The Slut Shaming, Sex-Negative Message in the Virgin Birth—It’s Worth a Family Conversation

I had Sunday School teachers who insisted that Christian Science takes the “inspired” word of the Bible, and that the stories were “allegorical.” The virgin birth story (inspired allegory or not) always made me a bit uncomfortable. See also, http://valerietarico.com/2014/12/09/the-not-so-virgin-birth-of-the-christmas-story/ on how Jesus’ birth became more virginal and miraculous.

AwayPoint

Christmas - AnnunciationThe birth story of baby Jesus celebrates the promise of new life, but for girls it also sends a harmful message. How can we acknowledge this without spoiling the rest?

Most Americans, even many who are not very religious, look forward to Christmas as a time to celebrate warmth, friendship, generosity and good cheer. Familiar festivities weave together stories and traditions from many cultures, which makes it easy to find something for everyone. But maybe it’s time to look a little closer at the Christmas story itself.

The birth story of the baby Jesus is heartwarming and iconic—the promise of new life and new hope in a time of darkness. It has inspired centuries of maternal art and is the best loved of all Bible stories. It also has a darker subtext, especially for someone like me—the mother of two daughters.

In the story, an angel appears to a virgin…

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Virgin, Whore, Christian Scientist

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Many mainstream Christian religions teach the idea that you should be pure (a virgin) until you are married and then you should be able to preform in the bedroom – after all, if the man cheats it is your fault for not keeping him satisfied. The virgin/whore dichotomy, the Madonna/whore complex, the dutiful housewife raising children by day the sex goddess by night.

Christian Science is big on purity as well: purity of thought, purity of motive, purity of action. Avoid the appearance of evil. Don’t commit adultery – no one wants a muddy glass of water, a chewed piece of gum or a licked cupcake! Abstain from alcohol and drugs, they alter one’s perception and interfere with knowing one’s True Spiritual Identity.

In Christian Science, sensuality is something to be counteracted as well. Sensuality draws your focus on “the unreal and material,” it interferes with your relationship with God, and that in turn leaves you open to more false ideas from mortal mind, error, sickness, sin, disease and death. From a very early age little Christian Scientists are introduced to the idea that there is “no sensation in matter” and every Sunday School closes with the Scientific Statement of Being as found on p. 486 of Science and Health:

  • There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual.

This material body? It isn’t real. It is part of the Adam dream, and one day we will awake and know God and our true selves. Sensuality must be counteracted by God’s Angel messages passing to man (along with evil), because it distracts from man aspiring to his higher nature.

In Mary Baker Eddy’s view, marriage is something that that must be tolerated until the Apocalypse and hopefully that happens soon because I’m not sure how much more Ms. Eddy could take of things like propagating mortals and the “problem” of husbands. I get the impression MBE feels we would all be better off unmarried, except that it seems like she feels we are not complete on our own:

  • Union of the masculine and feminine qualities constitutes completeness. The masculine mind reaches a higher tone through certain elements of the feminine, while the feminine mind gains courage and strength through masculine qualities. (S&H p. 57)

On p. 60 she continues:

  • Marriage should improve the human species, becoming a barrier against vice, a protection to woman, strength to man, and a centre for the affections.

If you’re going to have “affections” and raise children, then yes, you should be married. “Chastity is the cement of civilization and progress” and all that good stuff.

Ms. Eddy reticently accepts the notion of hetero-normative intercourse within the confines of marriage as a necessary to continue to the human race, however, she would most likely prefer if people held off on anything sexy all together. In MBE-Land, “affections” are one thing, and intercourse is quite another. On pages 19-20 of Notes on Metaphysical Obstetrics used to teach Class of 1900 (1), Ms. Eddy has a few choice things to say about the act of procreation, attempting to bring a unique “spiritual” perspective to what sounds like an unhappy bedroom situation (2).

