In the discussion about what it takes for consent to be genuine, you will often encounter these elements:
Consent … :
- must be given freely (be given without being under pressure, coercion, manipulation, being drunk or high on drugs).
- can be withdrawn / changed (if in the middle of something you have agreed to, finds that it is something you no longer wants, or that it hurts you, you should be able to say stop).
- must be informed (no half truths or manipulation).
- must be given enthusiastically (If a person cannot say yes with enthusiasm, then it isn’t consent).
- must be specific (eg. saying yes to kissing, doesn’t mean that you also said yes to having oral sex. Or because you said yes to lend someone a book today, it doesn’t mean that you also said yes to lend out the same, or other books, tomorrow).
Mary lies in her bed, sleeping. She suddenly wakes up, because there is a foreign woman standing by her bed. She begins to speak: “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with the lord. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” Mary huddled in her bed, shaking with terror. “How should tha..that ha..ha..happen? I have ne..ne..ever had sex with him.” Mary succeeded in saying, stuttering. The woman looked mildly at her, and answered: “His holy spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy”. Mary is afraid to arouse the woman’s anger and make the situation even worse, so as part of her trauma response – in an attempt to get the nightmare to stop – she says, shaking with terror: “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” After that, the foreign woman leaves the room.
Short after, the shadow of a big muscular man, shows up in the doorway. It is obvious that Mary doesn’t stand a chance against him. She silently cries, tears rolling down her cheeks, while he takes away her dreams for her own future. A wave of guilt envelops her, because she didn’t put her foot down, but at the same time, she dares not resist, in fear of arousing his anger.
9 months later, she gives birth to a son. The muscular man has moved into the house next door. He is rich and has a lot of power. Sometimes he acts as if he loves her. At other times, he calls her his slave, and compares her to things like pottery, that he can do with as he wishes. He becomes easily jealous, and loves to talk about how he has wiped out entire peoples, because they didn’t consider him their master.
Out of fear, she didn’t dare to call her son anything else, but Jesus.
Did Mary have a choice?
Can we agree, that there were no consent given, in the story above, and that Mary didn’t really have a choice – and therefore, that what the man did should be considered abuse and rape?
Yes? Okay, then why is it, that the moment we replace the muscular man with god from the Christian bible, and the rape with a magical assult from the Holy Spirit – which according to the biblical christmas story, made Mary pregant with God himself in human form – that it is suddenly okay, and we now all in enthusiasm has to sing hallelujah and celebrate it once a year?
Today, when we talk about trauma and trauma reactions, we no longer just talk about fight, flight or freeze. A fourth possibility is fawning, in an attempt to dissolve the conflict, gain the abuser’s acceptance, and create a sense of safety.
From this more trauma informed angle, doesn’t Mary’s answer in Luke 1:38 (“I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.”, NIV), sound more like fawning, towards an almighty and violent god to whom it is impossible to say no, because else… , than a sentence being said with enthusiasm?
We must assume, that Mary probably knew about at least some of the stories that can be found in the Old Testament of the Christian bible, and the jealous and violent god, which they are about – and that these stories would be part of the thoughts that would go through her head, as part of the pressure / coercion that she would be under, in such a situation.
Wouldn’t a loving, almighty and omniscient god, be a much better role model to humans than the Protestant biblical god is? Eg. by being damn good at communication, and always asking for consent, instead of repeatedly forcing his will, through the abuse of power, with a lot of submissive traumatized people as a result?
Imagine that you have a teenage daughter. One day she comes to you, telling you that God has made her pregnant, and that the fetus in her uterus is God in human form. In that situation, does she rejoice in the mercy of God? Or is some form of a trauma reaction more likely? And what is your reaction?
But, is the Christian God, not a loving god?
