In her rush to condemn U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, liberal theologian Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite -- no stranger to criticism here on NewsBusters -- took the Indiana Republican's recent comments on abortion out of context and subsequently offered up readers a theology which, if followed to its logical conclusion, demeans the humanity and God-given dignity of persons living today who were conceived because of rape.
Here's how the Center for American Progress senior fellow began her October 24 "On Faith" column at WashingtonPost.com:
Indiana GOP U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock has declared he opposes aborting pregnancies conceived in rape because “it is something that God intended to happen.”
No, God does not “cause” either rape or conception following rape, nor is this “God’s intention.”
Rape is a crime.
Rape is an offense to God, and violates God’s intention for human life.
Of course, Mourdock did not intend to excuse the moral evil that is rape, nor did he say that God grants moral approval of that evil. As a theologian in the United Church of Christ, a church that has theological roots in the Reformed and Congregational traditions, Brooks Thistlethwaite most surely knows that historically Christians have believed that there's a difference between God's moral will, that is, what he wishes human beings to do -- love your neighbor as yourself, do not steal, do not murder, do not commit adultery, etc. -- and God's sovereign will, the notion that NOTHING that happens is outside God's knowledge and assent to happen, because God is working through those things for his perfect purpose.
Brooks Thistlethwaite most certainly is aware of these finer categories, but is perhaps counting on the fact that many in her readership are not.
Brooks Thistlethwaite continued, without a hint of irony (emphasis mine):
Not only is the physical violence part of the sinfulness of rape, so also is one person forcing his will on another. This diminishes the image of God in the one forced against her will, as God created human beings to be able to act and be creative, not to be passive and acted upon.
In the act of abortion, however, one human being uses physical violence to force her will upon another, that is, the one's will that the other should cease to live. Does not abortion then "[diminish] the image of God" in the conceived person who is "forced against [his]/her will" to live?
Later in her column, Brooks Thistlethwaite added (emphasis mine):
When you take away the capacity for ethical agency following violent rape, you are contributing to the diminishment of these human beings and impeding their recovery.
But by flatly declaring that the sin of rape overrides God's will, Brooks Thistlethwaite has herself diminished the humanity of human beings like Monica Kelsey, an Indiana woman who was conceived in a rape. Her theology fundamentally demeans the imago Dei in which rape victims are created:
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - An Indiana woman says she supports Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s controversial comment on abortion and rape.
Monica Kelsey of Woodburn, Indiana, says she was conceived through rape in 1972.
Kelsey always knew she was adopted, and says she met her birth mother Sandy about 20 years ago.
It was only two years ago, her birth mother told her something else.
“My mother was raped at 17. She went to a back alley abortion clinic in 1972,” said Kelsey. “She was so young, she was 17 years old. Her life had been changed, and all she wanted was her life back.”
But that day, Kelsey says her birth mother changed her mind.
“I owe my life to pro-life advocates, for saying my life was worth saving,” said Kelsey. “I don’t deserve to die for the act of my father.”
“20 years ago, I was pro-life with exceptions. I never really looked at the child's point of view, I only looked at the mother.”
Kelsey heard Mourdock's comments, and then the public outcry for him to apologize.
“I stand behind Richard Mourdock 100 percent because if you're going to be pro-life, there cannot be exceptions, because we're not thinking about the child, if there are exceptions,” Kelsey added.
Brooks Thistlethwaite may answer that the rape victims like Kelsey's natural mother were gravely sinned against, and indeed they are, but being sinned against is not a biblical or moral excuse for perpetrating an evil upon an innocent party, in this case the unborn child.
But make no mistake, Brooks Thistlethwaite is not interested in an theological discussion or biblical exegesis. Her goal is to use her perceived authority as a theologian to pronounce an anathema upon a conservative Republican with whom she disagrees, something she's done time and again in her On Faith features, on issues from taxes to gun control to Occupy Wall Street.