Biblical Thinking About the Evil of Rape and Incest

John C. Rankin

[excerpted and adapted  from First the Gospel, Then Politics …, 1999, Vol. 2, not published]

In another article on rape and incest (click here), with cognate articles under the Women and Their Unborn icon, the focus is on real life stories as I encountered them personally. Here, let’s look at the critical biblical thinking necessary to address such deep human pain.

The hatred for the evil of rape and incest is best embraced when the humanity of the woman and child are equally and fully embraced.

Since human abortion does not heal the evil and does not unrape the woman, the next question is where healing and justice are to be found. In order to move in this direction, the power to give and the power to forgive must be embraced, and they are rooted in only Genesis.

Courage is needed to overcome the adversity, but rarely is courage able to be grasped when someone is alone – especially if facing single motherhood with the painful memories of the pregnancy having occurred in such a violent fashion. The power to give trumps the power to destroy, and the raped woman needs love given to her so as to help her overcome such devastation. We love because God first loved us.

Thus the church must be an agent of that love to such a woman, giving her the time, love, counsel, spiritual, psychological and material resources necessary for her to become an overcomer. This is particularly a one-on-one woman-to-woman ministry, though men can be involved in supporting capacities. Here the ministries of Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) have done yeoman work. Healing is found in the church where Jesus Christ is Lord, where his people are self-giving to such women, where the necessary resources are made available, and where the raped woman chooses to accept such ministry, with her privacy being simultaneously honored.

We need to profile the nature of courage. It is a choice of whether we rise to the challenge or flee from it. In Revelation 2-3, Jesus addresses seven churches in the province of Asia – churches at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. They were under severe persecution for their faith, from political and cultural opposition orchestrated by the devil, as well as direct assaults from occultic powers. Their lives were threatened, and they suffered many abuses and even death. In history we see the evil of rape in wartime, and for the Christians in these seven cities, it would probably be one of a list of many atrocities they suffered. We all know trials in our lives we need to overcome, whether an actual rape or another evil that strikes at the deepest core of our physical, social, psychological and spiritual well-being.

In the words to each of the seven churches, Jesus specifically calls them to be overcomers. He provides the wherewithal – if only we believe, and that is what he calls us to. The greatest literature in history, and its focus on true heroes and heroines, does not celebrate the cowardly, but the courageous. At the end of Revelation when it diagnoses those who are outside the kingdom of God, it mentions the “cowardly” (21:8).

To be courageous is not to summon human strength to overcome, and to be cowardly does not refer to the one who cannot summon such strength. The courageous are those, who in acknowledgment of their weaknesses, nonetheless place their trust in the goodness of God, and the cowardly are those who will not embrace such trust and belief. In fact, those with the greatest worldly strength and resources are oftentimes the biggest moral cowards. And the poor and humble are oftentimes the most courageous. The reversal of the reversal. Courage means doing what is right.

When a woman becomes pregnant by rape or incest, she is terribly aware of her weakness and vulnerability. Only a reversal of the reversal can minister to her, and if she embraces it, she is empowered to be an overcomer. Cowardly acts lead to a true loss of humanity, but courageous acts lead to a greater humanity, and it is the courageous whom history fetes. In the face of the destruction and dehumanization of rape and incest, the choice to give life to the unborn is an act of courage, and the church needs to be there to help the woman make this choice. Courage is never easy on the face of it, but it is the right thing to do, and in the long run it produces peace in the soul.

The unborn child is innocent, and if aborted, the child becomes the second victim. It is a question of power – if the child is aborted, the rapist prevails twice. He has succeeded in having one act of destruction lead to another act of destruction. He has succeeded in prostituting motherhood by causing a mother to forsake her child. This prostitution is his prostitution, not hers, but she is the one in whom the agony is deposited alongside his seed. He is the coward to begin with, and he poisons her with that same cowardice if she yields to an abortion. He has succeeded in having the power to take trump the power to give, he has served the reversal, he has advanced the agenda of the ancient serpent.

What about the woman’s emotions? Oftentimes, in pregnancy due to rape, the very thought of giving birth to a rapist’s child is repulsive, and even if she overcomes that initial repulsion, the memory of a rapist father will always be there. She cannot but view the child as the offspring of such a “father,” and cannot imagine loving such a child. This is why the love of God the Father is indispensable – he who has loved us, when through our sins we have become as unlovely as can the appearance of a rapist’s child to the mother, and as obviously hated by the rapist father. Only God’s love can reverse the reversal in this case, and with a grasp of the power of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Who has more power – the rapist or the woman? In 1 Corinthians 7, as we have looked at earlier, Paul is addressing the question of marriage and divorce, and in this context he says:

“If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy” (vv. 12b-14).

Here Paul says that the believer has more power than the unbeliever, especially in terms of influencing the children. Do we encourage victims of rape to believe this? Are they empowered in the face of the hell they are going through, to overcome the temptation to look at the child as a “rape child,” and instead to see him or her as an image-bearer of God in whose life the love of Jesus Christ can triumph? Does a rape victim view the child as her child, the one whom she will influence, or does she buy the devil’s lie that the rapist, and the painful memory of him in absentia, will be the primary influence?

The percentage of abortions due to rape is very small, and women who abort due to rape, abort at about the same rate as all women who abort their pregnancies. So the emotions and the trauma associated with rape do not produce a higher choice for abortion than women who get pregnant out of a chosen relationship. But because of the huge hormone changes in a woman’s body during the first weeks of pregnancy, a woman is emotionally vulnerable to being pressured into an abortion in the 8-12 week range – while her emotions can be reacting to that state of pregnancy, before her hormone shift is complete and she begins to identify with the growing child within her. This is why CPC ministries are crucial in how they stand in the gap, especially in cases of rape and incest.

