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I'm Cathy Leamy, a Boston cartoonist and medical writer. Check out my comics! They're mainly about health care and autobio stories.

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Thursday, March 6, 2003

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immaculi immacula, immaculi immacula

Look, here's a clarification for those folks who aren't getting it or just don't know it:

"Immaculate Conception" does NOT refer to the birth of Jesus Christ. It does NOT refer to His divine sex-free conceiving.

The "Immaculate Conception" refers to the conception of Jesus' mother, Mary. It is the belief that Mary herself was born without Original Sin, that she was granted grace from the moment of her conception. It's a major belief in Catholicism, and probably is helpful for bolstering Mary's high status (e.g., being made Queen of Heaven following her death).

Now, there are a number of terms that you could apply to the actual birth of Jesus. Virgin birth, divine birth, so on and so on. There are probably some neat scientific-sounding terms, like parthenogenesis, which refers to virgins reproducing (like in Herland) although not addressing the spiritual aspect of the conception.

What it boils down to is that if you think you're being clever or coming off as especially erudite because you refer to a virgin or divine birth as "an immaculate conception", knock it off. You're wrong, and you're just perpetuating the confusion. Don't write sci-fi stories with nonsexual reproduction and then graft the term on there for an attempt at depth. Don't try to add layers of Biblical symbolism to your pop culture commentary by namedropping the term wherever the woman gets pregnant without a father. C'mon, now.

That really does chap my ass a bit. Some folks will go to the ends of the earth to research information that is critical of other religions and cultures: precise quotations from Leviticus that condemn currently-acceptable behavior like eating shellfish and menstruating in church, bad passages from Mere Christianity, your favorite violent passage from the Qur'an here, sendups of easy-to-mock pagan practices, and so on.

But when it comes to namedropping and appropriating things from other religions and cultures for a purpose that serves them, pretty often people just go to town and to hell with the details. Namedrop Catholic doctrine inappropriately, swipe names of interesting Hindu gods for personal use, bust out the sacred tribal tattoo kits and culturally significant jewelry (now on sale at Newbury Comics!), take it all and do what you like. Bah.

Say Your Piece

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