The predatory providence of ‘pro-life’ Richard Mourdock (part 1)

The predatory providence of ‘pro-life’ Richard Mourdock (part 1) October 26, 2012

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns with Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock. (AP, Charles Dharapak)

U.S. Senate candidate from Indiana Richard Mourdock has joined Todd Akin, Paul Ryan and Tom Smith among prominent white male Republicans saying appalling things about rape.

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said. “And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Mourdock himself, and a host of religious defenders of his agenda, have tied themselves into knots, offering a series of confused and confusing attempts to defend his comments. See, for example, Mark Galli’s appalling article for Christianity Today, in which Galli offers an incoherent and morally perverse appeal to “the providence of God.”

Via Mark Kleiman, here’s Dominican Fr. Jeremy Paretsky highlighting the irony of this appeal to “providence” by Mourdock and Galli:

To say that anything that happens is by God’s will says everything and nothing: it says no more than that creation as such exists by the will of God, who in a single act incorporates all contingencies. Will is confused with desire, which is a function of the human will. No distinction is made between God’s providential will (whereby he cares for creation) and permissive will (whereby contingencies are incorporated into that care). To say that life begun by rape is God’s will fails to make this distinction. It is equally true by the same loose use of language to say that abortion subsequent to rape is also God’s will.

Mourdock et. al. are appealing to an expansive-but-shallow “all things work together for good” notion to defend restrictions on abortion. They fail to notice that this same appeal to providence also means that every abortion must also be “something that God intended to happen.”

Oh, and as Danielle points out at From Two to One: ” The most common byproducts of rape are depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicide, substance abuse, self-harm, fear, self-blame, sleeplessness, nightmares, triggers, sexual dysfunction, feelings of worthlessness, despair, hopelessness, and even death.” Are these consequences of rape also “gifts from God”?

Since this self-negating notion of everything as “something that God intended to happen” is usually invoked as an attempt to make sense out of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, let’s note that Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, says that Mourdock is “invoking the will of God where it is not appropriate”:

People “should have compassion for the person whose life is messed up by this and not make her an instrument for our idiosyncratic theological commitment,” Kushner said.

“If you believe she has no right to terminate that pregnancy, you’re free to believe that,” Kushner said. “But for you to write your preferences into law and compel another person to mess her life up because of what you believe, I think you’re going too far.”

To make someone else “an instrument for our idiosyncratic theological commitment” is to treat that person as a tool — as a means and not an end. That the person in this case is someone who has already suffered that same treatment at the hands of her attacker only compounds the evil of it.

As Dianna Anderson writes:

Rape victims are not players in your narratives of redemption. People suffering through some of the worst, most traumatic events of their lives aren’t interested in going through more pain just so you can point to it as a redemptive show of God.

… God’s eschatology doesn’t need you to persuade a rape victim to keep their pregnancy. What God does need you for is to understand and support the suffering, no matter what decision they may make. What God does need you to do is shut up and listen. This is not your battle to fight, except insofar as you can come alongside the one who is suffering. This is not yours to explain. This is not your area and God doesn’t need you to persuade a person to suffer more just so They could eventually redeem. It is disrespectful to God to presume to be someone else’s Holy Spirit in a decision that has nothing to do with you.

Many others have written quite a bit of wise and insightful commentary on the predatory providence of Richard Mourdock. Theologians have denounced his theology, politicians have criticized his politics, and people who just generally don’t regard women as sub-human have pondered just WTF exactly is wrong with this man (there’s some overlap between those categories). I’ll have a round-up highlighting some of that in a follow-up to this post.

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