Richard Mourdock Does Not Speak for All Christians

I am pro-life.  Let me start with that so there’s no misconstrual of what I’m going to post here.  When I was an unChristian, I had no problem with abortion.  When I realized that I was a Christian Psalm 139 in particular caused me to reconsider:

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.  Psalm 139:13-16 (The Message)

Older translations say that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God in our mothers’ wombs.  Certainly that “fearfully and wonderfully made” fetus is a precious life.  But . . .

I’ve known women and girls who have had abortions.  Pro-life folks often caricature these women.  But none in my experience celebrated their abortions or saw them as expressions of their feminist identity.  Most of them grieved, at least on some level, at what they saw as their least-worst option in the reality of their lives.

I have never been sure that laws are the solution to the tragedy of abortion.  I’m not sure if throwing women and/or doctors in jail is the merciful and just way to proceed.  I’m not sure if that is what Jesus would do.

What I am sure about is that laws against the abortion of fetuses carried by rape victims cannot be merciful and just.  And that brings me to the comments of Indiana Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock.

In a debate on October 23, Mourdock was asked about abortion in cases where the pregnancy is the result of rape.  This is how he responded:

 “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that 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.”

Immediately, Mr. Mourdock was pilloried for seeming to say that a rape resulting in pregnancy “is something that God intended to happen.”  How can he say, people asked, that God intended for a woman to be raped?  Even fellow Republicans, including the Republican presidential candidate, disavowed what Mr. Mourdock said.

In interpreting the words of another person, we Lutherans are guided by Martin Luther’s explanation of the 8th Commandment.  In his Small Catechism paragraph on the meaning of the “Do not bear false witness” commandment, Luther writes that the commandment calls us to put the best possible construction on the words of another.

The best possible construction of what Mr. Mourdock said is that he inartfully expressed a basic Biblical truth.  As he has tried to explain in subsequent statements, he did not mean to say that any rape is “God’s will.”  Like all evil, rape is not God’s intention, although acts of human sinfulness can be redeemed by God.

Mourdock’s point apparently (hopefully) was that all human life is a gift from God, even human life that is rooted in an act of despicable violence.  Therefore, by Mr. Mourdock’s reasoning, abortion even in the case of rape should be illegal.

I disagree.  What is theologically true – that life is a gift of God – does not always make fair, just, and merciful law.  Do we really want to make abortion, as tragic as it is, against the law for women who are raped?  Do we want to hold the loaded gun of the law, threatening prison or whatever, to a women’s head who has already been violently violated?

Do we really want to say to a woman in that desperate position, “You deliver that baby or we’re going to throw you in jail!”

That is not a power I want my government to have.

“But what about the baby,” pro-lifers who agree with Mr. Mourdock will protest.  “What about the woman,” others will answer.

We live in a world that is fallen and filled with sinners (us).  That means that sometimes – perhaps often – there will be no “good” alternative, only the “least worst” of unfortunate possibilities.  Pretending that there is always a “right” either/or way to proceed in every situation ignores the reality in which we live.  It ignores the reality of the fallen world described in the Bible.

Certainly, when a woman is pregnant as a result of a rape Christians can lovingly, counsel, support and encourage her to deliver the child.*  But we must never coerce.

Here’s the thing – this support can only take place in a real way in the context of a pre-existing relationship.  This doesn’t begin with the post-rape situation.  What we are really talking about is an evangelism, not a legal, issue.  Not changing minds through the hammer of the law or through our own efforts, but change of hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Too often we Christians give women who are considering abortion  – and women and men in general – the impression that God, and by extension we, only love them if they “do the right thing.”

With his reputation for unfortunate statements, I am surprised to be quoting Dan Quayle to conclude this post.  But here I go . . . once he was asked, in light of his pro-life stance, what he would do if one of his daughters became pregnant and decided to have an abortion.  He said that he would counsel her not to, but if she decided to go ahead he would support her decision and “hold her hand.”

I’m even more surprised to be agreeing with Dan Quayle.  But that sounds like pretty sound – and Christ-like – advice.


*Christians who are able can make themselves available to adopt such children.  Christians can also be more open-minded about who can adopt children, but that’s a topic for another post.

About pastordavesimpson

I'm an unexpected pastor. Why unexpected? Because no one is more surprised than me that I'm a pastor. See the "About" page on my blog for more info.
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9 Responses to Richard Mourdock Does Not Speak for All Christians

  1. Well said! Thank you for this post! Moudock’ s comments are so hurtful and painful to all rape victims.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Glad you are posting again!


  3. Anon says:

    Thank you so much, Pastor Dave, this issue has weighed on my heart for a long time, ever since I saw a Facebook comment from a mutual friend of ours (which is why I would prefer to comment anonymously here), an unChristian, who took great glee in saying that Christians must believe that rape is good and God ordained – even every time I’d go to the Bible for proof, it seems to be more supporting his view than contradicting it (or at least could easily be made into an agreement of that view from an unChristian viewpoint). Your analysis was very insightful, and I hope our mutual friend would see it. (Curious, was it his post that ultimately lead you to make this post?)


    • Thanks. It was not anyone’s particular post that occasioned this post; in fact it wasn’t only Mourdock’s comments either. Whenever some Christian commits buffoonery in word or deed, there are many unChristians who point and say, “Yep, that’s what those Christians are like.” Heck, I did it myself when I was away from the church. Christians need to be more vocal about what following Jesus is really all about.


      • Anon says:

        I wholeheartedly agree, however, the problem is that Mourdock and many, many, many others like him wholeheartedly believe that this is “what following Jesus is all about”, and they’re “muddying the brand” as it were. Many different views all claiming to be the “true voice of Christianity” (reminds me of 1 Kings 22); which voice do you think the un-Christians would want to hear?


  4. Reblogged this on Sisters of Christ and commented:
    This is a post from my husband’s blog. The message about God’s grace brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to share it with my readers. Enjoy!


  5. Pam Winnie says:

    I missed this when it was originally posted, thanks to Hurricane Sandy, but as usual Pastor Dave, you have a way of cutting through all the he said/she said bickering back and forth on this subject. I was appalled at Mr Mourdocks pronouncements. But your blog addresses the truth of the matter, and it has got to be one of the most difficult decisions a woman may face in any situation and many probably stand in judgment of themselves, my personal feeling is that government shouldn’t be involved.


  6. jennyelaine says:

    Thank you again Pastor Dave for this subject and for your very thoughtful thoughts… Again, like any other law-making that Christians use to pressure others (strapping women down) into acting the way they see fit…this is NOT the 1st way Christ intended for us to act towards the world. We are to be lights…to be Christ…to those around us. THIS is the power…this is what will change people’s hearts. If these women felt the love of God from Christians…if they felt supported and cared about…then think about what could and most likely would happen…2 souls would be saved! Saved in more ways then one. Saved for this life AND the next. WOW, what a powerful opportunity we have! So many of these women are ripe for the picking…for the harvest. They NEED God most of all!!


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