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).
I think the above video on the controversial Health and Human Services mandate in the U.S. speaks for itself. :)
By John Rieping | All rights reserved | Previously published October 6, 2012, in The Madera Tribune
Few people today remember the magnitude of the so-called “mercy killing” by the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, which created about 15,000 concentration, labor, and death camps in Europe from 1933-1945.
Their target was human “life unworthy of life.”
Camp occupants included Jews, gypsies, the handicapped, political prisoners, trade union supporters, the mentally ill, criminals, pacifists, the homeless, prisoners of war, Jehovah’s Witnesses, street vendors, homosexuals, Polish and Soviet civilians, and Christian clergy, seminarians, monks, and nuns.
Approximately 17 million people, including as many as 5.7 million Jews, were murdered in those camps and in organized anti-Semitic massacres, such as the Night of Broken Glass attacks by paramilitary units throughout Nazi Germany in November 1938.
Concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel said, “Not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims… They were doomed not because of something they had done or proclaimed or acquired but because of who they were.”
The Nazi attempt to systematically exterminate Judaism is often called the Holocaust (Greek for a totally burnt offering to God) or the Shoah (Hebrew for catastrophe). That atrocity is seared on the pages of history and the hearts of many.
Two out of three European Jews died in those days. As did about 6 million (22 percent) of Poland’s general population and about 10 million people of nearby Ukraine. Both nations suffered under Nazi Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, but nearly all of the Polish victims were non-combatants.
In various parts of Poland, 31 to 80 percent of Catholic clergy were deported to Nazi concentration camps in 1939 alone. Nuns and monks were also; 60 convents and monasteries would be closed in the Silesia area. In the Cieszyn region, all Protestant clergy were sent to death camps.
That year, Cardinal Augustine Hlond, Catholic archbishop of Gniezno-Poznan in Poland, wrote: “The cathedral has been turned into a garage at Pelplin; the bishop’s palace into a restaurant; the chapel into a ballroom. Hundreds of churches have been closed. The whole patrimony of the Church has been confiscated, and the most eminent Catholics executed.”
In such harsh circumstances, Hlond secretly fled his flock without warning. He was the only Catholic bishop in Poland who abandoned his post during the Nazi persecution, and he met with an initially chilly reception at the Vatican when he later surfaced in Rome. Strengthened in resolve, he turned back towards Poland and was arrested. Offered freedom if he’d urge cooperation with the Nazis, he refused.
Yet Christian convents, monasteries, and houses of ministry and worship were not only grabbed in Poland, Austria, and other parts of Nazi-occupied Europe. Germany also would see it. Its clergy too would go to the camps.
On July 13, 1941, the outraged bishop of Münster, Germany, let out the first of several of his most famous roars. That Sunday he preached of the deportation of priests and cloistered nuns, the seizure of their houses, and other acts of the secret police, the Gestapo.
“None of us is safe,” Count Clemens von Galen said, “not even whether he be in conscience the most honest citizen, safe from not being one day taken from his own house, stripped of his freedom, imprisoned in the concentration camps of the State’s secret police.”
He concluded with a demand for justice, and a witness reported, “The men and the women rose to their feet, voices lifted in agreement and also in terror and indignation, something that is generally unimaginable here amongst us, in church. I saw people burst into tears.” (Positio, op.cit. Vol. 1 Summarium, p. 418)
His words spread everywhere. The following Sunday the church would be packed, and not just with locals. Some came from far off. Again he spoke plainly against the Gestapo, who had continued their work that past week.
He then urged: “Harden yourselves, do not yield; stand firm like the anvil beneath the strokes of the hammer. It may be that obedience to God and conscience will cost us our lives, our freedom, and our homes. But let us die rather than sin. May God's grace, without which we are powerless, give us and preserve in us this unshakable firmness.”
He ended by asking for prayers for relatives, “all those who suffer unjustly,” and many others. When he finished, the congregation spontaneously shouted back in response: “And for our bishop!”
Wisely said. For the Gestapo persisted in confiscating local monasteries and convents, and exiling nuns and priests in the weeks to come.