“Life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen…” Indiana Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock
Republican US Senate candidate Richard Mourdock recently declared his belief that if a woman conceives through rape, that conception was God’s intention. I doubt Mourdock intended to open an important public theological discussion about the degree to which God wills what happens in the world, and also the degree to which human beings can know God’s will. But the scenario he described is a perfect illustration of both problems.
In all fairness to him, he does not mean that rape is the will of God. But he does appear to believe that every human conception is the will of God. Put the two together and you get a theological conundrum, to say nothing of a very serious political problem for his Senate campaign.
If the rape is not the will of God, how can it be said that the resulting conception was the will of God, since that particular fetus would never have come into being without the rape? How could God will the conception without also willing the means of the conception? And, more fundamentally, how could Richard Mourdock or anyone else know the will of God in such a case – or in any case? These are not questions that can be finessed, any more than rape itself can be glossed over. Either God is a monster who wills on a whim wills that a man should rape a woman, or God has no opinion nor authority regarding conception or abortion.
He could admit that his statement proved his idea of God wrong. He could admit that God isn’t supernatural or omnipotent. He could admit that God doesn’t have a plan for his life or anybody else’s. He could recognize that God is not in charge of the universe, because God is the universe. God is the creative nature of nature itself. God has no will but love, no power but Love. God does not control the universe, because control is not Love’s nature. And we can’t know the absolute will of God in any particular situation, because divine Love gives us freedom to make choices. We can only pray to be attuned with Love as we choose.
It’s time to abandon the wreckage of belief in a Supreme Commander-In-Chief Who Must Be Obeyed Even If It Hurts. The humbler God of Love can redeem a woman’s decision to have an abortion after being raped, as much as Love can redeem the life of a child born as a consequence of a rape. Love attracts us to measure our success as a society by how well we treat our most vulnerable fellow citizens – such as women with unintended pregnancies, who should be allowed to make their own difficult reproductive choices.
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Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California