What About Rape and Incest? Four Stories

John C. Rankin

The Gospel always addresses the depth of evil and human pain straight on, rooted in the transforming love of Jesus Christ, the suffered, betrayed, crucified, risen, ascended and soon coming King. In face of the extraordinary evil of rape and incest, there is no answer short of the Gospel fulfilled when we gain the resurrection bodies, and all pain is forever abolished. For me, there is no distinction between the willful murderer and the willful rapist.

Question of Rape & Incest (1): Brown University 1989

At a debate in April 1989, at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, I articulated some elements of the image of God. I was questioned about the issue of rape and incest. A young woman believed that the right to have an abortion should be available to those who became pregnant by such a violent act. I began to frame my response by looking directly at her and saying: “In your life, are you like me, seeking the qualities of peace, order, stability and hope?” As I spoke these words, I had her eyeball-to-eyeball attention, and the hundreds of students and faculty in the Sayles auditorium came to a hush. The century old seats, bolted to the floor, always creaking at the slightest movement, also ceased their chatter, producing a moment of intense focus. She said, “Yes.”

I then said, “Is it also fair for me to assume, that like me, you also seek to live, to love, to laugh and to learn?” Again, the same focus of intensity defined the audience, the seats unmoving, and again she said, “Yes.”

So I continued, “Then there is far more that unites us than divides us – we are seeking the same qualities. The question is, in the face of the hell of rape and incest: Does abortion unrape the woman and restore to her the lost qualities of peace, order, stability and hope? Or does the abortion only add further brokenness?”

The room continued its quiet, and I could have left the issue there. I knew that the resonation with the image of God, as represented by these qualities, was so complete in that moment that most students and faculty could answer the question themselves and deduce from there the reality I was addressing.

When I spontaneously defined these qualities of God’s image – peace, order, stability and hope, to live, to love, to laugh and to learn – they were immediately imprinted in my soul. They sum up well the theological realities of the image of God, and they make an easy acronym, the POSH Ls. I have identified and defined the POSH Ls ever since.

Question of Rape & Incest (2): Testimony of a “Pro-Choice” Physician

In 2009, I was in a social gathering, and met a woman physician whose husband is one of the top academics in the world. We had a delightful conversation, and we talked theology as well as a range of other topics. At one point, I was about to give definition to the image of God in wide context, using the example of the POSH Ls (peace, order, stability and hope; to live, to love, to laugh and to learn). Before doing so, I mentioned the context of the abortion debate at Brown, and she said, “I am pro-choice.”

I said no problem – that was not my focus. When I came to part of the story where I raised the question of whether or not abortion “unrapes” a woman, she jumped in energetically and graciously, “No!” She knew that an abortion does not remedy such an evil act.

In other words, and as the conversation continued, the common reality of the image of God between us was evident. This is the basis to address such deeply painful questions.

Question of Rape & Incest (3): Testimony of a Woman Conceived in Rape

In the mid-1980s, I was addressing an ad hoc forum in front of the Student Union at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Toward the end of a two-hour event that saw many people come and go, with about 100 people still there, a woman student asked me about rape and incest.

As I began to give answer, she interjected and stated, in the presence of everyone there, that she herself was conceived though an act of rape. I was amazed.

So I asked why she of all people would argue for abortion in the case of rape. “Would you rather have been aborted?” She was astonished, for she had never thought of it this way. Her concerns had been for the raped woman, her very mother. We brought the forum to a close shortly thereafter, and I walked over to her. We then went to the Student Union and sat down at a cafeteria table, and she shared her story.

She was a freshman or sophomore, thus about nineteen-years old. Her mother was raised in a West Virginian coal mining town, where everyone knows everyone, and where abortion was opposed except in such cases as this. Her mother was eleven years old when raped, and the rapist was known. Perhaps, as I read between the lines, by a member of the extended family.

When her mother was known to be pregnant, her family exerted severe pressure on her to get an abortion. The shame factor was huge, and a child born of rape would serve as a constant reminder of the evil act committed. This courageous girl resisted, carried the child and gave birth.

This twelve-year old mother was thus treated as “dirt” by the town, and her daughter was thus treated as “double dirt.” Because she saw her mother’s pain and wanted to stand up for her, the daughter uncritically accepted the abortion rationale in college – until she happened upon the forum.

I looked straight at her and said something like, “It doesn’t matter that you were conceived in rape – you are just as loved by God as anyone else, including those conceived in a loving marriage, or where there is great wealth.”

I saw these words touch her soul in a fashion she had never experienced, affirming her as an equal image-bearer of God. These words were received like water through the parched lips of a severely dehydrated person. So dehydrated that I ended the conversation there, realizing that such Good News was so radical that she needed time to process it.

Question of Rape & Incest (4): Testimony of a Raped Woman

In the fall of 1989, I was interviewed on WGAN radio in Portland, Maine, a 50,000 watt super-station. The topic of rape and incest was raised, and I sought to give answer.

Then a woman called and stated on the air that she had once been raped. Though this was radio, the stillness of the air permeated as her authority and emotions were evident. The talk show host looked at me as thought I were trapped.

But, instead, she then said that I was the first man she ever heard who understood her pain. And in listening to me, the hatred she had held against all men for years, drained out of her heart.

She also stated that it is incredible for a woman who has been raped and impregnated by a man, to then allow another man to scrape out her uterus.

And this hits reality on the head. How often is the topic of rape & incest used by “feminists” to justify abortion-on-demand? On the backs of raped women.

And a Fifth Story, Relating to the First One Above

In April 1995, I addressed a Mars Hill Forum at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., broadcast on C-Span, and my guest was Kate Michelman, executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). The topic was “Abortion, Blockade and Gunfire: Who are the Peacemakers?” That evening, as Kate has done publicly for years, she decried how her husband left her two-and-a-half decades prior, with three daughters, and as she soon discovered, pregnant. She was impoverished and felt no choice but to have an abortion.

In the forum I identified the greatest violence as that of the male chauvinism that drives the violent reactions of human abortion, the blockade of abortion centers and the gunfire that had percolated in a few instances. Kate knows well the root source violence of male chauvinism. At one point in the evening, as she was beginning to decry the violence of “anti-choice” activists, as she termed it, she suddenly turned to me as we were sitting at a table together, touched me on the shoulder, and said, “Oh, not you John.” And the winds of diatribe left her sails.

Human nature is universal. We all seek the POSH Ls of the image of God – peace, order, stability and hope, to live, to love, to laugh, and to learn. The question is whether we seek them on God’s terms, or in painful reactions to violations that will never satisfy.

If men were to exercise the power to give a) in chastity before marriage, b) in fidelity within, and c) in the embrace of fatherhood, the debate over “abortion rights” would be nearly nonexistent, restricted essentially to exceptional or hard cases. Most women would carry their children to term, joyfully, if the father were honestly involved and, best yet, as a husband who seeks to model the power to give. There are exceptions, but ones that only prove a larger true generalization.

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