25 October 2012

On Republican Gaffes, God Sanctioned Rape, and the Dangers of Divine Plans

Well what do you know, another month goes by, and another Republican politician in the United States confounds the public with his views on rape. Last time it was Todd Akin who showed his ignorance of human physiology when he asserted that women physically cannot fall pregnant if it is ‘legitimate rape’, which then has people wondering what the corollary to this term could possibly be (illegitimate rape?). This time we have Richard Mourdock from Indiana, who dropped this interesting quote during a debate:
“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realise that life is that gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.”
Mourdock is an anti-abortion candidate, which is an odd enough concept that begs us to consider the converse side; a pro-abortion candidate. But in this instance he was outlining why he believes that abortions performed after rape should be outlawed, and the only time such procedures be allowed is when the mother’s life is in jeopardy.
Now I find the abortion issue to be a contentious one at the best of times, but moving past the inherent grey areas that this inevitably invokes, I can’t help but think that the backlash faced by Mourdock because of his words is a somewhat undeserved and hypocritical reaction by a lot of people who would generally consider themselves a Christian.
Don’t get me wrong here; I think that the idea of a divinely sanctioned rape reaches for the heights of absurdity. But that being said, the view he is expressing is far from inconsistent with mainstream Christians thought.

How many times, upon hearing some bad news, or even in general discussions with Christians, do you hear the plan of a god invoked as the ersatz explanation. We may find it hard to face the capricious nature of things such as cancer striking down people seemingly at random, and thus hope to find solace in some reason for this happening. But the fact of the matter is that some things in this world are not only beyond our control, but also beyond meaningful interpretation.
By this I mean that not everything has a purpose, and though it might seem easier to bear the hand that life has dealt us if we are willing to take on faith that everything has a purpose, this view not only has the bulk of history working against it (why I ask you was the holocaust necessary?), but it also has a lot of dangerous implications.

If you do take the view that a god does have a plan, and that we are all slowly meandering through life on paths set in advance by the almighty, then you have to accept the full implications of this position. If there is a plan, then things such as rape, cancer, murder, the holocaust and so on; all these things must be a part of this plan. After all, if they weren’t a part of the plan, then surely they would have had a massive butterfly effect on things by now.
Not only do I find the divine plan way of thinking unsatisfactory, and uncaring, but I also see the inherent dangers in living your life on what is essentially an amusement park ride; where you have no control, and are just along for the trip.
Something that can be used to retroactively permit and explain any action can also be used in the present to justify any future actions. This is where the danger lies. Accepting things that have happened as a part of a god’s plan strips you of any responsibility of your own; it leads to fatalism, and to an acceptance of whatever situations arise.
The idea of a divine plan is untenable at the best of times, and dangerous at the worst. It can offer consolation, but as we have seen in the case of Mr Mourdock, it can also offer a twisted sense of justification and acceptance after the fact.

Let me know what you think in the comments, especially if you are a Christian (or otherwise) who hold to the view that everything happens for a reason.

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