Apparently a U.S. politician has said something to the effect that a conception that results from a rape is, the offense of the rape not withstanding, an act of God, which therefore makes the conception’s resulting in the birth of a child the will of God. I have no desire to pursue the matter politically in terms of this one politician, what he actually said, or how his statement affects his approval ratings and with whom. It’s the theology of the matter I wish to challenge.
Christians see and acknowledge God as the Creator and so thank and praise God for all that is good in the world. Christians see and acknowledge also that there is evil in the world that does harm contrary to the will of God. Jesus rejected the then-popular notion that everything which happens in this world and in people’s lives happens in accordance with the will of God, and thereby he called us away from the idea that God is the author of the world’s evils. He clearly saw in our world a clash of wills, and so he taught his followers to pray that God’s will would prevail in life (“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”) That petition of the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father would seem rather silly if everything were already done, automatically, in accordance with God’s will, would it not? Why pray for something that is already a foregone conclusion, an unalterable reality, a done deal whether we like it or not? Why then speak of injustices at all? Or of evils? If it is God’s will, how can it be evil?
Here’s another highly significant factor: the Creator has turned the world over to its own systems and rules, its own nature, including its evils and randomness. The apostle Paul says God has subjected the creation to its own corruption, but in the hope that it will eventually be redeemed and share in the life and freedom of the children of God (see the Letter to the Romans, chapter 8). I take that to mean that the terrible, sinful act of rape can, by the natural process, result in conception (despite what some unscientific wishful thinkers may dream up about the female body’s magical ability to prevent conception if the rape was “legitimate”). That is, the evil deed of violating the woman can perpetuate itself.
Why should a girl or woman who has been violated by the evil of rape ever have to know it has resulted in the further violation of conception? Biblical truth is relational, not detached, objective, and coldly biological. Children should be conceived in love. Why should a woman who has been raped not have the right to rid her body of the invasion? Is God really in cahoots with the rapist?
There has been within the church and continues to be the unbiblical notion that the sole purpose of human sexuality is progeneration. The second chapter of the Bible’s book of Genesis disagrees. There human sexuality is placed within the context of relationship, the context of love. It is presented as God’s response to the observation that, “It is not good for the human to be alone,” and it is offered as a matter of delight in the other person whose loving presence offers the continually renewed solution to the problem of aloneness. The church’s unbiblical view of sex for reproduction only (plus, sometimes, for the regulation and restriction of the male sexual urge) effectively turns women into birth machines with no say in the matter. Women are thereby reduced to receptacles and incubators.
Liberating Christian principle: Not everything which happens in this world happens in accordance with the will of God. There are evils which are not to be accepted as good: cancer, bigotry, repression, murder, and rape among seemingly countless examples of the evils done to people and communities by other people or by the apparent randomness of a natural world turned over to itself. Among the deliberate evils is conception by rape. That evil is actually used as a weapon against life by hate-filled people seeking to terrorize a group they despise, as in Darfur where the Janjaweed raped women because they knew (1) the women would not seek to prevent or terminate pregnancy and (2) the woman’s own tribe would ostracize her and her child because they recognized the child as belonging the tribe of the “father” (that is, the rapist). So, the child was born Janjaweed, in the belief system of the people. In this way, the terrorists were able to rape a whole community as well as an individual woman. This situation is not unique. Rape has long been a weapon of warfare and oppression, of humiliation and intimidation.
Does a woman who has conceived as the result of having been raped not have the right to choose to carry the fetus to term and give birth? Yes, she has that right, but it is her right to choose only if she has that choice. She may choose to do her best to redeem a terrible act of evil, but it is such a redemption only if it is her choice. She is not a birth machine governed by men, and there is no redemption in the birth if it is forced upon her.
I believe Christians need to accept Jesus’ liberating principle and oppose the evils done to people and to stop calling their harmful consequences “the will of God.” We should not be sanctifying rape or conception by rape, and we should not be trying to legislate women into second-class human beings, slaves to the will and whims of men falsely equated with the will of God.