Last week was the week where the world was introduced to the concept of "legitimate rape". In case you missed it, Todd Akin, a US Senate hopeful for Missouri, suggested that in the case of 'legitimate rape', a woman rarely ever gets pregnant, because her body somehow knows this isn't the guy she wants to have babies with at which point it just fights off the invading sperm. Or something like that. Akin, a Republican, was trying to shore up his party's no-exception position on abortion by explaining that even in the case of rape, abortion isn't necessary because a woman wouldn't get pregnant.
If she does, she's probably lying.
Outside a deep-seated hatred of women, the reasoning behind Republican and right-wing Christian America comes from the Holy Bible. The Bible, being filled with sex and violence, plenty of rape, and some good old-fashioned incest, is an excellent source of mysogenistic writing and does tend to explain how the brains of guys like Akin work. Or don't work as the case may be. That old collection of stories is also where they learn about science and reproductive biology.
Thinking about the Bible's richness on the subject of rape and the general sanctity of life, I was drawn to thinking about the most famous case of rape in the Bible, the rape of Mary, mother of Jesus. Technically, she was just a girl, so in our modern Western world, forcing a 14 year old girl to give birth to your baby is statutory rape. But these were dark times, well before satellite television or the Internet. There were lots of 14 year old mothers around.
Still, Mary was bethrothed to Joseph when God came calling. Did Mary's body know it had been raped? You would think it didn't because her body still got pregnant & gave birth to Jesus. So, in the logic of Akin, it wasn't a legitimate rape. I'm saying it had to have been rape because Mary didn't have a choice in the matter. Did she really have the opportunity to refuse? Could she? Let's take a look in the Bible and see what it had to say on the matter.
Harken to the Word. Luke 1:26-38
26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Some of you will argue that the above passage does seem to imply consent, but was it really that way? Mary knew it was God who was about to have sex with her, perhaps she felt she had no choice. Victims have been known to comply for fear of being beaten or killed and Yahweh had a long history of violence. She may well have known that saying no to God was pretty much a death sentence and so she complied, cheated on her husband-to-be and did what she was told.
So it could have been rape. Just not legitimate rape.
Whatever you want to call it, Christians the world over rejoice in this particular episode because it brought them their Savior, the guy in whose name countless other women could be raped, tortured, burnt at the stake, killed in myriad ways, and otherwise told to keep their mouths shut.
And what's this about Elizabeth? It sounds like Mary was the second act, a younger vessel after the earlier tryst with Mary's cousin. After she was pregnant, he thought to himself, "My son should really be born of a virgin, and Elizabeth is no virgin!"