If Only Mourdock Were Rare

I wish that what Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said this week, that pregnancy as a result of rape is “something that God intended to happen,” was so rare and out of the ordinary that I had to write something new in order to respond thoughtfully to it.

It’s not.

Here’s some of what I wrote on this blog after Todd Akin suggested there was such a thing as “legitimate rape” and note that it wasn’t new even then:

In June, I wrote the following in a longer piece over at TheReligiousLeft.org:

“The GOP war on women is entirely about protecting male power.  Specifically, the power of white Christian men to create and control life as well as prevent women from exercising power.  

Protecting male power to create and control life (ala the classic Monty Python song “every sperm is sacred!”) is most egregiously illustrated by the fact that criminalizing abortion and making contraception inaccessible and illegal protects the power of even a male rapist to determine that life begins.  Without safe and legal contraceptive options and morning-after back-up, without access to safe and legal abortion, life begins when any man and his seed says it does.  Even the rapist.

We need to name those waging this war, those whose power is in fact being protected:  the male politician, the male husband, the male sperm-producer, the male rapist, the male god.”

Sally Steenland, Director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress, wrote the following over at ThinkProgress on Wednesday:

“Mourdock’s views are harsh and extremist — and they represent an attempt to impose his unforgiving theological views on millions of Americans who hold very different beliefs. Religious leaders, including clergy and faith experts at CAP’s Faith and Reproductive Justice Institute, are weighing in to condemn his views.”

Steenland goes on to quote six clergy and faith leaders, responding to this, including me.  Do check out these compassionate and thoughtful people’s words.

Here’s what else is interesting about this.  In a response to ThinkProgress’s tweet of this piece, @IN3BlueHorizon, the Twitter feed for Democrats in Indiana’s Third District, asked, “Who are the faith leaders that do support #Mourdock insane ideas?”

If only there were none.

If only the Catholic bishops, Paul Ryan, and so many other conservative Christians didn’t in fact completely agree that there should be no access to safe and legal abortion for women who are raped.

If only they didn’t share a worldview that enabled Sharron Angle in Nevada to suggest that rape victims make lemonade out of the lemon that their rape is.

The last word on Mourdock here belongs to my friend and fellow participant in the Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute, Rev. Victoria Ferguson, chaplain at the Women’s Resources Center to End Domestic Violence, in Atlanta, as quoted in Steenland’s piece:

“This statement has nothing to do with God but everything to do with acquiring a dangerous controlling grip on the lives and decisions of women.”

 Picture via

About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and also teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • chas holman

    “Romney campaign stands by Mourdock”.

    Women.. For Goodness sake.. WAKE UP..

    If ever there WAS a sign from God, this would be one of them.. These ‘men’ who are completely uneducated and ignorant about a woman’s body, want to be in charge of the laws that Govern YOUR body. There is no other way to put it. Welcome to the year 1642 where science and medicine take a back seat. Don’t even dare mention the earth revolves around the sun.

    The Governor has said if he wins the Presidency that he would sign legislation if presented, that bans abortion. And you have GOP senators and Congressmen who have now said that women who get raped have no medical worries as they can’t get pregnant if they are ‘really’ raped, and now with Mourdoch, it is ‘God’s Gift’.


    Vote like YOUR life, your daughter’s life and health depends on it.. It’s not playtime anymore, they are playing for keeps and total control.Have no doubt, this is ‘the big grab’.

    • Caryn Riswold

      Yes, chas. Your daughters life and health does in fact depend on it. Points well made.

  • Frank

    God would never encourage anyone to support the killing of the most innocent and helpless, the unborn. So No it’s not a sign from God and you should not lie about it.

    • timothy

      @Frank -

      please cite the biblical basis for your statement.

      i seem to remember God encouraging the israelites to kill infants on at least a couple of occasions. i also seem to recall that striking a woman and causing her to lose her unborn child is not, under the law, considered to be a case of either murder or manslaughter (based on the puishment). i also seem to recall that adam and eve weren’t alive until they took their first breath.

      based upon my recollections, your stance is unbiblical.

      awating your biblical specifics. thanks.

      • Frank

        You seem to equate fallaciously that what God can do we can/should do. When you realize your foundational error let me know and we might be able to have an intelligent conversation.

      • http://stanmanx.com Matt S

        Don’t forget the paternity test in Numbers, where a woman suspected of adultery drinks the “water of bitterness” and miscarries if she is guilty. http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=218208551

        Not sure how a ritual abortion squares with the idea that a) life begins at conception and b) all life is precious, but there you go.

        • Frank

          Aside from your cherry picking, answer me this: do you really believe that God calls Christians to kill?

          • ScottInOH

            1. In the Bible, God certainly called many of his followers to kill.

            2. Since the Bible was written, many Christians, including recognized Christian leaders, have said God called for killing. This is true from the soldier who believes God is on his side to the leader who calls for a Crusade.

            3. None of this is relevant to this conversation because
            (a) The differences between a newly fertilized egg and an actual human are too numerous to list, and
            (b) even if that weren’t true, that being exists only because a woman is providing it life support. We don’t force people to provide life support for others; why would we require it in the case of a pregnant woman?

          • Frank

            1. When God calls us to kill innocent life today then we can talk

            2. Many misguided people believe in misguided things. Right now Christians try and justify abortion even though they cannot.

            3. God and science tells us that life begins at conception.

            Women help create babies. There is no forcing ( outside of rape). They get to choose whether to engage is action known to produce children. Some just don’t want to be held accountable to their actions because it would take actual personal responsibility. It’s a lack of maturity that’s prevalent in all areas of our culture these days.

            So nice try but you have failed to put forth a compelling case. But hey sleep well at night!

          • pagansister

            Only if it defends “the Faith!” :o)

          • pagansister

            Cherry picking Frank? You’re one who believes the Bible has all the right stuff for living a “good life”, so now when folks can quote you parts of that book—you call it “cherry picking”. Interesting.

  • Caryn Riswold

    Thanks, ScottInOH … very good points.

  • pagansister

    Yes, good points, ScottInOH.
    Frank, the defending the faith statement above , was in response to your question on God calling on Christians to kill.