NEW YORK – Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who has the misfortune of a name that sounds like a villain straight out of sci-fi/fantasy, is the latest Republican to step into it when it comes to rape and abortion. When asked during Tuesdays debate, Mourdock tried to sad-face his way out of being held responsible for the vile words that came out of his mouth: I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize 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.
Naturally, many, many people objected to Mourdock painting rapists as just another part of Gods plan. Considering the centrality of the concept of free will to Christian theology, its a bit strange for Mourdock to simply erase the fact that when a man rapes a woman, he is making a choice to do so, and according to Christians, hes doing so freely. Mourdock was so busy worrying about articulating why he wants to take away womens rights after they are raped that he neglected to remember that rapists are both criminals in the eyes of the law and sinners in the eyes of his God.
Minutes after the debate, Mourdock was already trying to undo the damage. Are you trying to suggest that somehow I think God ordained or pre-ordained rape? No, I dont think that anyone could suggest that. Thats a sick, twisted – no, thats not even close to what I said, he told reporters – though he reiterated that he believes God determines when conception occurs. It is a fundamental part of my faith that God gives us life. God determines when life begins, Mourdock said. I believe in an almighty God who makes those calls. ... There are some things in life that are above my pay grade.
Whats interesting about this clarification is it doesnt clarify squat. God preordains the conception but doesnt preordain the rape, or what Paul Ryan gently calls the method of conception? At what point does God start ordaining stuff, exactly? Does he wait until youre actually in mid-rape to jump in and say, Hey, lets make this one a pregnancy because Im thinking this lady hasnt suffered enough. Or did God ordain the conception before the rape started? And from the pro-choice peanut gallery: If God can ordain the rape and the pregnancy that follows, why cant he also ordain abortion?
These questions may seem unserious, but if candidates really do imagine themselves as conduits for Gods decisions, we need a little bit more insight into Gods decision-making process. Hes not speaking for himself, so its up to the emissaries who claim to work under his authority and wish to impose it on us by law to explain. Perhaps if we really started asking these hard but important questions, we might better realize the utter silliness of letting a silent God who just happens to agree with whatever a candidate wants to believe write our laws for us, instead of sticking with that freedom of religion the writers of the Constitution thought was such a nifty idea.