The last two times I have prayed the Joyful Mysteries on the rosary, I have seen Jesus, just after birth, wrapped in weird looking blankets, and in his mother Mary’s arms. He’s just been fed, and he does not need to be changed. He fusses as he squirms in Mary’s arms, and with that, he opens his little mouth, and cries. He cries, and he won’t stop crying because he’s a baby and that’s what they do. Seeing this scene the way I saw it has opened up a whole new world for me in how I view Jesus.
I was taught growing up that because Jesus was sinless, he never cried unless he was hungry or needed to be changed. This idea came from the fact that even infants were “conceived in sin,” meaning that they were rebellious against God before they were even born. That even if a mother had a miscarriage, the baby might go to hell because it was “conceived in sin” and yet everything that God does is good and therefore, even though it sounds horrible to us, we must trust God that God is holy and just and the baby deserved to go to hell if that’s where it went.
God was this sadistic freak who purposely created some human beings to go to hell just because God wanted to, and that this was a right and holy thing. That God created some people specifically to go to heaven, and there was no changing God’s mind. A person was already either damned or not based solely on how God was feeling the moment they were conceived. What this meant in practice was that even tiny babies were seen as rebellious and manipulative, and that it was necessary to punish babies from birth so that their little wills would be broken. If a parent hadn’t managed to beat a child’s will into submission by the age of three, it was too late.
I am one of the people for whom it was too late, and I paid for it dearly. They never were able to beat the sinner out of me, and I suppose that means that their God, who is not my God, had decided I was a great candidate for hell when God was creating that day. So if I as a baby had been fed, and my diaper was dry, and I was still crying, they believed I was doing it to be rebellious because I was a little sinner. That meant that they had to spank me because that’s what you’re supposed to do to a child that sins.
That brand of theology creates a cruel world. The reason it was so significant for me to see Jesus cry as an infant in his mother’s arms even though his needs were taken care of was that if it’s true that Jesus didn’t sin and also wasn’t born in sin, then crying for seemingly no reason isn’t a sin. It wasn’t baby me being rebellious, it was baby me being…a baby…and that’s something huge for someone like me who was abused as a child to see.
Even Jesus cried. I’m thirty-six years old, and I only just realized that baby Jesus cried sometimes even when he wasn’t hungry or wasn’t wet or poopy. Perhaps he just wanted a hug. If baby Jesus was able to cry, and not be a rotten little sinner, then I didn’t deserve punishment for crying and I wasn’t rebellious. Maybe I was just a baby.