  • We have belief of connection with nerves instead of with God. Belief of material bodies attracting material bodies untrue. Only one attraction – God.
  • No sexual desire or genital sense. It is founded on matter; no age, no climactic period and supposed change of function, no beginning or ending, no tomb, no gloom, no doom.
  • Sensuality and intercourse in belief, wiped out by reflection, as explained in Science & Health, 301 (3). The capacity to reflect the eternal intercourse. That is Love. Knowledge of this will leaven the whole lump. God’s thoughts passing to man, man’s to God, is intercourse.

In Christian Science there is no room for the unreality of sensuality (it is mortal mind/error trying to “distract” us), much less “Victoria Secret dancing” in the bedroom (or on your own), we need to be constantly listening for God’s Angel Messages, not what our unreal material bodies are saying. Sometimes our material bodies say sensuality is fun, so how do we reconcile that with what Christian Science says about them not being real and sensuality getting in the way of our relationship with God?

I’ve sat through talks where Good Christian Scientists have attempted to justify physical intimacy within a marriage, they talk about “doing it” for “the right reasons” the “natural expression of love” and “not with lustful thoughts.” As long as everyone is having fun and it is mutually consented to, does it really matter why you’re having sex within the confines of marriage? Marriage aside, if you mention the idea of physical intimacy (or recreational sex) outside a marriage, you get slammed with sensuality is evil, and adultery is wrong (4).

Ms. Eddy is quite clear on the issue of sex and dating: there is no chapter on “Dating and Relationships” either you are married or you are not. In conversations with my Christian Science friends over the years most dating debacles come down to two points:

  1. the “it feels good, but it feels wrong” / “it feels really good, but it feels like too much” / “I love you but I don’t want to do more” discussion, which is often countered the “if you love me than you’ll do such-and-such”
  2. “I love them and I want to do more but we’re not married”

No one should do more than they feel comfortable with, and no one should feel pressured or coerced into doing more than they feel comfortable with. Only you can make the decisions about whether or not you want to have sex. What you choose to do is up to you, how you feel about it is also your decision. Intimacy should be based on mutual consent, and an enthusiastic “yes” as opposed to “not saying no.” It is okay to say no, stop or I’ve had enough (even within the confines of marriage), it is also okay to say YES!! These feelings are valid on their own, and do not need to be dictated by Ms. Eddy’s über-Puritan standards.

It can be very hard to reconcile the “feels good” with the underlying misogynistic, slut-shaming conservative Christian analogies of the licked cupcake, chewed gum, and “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” Combine this with Ms. Eddy’s clear views on sensuality being evil, and that giving power to the material undermines our spiritual nature opening us up to aggressive mental suggestions – for example, a young woman’s sensuality is undoubtedly the cause of her debilitating menstrual cramps, once she re-aligns her thoughts with God things will flow smoothly.

My overly cynical take on the second problem is then get married, or visit Planned Parenthood and get some condoms, although that does not help the devout Christian Scientist in their struggle with the mind over matter. There is more to marriage than physical intimacy, and being married will NOT automatically make the sex amazing — and if you’ve got all of the CS-induced right reason, sensuality is evil, and no pleasure in matter baggage, I’ll point you in the direction of Our Bodies Ourselves.

In Christian Science there is no need for a Madonna/whore complex, the only choice is to be Madonna and if you can manage an immaculate conception (within the confines of marriage) that’s even better. To give in to anything other than Ms. Eddy’s God-ideals of purity, chastity and virginity, triumphing over evil and sensuality, until the apocalypse (at which point it all becomes moot anyway), is to set yourself up for a lifetime of self-induced misery.


