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April 14, 2021

How Myths of Virgin Mothers & Savior Sons can Turn us into Mad Moralists.

The concepts of Matriarchy and the Messiah affect almost every aspect of our lives.

All of us, regardless of gender or genitals, pronouns or paycheck, want to be loved and understood.

Without love, we are lost to ourselves and others.

While emotional fascists believe that everyone else ought to think and feel just as they do, most of us are seeking love from others—preferably and presumably from people who understand us.

To be seen and comprehended as a unique being, foibles and all, is a beautiful thing.

I certainly fall into this category—or rather fell.

Anyone familiar with the saying, “Good fences make good neighbors,” will know what I am referring to—that particularly chilly emotional distance that New Englanders keep between themselves and others.

I am the Italian-Americans, Marine Corp Catholics who emigrated to a “WASPY white town” in New England. We are just beginning to admit that many Jews and Italians experienced skin-color bias and racial awkwardness in the 70s in predominantly white communities. This made me innately curious about how people feel.

Luckily, I was raised in a kitchen with half-dozen or so chattering Italian women, so I learned to blend in with the kneecaps and hemlines and soak up the wisdom of the Matriarchy.

I began to think more about mindfulness during my mother’s hospice and after her passing.

From an entire generation that requires a safe space to contemplate whether or not they are offended to new age adherents, feminists, goddess-worshippers, and last, conservative Christians.

Then, this past December, my father died, and once again, I found myself in a cauldron of emotion.

During my mother’s funeral planning and while writing her eulogy, I found myself wondering about her Catholic faith. Given that I was present at her bedside when she passed, it struck me that as a conservative—as a simple person born in the 1930s—perhaps she had not found comfort in her beliefs.

I was concerned that she might have died afraid of redemption and salvation. The weight of this stayed with me for months. How can we expect this generation to grasp self-improvement and freedom if they believe that God hates them or that they will never live up to divine standards, or that they ought to suffer?

My mother, like many people of her generation, sadly did not have time (or honestly the inclination) to consider religious ideas that likely served to oppress them. Nor was it for me to make a moral judgement about that.

I write as a son, rightly concerned about my mother’s mental state when she died—but also as a man in 2021 thinking about the world that my own children may inhabit one day.

As a rule, most of us—especially Americans—don’t question where our myths come from or how they affect our thinking. Indeed, sad to say, most Americans are not inclined to think deeply about these things at all.

Religion in America is a pretty hot enchilada. Few of us stop contemplate that that “American culture” is based on fundamental religious ideas. Even fewer realize that these ideas are often misappropriated and misunderstood by millions of people.

How many of us are aware of the fact that the primary system of moral ethics underlying western civilization—the one you were taught at school even if we’re not raised religiously—is based on two fundamental Judeo-Christian myths? 

I am referring to the dual mythology of the divine vessel, or the Matriarch and heroic self-sacrifice—embodied as the sacred duty of the wounded son: the Messiah.

Expectations for appropriate behavior include the notion that all men (and women) must be willing to take up the cross and sometimes suffer unnecessarily. This, in turn, justifies a whole universe of abuse. Similarly, quasi-sanctimonious respect for women’s sexuality is vacant of actual respect for women’s autonomy.

These ideas separate us. History demonstrates that they have not brought us together.

Let’s talk about the worship of and mythology of the sacred womb—the receptacle for man’s desire and his salvation.

First, men are birthed of the divine womb—the Matriarch—who does indeed suffer for birth. Plenty of Momma’s boys spend the rest of their lives living up to the notion that they owe the world to their mother and, by extension, to all women—and foments resentment quite like guilt does.

When researchers interview terroristic men who have bought into the extremism of one kind or another, this dualism is often present.

Women in conservative religious traditions are posited both as divine, capable of creating a life like God, and yet incapable of thriving without men. Women are considered an asset that needs protecting. This notion has only recently begun to recede with feminism but is intact in a long list of conservative and repressive countries.