Whereas pro-abortion ideologues say that an abortion is necessary to rid the evil of rape and incest, in truth, they take the pain of women so victimized, and employ it to their own ends. Abortion-rights proponents have long known that most all abortions are in reality a matter of choice.

In the early 1970s, an abortionist in California, Dr. Irvin Cushner, said that 98 percent of women who get an abortion do so simply because they do not wish to be pregnant at that particular time, as he testified before the U.S. Congress. They have college or career plans or other priorities. Now it is my conviction that male abortionists are the most chauvinistic men there are, so we need to be careful with Dr. Cushner’s diagnosis. Medically speaking, he understates the case. But he does not note the 93+ percent reality, as we have itemized [elsewhere], of all abortions being outside of marriage – where male chauvinism reigns (not to mention the fact that nearly the rest of abortions happen because the husband is on the way out the door). So the choice is never a planned choice or a satisfactory one – there are mediating factors. Women are often pressured into this “choice” by male chauvinists.

This is why the pro-abortion activists, in their ideological zeal, can actually hate women, despite their protestations to such a diagnosis. In the mid-eighties, I traced the data, as far as it was possible, to arrive at an estimate of the percentage of abortions due to rape and incest, and the figure came out to 1/10 of 1 percent, or about 1600 cases per year (out of 1.6 million total annual abortions at that time). The nature of forcible rape actually lessens the statistical norm for possible pregnancy, but whether the number of instances is small or great, it is nonetheless a real hell for those so victimized.

My point here is that upon the backs of these women do the pro-abortion ideologues market an ideology of sexual promiscuity and abortion-on-demand. Whereas some of them do genuinely care for women thus victimized, in large part it is the pain of the raped woman that is used to market the justification for abortion in all instances. The pain of raped women is employed as public rhetoric in service to Planned Parenthood and other abortion marketeers. Whenever they have need for political persuasion to keep abortion legal, they prostitute the emotional identification we all have for compassion upon a rape victim, so as to say that pro-life people hate women, and thus the pro-life argument must be rejected in total.

But the pro-abortion ideologues rape these very women all over again, using their pain as chattel. When we grasp this reality, we can see clearly how the abortion-rights language is in service to the reversal, and we as Christians are called to reverse the reversal. We do this by empowering rape victims to choose life equally for themselves and their unborn children, to embrace overcoming courage and to reject the male chauvinistic cowardice that only knows destruction. We do this by reversing the reversal of public language, and say “no” equally to the physical rapist of the women, and “no” to the spiritual and political rape of these same women by those who are the pro-abortion ideologues.

Another way we can look at this issue is pointing out that we are all children of rape, whether physically or metaphorically. In other words, if we were able to trace every act of sexual union that produced us, from our parents back to the Garden of Eden – how many of these acts were in true marital love with the planned embrace of children so conceived? How many of these sexual unions were in various states of turmoil, and how many were adulterous unions, acts of fornication, acts of rape or acts of incest? For all I know, and I do not know, a drunk fifty-year old man in the highlands of Scotland in the ninth century A.D. raped his thirteen-year old niece, apart from which I would not be here today.

We do know that William I of Normandy was an illegitimate child, known also as  “William the Bastard.” He shaped history with the crossing of the English Channel in 1066, apart from which not only would I not be here today, but many tens of millions of others as well, including British royalty and most if not all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. This returns us to my earlier observations about Genesis 5:1-3, the image of God and the power to pass it on as given to Adam and Seth, even in spite of their sins. Of course too, we know that such sexual sins have also produced evil people like Adolf Hitler (i.e. the ethics of choice). The point is this – none of us come from a lineage that is sexually pure. Thus, if we judge the child of the raped woman to be less than human, then we judge ourselves and our loved ones likewise. I would not be surprised to learn that the majority of or all of the human race has literal rape or tabooed incest in their lineages at some point.

If we can answer the question of rape and incest, the toughest of questions in the abortion debate, we can then win the largest portion of public sentiment possible. The tragedy of pro-life politicians who carve out an exception for the rare reality of pregnancy due to rape and incest, is that by side-stepping the question, they reduce their ability to tackle the real question of human abortion head on – the willful destruction of unborn children, which simultaneously assaults the humanity, psychological and physical health of their mothers. We can only succeed in the overall concerns if first we embrace the power to love hard questions in this regard.

In summary, human abortion is not an answer to the hell of rape or incest:

1. Human abortion does not unrape the woman – it redeems nothing and  thus it is in service only to the reversal.

2. Human abortion does not restore the fractured qualities of the POSH Ls of the image of God (peace, order, stability and hope;to live, to love. to laugh, to learn).

3. Human abortion only adds further brokenness, since it equals the intrinsic power to destroy.

4. Human abortion is not compassionate to the woman or to her child.

5. Human abortion mocks the power of the woman to overcome the evil she has suffered, it excludes the power and redemptive effect of courage.

6. Human abortion mocks the nephesh of the unborn by killing the child – the other innocent party.

7. Human abortion allows the rapist to triumph twice – to assault both woman and child – to get away with “double murder.”

8. Human abortion allows the power to take and destroy of the rapist to vitiate the power to give of the woman.

9. Human abortion allows the pro-abortion ideologues to market “abortion-rights” on the backs of rape victims – it rapes the woman all over again.

10. Human abortion is a tool of the ancient serpent, who would abort us all, since all of us are actually or metaphorically “children of rape.”

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