Sunday, December 18, 2011

Virgin Mary's Pregnancy Test

Christmas billboard for St. Matthew in the City, Auckland NZ

From the remote quarter of St. Matthew in the City Auckland NZ, the notorious Christmas billboard depicting a shocked Mary looking at her positive pregnancy test has made it to the Huffington Post, and rippled on to the BBC, where the equally controversial 2009 billboard "Poor Joseph, God was a hard act to Follow" briefly became the most read BBC article on 15 Dec 2011, despite being two years out of date.

The poster raises a fundamental question about the divine union. What IS the status of Mary's pregnancy? Is it real? Is it a woman's pregnancy giving birth to a real son? And if so, how can it be conceived without the sperm of a biological male?

The reaction of local Catholics has been equally revealing. Arthur Skinner, A Catholic activist, already known for defacing the Virgin in a Condom in the Wellington Art Gallery promptly took a 'knife', or rather a pair of scissors, to the image, later bringing in a demonstration of 100 or so people in the name of a group calling itself Catholic Action, carrying on site a Virgin Mary altarpiece, as well as an image of the Virgin of Guadeloupe - the equally ironic Catholic adaption of the pre-Colombian Goddess Tonantzin, later used by Miguel Hidalgo as a totem in the Mexican Revolution against the Conquistadors.

It was all very well when men, in the shadow of patriarchal Greece, thought women were mere vessels of mens' seed, but we have now known for a couple of centuries, since Karl Ernst von Baer's discovery in 1827, that women possess ova, and that pregnancy results from fertilization of the ovum. In fact the discovery has been traced back to Herophilus (335-280 BC) so the church fathers have absolutely no excuse.

Fertilization of the human ovum

In lower vertebrate species, from sharks to certain reptiles, occasionally parthenogenesis occurs, but is not known to occur in any mammals in the wild, and has been achieved only once in mammals in a cutting edge genetic engineering experiment involving two ova, one of which was masculinised by switching off a gene silenced in males.

So has the concept of the virgin birth undergone a seismic shift from 100% God's work to 50% God and 50% Mary's ovum? In either case what is the significance of the pregnancy test to how she conceived and why the wild Catholic claims that this is questioning her "fecundity" - as quoted?

If she conceived by God, would the pregnancy test, which looks for the fertilized embryo's human chorionic gonadotropin, be any the different? If Jesus is just a docetic apparition, it mightn't but if we assume the crucifixion and bodily resurrection it should. Is she shocked because she is pregnant to God or because she has gotten herself up the duff by an unspecified male, as Matthew declared:

"Then Joseph her husband, being a just man,
and not willing to make her a publick example,
was minded to put her away privily".

And where does Tiberius Iulius Abdes Pantera the Roman soldier some commentatos have suggested is the father come into the piece?

Anyway how was God going to do this magic? Vertebrate parthenogenesis involves only reproduction of clonal females, except in one rare instance of snakes, where the offspring are both female and have only half the mother's set of genes. God is at least going to have to put an SRY gene into Mary for Jesus to have a foreskin to become a circumcised male messiah, even if anointed to his doom by another vastly less chaste Mary.

Do we, in the genetic age, expect God to perform a high tech piece of magic which is a piece of extreme high class lab engineering? If not what? Blow some dust up her dotty and cry "whoopee", as he did in the creation of Adam in Eden's all too Yahwistic fable? And how can the pregnancy test be an affront to Mary's "fecundity" either way? On its own it certainly doesn't mean she is a 'sinner' except through guilt by association with the incriminating item in her hand.

In true fact, the only blasphemy about Mary has been the Christian Catholic notion that a woman is a mere vessel for man's divine seed, not to mention that she is the Devil's gateway incarnate!

The 2009 Christmas poster

The 2009 poster posed an equally sexual dilemma, brilliantly expressed in the nuances of Joseph's and Mary's faces, one dejected and the other unfulfilled. So is 'getting it on' with God a truly ecstatic experience, which no mere mortal man can hope to deliver, to a woman's satisfaction?

Again this was attacked within hours and defaced by emotionally distraught Christians of other denominations.

The poster now reflects Mary's shock at the Catholic knife attack on her person

In response, to the desecration this time, St. Matthew has decided to keep the Mary poster as it is. The church believes the billboard still carries the initial message of Mary's shock, but now also carries a second message of intolerance towards those who dare to differ. In fact for a day or two it has become a little like the religious struggle in Northern Ireland some to haunt God's own country, or 'godzone' as we are want to call it.

Scissorman Arthur lauds his actions while Mary looks on in shock

So what do we make of Arthur's scissor attack and what it means about Christianity and it's future? In a forthcoming article I will reveal all about the fate of Christianity in he sustainable future, but for now let's look at the history of Christians defacing controversial works religious of art.

Portable Marian shrine on the demo with a Virgin of Guadeloupe

There are three notable forerunners to this vandalism. The most direct is the virgin in a condom, an art work by Tania Kovats consisting of a crucifix inside a condom, poignantly expressing the Catholic contradiction between virginity and uncontrolled male fertility, and population explosion, along with lethal epidemic STDs, which denying the condom results in. This was again vandalized several years ago by the same Arthur and his extremist Catholic contingent.

"In 1998 an artwork exhibited at Te Papa (the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) in Wellington attracted religious protests. It was a statuette of the Virgin Mary in a condom. MP John Banks attempted to prosecute the museum, but Solicitor General John McGrath ruled that a prosecution should not proceed due to the freedom-of-expression provisions enshrined in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990." It had already been stolen earlier by a visitor to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

Virgin in a Condom

On a wider world footing, among art crimes, we have the defacing of Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" in Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria, forcing the closure of the exhibition. This is a crucifix immersed in the artists urine and photographed in a golden religious light creating another contradiction between biology and divinity.

Finally, we have the Nigerian and Trinidadian artist Chris Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary" which was again defaced with paint. This work is controversial both because the artist makes regular use of elephant feces, including this one, and because it contains pornographic images of womens' 'booty'.

Now the real paradox here is that forgiveness of sins revolves around the other Mary Magdalene, who by the combined accounts of Luke and John was a 'sinner' who was taken in adultery and stands as the forgiveness of sins for her sins because no man was without sin to condemn her. This Mary also of Bethany who was declared in Mark and Matthew that "wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her".

Woman with the 'nard' jar

A couple of centuries after Jesus, the church fathers decided this unchaste woman was too much to handle so they resuscitated mother Mary, who did little after telling him to make water into wine at Cana and whom Jesus later disclaimed in the stead of his throng of followers - "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice" - when his mother and brothers came - his 'own kind' who had sought to avoid him becoming 'beside himself'.

Really this frenetic sense of Catholic vulnerability about Mary is a very old thing that shows just how archaic the sentiments are.

Just as Jesus has become the Dionysus and Adonis man-God alien to Hebrew religion and a crafted object of neo-Greek Christian legend by the early forefathers, Mary has become the Greek Virgin Mother in the old paradigm of the woman as empty vessel, to be seen and not heard, as a kind of servant vessel of Abba the Father and his divine only-begotten Son whom the Father has nevertheless ordained to be murdered to save humanity from our sins.

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