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Mother’s Day Massacre: A Response to “An Open Letter to Pastors (A Non-Mom Speaks about Mother’s Day)

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Last year, a dear friend shared a link to an article called “An Open Letter to Pastors (A Non-Mom Speaks about Mother’s Day).”[1] Its main goal is to wrap Pastors’ heads around how hurtful Mother’s Day can be for so many women whose personal relationship to Mother’s Day is tainted by a myriad of problems. As this dreaded day of honor to mother’s comes around again, I’ve already begun receiving nasty notes about this post from people in pain. Which convinces me all the more how important it is to repost it. We live in a society in which personal pain is the great excuser. We are not responsible for how we deal with our pain. We are not responsible for our selfishness, our meanness, our inconsiderate demands, our myopic fixations, our overt rudeness. We have pain, let the world mourn, let society rearrange itself to accommodate us, let every announcement, sermon, and blog post be inclusive of our perspective. Well, here it is again.

In  “An Open Letter to Pastors (A Non-Mom Speaks about Mother’s Day)” the author considered many mother related pain issues with sympathetic personal detail and with what seems like touching wisdom and earnest Christian concern, saying, “A pastor asked all mothers to stand. On my immediate right, my mother stood and on my immediate left, a dear friend stood. I, a woman in her late 30s, sat. I don’t know how others saw me, but I felt dehumanized, gutted as a woman. Real women stood, empty shells sat. I do not normally feel this way. I do not like feeling this way. I want no woman to ever feel this way in church again,”

The article is touching, compassionate and nearly complete malarkey. Now, I realize that no one is supposed to challenge anything that begins with a touching tribute to the suffering of others, particularly women and children, but hear me out on this one. The true-ness of suffering is beside the point, even though our temptation is to make it the only point. You can call me an insensitive jerk, if you like, though I do have pity for suffering people, but this article, like so many of it’s kind is built upon a growing trend toward emotionalized social narcissism that stands in opposition to healthy society and celebration of its most needed virtues. It’s foundation is cracked.

I am a man. I celebrate Mother’s Day. Why? Because I have a Mother, had Grandmothers…. Because I have a wife who is a Mother to my children, a sister who is a mother, friends who are mothers, and if my mother did nothing for me but give me life I should find something on this day to celebrate and to express gratitude over… I value the institution of motherhood. It’s not about me. It’s about other’s whose turn it is to be honored. I am not the center of the universe; my situation is not the all-important fulcrum of every event. This is not woman’s day, it’s not kids day, it’s not father’s day… it’s Mother’s Day. Indeed, the founder of Mother’s Day was a spinster without children who was provoked by her gratitude for her own deceased mother to establish this day as a day of honoring the institution. [2]

Do I feel bad for mothers who’ve lost children through untimely death or miscarriage, Yes. Do I grieve for those who chose to murder their children through abortion and are forced to face this fact each Mother’s Day? Of course. Do I feel sorry for those who can’t get pregnant, can’t find a husband to make them mothers? Sure. Do I feel sorry for those who had terrible mothers? Who were terrible mothers? Absolutely. Scripture does highlight the suffering of barren women, and does call us to mourn with those who mourn… indeed, I have a friend who recently lost her son, and I know that she’ll feel a special hurt this Mother’s Day… yet again… but let’s get one thing straight; Mother’s Day is a national celebration of motherhood. It is a day of celebration and gratitude NOT a day of mourning failure and struggle.

A chastisement I often received as a child was, “Andrew, this is neither the time nor the place for (fill in the blank).” I filled in a lot of blanks as a child. Mother’s Day is not the time, and Mother’s Day celebrations are not the place for all these true sentiments that the author wants highlighted, so that No woman will ever feel like that in church again.

So, to all those women whose highest emotional level of maturity is to sit around on Mother’s Day decrying other people’s right to celebrate without giving their personal situation a moment of grieving silence, I say, “Sorry you are hurting, but grow up. You are not the center of the universe either. Find someone and something to celebrate and celebrate, like I do. If you don’t want to celebrate Mother’s Day, then don’t… but please stop raining on everyone else’s parade because you can’t get beyond yourself and can’t help but carry your own baggage into everything you do.”

This author actually imagines that Pastors should work their way through a litany of 17 caveats to make sure that nobody is left out, that no connected grief remain un-mourned, that no, even remotely connected, relationship to caring mother-like relationships go without a special nod. (I give my own list of caveats at the end.)

This trend is not a small thing. I am not being petty.

This article expresses the beating heart of a social plague… the incapacity in today’s America to celebrate anything without that celebration being decried as hurtful to someone for some reason, besmeared with our ugly discontent with imperfection, while we walk away smelling of roses for our “compassion.” It is unseemly and destructive that the very notion of imperfection in a thing relegates it to the trash heap of our hearts.

Many of our children can’t abide watching the Birthday Boy get presents unless they to get a present too. We think every child deserves a trophy just for showing up… or for intending to show up, even if he or she couldn’t quite make it most of the time. One man’s gifting is deemed a “disadvantage” to someone else. We can’t honor one person without regarding it as dishonoring another. We can’t praise one without regarding it as insulting another. We can’t try to help one person see partial culpability or foolishness in a struggle or tragedy without being deemed as excusing the egregious sins of another.