  1. This link seems to be broken, I need to go back and fix it
  2. p. 17 of Notes on Metaphysical Obstetrics used to teach Class of 1900 – Ms. Eddy views husbands as “Husband, obstructing thought. Jesus healed the Samaritan woman of five husbands (five personal senses). Afterward she gave birth to a spiritual child – that is she saw herself as Jesus did, as a child of God (Luke 26:28-31, Galatians 4:27, Matthew 22:30, 24:19-38).
  3. S&H p. 301  Spirit is God, Soul; therefore Soul is not in matter. If Spirit were in matter, God would have no representative, and matter would be identical with God. The theory that soul, spirit, intelligence, inhabits matter is taught by the schools. This theory is unscientific. The universe reflects and expresses the divine substance or Mind; therefore God is seen only in the spiritual universe and spiritual man, as the sun is seen in the ray of light which goes out from it. God is revealed only in that which reflects Life, Truth, Love, — yea, which manifests God’s attributes and power, even as the human likeness thrown upon the mirror, repeats the color, form, and action of the person in front of the mirror.    Few persons comprehend what Christian Science means by the word reflection. To himself, mortal and material man seems to be substance, but his sense of substance involves error and therefore is material, temporal.    On the other hand, the immortal, spiritual man is really substantial, and reflects the eternal substance, or Spirit, which mortals hope for. He reflects the divine, which constitutes the only real and eternal entity. This reflection seems to mortal sense transcendental, because the spiritual man’s substantiality transcends mortal vision and is revealed only through divine Science.
  4. Adultery in this case seems to refer to any sort of premarital or extra-marital relationships

Further reading – links in full:

Further reading 2 – interesting commentary

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Agape: I love you, let me control you

A while back I wrote a popular post about Love, where I talked about 1 Corinthians 13:13 (faith, hope and love). As much as I dislike Paul, it didn’t stop us from having 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 read at our wedding.

  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

I agree with Paul, as a member of society (and as a parent) I try to be patient, kind, etc. because makes for more pleasant interactions with my fellow humankind. I’m going to disagree about the notion that God (as described in the Bible) is Love, I don’t care what 1 John 4:16 says, God is not Love.

Biblical God is not patient, or kind. He is envious, boastful and proud. He dishonors others, he is very self-seeking, easily angered, and keeps a record of wrongs. He does not protect, trust, or preserve. Don’t believe me? Go read the Old Testament.

Old Testament God uses the “why do you make me so mad? you make me so crazy! look what you made me do!” excuse a lot, as well as the “if you love me, you will do all of these things OR ELSE” line.

Of course in the New Testament all is supposedly “forgiven” when God either sends himself in human form, or his son (depending on which version of Christian theology you’d like to believe) to be sacrificed. The New Testament God plays the “look what I did for you, I’ve given you everything, why don’t you love me?” argument, all of which of which are fairly common staples of abusive boyfriends. The New Testament writers want you to believe this is Such a Special Thing that they use the word “agape” to describe it. I’ve already talked about my views on the God/Jesus “abba” relationship, but Bible-God and the New Testament compilers take my levels of discomfort to a new level. According to wikipedia

  • In the New Testament, [agape] refers to the covenant love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term necessarily extends to the love of one’s fellow man.[2]

Bible God’s relationship with human kind is not loving. What Bible God does is pervert love into control.  God is getting back at man for slighting or ignoring or disobeying him, because those who love god will never do those things, and thus those who do those things don’t love god and are BAD PEOPLE. God blessing or smiling on a small number of people and then holding them to strict rules that are both arbitrary and vague, with the inherent penalty of losing his blessing if they break those rules, and God points to all that he has already done in the past, and demanding love and fealty in the present in repayment. Any time love is used to control another person, it becomes abuse.

Relationships that require ritual human sacrifice (which is called for throughout the Bible) are NOT loving. Relationships in which one party is trying so hard to meet the approval of the other but constantly falling short, are NOT loving. Relationships where one party feels threatened, or trapped are NOT loving. Relationships where one partner acts excessively jealous and possessive are NOT loving. Relationships where a partner threatens to hurt you, or threaten kill you are NOT loving. Relationships where you get hurt and your partner blames you for not trying hard are NOT loving. Religion like a bad lover.

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