At this point, I think we’ve pretty much all lost track. There was Bill O’Reilly and Harvey Weinstein, and then there was Mark Halperin and Louis C.K. and Kevin Spacey and Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer…and by the time this column makes it into print, most likely some other famous person will have been outed as a sexual predator.
Of course, what makes all this especially disturbing is that fact that these men are so accomplished and successful. If they were all unknown losers, we could just reassure ourselves that their pervy behavior was simply the result of a lack of education or a repressive childhood or low self-esteem. But these guys were at the pinnacle of our culture; they were making the kind of money that we can only dream about; they had every advantage and all the privileges.
So what everyone is now talking about is how we can possibly prevent this sort of thing from happening—and, so far, based on what I’ve heard and read, it’s not a very optimistic conversation. Which really isn’t all that surprising: I mean, let’s face it, since we now know that some of the most talented and well-respected men in the entire country have been engaging in sexually deviant behavior for many years, the usual solutions are going to sound, well, inadequate.
But Christmas is just a few weeks away, and one of the central doctrines of that ancient Christian feast actually provides the answer to this whole mess. That doctrine is the Virgin Birth.
Yeah, I know: Not what you were expecting. Because to the extent that folks even think about the Virgin Birth anymore, they think that what it represents is a rejection of sex—Mary gave birth to Christ Jesus without having sex, so that must mean that sex is bad and dirty and shameful.
But the Virgin Birth doesn’t have anything to do with sex. What that doctrine proclaims is a new beginning, a new way of being human. The old way, the so-called ‘normal’ way of being human is what produces the kind of gross behavior that we’ve seen on the news lately. Counseling and rehab and medication and support groups can help manage that behavior and hopefully minimize that behavior, but they cannot finally change the human nature that produces that kind of behavior.
Hence the need for the Virgin Birth. Because Mary conceived Christ Jesus, not through physical intercourse but through the power of the Holy Spirit, our Lord and Master is not like all the rest of us. He is human, certainly, but He is also divine. And that union of the human and the divine in one person provides us all with a prototype, a template for what is nothing less than a new way of being human.
But it’s not enough to just believe in this prototype or to simply use this template as a guide. A lot of people think that’s what being a Christian is all about. But a Christian is someone who has actually been joined to Christ Jesus. So, for Christians, this prototype, this template, is not something external to us; it’s not an ideal that we strive after or a code by which we evaluate our thoughts and actions. This prototype, this template becomes, for us, an internal reality, and that’s why we can literally become new people—because we have been united to the One Who is both human and divine.
That union takes place in the Church through Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. However, baptism and the eucharist are not magic; we are united to Christ Jesus, but we have to live out that union on a day to day basis, and we have to nurture that new life through disciplines such as prayer and fasting and through acts of mercy and kindness. But if we persevere in that new way of being human, then we eventually leave behind the old way of being human.
And all that is made possible by the Virgin Birth. That’s why the doctrine is so very important—because it’s through Mary’s faithfulness and courage and humility that all of us have the opportunity to be united with her Son and to become new people.
Christmas would be a wonderful time to take that step. So, Bill and Harvey, Mark and Louis, Kevin and Charlie and Matt: if by some weird cosmic coincidence you’re reading this column, get in touch with your local Orthodox parish; they will welcome you and talk to you further about the Virgin Birth and show you how you can be united with Christ Jesus and tap into that new way of being human.
But the same goes for all you folks here in Central Texas: If you’re just tired of trying to manage and minimize the impact that alcohol or drugs or anger or food or gambling or sex has on your life, send me an email or give me a call. Through the grace and mercy of The One Who was born of a Virgin, you can become a new person, and, I can promise you, it will be the best Christmas you’re ever had.