October 29, 2012

Sarah Sentilles schools Richard Mourdock

Sarah Sentilles speaks to something that has driven me batty over the past few years--the definitions of who God is and who he (always "he") is not.  I still remember church members assuring me that God was so much bigger than all of us that we could not comprehend him, but then diving into a discussion of things that God either hated or loved.  As I have pointed out to a few conservatives, that reading turns God into "everything and nothing" all at the same time.  He is simply a reflection of that individual's own fears, biases, beliefs, and not some external or objective being.

Sentilles uses the bizarro world of Richard Mourdock's views on pregnancy via rape to explore those disconnects (Rape and Richard Mourdock’s Semi-Omnipotent God | Sexuality/Gender | Religion Dispatches).  One of my FB friends read some of my early "what the fuck?" posts on Mourdock and accused me of misreading and misquoting the Senatorial candidate.  He wasn't saying God caused the rape, she said, but rather that God creates all life and that fetus should not be punished for the sins of the father (though the woman clearly should).
In Mourdock’s attempts to clear up his statement by arguing that it’s the pregnancy that results from the rape and not the rape itself that is a “gift from God” he’s making even less sense than he did the first time. If it’s only the pregnancy that’s the gift, then, as Amy Davidson points out in the New Yorker, Mourdock’s God is “an absent-minded God,” who must be looking in the other direction when the rape is occurring before “rush[ing] in to make the best of it.” Mourdock can’t eat his cake and have it, too. If the pregnancy is a gift from God and God is in control of everything, then the rape is also God’s work—for that’s how the woman got pregnant. 
Mourdock’s rape-and-pregnancy theology is clearly absurd, but the trickier part is that many who critiqued Mourdock’s statements also employed a variant of this logic when they insisted (as Mourdock later did) God is against rape.
 The whole thing is well worth reading.  My favorite, I think, was this near the end of the piece.
Mourdock’s appeal to God’s intention is used to shield him and his policies from critique. Hey, it’s not my fault I won’t let a rape victim get an abortion, I imagine him saying, choking back the tears. It’s God’s will! But whose God is Mourdock talking about? And why? And who benefits from his version of God? And who loses? I certainly haven’t heard Mourdock championing anti-poverty programs much, and God certainly says a lot more about poverty in the Bible than about abortion.
Ultimately, Mourdock’s statements reveal less about his beliefs than about his views of women. Would Mourdock call erectile dysfunction part of God’s plan? If a man can’t get it up is that God’s way of telling him not to reproduce? Not to have sex? And if it is, shouldn’t we make Viagra illegal?
Perhaps Mourdock would argue that God enabled the invention of Viagra. But then couldn’t you also argue that God helped invent abortions? That their existence is proof of God’s favor? Just how, exactly, are we to determine which medical interventions God intends and which ones God doesn’t?


1 comment:

Smitty said...

Actually, Streak, I think *you* sum up her 3-paragraph sentiment better in your single, simple sentence: "He is simply a reflection of that individual's own fears, biases, beliefs, and not some external or objective being."

Your statement, and hers (though longer), remind me of the statement attributed to Susan B. Anthony:

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."

And there is the problem with fundamentalism. When you define words exactly as they are, it is *easier* to defend your biases because all you have to do is point and say 'right there: is says stone 'em.' Fundamentalism allows you to use a book ostensibly about peace instead as a weapon.