By John Rieping | All rights reserved | Previously published October 27, 2012, in The Madera Tribune
I mistook it for a misunderstanding based on poor grammar when I first heard about the controversy over Richard Mourdock, an Indiana Republican candidate running for the U.S. Senate.
During a debate Tuesday, he said, “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to believe 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.”
The copy editor in me cringed at his unclear use of the word “it.” As a fellow Christian, I instinctively realized the first “it” referred to the issue of abortion and the second “it” to new life. The second "it" did not refer to rape. No Christian in his right mind believes God desires rape to happen.
I assumed that Mourdock’s poor grammar caused some to misinterpret his statement and the misunderstanding sparked justifiable outrage in Democratic and Republican politicians alike.
I guess I’m a bit naive.
Mourdock clarified and affirmed what he meant at a press conference Thursday, but by Wednesday some politicians had already made it clear they instead took offense at his belief that human life is always a gift from God.
“I don’t know how these guys come up with these ideas,” President Obama told talk show host Jay Leno after the host accurately paraphrased Mourdock’s comment.
Obama didn’t need to look any further than scriptures shared by Jew and Christian alike.
“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is a reward from him.” (Tehillim/Psalm 127:3)
“For it was you (God) who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb… My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my embryo (in Hebrew, “golmi” or “golem”). In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.” (Tehillim/Psalm 139:13, 15-16).
Similar messages can be found in the words of the Jewish prophets Jeremiah (1:5) and Isaiah (44:2) along with the complaints of Job (10:8-12).
Since when does such a basic Judeo-Christian belief disqualify a person from governmental office? Wait. Don’t answer. Apparently the answer is: now.
Efforts to denounce and politically isolate Mourdock continue.
While it is difficult to imagine a worse origin for a pregnancy than rape, would any Christian or Jewish politician claim God is responsible for the existence of some human life and not of others? Or that God values some humans but not others?
It seems the Great Recession was worse than we thought if even God’s unconditional love and omnipotence has been downsized.
It has long been said that after God created humanity in his own image we’ve been ever eager to return the favor. But I agree with the great African bishop Augustine (AD 354-430) who said: “If you comprehend it, it is not God.” Or as John, an apostle of Jesus, wrote in a letter: “God is greater than our hearts.” (Cf. 1st John 3:20)
In 2007, Jonathan Torgovnik, a photojournalist for Newsweek magazine, co-founded the nonprofit Foundation Rwanda after hearing firsthand of the terrible hardships of women who had birthed children from rapes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. A few of their stories can be read on its website, www.foundationrwanda.org. Don’t expect uplifting tales with happy endings.
An estimated 20,000 children resulted from rape during the genocide.
One woman, Stella, says of her son, “He is my life. He is the only life I have. I love him. I like him. He is my only kid. If I did not have him, I don’t know what I would be.”
Another woman, Valentine, shared how she favored her firstborn girl, born of marital love, over her violently-conceived daughter, who she initially felt no affection towards at all. When the second baby cried she would ignore her. “But,” she said, “slowly I am beginning to also appreciate that this other one is innocent.”
Nevertheless the precious hearts of these women are nothing compared to that of God, who promised through the prophet Isaiah: “Can a woman forget the baby nursing at her breast? Will she have no compassion on the child of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget you.“ (Isaiah 49:15).