God’s Will — Except When It’s Not

Theologians have a hard enough time trying to discern the will of God.  When a candidate for the U. S. Senate takes up that difficult subject in the context of a three-way debate, the waters get very muddy indeed.

Last night (October 23, 2012) Republican Senate nominee Richard Mourdock said a life conceived by rape “is something God intended to happen” and must be protected.  All three of the candidates vying for Indiana’s contested Senate seat are opposed to abortion, but it was Mr. Mourdock who asserted that his stand is motivated by his conviction that he knows the will of God in every case of rape.

Mr. Mourdock would make abortion illegal except in cases in which the life of the mother is threatened.  But not in cases of 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.”

I have to wonder why Mr. Mourdock would allow a woman to get an abortion to save her own life.  Surely if God “gifts” rape victims with pregnancy, God must also “gift” women with pregnancy at the risk of their lives.  It seems Mr. Mourdock not only knows God’s will for most women, he also knows that God alters his will for some other women.

You see the problem.  When lawmakers — especially male lawmakers — base legislation on their views of God’s will, we’re all in trouble –especially women.  If you don’t believe me, ask the women of Afghanistan.

Abortion is an enormously complicated moral issue.  Like Mr. Mourdock, I have struggled with this dilemma, and, although I respect the “seamless garment” argument embraced by Roman Catholic officialdom, I think the decision should be left to the woman in conversation with her physician, her loved ones, and her faith community.

Opponents of abortion tend to present the issue as morally unambiguous.  It’s not.  Simply stating that this – but not that – pregnancy is “the will of God” doesn’t really advance the conversation.  It just paints the people who support choice as opposed to the will of God.

In my lifetime some Christians have maintained that it is the will of God that women stay home to tend house, that “colored” and “white” people remain segregated, and that homosexuals go straight to hell.  God’s will is a difficult thing to discern.  It takes prayer, study, and honest conversation.  Then, with fear and trembling, we make a decision with the knowledge that we could be wrong.

There are days when I wish I had Mr. Mourdock’s moral clarity.  Most of the time, however, I’d say that kind of clarity is more curse than gift.

About Brant Copeland

I was born in Brownsville, Texas, grew up in San Antonio and in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I'm the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Tallahassee, Florida.
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One Response to God’s Will — Except When It’s Not

  1. Sue Safford says:

    Certainty about God’s will has brought tragedy more often than not: persecutions by Christians throughout the ages of witches (women), heretics (the Inquisition), and so on ad nauseam. I prefer the assurance of God’s gracious presence and of mercy when we fail.

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