Every Life is Worth Celebrating
Shock. Disbelief. Denial. Anger. Shame. Worry.
These may be common feelings at the news of an unplanned pregnancy, especially one that comes from less than ideal circumstances. For the pregnant woman who finds herself unmarried, in the middle of a divorce, still in school, younger, older, unemployed, or any number of other scenarios, it can feel incredibly lonely and bring a great deal of stress and worry. How do you tell the father, your friends, your family? How do you face a world that tells you the best option is to kill the unplanned baby rather than bring it into a less-than-perfect situation? How do you face the church that may shun you for whatever sin now comes to light or pressure you to give up your baby?
And how do we — the neighbors, friends, family, loved ones — serve this mother? How do we look past whatever choices, decisions, missteps might have led to the pregnancy? How do we support her? How do we love and care for her? How do we celebrate this new life with her?
First off, we do just that. We celebrate.
We mustn’t forget every child is conceived in sin, for we are all sinners. Everything we do – even the good we do – is tainted by the sin of this fallen world. Despite our sin, though, God blesses us and creates life. Every life is a blessing. Every life is precious. Every life is a gift from God. Regardless of whatever sins, whatever circumstances, every life should be celebrated.
Secondly, we offer our support.
Talk to the mom. Offer advice when requested. Throw a baby shower. Take her shopping. Accompany her to her prenatal appointments. Be a friend. Listen. Pray for and with her. Talk to her about baptism for the baby. Encourage her to come to church. Show her she is welcome at church, that she isn’t a pariah or condemned, that she is a valued sister in the body of Christ. Church is where she and the baby hear about Christ, receive Him and His forgiveness through the Word and Sacrament. Forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Christ is greater than any amount of diapers we could provide.
Though the diapers are of help, too.
This does get a bit tricky if the mom is not a Christian, but whether she has walked away from the church or has yet to believe, there is always hope, and the Holy Spirit, our Lord who has raised the dead, can work faith in the most unlikely of hearts. So do not give up hope. Our pastors are great resources for how to approach the non-Christian mother-to-be — let us not hesitate to seek counsel and advice from our shepherds as we care for our neighbor.
We must remember, too, that doing these things does not condone sin or circumstance. We can be a friend and a sister in Christ while still standing by our values and our morals. We can offer support and love while still acknowledging the screwed-up-ness of the situation. More than likely the mom expects judgment and criticism, and while we should not give in and claim something is good and okay when it isn’t, we can say “yes, it sucks, but I’m here for you.”
Above all, though, let us follow through.
Our love and support and celebration must not end when the baby is born. Too often the mom who was once lauded for giving her child life is then shunned and abandoned once the baby arrives. That baby does not suddenly become less precious or less a blessing. Let us continue to stand by the mom and her child for as long as they remain our neighbor. Continue to encourage her to bring the child to church. Help her when she has her arms full. Offer to babysit so she can have time for herself now and then. Treat her as a fellow sister, a valued member of the community.
If we believe in the sanctity of life, and if we believe that all life has intrinsic value, and if we believe that we all are sinners in need of God’s mercy and grace through Jesus Christ, we will serve and support all our neighbors. From the tiniest baby to the loneliest mom, and every life in between.
By Vanessa Rasanen
Photo credit: “20061126_DHo_baby feet (11)_B&W_ps” by Christine Szeto licensed under CC BY 2.0
–or pressure you to give up your baby?
Respectfully, the most vulnerable person in the broken situation the author describes is the baby. Until the very recent normalization of so-called single motherhood, which rode in on the tails of a vastly relaxed sexual ethic, Christian society historically determined that the right of the child (our most vulnerable and nearly always least culpable person, remember) was to be raised in a Christian home with a father and a mother.
The language of “keeping the baby” is fine if it means “keeping the baby alive.” “Keeping” in the sense of “preggers, keepers” is not on the same ethical playing field. I do not advocate social cruelty to unmarried pregnant women. We are all sinners against the sixth commandment. But I do not think anyone is served in the long run by “supporting” single motherhood, least of all the children conceived out of wedlock. A baby with no daddy grows up to be a human being with no father, every person’s truest icon of our Father in heaven.
Respectfully, it sounds as if you’re saying that a married couple has a right to a single mom’s baby. And what of a married mother with young children, who loses her husband in some unforeseen accident? Should she also give up her children? Or is it just the girl with the scarlet A who is an unfit mother?
You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child Ex 22:22
He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Dt 10:18
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. Ps 68:5
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Ps 82:3
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Ps. 146:9
learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Is 1:17
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world James 1:27
Ellie, grace and peace to you.
