It wouldn’t be the holiday season anymore without people badly mangling history and theology to create offensive narratives around traditional stories. What better way to bring 2018 to a close than by watching people mock, deliberately misinterpret, or demonstrate that they’re just plain ignorant about religion?
God Raped Mary, the Mother of Jesus
The first case is that of Eric Sprankle, an associate professor at the Minnesota State University at Mankato. He lists his specific interests on the university’s website as: “Understanding sex work stigma and barriers to sex workers’ rights. Conducting needs assessments for various sectors of the sex industry in Minneapolis. Combating moral panics in sexuality (e.g., sex trafficking, sex addiction).”
Sprankle’s on our list for statements about the Virgin Mary and God, specifically about the conception of Christ. Recently, he wrote: “The virgin birth story is about an all-knowing, all-powerful deity impregnating a human teen. There is no definition of consent that would include that scenario. Happy Holidays.”
He added: “The biblical god regularly punished disobedience. The power difference (deity vs mortal) and the potential for violence for saying ‘no’ negates her ‘yes.’ To put someone in this position is an unethical abuse of power at best and grossly predatory at worst.”
First, this is ridiculously offensive for anyone who has ever actually picked up a Bible and read the accounts of the angel telling Mary about Jesus and His birth. She knew, okay?
If people bother to look over Luke 1:30-33 in the Bible, they’d see that Mary was told about God’s plans for her, and she agreed to them: “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.’”
Sprankle misses the following, extremely important verse. Mary understands the words of the angel, and, moreover, agrees to his plan: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
This isn’t some weird, spiritual rape, but one of the greatest honors recorded in the Christian Bible. Mary is chosen, from all women, in all time, across all nations, and all centuries to bear God himself in her own body. This wasn’t a punishment, an act of power or pain, but an honor, a blessing, and something that Mary rejoiced in.
Another majestically famous part of the Bible and of all of Western literature is Mary’s song known as the Magnificat, celebrating God’s mercy in using her to bring salvation to the world: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever” (Luke 1:47-55).
Clearly, Mary is celebrating this pregnancy. She voices no regret or shame, only joy and faith. Let’s take the words of our mother in the faith, and respect them. Her song of joy is still sung in Christian churches around the world.
People like Sprankle don’t further the ideas of consent and honor but weaken and degrade them. Mary knew what was being proposed, and she agreed. Mary knew and rejoiced in this, and the dishonor here is not that she was chosen to bear Christ, but that millennia later people refuse to accept her choice.
Blending Christianity and Islam for a Terrible Christmas Play
If that gross misreading of Scripture isn’t enough, stay with me. A play in Chicago has attempted to mesh the traditions and faiths of Islam and Christianity in the nativity story. Called “Christmas Mubarak,” it gets neither right, and should upset those of both faiths.
Attempting to blend together two different narratives around Jesus and His birth isn’t a shining star of tolerance but demonstrates lack of respect. This lack is the inability to accept and handle what makes faiths distinct from one another.
Christianity and Islam have fundamental differences, and attempting to smash them together as if they’re immaterial is dishonest and minimizes the viewpoints of adherents of both. This is wrong, and this sweeping universalism leaves us with two weakened faiths rather than any stronger sense of unity this season.
Yes, Really: Banning Candy Canes
If all of this feels pretty grim and serious, examine this story in Omaha, Nebraska, where a school principal banned candy canes, not because they’re too sugary or anything, but because they’re shaped like the letter “J.” J for Jesus.
Lest you think this is a joke (there’s another J word), it’s sadly not. A local station reports the rationale as such: “Candy Cane – that’s Christmas-related. Historically, the shape is a ‘J’ for Jesus. The red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection. This would also include different colored candy canes.” The principal is currently on an administrative leave.
Aren’t you glad we’re protecting children from the tyranny of candy canes? I know I’ll rest easier tonight. Let’s instead try peppermint sticks, just to be safe.
Top Democrat Says Faithful People Don’t Reflect Democratic Platform
On a less weird note, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez thinks Republicans have an unfair advantage: some people go to church on Sundays and actually listen to what they hear there, and perhaps vote accordingly. Shocking. Horrifying.
Perez said: “And I had someone in northwest Wisconsin tell me: ‘You know what? For most of the people I know, their principle sources of information are Fox News, the NRA newsletter and the pulpit on Sunday.’ And it should come as a surprise to no-one that our message doesn’t penetrate.”
This is a fascinating idea, especially since lots of churchgoers actually vote Democrat, according to Pew Research. Maybe they just don’t listen during services as well as their right-leaning counterparts do?
I’d be fascinated to know Perez’s answer to this. Does he only object to people of faith voting their conscience when that conscience leads them right, or is he uncomfortable with left-leaning religious voters, too? Does he think his party’s platform is antithetical to religious faith? Inquiring minds need to know what their party leadership thinks of them.
Is it any wonder that religious people are frustrated with their representation in the media? It’s fascinating that people who frequently get things so terribly wrong think they have any room to accuse religious people of anything.