What God Intends

Let’s be fair, here. I’m sure that Richard Mourdock did not in any way mean to defend rape when he said that he thinks that God intends for babies to be born who are conceived through rape. I would hope that no one could believe in a God who intends for women to be raped. But I’m sure there are brave women who have borne their rapist’s baby, whether that rapist is a husband, boyfriend or stranger, and who regard their child as something precious that managed to grow from a terrible beginning. Such is the amazing resilience that can come to the human heart, and wouldn’t God be present in that beautiful redemption?

But let’s get real here for a moment. One could certainly imagine a God who could redeem even something as terrible as rape through the love of an innocent child. But when did it become the government’s job to determine on God’s behalf that this is the necessary outcome? For every woman who has chosen to keep and love a child conceived through rape there are probably many more who choose a morning after pill or abortion to end a pregnancy that they never wanted, and which would be an intolerable life-long symbol of a great violation. Why would you assume that God is not in that decision as well? Why wouldn’t God be there at the side of a woman as she struggles to reclaim her life and her strength and her ability to move forward in the world? Is God not in that woman’s choice to restore her own integrity and wholeness as she understands it?

I won’t presume to speak for God, but I will tell you what I think. When a woman is raped, God’s body is torn as her body is torn. When a fetus is aborted, some piece of God’s potential is lost. But God’s potential is infinite, and a woman reclaiming her life is no less a part of God’s potential. Indeed, every moment when every person chooses life, whatever that might mean to that person at the time, is a part of the potential of God unfolding.

It isn’t the job of politicians to decide which bits of potential God finds most precious. It is the job of each us, day by day and minute by minute, to decide what will constitute life more abundant for ourselves and the world we inhabit, and to act as the body of God in living out that choice. The role of the government is to support those decisions or get out of the way.

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  • PDWadler

    I think if a religion can be based around a murder that was supposedly turned into the salvation of the world (I’m talking about the crucifixion here), certainly articulate, thoughtful theologians can make the case that out of a horrible act of rape there is the possibility that the life created is a “gift of God”. Maybe the guy heard it someplace and tried to repeat it. Ideologues (and idiots) make bad theologians, however. Even Christians don’t argue that since Jesus’ crucifixion turned out ok for the world, maybe crucifixion isn’t as bad as we all thought.

    • christian

      yeah, actually they (we) kinda do. in fact, that’s pretty much the core of Christian theology. “o death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” He who overcame death, hell and the grave 2,000 years ago, gives us the power today to bear any affliction or persecution we are called to suffer, in His strength. and through faith, our relationship with God, God’s presence in our lives matters ever so much more than our circumstances. (our creature comfort, our selfish satisfaction.) so yes, in a sense, you could say in a very real sense that Christians do believe that “crucifixion isn’t as bad as we thought.”

  • http://eastofmidnight.wordpress.com Kim Hampton

    At some point liberal religious folk have to stop giving bad theology the benefit of the doubt.

    Even those of us who know what Richard Mourdock was trying to say have to acknowledge that the words that came out of his mouth give insight into a vision that must be countered whenever it appears. Bad theology CANNOT be left to fester in the public consciousness.

    Richard Mourdock bastardized Catholic social teaching. Catholic social teaching is much more nuanced than its present manifestation in the public eye would have one believe. Yes, there can be beauty from ashes. Yet for the state to say that you must find something good out of it is not the state’s job. It’s not even the church’s job; as many Jesuits will tell you in private.

    Sometimes people actually do tell you what they believe. Todd Akin did not make a mistake. Paul Ryan did not make a mistake when he called rape a “method of conception.” And Richard Mourdock did not make a mistake when he said, “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

    Being mealy-mouthed in the face of bad theology gets liberal religion nowhere but pushed to the side. Giving bad theology the benefit of the doubt helps nobody and doesn’t move the conversation forward. It’s time to counter bad theology with better theology.

  • https://www.facebook.com/Bobbing1918 Richard Dietzel

    Maybe I missed something but I took PDW’s statement as meaning “crucifixion in general isn’t bad, look how it turned out for us when the Christ was hammered to a cross so let’s have more of them.” not that one particular crucifixion wasn’t bad (quite the opposite it saved mankind) as Christian seems to mean it. I’d be interested to have a clarification from Wadler. The two interpretations by Christian and myself could be applied to the Buddha as well, a single bad event (food poisoning) ending/beginning his journey so “good for everyone”.

    Gabh an latha,

    Richard Dietzel
    Eugene, OR

  • Andrea Webster

    Thank you Lynn. I really like the part about God’s potential being infinite. That feels very clear to me – some potential is indeed lost when a fetus is aborted (or in my case also lost to ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage) — and in this season when we celebrate Samhain / Halloween / Dia de los Muertos (I’m wearing a necklace of skulls as I type this!) — I feel that lost potential as something to be mourned. But as you say, God’s potential is infinite, so there is so much more, infinite life going on — and the potential doesnt’ go away, it just transforms into a different potential. I’m going to share this one.

  • Andrea Webster

    Oh, and I meant to say, that this would be a good middle ground — if a middle ground were possible on this issue.