick says

    And Mourdock’s not even the latest, now. (Trigger warning).

    Jesus in particular expressed great displeasure in symbolic actions

    He also said if you’re going to the Temple, and remember a quarrel with your brother, you should see to the quarrel first, and let God wait, because God can take it. How would that principle apply to this case? Well it sounds to me like you don’t get to break out God until you’ve looked after the human woman who’s the actual victim in the case – your religous devotion takes second place to her life – and you know, I bet God could take that too.

  4. facebook_patrick.mcgraw.7 says

    Thank you for this post.

    As a Liberal Quaker, I have a weird insider/outsider experience viewing the culture that produces these attitudes. I have pretty much all of the privilege common to American Christians, but so much of what Caotholic, Protestant, and non-denominational Evangelical American Christians say just seems strange to me because of how it differs from my own learning and beliefs. And this is after years of studying religion and majoring in religious studies at a Protestant (Lutheran) university.

    People of many different religious beliefs have asked me how I can be a pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, feminist, egalitarian who supports wholly secular government in spite of being a Christian. I am all of those things because of my religious beliefs. But people like Mourdock and hate groups like the American Family Association would have everyone think that their version of Christianity is the only Real, True Christianity, and far too many people buy into it.

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