In an article titled, “Our culture of purity celebrates the Virgin Mary. As a rape victim, that hurts me,” Ruth Everhart explains that especially in the Advent lead-up to Christmas, Mary becomes a problem for many Christians because of her pristine purity.
Mary “set an impossibly high bar,” Everhart writes. “Now the rest of us are stuck trying to be both a virgin and a mother at the same time.”
As a rape victim, this has been especially difficult for the author, she says, which led to her becoming a pastor, in order “to come to terms with Mary’s story.”
Everhart writes that she doesn’t blame her sense of ruin “entirely” on the Virgin Mary. In fact, it isn’t really Mary’s fault, she states; it’s the Church’s for manipulating Mary into a model of purity.
“Mary is not responsible for what we’ve done to her story,” - she writes. - “Church culture has overfocused on virginity and made it into an idol of sexual purity. When it comes to female experience, the church seems compelled to shrink and distort and manipulate.”
To some people, “vaginas are inherently dirty,” she states. “They can never be purified.”
“And isn’t that the definition of hopelessness? Does it bother you that half of the human population is condemned to hopelessness because their body parts can never be pure?” - she asks rhetorically.
Never mind that you can attend a thousand Christian church services without ever hearing a sermon on purity. Never mind that virginity is rarely held up as a model in our sex-soaked western culture, even within our churches. Never mind that Christians have elaborated an entire “Theology of the Body” to help people appreciate the human body and sexuality as a beautiful gift of God.
For Everhart, it’s the Christians’ fault when people feel sexually dirty.
“Maybe the church could ask body-owners to weigh in about their experiences,” - she writes, as if most Christian preachers were incorporeal beings. - “Most people have thoughts and feelings about their sexual selves. Having a body is complicated. It involves trial and error,” - she adds, as if this were somehow news to Christians.
Yet, teaching young people the value of purity or to appreciate abstinence before marriage is no solution, Everhart contends. Purity is no model for today’s generation.
“We want to pretend sexuality is something we can lock in a box and keep on a shelf. But a lockbox won’t work. Neither will a chastity belt or a purity ring. Certainly not the abstinence pledges they make young folks sign,” - she writes.
And turning to the Virgin Mary, Everhart asks:
How do you feel about what the patriarchy has done with you?
It’s a good thing Mary doesn’t answer. She might be tempted to note that she fared considerably better at the hands of the “patriarchy” than she has from her feminist sisters who twist her story into something political, petty, and ultimately uninspiring.