How many Christians share the bad theology behind Mourdock's political gaffe?

By Bryan Cones| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
blog Scripture and Theology

While pundits and Democrats can't make enough political fodder of GOP Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's comment that pregnancy as a result of rape is "something God intended," I have to wonder why there aren't more theologians and pastors roundly denouncing the theology behind it. (Here's an attempt by Mark Silk, and another collection of responses.) I wonder if it isn't because many people hold this understanding of the way God's power works in the world, a variant of God "writing straight with crooked lines." It's just that no one wants to admit it when it comes to something as horrific as rape.

Frankly, it's a big problem with the way we people of faith deal with evil: We want to insist God is in complete control--which perhaps makes our suffering a bit easier--but then we're forced to say that God has some ultimate good in mind when God "permits" terrible things to happen--think the Holocaust. But we wouldn't sanction immoral means to achieve a good end for human beings, so why would we absolve God for doing it?

It seems to me sufficient to say that the rules of God's creation have made it so that, in the right conditions, when a human sperm and egg join in the right place and at the right time, human life is possible. Unfortunately, that can happen through an act of violence, which is also possible through the rules of God's creation expressed in human freedom. But to say God directly "intends" the creation of that life through such a profound perversion of human freedom is a theological step too far, and we people of faith should call out this kind of blasphemy--because that's what it is--especially when it comes from the mouth of another Christian.

That still leaves us with what Catholic tradition calls "the mystery of evil"; there is simply no good answer for the fact that something fundamentally good--human life--can result from an act of such diabolical evil--rape--which is finally why the issue of abortion in the case of rape is so fraught with moral difficulty. Some argue--and this would be most consistent with church teaching--that the objective good of the developing human life is sacrosanct, while others would respond that the pregnancy is a continuation of the objectively immoral assault on the woman who has been raped, and so an abortion in this instance would be morally permissible.

Those fine points of moral theology never get fair coverage in the press--we can hardly expect them to. But what Christians simply cannot allow, however, is permitting a frankly childish theological answer such as Mourdock's to stand without response.