With every attempt to celebrate those things that make for a strong and stable community, the citizens of this era seek to muddy the waters with the impossible complexity of billions of individuals, with the uniqueness of every situation. This is not about sensitivity, though many imagine that it is. This is about a social trend that intentionally and unintentionally eradicates the very notion of paradigms and generalities. The easiest criticism to rally against anything is to say that it is “too simplistic” or “reductionistic.” or “not inclusive enough.” Why? Because it’s always true.

What, however, dies in our society when the very notion of pattern, archetypes, generalities, and principles dies? What dies in our society when our ability to celebrate anything is urinated upon by the horrible fear that someone somewhere “has been made to feel bad”? [Notice where the onus is always placed… our celebration of X made Y feel bad… It’s not Y’s fault for being narcissistic, petty, overly sensitive, incapable of looking beyond his or her own emotions or situation; no, it’s our fault for praising, for celebrating, for honoring X without anticipating ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWY&Z.]

Indeed, wisdom itself curls up and dies at the feet of “Sometimes it doesn’t happen that way.” Everything that fails to achieve 100% or 0% is buried beneath the impossible complexity of the uniqueness of each situation, paralyzing one’s ability to declare anything as right or wrong, beneficial or harmful. One is not even permitted to address issues of wisdom anymore without being accused of “blaming the victim.”

I’ve read a dozen similar articles of late… authors criticizing the churches’ regard for virginity before marriage, about praising or honoring intelligence and good grades, the father-daughter dance or the mother-son dinner, Valentine’s Day or Christmas, graduations, modesty, most valuable player, etc, etc, etc ad nauseam.

In keeping with the trend among Christian bloggers, I’ve decided to write my own open letter to ministers who do weddings. I’ve been to so many weddings where the minister conducting the ceremony was so fixated on the joy of marriage as an institution and of the personal happiness of those getting married that he showed no sensitivity to the pain of so many who might be present.

I think ministers should take time out to recognize the suffering of those…

  1. Who wish they could find a person to marry but can’t
  2. Who lost beloved spouses
  3. Who have been physically or psychologically abused in marriage
  4. Who have been cheated on, abandoned, or divorced.
  5. Who are worried that this union might negatively affect friendships or Poker night.
  6. Who chose to live with someone who just won’t marry them
  7. Who are too young to marry legally
  8. Whose gender inclination, pedophilia, incestuous attractions, or polygamous ambitions leave them without recourse to legal union (Soon none of these will be a problem, but for now…)
  9. Who would be married save for the loss or abandonment of a fiancé(e)
  10. Parents who desperately wish that one or more of their children could find a spouse
  11. Parents who just spent far too much money on a single day of celebration
  12. Who are engaged to be married, but must wait for their day to come
  13. Who because of mental or moral deficiency are incapable of sustaining a marriage
  14. Whose spouses were unable to attend because of infirmity at home, incarceration, or are in an old folks home, away at war, or traveling on business
  15. Who are jealous over either the groom or bride, having missed their own chance to marry them
  16. Who are envious of the grandeur of the wedding because their own wedding was lacking
  17. Who are angry because the bride is prettier, skinnier, shapelier or just looks better in white than they do

With these 17 caveats in place, I am sure every marriage celebration will put marriage in the right sensitivity zone, recognizing that, for some, marriage is a painful subject and weddings in general put a spotlight on their suffering.

Perhaps we should weave divorce, abuse, and infidelity statistics into the wedding sermon as well.

I’m running out of time, but I’d also like to write an open letter to all those insensitive fools who enjoy a nice sunny day without regard to those who suffer from blindness, Protoporphyria, or live in England.

Get the point?

[1] http://timewarpwife.com/open-letter-pastors-non-mom-speaks-mothers-day/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Jarvis

9 thoughts on “Mother’s Day Massacre: A Response to “An Open Letter to Pastors (A Non-Mom Speaks about Mother’s Day)

  1. Kathy Russell says:

    When I was growing up I heard the phrase “Life isn’t always fair” a billion times. I think this generation of people would like to change that immutable truth to “Life is mostly fair to everyone if we all suffer something”. Perhaps if the church focused more on the theology of suffering we’d hear less of this from the Christian corner.

  2. Sue says:

    Ok, you’re an insensitive jerk.

    Some of your point is valid, but while people who might be in too much personal pain to attend a wedding can skip it, why should those not dealing well with their motherhood losses have to skip WORSHIP? Why is worship about some of us and not all of us on an admittedly secular holiday? And why do you jump on this, a loss you cant suffer? Because you are, as you say, an insensitive …?

    1. Anonymous says:

      Well said. He has no idea of the suffering of people in this predicament. Why doesn’t the church alienate some more losers?

  3. rhonda says:

    Clearly this is the most insensitive thing I have read regarding Mother’s Day. Yes, you are a man and you have absolutely NO idea what it is to mother, to suffer infertility, to mourn a loss. I am only sorry I bothered to read your warped writing anyway. Please. You bore me.

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