Monday, May 11, 2009

On Second Thought -- Why Mother's Day is a Bad Idea

Al Mohler takes the contrarion view of Mother's Day. From his introduction:
Now that Mother's Day for 2009 is over, perhaps a bit of second-guessing is in order. Americans have celebrated Mother's Day for over a century, and the observance has grown to become one of the nation's most popular annual events. But is it good for motherhood?
What has changed:

Now, Mother's Day ranks number one among all annual occasions in terms of eating out. As for total spending on gifts, some analysts believe that Mother's Day has now pushed Valentine's Day into third place. While not everyone has a valentine, almost everyone has someone to honor on Mother's Day. Counting grandmothers, mothers-in-law, and assorted other maternal figures, this adds up to a huge consumer event.

What's gone wrong:

Sentiment drives Mother's Day as a gargantuan observance. We Americans feel better about ourselves when we honor motherhood -- or when we spend a few dollars on overpriced greeting cards, flowers, and food and convince ourselves that this is honoring our mothers. There is nothing wrong about sentiment in itself, but there is something pornographic about the pathos of sentimentalism that this observance produces -- a sentimentalism so often devoid of content.

The Christian vision:

The Christian vision of motherhood is more about courage and faithfulness than about sentimentalism. The mothers of the Bible are a tough lot. Jochebed put her baby in a floating ark of bulrushes, defying the order of Pharaoh that all Hebrew male children be put to death. Rachel, mother to Joseph and Benjamin, died giving birth to Benjamin. Hannah promised her son to God, and presented Samuel as a young boy for service in the House of the Lord. Mary, the mother of Jesus, risked shame and disgrace to bear the Savior, and to provide all Christians with a model of brave and unflinching obedience. She was there when Jesus Christ was crucified. As Simeon had told her just after the birth of Christ, "Behold this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." [Luke 2:34-35]

Christians must resist the reduction of motherhood to sentimentality, and particularly that sentimentalism that undermines what mothers are truly to represent -- nurture, fortitude, courage, dedication, faithfulness, discipline, and trust in God.

Why this is all a bad idea:

Mother's Day is a bad idea because it subverts the reality of faithful mothering and robs faithful mothers of their true glory. Mothers deserving of honor are handed cards and taken to lunch, when songs of praise should instead be offered to the glory of God. Undeserving mothers, who abdicate their true responsibility, are honored just because they are mothers. Children, young and old, who ignore and dishonor their mothers by word and by life throughout the year, assuage their guilt by making a big deal of Mother's Day.


Then again, Mother's Day is impossible to ignore. What quality of ingratitude marks the son or daughter (or husband) who does not honor mothers on Mother's Day? There was I yesterday, with son and daughter, honoring both their mother (my dear wife, Mary) and my mother-in-law. Yes, we had a celebratory meal out and we passed out greeting cards with our own personal inscriptions. Gifts were delivered, and all the right things were said. Calls were made to my mother, several states away.

What we can do:

So much for avoiding sentimentality. Let's just make certain that there is more to Mother's Day than sentiment. The mothers we should honor are those who raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, who honor their marriages and live faithfully, who teach and nurture and discipline by the Bible. These are mothers who defy the spirit of the age, protect their children from danger, maintain godly discipline and order in the home, and feed their children the pure milk of God's Word.

What Dan Phillips adds:
I think Mohler leaves out something that I'm confident he nonetheless believes. How a wife treats her husband deserves mention. Does she set a godly example (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-6)? Can her husband relax and trust her commitment to him (Proverbs 31:11-12)? Does she give him good reason to feel like a king, or a rotted twig (Proverbs 12:4)? These are part of the picture as well.

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