Well … have you read the Christian bible for yourself? And I don’t just mean pulling a few verses or chapters out of context, as we so often do, but have you read all the books in the bible, in context? The violence and violations (sometimes psychological, sometimes physical), threats and abuse of God are there, to a high degree. We have just, maybe as a trauma reaction (fawning?), romanticised the terror and hell out of the many stories we find in the Christan bible, because we are forced to believe that God is good – not based on his actions, but just based on him being God, and reportedly having all the power. It isn’t consent… it’s trauma reactions and coercion.
One example of this, is the story about Noah’s Ark. How on earth have we ever made that story into a children’s story about some adorable animals in the ark, which God cares for?
What about the approx. 99,9% of all humans and animals, which the Christian and Jewish god kills in the story? Where are they in our retelling, and in our illustrations of the Ark?
If you believe in Evangelical Lutheran Christianity, and therefore follow Luther’s way of interpreting the Christian bible, then you believe that the story of Noah’s Ark is historically correct and has really happened.1
Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.Genesis 7:21-23, NIV
When have you last seen an illustration of Noah’s Ark, where a lot of corpses and cadavers flowed in the water around the Ark? An image filled with death and terror. Because such an image would be way more faithful to the story, as we find it in the Christian bible, than those romanticised images of the Ark, that we most often are met with.
The Protestant and Catholic god, is a jealous and violent god. If you want more examples of this, check out Dan Barker’s book, God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction.
So, the Christian Protestant god, can violate a teenager’s free will and right to own body and life, without that being a problem, but are at the same time unable to save everybody from hell (that he created, by the way), because that would be to violate our free will? 2
From the law of Moses in the Old Testament, where e.g. the woman is the property of the man, to the Apostle Paul’s comparing people with clay vessels (Rom. 9:21), the Christian bible (considered by many Christians to be the Word of God) is permeated in God’s objectification of and violence against people and humanity – and the biblical Christmas story is no exception – we have just, exactly as with the story of Noah’s ark, romanticized the hell out of it.
In order for the story about God that came to earth as a human being to save us all, to make any sense, you first have to believe in original sin: that man (even as a newborn baby) is fundamentally selfish and sinful, and in himself worthy of nothing else than to end up in hell for all eternity.
Therefore, in order to see the Protestant Christmas story as a story of God’s love for man, it requires you to first consider yourself weak, incapable, sinful and without the power to become better by yourself, and therefore being in need of being saved by God.
But today, there are no psychological schools of thought, that will tell you that man is as fundamentally selfish and incapable as Protestant Christianity does. We have no empirical evidence for that. Quite to the contrary, man often has so much more goodness in his heart, than the Christian biblical god himself, according to the Christian bible, has ever shown to us.
So why do we keep holding on to protestant Christianity’s often humanly condescending and traumatizing stories?
Is it really the kind of stories, and the traumas and trauma reactions there for so many of us follows them3, that we want to hold on to, celebrate, and pass on to future generations?
Perhaps, with the stories that the Protestant and Catholic religions has given us, it isn’t so strange that the accompanying culture often is a fear, shame and trauma based culture of abuse and rape?
How about we instead of celebrating the violent god of Protestant and Catholic Christianities, we celebrated love, man’s goodness and intrinsic dignity, and our ability and right to autonomy over our own bodies and lives?
Humanistic consent culture, instead of Christian abuse and rape culture?
A storytelling breed we are.Nightwish, Weak Fantasy (live version)
These stories, given to us, is filled with suffering, slavery, and the selfhood of a condescending ape.
Every child is worth a better tale.
- Here, it doesn’t matter that the story is really stolen and thousand of years older than Judaism, and that there are no archaeological findings that can prove that it really happened.
- Many Christians use man’s free will as an argument that their god cannot save everyone – though he really would like to.
Be aware that this is not a true Lutheran argument, because Luther insisted very strongly that man’s will, in relation to being able to choose between good and evil – and choosing to be saved or not – is not free, but bound.
- Especially for those of us, who grew up with these stories about God and his character, as real historical events.
See, e.g. https://journeyfree.org/articles/.