I read a fun story in the newspaper last week about a congressman who received a lecture from a radio commentator because he confused the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception with the doctrine of the Incarnation—an easy thing to do, since both are total foolishness.
One might call the Immaculate Conception and the Incarnation fake news from long ago, but the church insists on continuing to market this fake news to its own detriment. In the twenty-first century, neither doctrine makes sense to anyone who has taken a biology course. That’s not how babies are made.
The doctrines of the Incarnation and the Immaculate Conception originated in the first half of the first millennium CE, when the early church fathers tried to convince everyone that every human being is born with a bad case of original sin—right out of the womb. This idea stems from the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit. (Please don’t blame apples, one of my favorite foods. The Bible says “fruit.”)
I believe in the doctrine of original goodness. Why would Creation make evil?
The institutional church loves original sin. This tenet is a huge moneymaker. Imagine if the church said that all human beings, because we’re from God, are good. No one would go to church, or so they think. (I go to church because I like the community and what the members believe, not because I have original sin, which I don’t.)
Unfortunately, the early church spotted a problem with original sin. If all humanity had original sin, then what did that mean for Jesus? He was totally human. Did he have original sin?
He couldn’t. He was God.
But not to worry. The church invented a doctrine to clear that up. The church called it the Incarnation, which sort of like a deodorant for Jesus’s original sin. The church declared that Mary was inseminated by God, who did not have original sin. Jesus’s original sin was gone and the church was off the hook. A “virgin” (were there any medical records?) had given birth. (An oxymoron if I ever heard one—a woman who had given birth still a virgin? Yikes! How far is this going to go?) Christianity had an original sin–less Savior. Finally, the church was home safe!
Not so fast. Mary, as a human, obviously must have had original sin, so Jesus could have been exposed to it in utero. Heavens to Betsy.
Then the church had an idea. The theologians developed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception so Mary was born free of original sin. This guaranteed that Jesus was never exposed to original sin.
Oops! Another roadblock! Mary’s mother and Jesus’ grammy, Anna, as a human, had to have original sin, which means Mary could have caught it, which then means maybe Jesus did have original sin.
Not to worry. The church can just make Jesus’s grammy free of original sin—and then her mother, and then her mother’s mother, and on and on until every woman in Jesus’s genealogy is immune to original sin.
And the silliness goes on and on, and the church keeps perpetuating it.
I consulted my church’s liturgical calendar, and sure enough, December 8 is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This feast day is nine months before March 8, the Nativity (or birth) of Mary. Huh? No one knows when Mary was born.
The Immaculate Conception doctrine is ridiculous, and I think the church performs all these theological contortions because worrying about who has original sin and who doesn’t is so much easier than following Jesus’s command to Peter and all his Followers: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).
Thus the “Immaculate Deception” is explained to its fullest. Which version do you like? The Immaculate Conception or the Immaculate Deception?