In The Washington Post ― not The Onion or McSweeney’s ― Michelle Boorstein reports:
“Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus,” Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler told The Washington Examiner. “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”
Mary, Joseph and Jesus as Christian mythology are being contorted into a disturbing Trumplandian justification of Roy Moore. While the overwhelming evidence against Moore appears quite likely to have no effect, in the same way video evidence of Trump admitting to sexual predation slipped by, there are problems with the traditional story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus that have served this new abnormal.
The Mary used to justify Moore’s behavior is framed both as a teenager and a virgin ― an idealizing of womanhood that erases huge elements of any woman’s full humanity.
The Moore controversy, and its unmasking of white evangelical Christianity, is a growing subset of the larger confrontation of how many men fail women and children as sexual predators, abusers, and aggressors ― names now without any need for elaboration: Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, Louis C.K., Bill Cosby.
Along with politics, entertainment and especially comedians have carried the brunt of the unmasking so far. As some reconsider comedy routines of Louis C.K., for example, many things once thought to be funny now seem horrifyingly, willfully ignored.
Mary as sacred teen virgin ― and Jesus as superhuman because he was born of the sacred teen virgin ― is a parallel problem to “the Sacred Soldier, nameless and faceless, used as both sword and shield against the enemies of power and the status quo,” as William Rivers Pitts explains.
There is, in fact, no ultimate difference between treating anyone (or any group) as subhuman and treating anyone (or any group) as worthy only in the ideal.
The very ugly open secret of white evangelical Christianity includes grooming girls in childhood and during puberty to be a perverse mix of sexual and virginal, but fully in the service of a man. Physical and sexual violence against women and children has its roots in both seeing women and children as less than human and framing women and children as sacred.
Both are dehumanizing and both are the consequence of the male gaze.
In his stand-up comedy heydays of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Steve Martin was a staple of “Saturday Night Live.” One of his routines, “What I Believe,” has kernels of deeply disturbing realities being confronted now. The first half goes as follows:
I believe in rainbows and puppy dogs and fairy tales. And I believe in the family – Mom and Dad and Grandma... and Uncle Tom, who waves his penis. And I believe 8 of the 10 Commandments. And I believe in going to church every Sunday, unless there’s a game on. And I believe that sex is one of the most beautiful, wholesome and natural things... that money can buy. And I believe it’s derogatory to refer to a woman’s breasts as “boobs,” “jugs,” “winnebagos” or “golden bozos”... and that you should only refer to them as “hooters”. And I believe you should put a woman on a pedestal.. high enough so you can look up her dress.
Martin’s satire of belief imbued with both a passing image of the predatory man in everyone’s (?) family, as well as harsh critiques of religion and the dark underbelly of idealizing women, captures the open secrets being dismantled in 2017.
If manipulating the foundational story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus to protect a predatory man isn’t enough ― and I would argue this is beyond enough ― consider novelist John Grisham’s egregious defense of men like him:
“We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child,” he said. “But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”
This rests inside the same genre as Woody Allen’s fear of witch hunts.
But Grisham’s argument exposes how the sacrificed and sacred coin works to render women and children as less than human while maintaining a culture in which men are always fully human regardless of even the most inexcusable failures.
Grisham, Allen and Louis C.K. (using child molestation as fodder for humor) may sound extreme, but only if we remain trapped in a narrative of women and children as either sacrificed or sacred while all men are fully human, every flaw forgiven.
So I return to Martin’s “Uncle Tom, who waves his penis” and offer Richard Dreyfuss exposing himself and his own rebuttal that he “thought it was a ‘consensual seduction ritual,’” adding:
The fact that “I did not get it,” he said, “makes me reassess every relationship I have ever thought was playful and mutual.”
Louis C.K., in his apology, also claimed he had never felt he was harming women since he always asked before exposing himself.
Like Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K.’s career is in jeopardy, his newest film’s distributor has dropped the project. But in that film, one scene offers yet another out for what appears to be an essential flaw in men:
The movie, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September, is about a TV writer (played by C.K.) whose 17-year-old daughter forms a relationship with a 68-year-old filmmaker. “I mean, everybody’s a pervert. I’m a pervert. We’re all perverts. Who cares?” one character says in the trailer.
“Men have not succeeded in spite of their noxious behavior or disregard for women; in many instances, they’ve succeeded because of it,” writes Rebecca Traister, adding later: “That’s because this world is stacked in favor of men, yes, in a way that is so widely understood as to be boring, invisible, just life.”
Invisible like the women and children rendered either less than fully human or sacred, the first of which Traister confronts:
But here’s a crucial reason he behaved so brazenly and badly for so long: He did not consider that the women he was torturing, much less the young woman who was mutely and nervously watching his performance (that would be me), might one day have greater power than he did. He didn’t consider this because in a basic way, he did not think of us as his equals.
Traister then concludes: “The only real solution may be one that is hardest to envision: equality.”
A solution still, ironically, controlled by men.
Traister explores how she and other women have been complicit in the culture being exposed by #metoo, admitting, “as a young woman I could never truly believe that members of the opposite sex could be as cartoonishly grotesque as they sometimes were.”
Now, the question appears to be about the fundamental nature of men and how they navigate those weaker than them ― perceived as or actually weaker such as women and children.
What is without question, however, is there are no innocent men.