Richard Mourdock, a Republican candidate running to represent Indiana in the Senate, has caused a great deal of controversy with a remark he made in the context of a discussion of whether abortion should be allowed for rape victims. His reply included the following:
I know that there are some who disagree and I respect their point of view but I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize that life is a gift from God, and I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something God intended to happen.
Here is a video, lest it be suggested that his words are being misrepresented:
Not surprisingly, Mourdock’s opponents have pounced on the statement, and Mourdock himself has been quick to try to offer qualifications. He subsequently said:
What I said was, in answering the question form my position of faith, I said I believe that God creates life. I believe that as wholly and as fully as I can believe it. That God creates life. Are you trying to suggest that somehow I think that God pre-ordained rape? No, I don’t think that. That’s sick. Twisted. That’s not even close to what I said. What I said is that God creates life.
The lesson? It is advisable to figure out your theology before running for office. The problem is that, while Christians with unreflective theological views of the sort Mourdock holds regularly speak about God being in control in all things, or God being the one who creates life, they (1) do not give any thought to how to reconcile that with the natural causes they also accept as being at work, and (2) often balk at saying that God is responsible when bad things happen.
The result is an incoherent mess that leaves people offering meaningless platitudes which conservative Christians would say “Amen” too, only to find themselves apologizing for them and backtracking on them soon afterwards if pressed.
If what you mean is that something good can come out of even something tragic or evil, then say that and not words which don’t mean that.
Perhaps something good will emerge from the mess that Mourdock has gotten himself into with his statement. Perhaps he and others will actually decide it is finally worth the time to think about what they believe God does and how they believe God does it, and not just continue repeating traditional phrases and language which, when pressed, they say they don’t actually mean.