Virgin Territory

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Christians are obsessed with the concept of virginity, which I suppose is only natural since the guy on whom the Christian faith is based is said to have been born of a virgin. But, as with so many other things, we carry this virtue to extremes, telling girls to “save themselves for marriage” and if they don’t, they will never be worthy of an honorable man. In her article “I am Damaged Goods“, Sarah Bessey says “In the face of our sexually-dysfunctional culture, the Church longs to stand as an outpost of God’s ways of love and marriage, purity and wholeness.” I beg to differ with that statement. Not that the church longs to stand as an outpost of purity, but that the culture outside the church is the dysfunctional one. Any institution that tells young women that, because of one act, “No one honourable or godly wants to marry you” or, sends the message that a woman’s worth and dignity can be measured by whether or not she’s a virgin sounds like the definition of dysfunctional to me. So, what’s with this obsession about virginity ?

The idea that virginity is good and right and pure (and, by extension, non-virginity is foul and dirty and disgusting) has caused more than a few people problems. And, by people, I mean girls…, or women…, or females; whatever. Because, while virginity is good for women, if a man hasn’t sowed a few oats by a certain age, something’s wrong with him. That’s a double standard and it hurts both men and women. The funny (?) thing is, this virgin birth thing may be a big misunderstanding. You see, the stories that Jesus was born of a virgin were based on a passage of scripture from Isaiah foretelling the birth of someone who would deliver the Israelites from the predicament they were in (sound familiar?) which said,

 “Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign. The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel. 

This version is from the Common English Bible, which is a fairly new translation and benefits from recent scholarship, but the one we’re all familiar with is the King James Version, which says

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel “

That one word, virgin in the KJV, young woman in the Common English (and several others) may have been mistranslated. The original word used was almah, which is a Hebrew word meaning a young woman of child-bearing age who hasn’t had a child yet. More and more, scholars are saying it has nothing to do with actual virginity. Whether or not Mary was actually a virgin impregnated by the Holy Spirit, I don’t know and, frankly, I don’t care. I don’t need a magical conception to believe in Jesus’ divinity. I know what you’re thinking, though. You’re thinking if I’m right, why has virginity been such a big deal through the years?

In truth, these beliefs aren’t about virginity; they’re not even about sex. Just like the abortion and birth control, they are about control; as in, we’ve got to keep these women under control or we men might not be on top anymore. God knows, we can’t have that. And, as I said in “It’s a Control Thing“, if you want to control someone, this is a damned effective way to do it. What do we do about this situation? One, tell the Church to get the hell out of our bedrooms. But, there has to be more to it than that. The Church has to get out of the control business. How we’re going to accomplish that I’m not sure.