A theologian, just days before Christmas 2021, has unleashed the wild accusation that the Christmas story “normalizes rape.”
It is Christena Cleveland, a psychologist who authored “Black Liberation and the Divine Feminine,” who shared online an excerpt from the “Black Trans Prayer Book.”
That piece said, in part, “We should consider how the story of the virgin Mary, in the context of imbalances of power, normalizes rape.”
The comments were noted in a report by Caleb Parke at ToddStarnes.com.
The report explained Cleveland, who quit her post at Duke University’s Divinity School in 2019, posted the piece on Instagram.
Her excerpt from the writings of Marty S. included, “I feel for Mary this Christmas season because we have normalized imbalances of power, and we often paint situations that are clear abuses of extremely disparate dynamics, as some lucky chosen blessing.
“Who, in the world, would turn down their divine creator when approached to birth a holy being? If the answer is no one, then is that a choice? A real choice we can recognize, and uphold as an example of divine love? As something done for us generously by The Father?
“We should consider how the story of the virgin Mary, in the context of imbalances of power, normalizes rape.”
The report explained, “The Black Trans Prayer Book is described as an ‘interfaith, multi-dimensional, artistic and theological work that collects the stories, poems, prayers, meditation, spells, and incantations of Black Trans & Non-Binary people.'”
After the posting, a commenter, Mark Chase, said, “This is so important to grapple with, to sit in the tension of. I try to read consent back into Mary’s story, to insert it in between the lines of her encounters with God in the text, but it doesn’t always resolve.”
To which Cleveland responded, “I hear you. I love me some mystery, especially divine mystery. But when it comes to the divine and consent, it’s been life-giving for me to believe in a God who is 100% committed to lovingly demystifying the consent process. I believe in a God who is cross-culturally, intergalactic-ly and crystal CLEAR on consent.”
Commenting recently on the concept that Jesus was a “refugee,” Cleveland said in a posting at religionandpolitics that she is “wary” of churches “or Christians” “who do not occupy marginalize spaces in society and yet emphasize the marginalized suffering of Christ without also emphasizing his power on earth.”
She said, “One thing this language can do is distract people from recognizing the ways in which Christ had power and divested it, so then they don’t actually have to think much about their power, and divest it. This can make it easy to run down to the border or make a donation or do something that’s not actually costing them their power. And so, for people who are engaged in these issues who do have power, to identify with that part of Jesus is to realize, oh, this is what it actually costs.”
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