Immaculate Misconceptions

Posted on 3 January 2011

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I’m afraid I have to break some news to you. According to Christian doctrine, Jesus Christ was the Son of God but not the result of an immaculate conception.

According to the doctrine, he was, however, conceived without anyone having sex.

That’s right: the immaculateness or otherwise of a conception has nothing to do with whether it involved sex. The official immaculate conception was the result of sexual intercourse.

Imagine that. Something considered officially pure by Christianity involved people having sex. Sure, they were married to each other, but still.

You know who these immaculate shaggers were? Jesus’s maternal grandparents.

Who’s confused?

The conception was called immaculate because its product, Jesus’s mother, came into this world sans original sin. (Side lesson on original sin: it has nothing to do with ‘sin’ as we use the word now and actually describes a concept similar to the Buddhist samsara and that general human malaise of fumbling around not really knowing what life is all about.)

I suppose if you were going to cause someone to be inexplicably knocked up and this someone lived in a society where such an event would mean her best hope was to be a social leper for the rest of her life and her most likely fate was to be thrown into the street by her own parents and beaten to death with blunt objects, endowing her with instant enlightenment was probably a good way to help her out.

You may be wondering why I care about people having accurate knowledge of Christian doctrine. Basically, because the culture I live in is a Western-European-Christian-based culture and Christian doctrine is the foundation of many of our laws, most of our assumptions of right and wrong, and all of the most common assumptions of what people really want out of life. I like to know where I come from.

A purity ring symbolising a young Christian's pledge to stay virginal until married.

Christianity’s emphasis on virginity as purity is a central tenet of our culture and one which still oppresses us and screws with our heads. Pretty much everyone I know has some sort of issues with sex because of the contradictory and harmful ideas about what it is and how we should feel about it that we’ve all been brought up with; not just by our parents but by the entire society (educational systems, books, TV, movies, music, magazines, advertising, porn, jokes, birthday cards, and each other) in which we are enmeshed and the culture in which we are steeped.

Most scholars agree that the idea of virginity (often assumed to be synonymous with innocence) as purity comes from the idea of women being the property of men. Signs of it are still around in traditions like brides being given to their husbands by their fathers or another senior male family member and women wearing engagement rings while men don’t.

Even more disturbing is the reaction of a lot of people to this information: ‘oh but traditions are nice’. Actually, no, they’re not. They are pure lazy habit. Insidiously damaging comfort food for the mind and soul.

That’s why I’ve taken the time to explain that the dogmatic foundation of our culture specifically says (at least in this instance) that something that intrinsically involves, and indeed relies upon, sex, is immaculate.

Image credits: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Piero_di_Cosimo_057_excerpt.jpg and http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chastity_ring.JPG

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