Every child has a natural right to a mother and father, and a moral right to a mother and father who are married to each other.
A child who has no father due to the father’s death has been deprived of his natural right to his father (absolutely outside of human control). A child who has no father due to having been conceived outside of wedlock has been deprived of his moral right to his father (generally within human control).
An unmarried woman has a natural right to her baby, but not a moral right. She has both a natural and a moral duty to the baby.
And then some figuring has to take place. There is more than one way for a child conceived outside of wedlock to come by a father and mother. The mother may marry the father, or she may marry another man who then adopts the child, or she may ask a Christian couple to adopt her baby.
The rights of the child drive the ethical question. The duty of the parents (framed in this discussion as the mother, by the author of the post) powers it.
Yeah, you’ll have to show me Scripture to back any of that up.
It is true that some mothers are better off not raising their children, and some children are better off being raised by someone else completely. Yet, they have a moral and natural right to their children until such time they so something criminal that abolishes that right, and getting knocked up isn’t criminal.
Ellie, I am sure I don’t need to explicate in a Christian forum that sexual intercourse outside of marriage is criminal in terms of biblical morality. Since a woman cannot control whether or not she becomes pregnant as a result of sexual intercourse, moral responsibility for sexual acts extends to the rights of any child conceived. A mother does not have a moral right to a child conceived in an immoral act, because the child’s moral rights have been violated by the very act.
As for the fatherless and the widow: in the biblical world, fatherlessness was an entailment of widowhood. Children conceived out of wedlock were secured to fathers under the provisions of the law governing sexual relationships. Such children are addressed no more specifically under Mosaic law than they are in the rest of the Bible, and no less specifically. Their care always falls under the exercise of Christian sexual morality, in which the God-pleasing place for sexual intercourse and all of its consequences is within marriage.
I am not sure how it could be considered more biblical to make the matter of whether or not a human being will have a father into a question of the mother’s Christian freedom.
So, if a baby is conceived within the concept of rape, the mother is morally obligated to give the child up for adoption so that they child has access to a father?
I’m rightfully puzzled.
Solomon seemed to believe that the single mother had a moral right if not also a duty to raise her son despite her immoral manner of making a living. And Israel was astounded at his wisdom in the decision.
A child is a gift, a precious gift, it is also a responsibility and it isn’t one that should be shirked lightly.
All this moral grandstanding is a complete failure to understand the gravity of the situation.
Perhaps we should remember who is the creator of all life — even the baby conceived out of wedlock. Hint — it’s not us.
God created life when and where He chooses. To insist the mothers he creates are somehow unfit, because they are sinners (ahem — like all of us) is to have an incredible distrust in our Lord and the giver of all life.
Working mothers, adoption, single mothers… Of the first few posts here on this site, we’ve been introduced to three different special cases, ‘exceptions to the rule.’ I know discussion has been held elsewhere on the biblical, God-ordained foundations of family vocations, but those distinctions haven’t yet been laid out in this forum, except by commenters.
Initiating discussion on special cases (and so invoking ethical casuistry, situational ethics, moral relativism) without having first laid out the foundations from Scripture inevitably leads to confusion and conflict (or, Lutherans appearing to ‘eat each other up,’ when they’re really just trying to fill in the biblical/ethical blanks in these discussions).
Perhaps we could back up a bit and an author could supply a post laying out what exactly Scripture teaches explicitly (chapter and verse exegetical references; not implicit biblical teachings, not situational-ethical rationalizing) about marriage, family, and children?
Ellie’s on the right path with that list of verses. I offer the observation that it used to be (and properly is) the function of the church to care for these; nowadays, however, we all pay taxes so the government can provide widows and orphans (and needy families in general – including a fair number of our church workers and their families who qualify for and receive food stamps or other benefits) with welfare services. Where the government steps in, the church steps out. (We are all beggars, this is true.)
I have volunteered at a pregnancy center in the past, and it has just amazed me how many single pregnant women would be more willing to abort than give up their children for adoption. I have tried to convince them of the loving choice that is adoption, but it usually doesn’t work, unfortunately. In that case, we try to support the single mother to take care of her child.
One thing that is especially frustrating to me is that the government undermines marriage by giving free healthcare to pregnant women and children, so if the boyfriend/father of the baby is working and does not have health insurance, it is less expensive for them to remain unmarried and less stable. I am not saying I know what the solution is, but it’s not this. If we encounter single pregnant ladies in our congregation, we support her choice to keep the baby, give the baby up for adoption, or if she’s post-abortive, we give her the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins.
“we — the neighbors, friends, family, loved ones”–should be telephoning the child’s father. Especially man-to-man.
Well said, Alison.
