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In WaPo op-ed, pastor argues celebration of the Virgin Mary hurts victims of rape

A nativity scene is displayed on the State House grounds in Lansing, Mich., Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/David Eggert)

In an op-ed for the Washington Post published Friday, the Rev. Ruth Everhart wrote that the Church’s celebration of the Virgin Mary during the Christmas season hurts victims of rape.

“Church culture tends to be fixated on sexual purity year-round, but during Advent, I’m tempted to blame it on the Virgin Mary,” Everhart wrote. “After all, she set an impossibly high bar. Now the rest of us are stuck trying to be both a virgin and a mother at the same time. It does not seem to matter that this is biologically impossible. Can you at least try?”

Everhart, who wrote that she survived a brutal sexual assault at the age of 20, said that she grappled with Church culture’s portrayal of Mary’s virginity in the emotional aftermath of the attack.

“I’m not blaming my sense of ruin on the Virgin Mary, not entirely,” she wrote. “Protestants do not claim Mary in the way Catholics do, but every Advent I feel a sense of kinship. I know what it’s like to be a good girl whose life got upended by what someone did to her body. Of course, her story plot was good and mine was bad. Plus she was, well, a saint. And I’m not.”

“Still, I study her this time of the year — always dressed in blue with downcast eyes — and want to ask: 'How was it really? And how do you feel about what the patriarchy has done with you?'" Everhart added.

Everhart wrote that she believes it is “impossible to be a good girl — meaning unblemished and pure — and also inhabit a body.”

“I’m convinced of this: Mary is not responsible for what we’ve done to her story,” she argued. “Church culture has overfocused on virginity and made it into an idol of sexual purity. When it comes to female experience, the church seems compelled to shrink and distort and manipulate.”

Washington Times columnist Kelly Riddell criticized the piece in her own op-ed. Riddell acknowledged that Everhart “has gone through trauma,” but argued that “people’s faith usually helps them overcome their hurt, not inflict more on them.”

Riddell also contended that the piece “also implies those who have suffered rape are impure, rather than just plain victims.”

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