Loving Unwed Mothers

I’ve been waiting for this article to get on line, and it’s finally up.  I read this when it was published in paper form, and found it articulate and insightful into the sad way women and motherhood can be treated.  If you’re a woman reading this, I’d like to hear what you have to say.  Of course, men- please comment too!

“For Shame?” 

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9 Comments»

  Kelly G. wrote @

That was really interesting – I definitely hear so much judgment and shame from the church about unwed mothers. One of my friends was born when his mother was nineteen; she hadn’t planned the pregnancy, and she gave up a volleyball scholarship and dropped out of school to take care of him, and throughout his life he’s grown up with the idea that it was his fault and she’d have been better off without him, which is so sad – I can’t even imagine. And I know it really affects him. I think his life would have been really different had he constantly been affirmed as a human and a life, not something unplanned that interrupted his mother’s ‘better’ plans. It’s actually really encouraging to see something in such a big publication that focuses on grace and the beauty of life and not on the pregnancy as a huge mess/problem.

  Josiah wrote @

I really enjoyed the article. I think many people married and unmarried take an attitude that children are a burden to their lives and to be avoided at all cost. I couldn’t disagree more in fact I would say that bringing children into this world, providing for them and raising them up to be God fearing adults is one of our primary purposes in this world. I can also say from first hand experience that God uses these “unexpected” events to shape our lives and bring us closer to him. God has provided very generously to me and my family despite our indiscretions. That being said I think that a child desperately needs a stable two parent home and any father who leaves his children is “USELESS”.

  Floyd wrote @

I was frankly troubled by the article. Yes, every child is precious, and every parent is valued before God. Much of the author’s suggestions for practical action to restore the fallen (yes, fallen!) unwed parents and give them hope are healthy and good, worthy of communities of Christ’s disciples. But the element of shame is not without its value. The fact is, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has noted that the rate of teen pregnancy is now at its lowest level in almost 70 years. And that is during a time in which the level of illegitimacy, especially among 20somethings, is at an all-time high of over 35%. I think that the public campaign of shaming the lack of intelligence of young people throwing away their futures for sensual pleasure is, while grotesque and cruel, highly effective. Love can motivate many to do what is right and intelligent, but unfortunately fear seems to be the drug of choice to successfully get the attention of hormone-crazed teens. As in much of life, a “carrot and stick” approach is required: the “stick” prior to the mistake, the “carrot of compassion” after. And if that kind of common-sense understanding of the issue of illegitimacy is to be associated with being “red state”, as was done in the article, well that’s another reason for this writer to be very proudly of that persuasion. And yes, Josiah, a child does need a stable two-parent (heterosexual only) home, and a deserting father is USELESS!

  Kelly G. wrote @

I don’t think it’s fair to credit the policy of shame for lower teen pregnacy rates and to claim that as a victory. Having been a teenager quite recently myself, I would pretty confidently say that the campaign of shame doesn’t make teenagers have less sex, it just encourages them to be more cautious about protection and/or more likely to resort to abortion. That doesn’t at all correlate to purity.

I also don’t think it’s at all fair to refer to unwed parents as “fallen,” because if they were convicted that their act itself was wrong and have sought forgiveness for that, then they are totally redeemed, regardless of whether the woman is pregnant or not, and no more ‘fallen’ than anyone else in the world. I firmly believe that pregnancy shouldn’t be seen as some sort of marker as shame, and it’s definitely not the pregnancy itself that one should ever seek redemption from.

  Floyd wrote @

Kelly, I just don’t agree. There is a responsibility on the part of Christians, while being compassionate, to uphold concrete, objective
truth, and identify and condemn sin for what it is, sin. If you can’t
call people who commit the sin of fornication as ‘fallen’, then you
can’t do it to anyone. I have a serious offense at the postmodern
tendency to refuse to voice disapproval of any behavior other than,
perhaps , the act of disapproving sinful behavior. The Scriptures
actually talk of removing people from Christian fellowship who engage
in flagrant, open sinful activity. But if that were done in most of
our fellowships today, those who would engage in the practice of
removal would encounter the howls of rage and accusations of
judgmentalism, and the individual church would be split.

If the individuals to which you would cite, unwed parents, are

repentent, fine, we embrace, restore, help, and speak no further of the
matter. That is how Jesus did it. But in the immediate aftermath of
the ‘act’ of unwed conception, in reference to the act itself, then
yes, they are indeed ‘fallen.’ The problem that I suspect here is not
that we show compassion on a sinner of any kind, but that we seem to be
all too willing to be selective in our forgiveness. I suspect that too
many are more likely to be compassionate to an unwed mother, or
even an openly practicing gay man with AIDS, than we would to a former
congressman sent to prison for accepting bribes, or to a former pastor
defrocked for multiple acts of adultery. We will be more likely to
look for the “root causes of inner city rage” and seek “social justice”
for a young black who engages in multiple armed robberies, or a young
illegal Hispanic engaging in drug dealing, and seek their “restoration”
and “hope”. But
are we so quick to try to “understand” and show
compassion for the wealthy white Harvard graduate convicted for stock
or real estate fraud?