The rights of the child absolutely drives this issue. The child has the right to know his or her biological parents regardless of the “sin” of the parents. I find it laughable that there are some in the Lutheran church today who would suggest that a child of a single mother or an unmarried couple should be “given” to a more “deserving” couple. I find that to be the very definition of vulgar.
Of course, those within Christianity have a long history of thinking they could treat children like chess pieces. Children moved from one family to another family for the sake of religion or politics or both (hint: take a peek at the Orphan Trains and what occurred in Italy or how about the Native American schools or the Magdalene laundries? Those nuns sure knew how to punish those evil slutty girls). If you don’t understand those specific cases, maybe research before speaking about how we should be transferring children from one family to another for the sake of “salvation.”
You know–God gave children to parents for a reason and we as fallible humans should not attempt to play God. We are not the Holy Spirit. We play God when we basically say God made a mistake when he gave a child to a woman/man. Clearly, it is our job as very good Christians to make sure that baby is taken from its mother/father–the parents God deemed for that child to born to and place it in a more sanctified family. In my opinion–that is blasphemy.
The pro-life movement has to get with it. They claim to love adoptees–yet they consistently deny adoptees their rights to their original birth certificates and they refuse to acknowledge that adoption is painful or that a loss occurs in adoption. Adoption occurs only because we live in a sinful world…yet we whitewash and make it into something it is not. Every hear of “re-homing?” If not, research that and tell me again how “forever” an adoptive family really is. Ever consider how many adoptees are abused or murdered? If not, check that out as well. The information is easy to find. Adoption does not automatically equal a life preserved.
I say all of this as a provisional LCSW, a LCMS pastor’s wife, a foster-adoptive mother of two girls and a mother to five teenagers. We need to get out of lily-white towers of superiority and get in the muck with people. I know we are all so very sanctified, but you know–if Jesus could associate with sinners without demanding a pound of flesh–so can we.
Dear sisters, I do not doubt the goodwill of anyone here. However, the post espouses a false piety. It puts the comfort of an adult, who has the luxury of agency, above the lifelong well-being of a child, who has not even the opportunity to speak on his own behalf. I am truly puzzled that a father is considered to be entirely optional to the present company, children of the heavenly Father who spared not his own Son so that we could receive adoption as sons. I commend all of us to his care, and have prayed for his Spirit of wisdom and peace to abide in our hearts.
Bror Erickson, among the marvels of Solomon’s wisdom is his ability to discern a trial for kidnapping from a trial for prostitution, despite the clarity of the operative law with regard to the latter (Lev. 19:29, which lays responsibility for preventing this line of work with, of all people, fathers). I also wonder who would take the trouble to comment WITHOUT a profound understanding of the gravity of the situation?
And I am curious if the courtesy so strenuously called for in the previous post is asked only of commenters, and not of the blog’s proprietresses? Who among us is not painfully aware that God’s creation of life operates by his natural order (or are we willing to say also that the barren are revealed to be unfit for parenting by virtue of their barrenness)? Vanessa, peace be with you as you consider these matters.
I thought this was an excellent piece about what the church is supposed to do in a difficult, unfortunate, and all too common situation. I thought the author made clear that she was in no way advocating denial of sin. I think some of the negative reaction above confuses this discussion of what members of the church as neighbors should do in response to an individual mother once she finds herself in this difficult position with what the church should do regarding this issue in general.
Perhaps the author could have included reference to the issue of adoption or trying to get the father involved. I think those are important subjects. They should not be overlooked. I would like to see them addressed in subsequent posts. But I think the target audience for this post was not pastors or people in particular positions who might need to consider recommending adoption or contacting/counseling the father. I think this was directed at the members of the congregation and how we should treat our neighbor. And given the name and focus of this blog I think this was directed at other female members of the congregation (or the mother’s family) in particular.
I think adoption is great. I think leaning on the father to get involved and encouraging the couple to marry is great. I think the woman’s family coming together to help her raise the child is great. But none of those decisions are up to me. And what the right course of action is depends on the specific situation. But what the author advocates here is a good response in all cases.
P.S. I know that in Lutheran circles there are often things implied but not explicitly stated or things assumed to be known by all involved that some people (like me) might be unaware of. So to the author I would ask, was your decision to leave out discussion of engagement with the father or adoption meant to suggest those things shouldn’t be brought up by the appropriate people at the proper time? I certainly didn’t take that as your point but it seems like some have.
