By now, you’ve seen the headlines: last night at the debate in New Albany among U.S. Senate hopefuls, Richard Mourdock said some stuff about abortion that got him a lot of outraged comment and a big ol’stiff-arm from Mitt Romney. Mourdock said, “Life is a gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something God intended to happen.” Of course, Mourdock’s been spinning, saying, “What I said is God creates life,” and calling “sick” and “bizarre” anyone who’d assert he meant that God intends for people to be raped.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what he asserted. And it reveals a much larger issue for conservative Christians everywhere: the problem of evil.
Most conservative Christians of all denominations are taught to believe that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. God knows everything, can do anything, and is one-hundred percent good.
So why does God allow rape? Cancer? War? Genocide? Or even broken ankles and shingles and headaches?
It’s a puzzler, for sure. Is the answer that God actually doesn’t know about the bad stuff? Or that He can’t stop it? Or that He can, but chooses not to? It would seem you’d have to sacrifice one of your three major attributes of God–omniscience, omnipotence, or omnibenevolence–to get a satisfying answer.
Christian apologists and secular philosophers have debated the problem of evil for centuries. The apologists may say that God hasn’t yet brought down his wrath, but that, one day, all the evil will be vanquished; the doubters say that that sucks for the people who were raped and tortured and murdered. The apologists say that our rewards are in heaven; the doubters say that, according to your faith, not all people go to heaven. (In fact, all those Jews in Nazi prison camps, who were by definition not Christian, must have gone straight to Hell.) The apologists say that we can’t judge God’s love by human standards. But then, what does “love” mean? If it means something different for God, why even use the word? Why not just say, “God is Pop Tarts”?
I believe Richard Mourdock truly is a man of faith. I believe that he, too, struggles with the problem of evil–and that the only answer he’s found is that God intends for people to be raped, for some mysterious reason only God knows.
It’s also why I’m not voting for him. I find that position abhorrent. It turns God into a sadist, and I can’t worship a sadistic god.
But I wish more people struggled with the problem of evil. It’s playing out in our state and national and local politics every day. Maybe when we really examine our candidate’s beliefs in public forums, we’ll end up getting better government. And better religion.