I admit, that I am moving somewhat afield from the issue of unwed
pregnancy, but the issues and the reactions that too many self-professed “postmodern Christians” seem to be of the same warp and woof. I agree with the
spirit of compassion that you are urging that we have, for I have
enough skeletons in my closet to probably send me away for a long time,
in the hands of the wrong political operative or investigative
journalist. However, there has to be a moral “firewall” beyond which
we must not fall, and that is that there are clearly things that the
Scriptures call ‘sin’, which must be condemned, and it isn’t what too
many of us comfortably call “intolerance.”

As to the act of shaming. I saw the ads in the commercials that the
article described. They were graphic and
effective. I agree that much
of the reactions of young people would be to obtain condoms and
abortions, but the figures by the U.S. HHS has shown a steady decline
in the number and rate of abortions in America, and especially among
teenagers over the last 15 years. So I would submit that perhaps the
shock effect of warning teens (and maybe some collegians), that the
price of promiscuity might be the loss of opportunity and the ruination
of dreams and goals, might be effective. Indeed, I maintain that they
do. I will say again, shame is not always a negative thing. Often, it
acts as “godly sorrow, which leads to repentance and leaves no
regret.”, as spoke St. Paul by the Holy Spirit.

If you’re the Kelly I know, by the way, forgive me for forgetting who
you are. And please don’t take this as unloading just on you. There
are certain situations that deserve the attention of all of us who love the Lord which I

speak to. Take this as good-natured give and take among brethren. God
bless.

  Kelly G. wrote @

Those are really interesting points, and I think it’s definitely true that Christians are called to uphold truth in the world.

But I think to concentrate shame on those who got pregnant implies that the pregnancy itself is a sin, and not the actual act that led to pregnancy. By singling out unwed parents as fallen and by shaming them, one suggests that it was not the impurity that’s a cause for shame–since those who have lost their virginity out of wedlock but did not conceive are not emblazoned on huge posters at bus stops or constantly made to feel inferior because of their choices–but the act of carrying a child. A woman could have sex out of wedlock one night, and the next night be completely repentant and could seek forgiveness from God. In my opinion, at that point the sin is no longer an issue at all. And I think four months later, when she’s pregnant and starting to show, I think it’s so dangerous for others to say that she’s “fallen,” because to me that implies that God didn’t actually restore her or forgive her, o that the pregnancy itself is the sin.

I’ve had several very close friends who have gotten pregnant out of wedlock. They were not in any way ashamed of losing their virginity or having compromised their purity, but it was a fear of the shame of pregnancy that led them to abort their babies. I was really heartbroken, and they were damaged too, and I can’t help but believe that it would be so different if there weren’t such a social stigma about unwed mothers–perhaps they would have felt able to carry their children to term and to give them up for adoption. I think especially for those who aren’t Christians, since there’s no standard by which to measure purity, it’s so important to make a distinction between what we believe about purity and to stop making women feel like the life they’re carrying is in any way sinful or shameful.

I also wonder if Jesus was born out of wedlock to remind us that it’s not pregnancy itself that we should consider sinful. I haven’t really studied that, but I’d like to think that partly God was trying to remind us that it’s not our place to judge, since no doubt it was easy to draw conclusions about Mary and her morals.

  Kelly G. wrote @

Also (Yucan, I’m sorry I’m flooding your blog with comments–for some reason I just feel really strongly about this topic), I think turning pregnancy into a shameful situation really endangers children who were conceived in situations like rape. As a woman, if I were to be raped and were to conceive, it would be so hard for me to overcome all the shame and all the prejudice and all the assumptions made about me while I was pregnant in order to carry my child. And I know that so many people do get abortions when they’re raped because the shame of pregnancy is too great to bear, and that really breaks my heart that instead of society (even and sometimes especially Christians) believing that the woman is carrying a new life and has the opportunity to bring a new soul into the world, the billboards and the judgmental looks and the entire attitude that this is a shameful situation will really likely make her believe that her pregnancy is in fact shameful and that her child is a problem she needs to get rid of in order to get on with her life. I think that’s so wrong, and so sad.

  Floyd wrote @

A ‘fallen couple’, as I would still term them, (because of the fornication, not the baby), would only need to repent once, since because of the pregnancy, attention is called to the fornication. If by some chance that couple had the integrity to face their sin prior to discovering they were expecting a child, and repent to those to whom they were accountable, and deal with the issue of promiscuity, then that is another matter. In that case, discovering that the young woman is pregnant is no longer an issue, for repentance and action to deal with the underlying problem has already been done. In that sense, yes, you’re right, Kelly.

