Richard Mourdock on Rape and God’s Plan

Everyone is angry today at Indiana Senate hopeful Richard Mourdock for saying in a debate last night that he opposes rape exceptions to abortion because:

“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.”

This is a terrible intrusion of religious belief into political theory; Mourdock’s theology should have absolutely no bearing on our public policy. It also, understandably, offended many people, registering as cavalier and unsympathetic to rape victims, especially those who wound up pregnant as a result of their trauma.

It does not, however, indicate that Mourdock is a terrible human being who wants women to suffer. As Libby Anne says:

It’s quite difficult to on the one hand say that “God is in control” and “everything happens according to God’s plan” and on the other hand say God is not at all at fault when bad things happen. After all, if God is all powerful and in control and everything happens according to his plan, then, well, he lets rapes happen and those rapes that happen are according to his plan. This is what I was taught and I remember believing it. What we saw last night was that Mourdock hasn’t figured out how to mash God’s omnipotence and man’s free will together in a way that makes actual sense and not come across as, well, extremely offensive.

This is the only coverage of the event I’ve read that showed any understanding of Mourdock’s actual viewpoint: that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, and that everything that happens—everything ever—happens because, on one level, God causes it to happen. This includes rape, murder, and genocide, and it also includes love, beauty, music, and art. This point of dogma—shorthanded as “sovereignty”—is nearly universal to orthodox Christians.

Of course, that’s still a stupid basis for decision-making, because another nearly-universal Christian belief is that we should at least act like humans have free will. If we didn’t believe in free will, we would be powerless to fight injustice or even proselytize. Believing in free will, though, enables us to condemn people for exercising it unjustly: for example, we can heartily condemn rapists and acknowledge that God does not at all want rape to happen… even though we may also claim that he caused it to happen.

If that sounds paradoxical, it is. Welcome to the world of theology.

Contrary to what many feminist writers claim, it is actually possible to oppose legal abortion and not hate women. Richard Mourdock may be misogynist, but he didn’t show it last night; he only demonstrated an inability to properly and non-offensively articulate his theology and a fairly common Republican belief that that theology has relevance to his political platform.