Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day Church Services

Once upon a time, someone had a seemingly good and obvious idea that eventually turned out to be horrible: "Why don't we honor all the mothers in church tomorrow for Mother's Day?"

A simple "Happy Mother's Day" from the pulpit, I suppose, would have been fine. However, what we now have in many churches (ask around if you don't know what I'm writing about) is a weird, time-consuming rose-based game show that looks very much like reality TV's The Bachelor.

"I have a handful of roses up here at the altar. Some of you will receive them. Some of you will not." The entire church gets to find out who the mother is with the most kids is, who the newest mother is, who the oldest mother is, who the youngest mother is... often through some sort of elimination sit-down game. You can begin to see the problems with this already, I hope, and we haven't even got to the bad stuff yet.

There have been many articles (thankfully, though apparently not effectively) written about this bad stuff, which includes exclusion, insensitivity, ignorance, and a general stirring of painful emotions caused by the church that make many women dread the Mother's Day church service. A short list of who these articles mention include stepmothers, women who are infertile, women who have miscarried, women who have given their children up for adoption, and women whose children have died.

Things can be uncomfortable at these services no matter what. For example, being a non-mother at all having to sit through such a ceremony can be weird, since so many dumb expectations are put on women to "be fruitful and multiply." Society in general does this (pay attention to movies, to get a taste), and the church plays a big part. A writer in one of the articles I mentioned described herself as feeling like an "empty shell" when sitting among the standing mothers. (The church also weaves in their goofy judgments concerning abortion, the importance of having children with a husband, their stance on gay people adopting, etc.)

I suppose the happiest mothers during Mother's Day services are the ones who don't think of any of the above and are just pleased as punch to sit on a pew with all of their children present. But what happens when (for a completely random example) one of those kids becomes an atheist and leaves the church altogether? Train up a child in the way he should go and... ah, never mind.

So what's the solution?

I can't say I agree with the articles that want to confront the negative feelings head-on during the services with lines from the minister like, "To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away--we mourn with you. To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children--we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be." This seems, to me, like yet another road to Hell paved with good intentions.

The only solution is to stop the nonsense altogether. If you're someone in charge of the church, do what you gotta do to cut it out. If you're not someone in charge, you can make it happen eventually by not showing up to the (apparently) third-most attended holiday of the year (after Easter and Christmas). Tell your church pals you're not going, and tell them why. Guys and gals both: just an all-out boycott of church on Mother's Day if they insist on this game show. Then let the free market decide if it continues.

Because it is, ultimately, a distracting game show instead of, you know, a church service. Okay, so there are mothers in the audience. Who gives a shit? Don't you have a god or something to worship? I know that, when I used to be a church-goer, Mother's Day was always the day I could count on for zero percent spiritual edification. We all had to give up God for a day to serve the almighty Hallmark and 1-800-FLOWERS. The Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, yes, but those corsages weren't going to pin themselves.

So just stop it. Do the Mother's Day stuff in your homes in the privacy of your own whatever.

And, before I go, a theory. Ever wonder why Father's Day isn't a big church event while Mother's Day is? My guess is because every day is already Father's Day at church. We have Big Daddy God the Father, of course. Most of the church leaders are "Fathers." Within Christianity, men still hold most of the power. But these men still count on the women of the church to pump out all those future tithes-payers (or future companions in Heaven, if you want me to be a little less cynical), so Mother's Day is their time to honor them. To patronize them. To throw them a bone.

A bone in the form of a rose.

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