However, that is not the norm, and I think we all can understand that. The reason that a couple who conceive a child out of wedlock gets ‘shamed’ is not, among Christians who want to love the fallen, because of the child. It’s because of the sin of immoral unwed sex, which in almost all cases, isn’t made known to the fellowship until after the pregnancy is known. It’s the irresponsibility of making sex a recreational sport, and among Christians, where we’re taught that there is not to ‘be even a hint of immorality…’, and doing so without regard to the consequence of that sin, a child brought into the world with parents wholly unprepared to properly love and care for it.

Frankly, the nature of a society where 36% of all births (and most first-time births) are illegitimate, has turned what should be a matter of grave concern over the underlying sins of immorality and selfishness into almost a matter of celebration. Having a baby out of wedlock is nothing to be proud of, because it is caused by immorality. And as to your friends’ situation, it is a testament to the hardness of heart of our culture that their self-indulgence led them to sexual sin with no sense of guilt, and compounded it with the sin of murder based upon that very same sense of selfishness. I am truly sad for the grief you felt in apparently trying in vain to dissuade your friends from committing that act. As someone who has had a close family member who endured pregnancy from rape (she gave the baby up for adoption), I am not someone who is a stranger to the dilemna of the tough choices these situations involve, nor
to the fact that when God’s objective standards are obeyed, good always comes about, even in such a stressful situation.

So again, they were fallen women, and if they had been Christians, they would most definitely have deserved shame, once their sin of murder had been found out. According to Scripture, they would have been required to publicly repent or be put out of the fellowship (see 1st Corinthians 5).

And lest there be any question about it by anyone else reading this thread, Roe v. Wade notwithstanding, it is NOT a woman’s choice to murder her unborn child. God is not neutral on that issue, nor is it an ambiguous issue subject to debate. In the secular world where we deal with the necessity of making non-religious appeals to sense and reason on abortion as to whether it should be legal and constitutional, maybe. But not in His House, however, the issue is settled with Him.

I think it is important to understand what we would mean by ‘shame’ in this context. What we believers, flawed, sinful believers in need of divine grace, are talking about here is not making some poor girl walk around permanently depressed, with everyone speaking in whispers around her, shunning her as some kind of permanently damaged goods. As I said in my first reaction to the article, much of the things advocated that should be done to serve the young unwed mother are good and right. For she may have once fell into the sin of fornication but, more pragmatically speaking, she has fallen into a situation that is second to none in difficulty, she is going to be a single mom. At that point she is no longer ‘fallen’ in the sense of sin, she is now in a hard job indeed. And she will need the love and support of a fellowship more than ever.

At that point, her contrition before God’s people should take a grand total of sixty seconds, as far as I’m concerned. After that, the ‘fallen’ issue is moot, and our concern should be about her…and especially the baby.

I really don’t think that we are so far apart in how we would practically deal with those who sin in the area of sex and pregnancy (including the issue of abortion–it may be murder, but the perpetrators are not beyond God’s mercy). The requirement is not some perverted notion of ‘penance’, but a simple act of sincere repentance, which takes moments but whose affects can last a lifetime. Once the repentance is made, the matter is closed. I would only say that some kind of public repentance should be made in matters such as unwed pregnancy, public cohabitation, etc., simply because they involve public notice, and the need to show disapproval before younger teens and children is necessary to model a standard of godly behavior. Once the matter is closed, however, acceptance and servanthood to the single mother is of course what the community of God’s people should do.

  elderj wrote @

well… coming from a community wherein unwed preganancy is epidemic, I see very little in the way of guilt, shame, or even slight remorse over the issue for many young women and young men. Bringing a child into the world out of the bound of holy matrimony, while not a new issue, is most certainly a shameful thing because it is a clear sign of moral failure or to put it plainly, of sin.

It does no good to pretend that a child born in such circumstances is going to have an easy life and yes the parents of that child should feel badly both because of their sinful rebllion against God and for the fact that their selfish choices have imposed hardship on an innocent child. To confuse the issue by introducing rape is not helpful as that is not the cause of the overwhelming majority of unwed pregnancies.

Premarital sex (fornication) IS sin and it HAS grave consequences including conception. That fact does not demean the value of the life of the child thusly born, but it does mean that we cannot treat sexual sin the same way we do a petty lie. It is a social sin with social consequences and those who commit such sin SHOULD feel badly. All too often however, we don’t have genuine godly sorrow that leads to repentance as evidenced by the all too frequent occurence of second and third births out of wedlock.

What we must do in addition to showing grace & mercy to those who have fallen in this way is to teach our young women that they have a responsibility to guard their virtue (an old fashioned word I know) and teach our young men their responsibility to be men of honor and integrity.


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