An associate professor is demeaning women’s consent in today’s #MeToo era – while pretending to be an expert on it.
Just days before the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a psychology professor and sex therapist from Minnesota made waves for implying that Jesus’s birth was the result of God raping Mary. And while many news outlets have covered his comments, few have challenged them with scripture – which proves him wrong.
“The virgin birth story is about an all-knowing, all-powerful deity impregnating a human teen,” tweeted Eric Sprankle of Minnesota State University on Dec. 3. “There is no definition of consent that would include that scenario. Happy Holidays.”
But, as many Twitter commentators pointed out, Mary did just that: consent. Luke 1:38 reads, “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’” Then – and only then – does the angel Gabriel depart.
That still wasn’t good enough for Sprankle who, a day later, added, “The biblical god regularly punished disobedience. The power difference (deity vs mortal) and the potential for violence for saying ‘no’ negates her ‘yes.’ To put someone in this position is an unethical abuse of power at best and grossly predatory at worst.”
In another tweet, he mocked God as saying, “I’d never force you to be in a relationship with me, but I will destroy you and everyone you love if you aren’t.”
That’s an opinion. But here are the facts: Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, would disagree. Seven verses later, at Luke 1:45, Elizabeth greets Mary with the words, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
What follows is Mary’s Magnificat prayer, which sounds like “enthusiastic consent” rather than “a woman who believes she’s been violated,” wrote Sarahbeth Caplin for the Friendly Atheist. It reads [emphasis added]:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”
Those are not the words of a woman who has been raped. Rather, Sprankle both distorts Christianity and demeans women’s consent – while pretending to do the exact opposite.
Furthermore, to Sprankle’s point, the one other woman who started out without original sin didn’t hesitate to disobey God – even though God told her it meant death. Mary is often called the “new Eve.” Her “yes” to God shattered Eve’s “no.”
Then again, perhaps Sprankle wasn’t serious to begin with. “It’s fun to poke and provoke,” he tweeted Dec. 5. And for his efforts, he captured the attention of Fox News host Tucker Carlson and commentator Mark Steyn, who called out Sprankle’s “shallow banality” as something from a “drunk undergraduate at three in the morning.” They called him an atheist, although, other reports identified him as a Satanist.
That’s likely because, a day before his Mary comments, Sprankle tweeted out a picture of his “holiday decor” – a Satanic tree topper. He also regularly retweets the Satanic Temple and its members. In his Twitter bio, he hails Satan in Latin.
Satanists have long targeted Mary as their enemy. In 2015, one CNN segment that explored the Satanic Temple caught on camera a member spraying a statue of Mary with blood – something he appeared to do on a regular basis.
But Sprankle sadly isn’t alone in his particular argument. Media oftentimes buy the rape myth too – from comedy show SMILF in 2017 to media outlets Salon and Alternet in 2014. It usually happens this time of year, around the Immaculate Conception, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Christmas.
The point is: before accusing anyone of rape, much less God, it’s good to look at the evidence. Here, the evidence says otherwise.
And while Sprankle focused his energy on condemning God and Mother Mary, he missed the greater opportunity of praising them as revolutionary in a time long before consent was popular or #MeToo was a movement.