In addition to increasing the chance that Democrats will maintain control of the United States Senate by winning an open seat in Indiana, Republican senatorial candidate Richard Mourdock opened up an interesting line of theological questioning with his instantly infamous rape comment.
In a Senate debate Tuesday night, Richard Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer, tried to distinguish himself from two opponents who also oppose abortion, explaining why he does not accept an exception for pregnancies conceived by rape.
“I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God,” Mr. Mourdock said. “And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Hmmmmm. Let's agree with Mourdock that life is a gift from God. And that if life is conceived after a rape, God intended this to happen.
The big theological questions then become: What isn't a gift from God? What isn't intended by God to happen?
If the answer is "nothing," this really is the same as "everything."
Meaning, if there's never any difference between what happens and what God wants to have happen, there's no point in bringing God into the cause and effect equation. Stuff would happen, or not happen, in the cosmos exactly the same whether or not God is viewed as the intentional cause.
Humorist/satirist Stephen Colbert made a similar point on his show last night.
Now sadly, it's too late for Richard Mourdock. These comments have left his campaign in shambles. But you know what? Don't shed a tear, folks. Because I've come to realize that this is just something that God intended to happen.
Sure. Makes sense. If conception after a rape is God's will, why isn't Mourdock's political embarassment after saying "conception after a rape is God's will" also God's will?
Since nobody knows what God wills or doesn't will (assuming God exists, an assumption I strongly doubt), guessing God's intentions seems absurdly misguided. Anyone who claims to know what's in God's mind is either so delusional or gullible (at one time I was probably in this camp), they deserve to be as soundly ridiculed as Mourdock has been the past few days.
If someone believes in God, he or she should either consider that God is utterly uninvolved with the world, or completely in control of everything. Anything inbetween, where God wills some events but not others, strikes me as theologically absurd.
I'm fond of quoting the medieval mystical theologian Meister Eckhart on this subject.
“Now I hear you ask, ‘How do I know that it is God’s will? My answer is that if it were not God’s will even for a moment, then it would not exist. Whatever is must be his will. If God’s will is pleasing to you, then whatever happens to you, or does not happen to you, will be heaven.”
So abortion is God's will. Not having an abortion is God's will. Homosexuality is God's will. Heterosexuality is God's will. Life is God's will. Death is God's will. Freaking everything is God's will.
Which, as noted above, basically says nothing.
God is irrelevant if God is responsible for everything that happens. We're left with a pantheist abstraction in which we call "God" the entire cosmos, and "God's will" whatever happens in the cosmos.
Personally, I'd rather leave God out of the answer to Why does stuff happen? But if believers want to include God as a cause of earthly happenings, it makes more sense to go all the way: assume that everything which happens is God's will.
That way, at least, encourages humility, acceptance, gratitude, flexibility, and non-judgmentalism. Go the other way, and you get guys like Richard Mourdock.