That being said, let’s not overlook that a society that deems a woman’s uterus as a public receptacle and wishes to politicize and control it is no different than an overtly repressive one that seeks to destroy it.

I am referring to Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and numerous countries in sub-Saharan Africa. How ironic that we go on and on about the repressive ideology of Islam while our politicians tout the exact same policy of repression here in the United States.

Consider the following feminist writer who aptly describes the double standard of the sacred vessel/victim myth and, in doing so, mistakenly glosses over some important points.

Girls are not taught that we are sacred, that our bodies are magical containers for a potential new life. Women’s lives and health are consistently marginalized, as evidenced by the continuous debate on whether to legalize abortion and funding cuts for centres for women’s reproductive health. 

The writer is right about reproductive rights and entirely wrong about history.

Women have been worshipped as the earthly font of creation for millennia. We know conclusively that all early human groups worshipped the Mother God. Indeed, the sacred womb resonates throughout history, and the Virgin Birth is at the centre of much mythological and religious veneration.

One could make the case that the marginalization the author speaks of is backlash for women not having lived up to the false standards that men created for them to begin with.

She is unwittingly supporting this notion. A woman’s uterus doesn’t need to be a magical container—it needs to be respected as part of an individual person’s body for which no law nor legislation should be created to control. Period.

To say otherwise, no matter what one’s moral predilection is to construe an entirely fascist narrative of physical control of the body. We can argue about ethics—but once you legislate control of the body, the individual is no longer truly free.

The writer goes on to say more:

“Women are expected to be in full sacrifice mode. Any less than ideal experience is viewed as a personal failure. Like everything else in our lives, motherhood has become another arena of competition for achievement. Since women are raised with a sense of incompleteness and inferiority, we use every opportunity to prove ourselves worthy. Since a lot of our value in society is judged by what kind of wife and Mother we are, our own lives become of secondary importance as we compete for the title of ‘perfect supporting act.'”

I agree with this wholeheartedly. No one’s body is more sacred than another’s—and self-sacrifice is not gendered.

Sacrifice is a sacred act of art and expected from anyone brought up in Christianized western civilization whether or not they admit it. The Crusades, bad marriages, homicide, and likely every single war since then relies on this operative notion to support endemic societal violence against men and women equally.

The dynamic duo of Virgin Mother (the magical vessel-womb) and the beleaguered magical Savior Son are rooted in Aeolian and ancient myth—and yet, most of us do not realize that patriarchal appropriation of the sanctity of female sex and the saving power of messianic masculinity is the root of all repression.

This oppression is undoubtedly insensitive to women but not restricted to them. Men, too, suffer from the unreasonable expectations of Christian morality.

Most forms, symbols, and ideas we have relied on until now are useless—including the victim narrative espoused by feminists.

Women have been on the receiving end of violence and oppression for a long time—yes, right along with everyone else, including lower caste members, homosexuals, Gypsies, Jews, Armenians, Muslims, the mentally disabled and ill, fat people, skinny people, weird people, and red people, black people, yellow people, brown people, pygmies, animals, white men—and of course, you and I.

We are all oppressed by outdated moral codes and myths that instruct us not just how to see life but how to live life.

We cannot hope to bridge the divide between men and women without reevaluating these archetypes—and discarding the concept that women’s sexuality is wholly, unapproachably sacrosanct, or that men are on earth to save the world.

We are not here to live in the body of the Matriarch or the Messiah. We are here to live in our own bodies—and to do so responsibly, respectfully, and peacefully.

We ought to—all of us that is—rethink the concepts of the sacred-womb and hero-salvation complex once and for all. The Matriarch and Messiah are interlinked—they always have been.

Neither of these two forms of world-saving redemption is going to help us before we reform our consciousness until we see them for what they are: useful, allegorical, and archetypal mythology that can aid us on our journey or make us into mad moralists and not mindful men.

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