When Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock called pregnancy that results from rape as
"something that God intended”, it set off a firestorm of criticism. Many prominent Republicans, including John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, and Tommy Thompson are distancing themselves from Mourdock, but presidential candidate Mitt Romney continues to stand by his endorsement of Mourdock, the only one he's made for a Congressional candidate.
But what continues to surprise me is how the voices of progressive Christians never seem to get heard in the political fray. Sure, there may be Christian leaders that agree with Mourdock’s statement and feel like his words are being taken out of context, and the secular public may be condemning the Republican as a religious extremist. But there are also many Christians, (and Jews, Muslims or Buddhists, I'm sure) who are horrified by Mourdock’s statement. Free will, anybody? And why doesn't he also say caring for the victimized is also part of God’s will?
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A group of ministers affiliated with liberal denominations decried Mourdock on Think Progress, including Rev. Elizabeth Barnum, United Church of Christ minister serving in Rhode Island:
“Rape is an act of overt personal violence and an egregious abuse of power that the God I believe in does not sanction. A woman who is faced with a pregnancy from such a traumatic attack on her body and soul must have all options available to her when deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, including the right granted to her by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 to a safe and legal abortion.”
Anne Lamott, who is outspokenly Christian, liberal, and feminist, and writes this on her Facebook page:
That poor Mitt. His ad endorsing Mr. Mourdock for the Indiana Senate just out yesterday, and here Mr. Mourdock has gone and become the new Todd Akin. I just KNOW this is going to get those uppity binder women all agitated again. You know how they are.
The whole Mourdock incident opens up a few big questions about religion, diversity and politics. Here goes…
First of all, there’s questions about Mourdock’s theology:
Huffington Post Senior Religion Editor Paul Brandeis Rauschenbush writes in his post, No Mr. Mourdock, God Didn’t Intend That:
No God didn't. There are some things that God doesn't intend. At some point, sane religious people must insist that not everything was meant to happen, including rape -- and including conception as the result of a rape.
Second, there’s the issue of whether Mourdock’s statement is representative of Christianity. To me, Mourdock and his ill-thought out words are the pinnacle of the stereotype in popular American culture of what a “Christian” is supposed to be: white, evangelical, middle-class and highly conservative. Just a few days ago, CNN published an article about President Obama’s supposed radical, leftist take on the Christian faith, with the Rush Limbaugh meets Monty Python headline The Gospel According to Obamabecause he:
“invoked Jesus to support same-sex marriage, framed health care as a moral imperative to care for “’he least of these,’’ and once urged people to read their Bible but just not literally,”
And who can forget the controversy during the 2008 election over Obama’s former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, because of his “black separatist” beliefs? Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast points out that Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion contains many just as controversial ideas. However, Romney’s religion has not been put in the crucible since the early days of the GOP primaries.
Then, there’s the issue of whether Mourdock’s (or anyone’s) religious belief belong in a political conversation. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told U.S. News and World Reports, “To say that it is God's will is such a misuse of religion."
For people who are atheist or agnostic, it’s not difficult to separate religion and politics. And it’s easy to be absolute in religious beliefs in a homogenous society. But it gets more complicated in a changing nation where there’s people of different faiths – and some with no affiliation.
Joe Biden expressed it well during the vice presidential debate, in response to Martha Raddatz’s question about how he and Paul Ryan’s religious beliefs inform their stances on abortion:
I'd like to hear discussion about religion in public life that goes beyond the polar extremes of "All religious people are crazy fundamentalists" or "Religion should dictate all laws of our country". How about you?
“Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.
But I refuse to impose that on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews.”
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