Mourdock, Conception, and Theodicy

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A note on theodicy from one of Andrew Sullivan's readers (emphasis added):

I find Richard Mourdock's views on abortion repugnant, but I find myself in the oddly sympathetic to him [sic] as everyone piles on him for his remark on conceptions arising from rape. As far as I can tell, he said that conception was a gift from God, not that rape was. Much of the commentary, including TNC's, conflates the two, seemingly deliberately. To hang the latter around Mourdock's neck seems to me to be blaming him for not having solved the problem of theodicy (reconciling an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God with the existence of evil). I'm all for having high standards for our elected representatives, but to demand that they solve a problem that has flummoxed theologians and philosophers throughout history seems to me excessive.
A quick refresher on Mourdock's words:
I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.
It's very important to be clear on this:
  1. Mourdock believes that life begins at conception. 
  2. He also believes that whenever conception occurs, God intended it and it is a gift. 
  3. He further believes that rape is one way in which conception sometimes occurs. 
  4. Thus he believes that conception through rape is a gift from God and furthermore intended by God. 
The reader, and Mourdock, share a belief system in which one can separate "conception" from "rape." 

I also have a belief system. I believe cheap luxury goods to be a gift from God, even when limbs are mangled in the process. I believe that my McDonald's is sanctioned by God, though I am sorry for the clipped chicken beaks. And I believe God intended America to be great, though he played no part in the slavery, the banditry, the pogroms -- the long rape -- in which it was conceived. 

God is where the opportunistic believer wants him to be.

It is not enough to throw up one's hands and say "Augustine didn't know, so I don't have to either." Theology is like any other ideology. If the scholars of your ideology profess its great wisdom, despite crucial moral problems; and if you then take up that ideology, in full knowledge of those problems; if you argue that it should be elevated to law of the land; if you assert that it should then be imposed on half the country (not your half), you are not a bystander to immorality. You are an accomplice. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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