Thursday, September 3, 2009

Yikes! Part 7, A Real Doozy

A Gem on the Virgin Birth
 One last time, patient reader, I inflict upon you an excerpt from Getting Christianity Right! by Robert Sessions, iUniversity Press, New York, 2007, p. 128.  This is a gem, I promise, albeit of the outrageous sort.

In our time, if a man takes advantage of a woman who is unconscious or drunk or asleep, and causes her to become pregnant without her knowledge or consent, we call that act rape. But when the early Christian church tells the story of how its male God made Mary pregnant with Jesus, without her prior consent, the male-dominated church called that a “virgin birth.”

According to the writer of Luke, an angel of God appeared to Mary and told her that the baby from her pregnancy was from God. “Don’t be afraid, Mary. What God has done to you is for your own good and the good of the world.” … Apparently the moral question of God doing this to Mary did not occur to Matthew or Luke, for in their society women had less value and fewer rights than men.
Okay, so there are several troubling aspects of this excerpt, such as the assumption that "we" are more moral (and more intelligent!) than the early Christians.   But what troubles me most is that every Christian school child knows what Dr. Sessions has written here is wrong.   This is not at all the story the Christian Church tells, or ever did tell!  Instead, the Archangel Gabriel speaks to Mary in the future tense: “You shall conceive…” etc. And Mary’s beautiful, prior consent is emphasized and widely extolled as a model, the model, of Christian virtue.  “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

There’s no way Dr. Sessions has simply erred; he is too learned and the story (Luke 1:26-38) is too well known. There is but one conclusion: he has lied. 

Now the unfortunate fate of a liar, once found out, is never to be believed even if he should happen, sometimes, to be telling the truth.  That's another way of saying the book belongs in the trash can. But ironically, this one insight (that a biblical scholar deliberately, outright lies) would be enough, all by itself, to make the whole book worth reading!

This discovery has also reinforced my impression of these radic-lib writers; in my experience with them, they do have agendas other than simple truth, and their agenda, as you've noticed in this instance, is usually related to gender or sexuality.  

P.S.)  Conservative religious writers sometimes tell lies, too.   Especially about Holy Orthodoxy.  A lie being to state something one already knows is not true.


DebD said...

It is funny that you should bring this particular part up. I was recently thinking about Calvinism and the Virgin Birth. If Calvinism is true (no free will) then Dr. Sessions is in part true... Mary was taken against her will. I thought of using harsher terms but refrained from using them in connection to the Incarnation.

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Oh . My. Giddy. Aunt.Jemima.

I have read each installment of your commentary on this book with increasing disbelief at the nonesense the book peddles, but this last one takes the biscuit.

Unless the author is implying that the Gospel itself, "the inerrant Word of God", is lying, how on earth can he make such statements and sleep at night ?

The Gospel narrative makes it abundantly plain that the Panaghia acknowledged, questioned and only then gave her willing and informed consent to what God was asking of her. Not what He was telling her she must do, but what He was respectfully **asking** of her.

It seems to me that Calvinism is the most bizarre, aberrant, desperately sad and sorry heresy ever spawned by an apparently intelligent man.

Lord have mercy on us all.

This sort of half-baked published raving makes me so very sad. No wonder so many people hold God and Christianity in contempt, if they can believe that God would do such a thing as this. And someone published it as a book, to boot !

I had better stop ranting now. How did you bear to read all this book, Anastasia ? Just this chunk makes me feel nauseous.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Good observation, Deb! Dr. Sessions, be it noted is a United Methodist minister.

Elizabeth, I read this for the sake of my friend, Vada, who is just the sort to get suckered by it. In a perverse sort of way, I actually enjoyed it; perverse means I got a kick out of puncturing this learned author's balloons with my pearl-capped hatpin.

Bible, the Word of God? Oh, no, no, no; this man is not so primnitive as to believe that! He says it contains the Word of God, in places, all jumbled in with the "fiction, parables, poetry, personal letters, genealogies, spiritual meditations, allegories, romantic love lines \ pornograpy, \shouts of joy, cries of grief, expressions of disilusionment, mathematical errors, patriotic propaganda speculations, lies, testimonies, confessions, hero legends, villain stories, even a talking donkey in the Book of Numbers!"

He also says "From beginning to end with only a few exceptions, the Bible is sexist."

The Bible is the FIRST thing a person like him has to tackle.

Michelle M. said...

Yikes is right! I agree with Elizabeth: how did you ever make it through this book?! I think I would need to repent after reading it because I would become so angry with the outright lies.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Elizabeth, in partial answer to your question as to how I could bear to read this book, I should point out that Dr. Sessions is practically a neighbor of mine. Well, he lives in a nearby neighborhood, anyway. He lives right next door to my dear friend Anita, and his wife, Julia, is another of Anita's dear friends. I've been to luncheons with Julia, and to tea, had charming conversations with her.

So, in the circumstances, reading her husband's book is one of those things one rather has to do.

What helped me keep my temper was the realization that it is not altogether unlikely I may one day find myself in a face-to-face discussion with him, so I tried to react to the book as I would to him in person.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

But Michelle, don't you think it's perfectly delightful to find the man in a lie, thereby enabling us to dismiss all his nonsense without any further ado? Saves thousands of words!


Mimi said...

I think that Deb is on to something - there is a movement in *some* Christian circles that there was no agreement by Mary to the Virgin Birth. But, of course, Orthodoxy (and Catholicism, and probably many of the more "mainline" churches) teach that her acceptance was paramount to the narrative.

Lord have Mercy, and Holy Theotokos pray to God for us.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

REALLY? I didn't know that, Mimi.

What's the world coming to?

Chris said...

Of course, these revisionist scholars assume that unless Mary had access to abortion services, she wasn't truly free and thus was a slave to the whims of the male-God.

In reality, if Mary had no free will and no part in this decision, then Christ's incarnation would have been a farce. There is no compulsion in Christ; how could there be with his incarnation?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Frekerika points out that a getting an abortion was (maybe still is?) viewed as a woman's ultimate declaration of freedom. Horrible, to think of babies sacrificed to make a political statement, huh?

Somebody has pointed out to me that the word "rape" implies sexual intercourse. So God, being without -- well, you know. God is Spirit. Bodiless. Asexual.

margaret said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
margaret said...

The idea that Mary did not give consent is popular to some degree amongst groups that view traditional Christianity as a horrible, evil patriarchy. I once suggested to an advocate of the horrible, evil patriarchy view that it's a good idea to have one's life ordered in obedience to an ordained Orthodox man with a long beard and archaic clothing and he replied... so lovingly... "Women like you belong in longterm mental facilities" :)

Edited to add: It's also perfectly alright if your priest has a short beard and wears a suit (!) I just felt in the context that visions of bearded hieromonks would be more nettlesome. I can have decent conversations with most Christians but the liberal-feminist "God is a dead white European male" type irritate me intensely.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

There is nobody more intolerant than a committed liberal. I heard this from one of them.