The world is discovering what sexual assault victims have long known. There are predators among us and those predators are legion. When we’re honest, many people who have never been a victim have also known. With each new allegation of sexual assault, the conversation is broadening. It is impossible to reasonably argue this epidemic of sexual misconduct is contained within the plywood walls of Hollywood backlots. Predators are everywhere and in every walk of life.
GOP Senate Candidate Roy Moore currently finds himself in a position (again) where he is defending himself from allegations. Aside from Moore’s own allegations, he is also on record dissenting in a 2015 case where 17 year old Eric Lemont Higdon was found guilty of raping a 12 year old at a daycare center. Moore has dug in, refusing to shy away from the allegations and he has allies. The Washington Post reported Alabama State Auditor, Jim Ziegler, came to Moore’s defense with, of all things, the bible.
“Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus,”
From a Christian lens, this is an incorrect understanding of the story. Joseph was indeed older than Mary but Zeigler’s interpretation implies Joseph is the father of Jesus. The bible disagrees. According to the text, Jesus’ father is God. This presents a moral dilemma Christians have avoided for far too long. Since we’re having this overdue conversation about sexual assault and Mary is being dragged into it by defenders of an alleged perpetrator, it is fair to ask it now.
Did God force himself on Mary?
Though this question is not often discussed from pulpits, outside of the sanctuary of sanctuaries, those the church claims to want to reach are asking the question. Without input from the church, conclusions have been reached. The popular Internet meme of Mary voicing her story circulates daily.
Is this true? Is the body of Christ coursing with the blood that is the result of Divine violation?
The text of the account in Luke 1 is important to the discussion:
Luke 1: 26-38In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 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 Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”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. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For pnothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant ofthe Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Without Mary’s input, the angel Gabriel informs her of the coming events. She will become pregnant, give birth to a son, and name him Jesus. It doesn’t sound like Mary has much of a choice in the matter at this point. Does she have a choice? Is her body hers or is it the Lord’s, to do with as he pleases?
Further, is our current understanding of consent superior to the understanding that existed Before the Common Era (B.C.E.)? And if that is the case, is our current understanding of consent more informed than that of an omniscient God? If so, what does that say about God? These are questions being asked of Christians as people like Ziegler come to Moore’s aid with bible in hand.
Mary ends the exchange with “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” When Mary says “let it be” she appears to verbally consent to the pregnancy. What is unclear is if her agreement with a prophesy equates to consent.
We may not like to acknowledge this but the story of Mary’s pregnancy is fascinating and problematic. Viewing anything through the lens of over 2,000 years of cultural and scientific advancement should pose these type of questions, if true advancement has occurred. Many theologians argue that Mary consents (as I do) but we rarely address Mary’s preceding admission that she is a servant. As a black American, I am keenly aware that a servant’s consent is often indistinguishable from fear induced obedience.
I acknowledge that the events, as written, pose problems for our evolving understanding of gender equality, choice, and rights. I acknowledge that the theologies we hold were exclusively crafted by men. I acknowledge that scientific evidence for a pregnancy by a spiritual deity does not exist. I understand consent. I understand the coercion of servitude. I acknowledge that this story, when dealt with honestly, is complicated, messy. I acknowledge that the events are viewed differently through different lenses.
Do you know how you would answer?