Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The BVM

It's hard to bring this subject up without sounding preachy or peeing people off bigtime, or just meeting with scepticism, and I will probably be a bit rambly anyway, but someone said something to me on Sunday which was really helpful and I can't think of how to share this without coming over as all religious.  Also, just as I shouldn't skulk around being ashamed of being trans, nor should I skulk around being ashamed to profess the faith of Christ crucified, so that's what I'm gonna do now I'm afraid.

If you have an issue with it, and as someone who believed for a long time that Christianity was the worst thing to happen to this planet since the extinction of the dinosaurs I would've agreed with you wholeheartedly for many years, I suppose you could see the stories as myth or a form of literature.  Also, it is nearly Xmas, so pull up a chair and have a vegan version of a dead dinosaur to celebrate the start of the lengthening of days while I whitter on about this lass:

Right, so you're a young woman in zeroth century Judaea minding your own business and all of a sudden the Archangel Gabriel appears to you and tells you you're going to have God's baby.  The only trouble is, you're not married and if people think you've committed adultery, they will stone you to death.  On the other hand, having a baby is a good thing and having God's baby is even better.  In the meantime, along with all the other stuff you have to carry on doing, you're going to be tired all the time, have heartburn, haemorrhoids maybe, all that stuff, then eventually you're going to start showing and everyone will know when you go shopping or, I don't know - not particularly au fait with the life of Judaean women - fetching well water, pounding clothes against rocks or whatever, and they're going to make certain assumptions about you, but you know, deep down, that this is God's doing no matter what everyone else does or says.  Confident enough, in fact, in that that you actually  sing about it at length!

I realise that people are very sceptical about the idea of the virgin birth and often even about the idea that Jesus even ever existed, but can we just leave that aside for a second and accept it on whatever level you feel comfortable with it.  Just think of it as a story in a book if you like.  I don't believe Harry Potter or Dumbledore existed either, but that doesn't stop me getting emotionally involved in the story.  So, get involved emotionally in the story, OK?

Also, look at the other things in that book which God gets people to do:


Not a cloud in the sky probably, then God tells you that the whole world's about to drown in a massive deluge and you have to build an enormous boat and collect seven or two of every animal.  People will of course think you're deluded, right up to the point when their sandals get a bit soggy.

Or:


You're this really old guy married to a postmenopausal woman, and God comes along and tells you that not only are you going to have a child but that that child will have more descendants than there are stars in the sky, which actually is not that many but it's a metaphor. oh and you both have to put a letter H in your names by the way,  Not sure it happened in that order.

And so on.  However, Mary's situation is particularly difficult.  People would just doubt Noah's connection to the real world, and Abram's and Sarai's situation is quite private.  Mary, on the other hand, is going to have to walk around very obviously pregnant and very obviously unmarried and that state seems to invite the death penalty in her situation, or at the very least enormous disapproval and shunning.  Even in mid-twentieth century Kent it did, to my recollection, so nineteen hundred and something years earlier, although things are not just linear, it would surely have been a whole lot worse.

Or maybe it wasn't that bad.  Inside, she knew what she was doing was blessed by God and that nothing could stand against her for that reason, although I would certainly expect her to have her doubts myself.  In that situation, I think I would probably also think she had a phantom pregnancy.  In fact, if I were her I would probably think I had one, and of course I have myself sort of had one and oh, the wishful thinking involved, the yearning, I can't begin to describe it.  Yet she was somehow able to be clear in her mind that she really was pregnant (and I know the thing about it might have been a cover-up story for a one-night stand with a Roman soldier but we're talking about the actual story here - suspend your disbelief please), she really hadn't slept with anyone, and it was God's child, and all this in front of massive social disapproval.  Whatever else is true, that is one huge amount of faith.  So maybe that faith carried her through.  Not only was she perhaps angelically protected or something, but her very assurance and faith might have woven its own psychological spell on those around her which led to nobody daring to mess with the woman.

OK, you will gather that I have a lot of emotional investment in this, and this is where you can glean another piece of evidence that I have in fact become delusional.  I spent years and years praying for God to make me happy with being male, I mean decades, every night, I prayed for it, way back into before I was even Christian, and it never happened.  Then there was an Act Of God, as they say, because as you probably know, this really did sort of happen by accident.  My interpretation of that is that God said no.  In more detail, God said something like "OK Esther, I know you're praying for that but I also know what you really want, who you are and what you need me to do, so I'm going to say 'no' to your incessant and ridiculously repetitive prayer to make you happy with something that you just aren't, and instead of that I'm going to give you your heart's desire".  Nowadays therefore I look down and generally see something like this:


...and of course everyone who knows me sees the same scene from a different angle, and since a lot of my friends and acquaintances are Christians it would make perfect sense if they saw it as completely against God's will, and let's face it probably sexually motivated, particularly given the rather prominent mound in the foreground of that picture.  A lot of people probably thought the same thing about Mary when she was carrying the Son of God, in view of her point of view and the larger mound in the background of her field of view from the same angle.

Obviously I'm not pregnant with Jesus and I presumably never will be but this is two things.  Firstly, I'm pretty sure this is the will of God, and I'm aware that many devout and diligent prayerful regular readers of Scripture will say, completely understandably, that I must surely be wrong.  Secondly, this is honesty.  You think you see a bloke in a skirt and you only have my word that that's not what you're seeing, at which point you probably conclude that you're also seeing a very confused and delusional bloke in a skirt, which is incorrect, but even if it is, you have to recognise that I honestly believe I'm a woman and therefore recognise the dishonesty of presenting myself as a man.  It actually would be, and always was, dishonest to do that.

Those of you on the other side, the non-religious:  you may now think I'm delusional for entirely different reasons, and at this point I'm going to pull the carpet out from this account.  Note that many Christians I know would agree with you - they would see me as mentally ill.  Compare and contrast that with allegedly false religious belief, which you might also see as delusional but they don't.  I happen to believe Jesus was born of a virgin and that I'm female.  Many Christians happen to believe Jesus was born of a virgin and that I'm male.  Non-Christians probably either believe that Jesus was not born of a virgin and that I'm female or that Jesus was not born of a virgin and that I'm male.  At least two of those beliefs are false, but not all of them are delusional, and in particular the belief that I'm male is shared by Christians and non-Christians alike.

So to be blunt and ableist, am I mad or not?

In the meantime, I feel very safe but am aware of what people might be thinking, but it's just one of those things and it's not that hard really, partly because I believe it to be God's doing.  I wonder if Mary felt the same.