When rotten theology goes political

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock started a firestorm of controversy during a debate in Indiana Tuesday when he said pregnancies from rape are “something that God intended to happen.”

When rotten theology goes political, there is more than just politics involved. When a politician makes pronouncements for political gain, they end up messing with how people make meaning out suffering. It is certain to come back to bite them.

Wayne Drash at CNN interviewed clergy, chaplains and theologians for his report: :

The instant reaction in political circles was predictable: Democrats decried him, and many conservative Republicans defended his position as steadfastly “pro-life.”

But theologians were quick with a more nuanced approach, saying the issue of pregnancies from rape strikes at the core of a timeless question: How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?...

[A] police chaplain said pregnancies from rape aren’t meant to be politicized and said the victims suffer from physical and mental wounds and are often suicidal. About 60% of the time, South surmised from his experience, the women or girls choose to give the baby up for adoption, as long as they never see the child at birth.

“I hurt for these kids,” he said. “Rape is evil.”

Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of the best-selling book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” said Mourdock’s remarks were off-base: “He’s 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.”

The Rev. Canon Susan Russell, writing in the Huffington Post, framed the question in terms of the political right of individual to believe and for the government not to create laws based on narrow religious precepts:

There are many things at stake in this presidential election, but choosing between faith and freedom is not one of them. Protecting the freedom of others to believe what they choose to believe about what "God intends" protects not only our own freedom to believe what "God intends" but defends our democracy from the very real threat of theocracy embodied in the policies of candidates like Richard Mourdock. And that is a battle worth fighting -- no matter what you believe or don't believe about God!
Comments (2)

I responded to this, too, focusing on the bad theology underlying much of the commentary on this. A friend shared with me Amy Sullivan's New Republic piece in which she notices the word "it" by which it seems clear Mr. Mourdock was actually referring to the life of the child, and not the rape. But it still seems important to address the bad theology. Here's my theological response, which takes a different tack than Susan's more political focus.

Women, are granted rights, after the pregnancy, not given the choice to terminate the pregnancy, but told, they now are responsible for their lives, for what they did, (they got themselves pregnant)and are given the condition, if, they can meet the legal status of maturity (they are already pregnant), they can keep the baby. If they are afraid of raising a child alone, without emotional support from the father, then they either give the child up for adoption, or have an abortion, depending upon how much emotional distress they are experiencing. Free will, or choice? Not really either. Do you see Roe vs. Wade granting a woman rights, choice, or power to think and reason? NO! Roe Vs. Wade, takes away the unborn child from the female, it is a taking away, not a giving, or granting. We as Christians should be pro life, before the decision is made, hoping to save an unborn child, and pro choice, when the decision is already made, or after the fact, because we empathize. This is a major personal loss, but I see no way out, except belief in Christ.

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