Lance — You are correct that the discussion of engaging the father or recommending adoption were outside the scope for this piece. Here I intended to focus on how we can come along the sister with encouragement while still holding to our values (i.e. not condoning sin), also realizing that we do not all hold the responsibility to make certain suggestions or ask certain questions of the mother. But we can — each and every one of us — share the gospel with her (even if she’s not a Christian), encourage her to be in the Word and Sacrament, and treat her with grace, love and support in a difficult time.
By their very nature, blog posts cannot — and should not — explore every possible path on a particular topic. And we should never assume, when reading, that omission of certain topics indicates a negative stance on those said topics.
What doth the Lord require of thee? To do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly, with thy God.
I’m not seeing a lot of those, in these comments. The harshest of critics, on women, are women, or so I’ve seen. There is a huge difference between assuming what ya can’t know (unless you personally ask) and acting justly. Abortion is wrong, if an unwed mother, chooses to attend services, in spite of her sin, being so very public, deserves our aid, not judgement, & unless qualified, don’t counsel to keep or give away. That is for her Pastor, her Elders, her parents, family, & trained professionals to do. I know, I was engaged, when I found out, what medical science said wasn’t possible, was very publically possible. I pray, all others, receive the counsel & care, I did. Where is that in the comments here?
Mercy is knowing you’ve sinned, maybe not the same way, by the same Commandment, but we all do in thought, word & deed. Humility, is being willing to state that in public. This is a new site folks, it should not start w/judgement & lack of mercy.
Thanks. I realize my comments and question were largely redundant or unnecessary given what you wrote. But I hope your reply and the comments from Ellie, Bror, and Dutch above will be helpful to some in seeing clearly that the point here is how we should love our neighbor and celebrate life (like the title says).
It has taken me this long to respond to the decidedly UN-Ladylike posts because I needed to control my temper. Fortunately, many of you have stepped up and already said what needed to be said. As an LCMS woman who has spent the last 23 years of her life ministering to pregnant women in need…through advocacy, support and a shelter,THIS attitude, THIS statement, THIS HORRIFYINGLY UNCHRISTIAN idea….that a woman who conceived out of wedlock does not have A MORAL RIGHT TO PARENT HER CHILD…is the POISON that keeps supposed people of FAITH from supporting the MOST VULNERABLE poor in our world. You can now give all the LIP SERVICE you want to the idea that people should support our LCMS Ministry…but YOU are the reason we STRUGGLE every day to survive. NEVER have I EVER seen ANYONE have the audacity to put in writing what is usually shamefully SPAT in my EAR in the most horrifying way by someone after I speak at a church to raise funds for our ministry. A ministry that has brought more women to God’s Word and Sacrament by His Grace than ANY BOOK I daresay you could write. A ministry that sees both a mother and her child as PRECIOUS GIFTS…LOVED by our GOD…REDEEMED by our GOD. A ministry that actually UNDERSTANDS that we are ALL…INCLUDING those who are conceived IN WEDLOCK….CONCEIVED IN SIN!!!
I am a STRONG believer in marriage…in fathers and mothers raising children…in protecting and defending that institution…in MODELING that idea to the women we serve by bringing them into our churches and bringing families into our shelter so that they can see, OFTEN for the FIRST TIME IN THEIR LIVES, an example of a loving, caring, healthy intact family unit. FORTUNATELY…we have been able to find an abundance of caring CHRISTIAN NON-JUDGEMENTAL families who want to do just that…as opposed to stating that these women don’t actually have a moral right to raise their own children.
THIS…these comments…ARE A HUGE REASON why so many women choose ABORTION. If THIS is the attitude of a Ladylike Christian then WHY…WHY…would any woman ever even CHOOSE to let anyone in her church body KNOW that she had gotten pregnant!!
Months going by have not helped. I am still completely sickened by all of this.
One final note to the person worried that pro-life organizations like mine do not take seriously the trauma that can be caused by adoption. PLEASE believe me…we, and many other organizations DO!! We know that adoption, while a wonderful institution, is still NEVER an easy choice and ALSO not a completely ideal situation. We are extremely sensitive to this and work with agencies that are completely on board with open adoptions as a viable solution.
Thank you all for your attention. I will now go back to working 60 hours a week to try to raise the necessary $10,000.00 per month… to put CHILDREN FIRST by supporting their MOTHERS!
Having learned more about the pro-life feminism being pushed in American Christianity and what the discussion here was really about I see things differently and regret some of my earlier statements. I was very naive. I thought this actually was just about celebrating life and showing kindness to our neighbor. I thought the other issues were left out because that wasn’t the focus of the post. I get it now.
Thank you to both Rebekah and Heather for your comments.
There is a tendency of women, of mothers, to love in a very possessive way. Giving a boy a mother AND a father even if it means you have to give up something, that’s sacrificial love. That’s Christian.