Hollywood and the media stumble and bumble on 'Immaculate Conception'

The Immaculate Conception is one of those religious concepts that's amazingly misunderstood in this day and age.

Why does that matter? Well, because ignorance about the religion that the press and Hollywood abhors is at the root of why Catholicism is so under fire in this age.

With a nod to the great Saturday Night Live character Roseanne Roseannadanna (played by Gilda Radner) I, as a Catholic, say to these people: You don't know what it is. 

Hollywood certainly doesn't know, and the most recent example was the Netflix show The Politician.  

In the name of consistency, producers Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan also produced Glee several years ago and got it wrong there as well.  Politicians don't know what it is, either, but that should come as no surprise.

The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary's conception in the womb of her mother, Anne.  The idea is that Mary was conceived free from original sin and therefore a fitting dwelling place for the unborn Jesus.  There was never any allusion to Mary not being conceived sexually by her parents.  We should also know what the Immaculate Conception is not: it is not the virgin birth of Jesus.

There are a whole lot of people who get the Immaculate Conception wrong, which is not confusing, as it is a teaching of only the Catholic Church. 

 But a lot of Catholics are also confused on the subject, and not just nominal Catholics.  The pope spoke "ex cathedra," or infallibly, on the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and it became a tenet of faith for Catholics, but certainly not other Christian denominations.  (There is a lot of confusion of the infallibility of the pope as well, but popes have spoken ex cathedra on only two issues, and they both pertain to Mary: her Immaculate Conception, and her Assumption.)  The more fundamental Protestants will tell you there is nothing in the Bible about the Immaculate Conception.  Mainline Protestants will remind you that the Protestant Reformation was based, in part, on the fact that popes were very fallible.  Many churches in some ways related to the Catholic Church — the Eastern Orthodox, for example — dispute the Church's understanding of the Immaculate Conception.

The virgin birth of Jesus, which is what all those misapplications of "Immaculate Conception" refer to, is an entirely different matter.  It is a fundamental tenet of all Christianity that Jesus's birth was a virgin birth — i.e., he was not conceived through sexual intercourse.  And something else that most people do not realize: The virgin birth of Jesus is also a fundamental belief of Islam (Chapter 19 of the Quran).

This is not just “a Catholic thing” because most Catholics are not particularly well-versed on the issue. And it’s not just that popular culture feels free to make religious references with little or no knowledge.

Religious ignorance and misconceptions invariably lead to anti-religious sentiments. There are some anti-Catholic sentiments bubbling under the surface as well as above. There has been a series of recent church burnings in Canada, for example. Major cathedrals have burned in France. Mission San Gabriel, one of the original founding missions of California, was nearly destroyed last year. Anti-Semitic violence is on the rise, too, and is the most prominent hate crime (regardless of what you hear about anti-Muslim violence.)

Politics is downstream of culture, and cultural misappropriation of religious items needs to be taken seriously.

Image: Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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