Mormon Church

The Theology of Rape

This is not just a provocative title. Sadly, it is very real, and was voiced by Indiana’s Richard Mourdock, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. During a debate this past Tuesday, he stated: “Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” No matter the spin, no matter Mourdock’s protestations to the contrary, it still comes across as God’s plan. Is that offensive? Yes. Worse still, it makes God into a monster. It is theological rape.

This is hardly surprising. Mourdock is another member of the ideologically extreme religious right that has taken over the Republican Party. Their position on abortion simply is not tenable. It is built on no scientific, philosophical or even theological foundation. Like all fanatics, when they speak they guarantee absurd and offensive statements.

Let us grant the premise that God is the author of life. Let us grant also that human life begins at conception. This is the teaching of the Catholic Church and some other Christian Churches. Some non-Christians, among them Mormons, believe the same. But what does it mean? God does not author life by the act of conceiving. God’s involvement in the process is to directly create the individual human person, or soul. However, there is no sustainable argument to suggest that happens at conception. In fact, just the opposite is true.

As I previously have reasoned in a
series of blogs, we cannot state with clarity that the individual person is created before day fourteen. In the case of rape, then, use of an emergency contraceptive measure, such as the morning after pill, would not constitute abortion. However, to process these ideas, requires more than faith. It also requires thought.

Unfortunately, the new Republican leadership operates from a combination of laziness and ignorance—a willingness to embrace simplistic concepts about life coupled with an inability to nuance thought. Indeed, there is not much thought present to begin with. That is one reason why Romney and Ryan, McConnell, McCaind and Cornyn continue to support Mourdock.

Paul Ryan gave a good demonstration of laziness when he said: “The method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.” Ryan does not even pretend a willingness to think through the issue.

Romney has an even greater problem. As a Mormon he believes that every person pre-existed prior to conception. Therefore, Romney chooses to remain ignorant about the biological development of the embryo. Why let scientific knowledge interfere with one’s pre-conceived beliefs?

In the movie “Inherit the Wind,” the character of Henry Drummond comments on the human power to think. While questioning the religiously bigoted prosecuting attorney he asks the following: “Mr. Brady, why do you deny the one faculty of man that raises him above the other creatures of the earth, the power of his brain to reason?”

There is more than a touch of irony here, because “Inherit the Wind” is a fictionalized account of the 1925 Scopes trial about the teaching of evolution. Much like the uneducated, religious fanatics of 1925, Mourdock, Romney, Ryan and their ilk seem quite content to shield themselves from a complex world. They prefer hiding in a closet with likeminded simpletons. The real world, however, requires use of God’s gifts. It requires us to think.

Give Romney a Break

Although the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates last for 90 minutes, the tendency of the media, both professional and social, is to single out a sound bite as if it is the only thing worth remembering. As if one sound bite, however clever, is a sufficient reason to vote for someone, or a misspoken comment sufficient reason not to. That would be true only if the sound bite actually had meaning, such as indicating a policy or unmasking a candidate’s true position.

In one sense the candidates, themselves, are to blame with their incessant need to seem cleverer than their opponents, waiting for that precise moment to spring a well-rehearsed “zinger”. Even worse, the candidates’ desire to pander to the voters leaves everyone hoping for a glaring error. In truth, no candidate has ever waffled as much or pandered as much as Mitt Romney. That reality is probably the source of so many of his misstatements. Still, that does not mean that each error should be turned into ridicule.

For example, in last Tuesday’s town hall debate, Romney dodged the question of equal pay for women, refusing to indicate whether or not he supported the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Instead, he referenced his time as Governor of Massachusetts, and spoke of creating flexible hours for one female employee so that she could go home and fix dinner. In the aftermath, he has been skewered by pundits with the claim that he does not respect the equality of women; that he possesses a 1950’s mentality on the role of women in society.

That accusation is supported by the fact that there were no women in positions of authority at Bain Capital when Romney ran the company. The accusation is intensified in Romney’s implication that he did not know of any qualified women to work in Massachusetts’ government. Many commentators have suggested that Mitt Romney has a problem with women, but that is exactly where he deserves a break. It is not his fault.

Most people do not want to address the real issue. However, before I address it let me point out that I have written in the past that a person’s religion should not determine his or her fitness for office. Nonetheless, it must be noted that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Like many religions, including the Christian Faith, Mormons have a checkered history when it comes to women.

Time for full disclosure: I am a Catholic and my own Church has not always had a stellar position on women. Women are denied priesthood in the Catholic Church—a position I disagree with and find theologically untenable. On the other hand, many women hold significant positions of authority in the Church. Throughout history women have been some of the Catholic Church’s finest theologians, mystics and missionaries.

The position of the Mormon Church, however, is “woman’s primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband.” That is more than just patriarchal. It is not quite as demeaning or obnoxious as the phrase “barefoot and pregnant,” but it is not far behind.

To be fair, women may also serve as missionaries in the Mormon Church. It is rare, and unlike the men, women are “not invited” to serve, but they are “welcome.” In the rare case of women missionaries, they are accepted only if they have no immediate marriage prospects. Even then it is expected that missionary work will make them better wives and mothers—their true mission in life.

The Mormon Church is driven by the belief that a woman’s place is in the home. So the real question for Mitt Romney is whether he truly respects the role of women in the work place or in government. Does he respect the opinion, decision and work of women legislators, or if he is merely pandering to win election. Now there’s a thought! But I digress.

Mitt Romney is understandably committed to and proud of his faith. As President Obama put it at the end of the debate: “I believe that Mitt Romney is a good man. He loves his family and cares for his faith.” Indeed. But the President’s esteem also misses the mark.

Romney appears to have that blind commitment to faith that does not permit him to question any tenets of his church, no matter how absurd or out of touch. That blind commitment that does not permit him to seek changes in church theology. That blind commitment that does not permit him to think for himself. That blind commitment that enables him to believe men are superior to women.

Mitt Romney does, indeed, have a problem with women, but it is not his fault.