Cool Hand Luke

So I shared on Facebook one of those cartoons that lampoons a few of the more glaring absurdities in the Bible. One of my FB friends, who is a devout Lutheran, felt that he needed to point out that many of these things are to be interpreted symbolically (he said “spiritually”) rather than being taken as literal truth. The cartoon noted that “God non-consensually impregnated a teenage girl,” to which my friend responded, “Theological nitpick: The Holy Spirit had Mary’s consent.”

He added, “Mary is nowhere shown as unwilling to bear the Christ child.” Of course, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The fact that we’re never told she was unwilling cannot possibly create a viable inference that she was willing.

I thought the question of consent was interesting, so I googled it. The relevant passage is in Luke 1:27-38. If you believe a word in the Bible (I don’t, but millions of Christians certainly do), it’s quite clear that Mary never gave her consent. She was raped. No other interpretation is even remotely reasonable.

Gabriel appears before Mary. What he does not do is say to to her, “God would like you to have his baby. Are you okay with that?” Gabriel never asks her a question. He never asks for her consent, or considers that she might not be willing. What he says — this is the King James version, but other translations I’ve looked at differ in no significant way — is this: “And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son.” He also says, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.”

Notice the verbs there. “Shalt” and “shall” mean it’s a done deal. He presents it as a fact — as a fait accompli. No argument is possible. Mary, who is of course no more in a position to assert her independence than any peasant woman in the ancient world, replies, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

This is not consent. What she is saying, in modern English, is, “I’m only a servant. He can do with me whatever he wishes.”

If you believe a word of this preposterous story, you’re stuck with it. Mary was raped.

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