Ruth Everhart wrote a bare, bold opinion piece for The Washington Post in which she shared the pain and the guilt she felt after being brutally raped. She not only survived the awful incident but today serves as a pastor. That personal story is powerful. Her strength and will to overcome such a horrendous crime is inspiring.
Everhart’s op-ed, however, focuses on the purity of Mary, the Mother of God, and the burden placed on others by that virginity. Everhart even goes so far as to compare her own horrific rape to Mary’s Immaculate Conception by saying, “I know what it’s like to be a good girl whose life got upended by what someone did to her body.”
“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
“What someone did to her body?” Wait, is the writer actually implying that God raped Mary?
In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and says, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Mary was betrothed to Joseph, and she was a virgin. Yet she conceived a child through the miraculous plan of God.
Mary’s perpetual virginity does not mean that sex within the confines of marriage is wrong. It doesn’t mean, as Everhart declares, that the church in general somehow places pressure on all females to be “good girls” — as if our goal should be to attain the level of purity that Mary possessed.
The commitment that is taught in most conservative congregations to abstain from sexual relations outside of marriage is not to shame sex. After all, God is the one who created sex in the first place. Instead, it is to encourage people, both men and women, to seek out what is best according to God’s Word.
The point of Christ’s conception is the miracle created by God. Thousands of years before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah prophesied, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
The Jewish people had been looking for their Messiah, but they anticipated that Isaiah was referring to a woman who would be a virgin at the time of her marriage, as was customary. She would then conceive a child the way every other couple did. There wasn’t an expectation that the promised Savior would be born through immaculate conception. It was a miracle — a fulfillment of a prophesy in a way no one could imagine.
That’s who God is. God didn’t take advantage of Mary. He didn’t punish her with an unexpected pregnancy. And most of all, Mary’s “yes” confirmed her consent in the divine plan. She famously responded to God’s plan with: “Thy will be done.”
She was favored by the God who created her, the God who formed her body in her mother’s womb and formed the Savior of the world in her own. And she was blessed to be a mother — especially the mother of our worshiped Newborn King.
Mary was also given to mankind as a mother by Christ as He was dying on the cross. As our mother, she loves us and intercedes for us as our own mother would. Especially in the instance of something as horrific and brutal as a rape — which is no fault at all of the victim’s — Mary can be turned to for comfort and love.
Mary’s virginity also fulfills both the promise of God to King David in 1 Chronicles 17 and the curse God gave to Jehoiachin in Jeremiah 22. God assured David that his lineage would include the coming Messiah, and that He would reign forever. The lineage of Jesus extends back to King David through Joseph, Jesus’ legal father. But the curse of Jehoiachin is fulfilled in that Joseph was not Jesus’ biological parent. In God’s beautiful plan, He did the impossible and kept His vow in the most unexpected but only possible way.
Mary is arguably the second-most important person in the Nativity Story. She watched her firstborn Son turn water into wine. Later, she witnessed His brutal and inhumane torture — and His crucifixion on the cross. And then she witnessed His inexplicable, astonishing, and miraculous resurrection.
Katie Nations has been married for 15 years and is a working mother of three young children. She lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.