Steinberg: Mourdock’s mistake is speaking for God
BY NEIL STEINBERG email@example.com October 24, 2012 6:30PM
On Wednesday, Indiana GOP U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock explains his comment at a debate Tuesday night that if a woman becomes pregnant from rape, “that’s something God intended.” | Michael Conroy~AP
Updated: November 26, 2012 7:17AM
Here’s the difference. And pay attention, because while it is not a particularly complex concept, some people just can’t seem to wrap their heads around it.
Say that my entire family is eaten by wolves. In my grief, I insist, “I’m not grieving, I’m happy, because it’s all part of God’s plan. The Lord wanted this to happen. My family is in heaven now, eating ice cream.”
Everyone nods, no decent person would argue. It’s my right to spin my tragedy however I like, however brings me solace.
Now change the premise. My family is fine. The wolves rush past them to your family and eats your family instead. While you are grieving, I stroll over, drape my arm around your shoulder and say, “Don’t grieve. Be happy, because it’s part of God’s plan. The Lord wanted this to happen. Your family is in heaven now, eating ice cream.”
I’m a jerk to say that, right? Because I’m using my religious outlook to dismiss the tragedy that has torn your life apart. It’s not my place. We have the right to interpret the universe in a way that makes sense to us. What we don’t have a right to do is expect — never mind demand — that other people share our worldview.
This flies by some Republicans, and they trip over it. Particularly when it comes to abortion. They are so lost in their own religious belief — that a fetus is a baby, that God is against abortion, contraception, often sex itself — that the idea that other people get to form their own beliefs too on these issues, just like they do, flies by them. It boggles their minds.
Thus Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock joined a growing list of Tea Party Republicans — Joe Walsh, Todd Akin — who stumbled into a briar patch by telling women what to believe, in this case when Mourdock said when a women conceives after a rape, “it’s something God intended.”
From a purely religious perspective, that shouldn’t be a controversial statement — everything is something God intended. Nothing slips by the Big Guy.
But that is a generality of faith that people may choose to apply to themselves. When it becomes tied to a specific instance dictated to others — after your family is eaten by wolves, or a woman is raped — it strays into Fred Phelps territory, where the tragedies of innocent parties are seized by religious fanatics, who use them to try to score ideological points.
Mourdock’s remarks came 48 hours after Mitt Romney officially endorsed him, causing furious backpedaling from those who don’t want voters to think about how Republicans want to constrain the rights of women. Mourdock felt compelled to clarify God’s position: “God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that He does. Rape is a horrible thing.”
Thanks for the update. So God is against rape, but he’s for babies conceived by rape?
“I believe God controls the universe,” said Mourdock, not bothering to add, “and I want to change the laws of the United States so you have to act as if you believe so too.”
I can’t speak for God, but nature sure wants women who are raped to sometimes give birth, just as nature, in its raw state, also wants humans to be filthy, hungry, scrambling mammals who die by the age of 35. Science nudges us beyond that on many fronts, including giving women the ability to end pregnancies. Most understand and accept that, but a shrinking minority — clustered in this country, alas — don’t. They intend to go down fighting. That is their misfortune, and ours.