Make us your home page

The Feed

What you're talking about today

Media debate about Mourdock's rape comments seems to miss the idea of free will



mourdock1.jpgI drew chuckles on Tuesday when I told a crowd of journalists about my schooling: I attended a Jewish middle school and a Catholic high school, sent to those instutions by my mother, an English teacher who just wanted me to get a good education.

One of the best things about that experience was the education I got on how different religions view life. At my Jewish middle school, we had sessions with the Temple's rabbi to talk about life and Jewish law. At my Catholic high school, we had a class every semester focused on the faith and its tenets (one class was actually called, simply, "faith.")

Those lessons rose in my mind again as I thought about the awkward comments and positions so many conservative candidates seem to have on the issue of rape, conception and abortion.

mourdock2.jpgAtlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates summed up the thinking this morning in a blog post called Mourdock, Conception and Theodicy, in which he took apart Indiana senate candidate Richard Mourdock's recent statement in a speech: "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

Coates writes: 
"It's very important to be clear on this:
    1) Mourdock believes that life begins at conception. 
    2) He also believes that whenever conception occurs, God intended it and it is a gift.
    3) He further believes that rape is one way in which conception sometimes occurs.
    4) Thus he believes that conception through rape is a gift from God and furthermore intended by God."
But I think Mourdock and some others who have expressed similar thoughts are missing an important point; something that came up often in my faith classes and discussions with the rabbis: free will.
mourdock3.jpgStay with me here. Without the ability to freely choose any action, faith is meaningless. Man must be free to choose sin for a choice to follow God to have weight.
I've always felt, based on those ideas, that crime, war, violence and many of the awful things people do to each other could be explained as a result of free will. Which would mean, for example, that conception as a result of a committed relationship could be seen as the result of a positive choice and conception as a result of sexual assault could be seen as the harmful impact of a bad one.
That would also mean that rape and many other awful occurrences in life are not the result of God's will, but of man's bad choices.
I'm not particularly observant of any religion myself. But I do fear that the limited views advanced by some conservatives not only make them look bad, but reflect badly on the devoutly religious, as well.
Because I have met many religious people who have taken the time to study and think through these issues in ways that allow more nuanced conclusions, even as they remain stalwart in their faith.
Here's what Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had to say about it:

[Last modified: Sunday, October 28, 2012 7:02pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours