Mother’s Day is a Sunday marked by a certain liturgical awkwardness in many of our churches. While it is right and good to celebrate the mothers in our lives, let’s face it — Mother’s Day is a secular holiday that companies use to profit off of cards, flowers and chocolates. So, how can churches and pastors appropriately incorporate Mother’s Day into worship on Sunday?
Many people face pain and grief on Mother’s Day — those grieving a mother’s passing, those with abusive or estranged mothers, those struggling with infertility, and those whose child has died while inside or outside of the womb.
Too often churches acknowledge mothers and mother figures without exhibiting sensitivity to the fact that there are people present who don’t associate the word “happy” with “mother’s day.” It’s no surprise that many people (understandably) avoid coming to church on Mother’s Day.
There is another pain worth highlighting this year in light of the #MeToo movement — the pain of sexual abuse and harassment. Have you considered that your mother, statistically speaking, may be a victim of sexual harassment and abuse?
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) offers troubling statistics on abuse. Every 98 seconds an America is sexually assaulted. That means in the time it takes you to read this article, about three individuals have been sexually assaulted. In the time it takes to preach a sermon on Mother’s Day, the number increases to 15 assaults.
Nearly 70 percent of all sexual assault crimes are perpetrated in or near the victim’s home, or in or near a relative’s home. RAINN reports that 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, and that 90 percent of rape victims are female.
If 150 people attend your church on Sunday, and roughly 80 of them are female (females attend church more than males), approximately 13 of those women have experienced rape or attempted rape.
Thankfully, the rate of reported sexual assault and rape incidents has fallen significantly over the last 20 years (a 63 percent drop according to the Department of Justice) but the culture of violence against women still exists.
Sexual assault and harassment are unconscionable in all environments, but there is something especially vile about the culture in religion that often leads to the abuse and silencing of women. The latest revelation from Paige Patterson concerning his warped and dangerous theology of women in abusive relationships is especially concerning.
The fact that some (relatively) moderate Baptist state conventions continue to funnel money to institutions that protect a man with Patterson’s views is troubling. This is especially true when one considers that the same conventions in many cases have recently taken the possibility of cooperatively funding the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship off the table. Functionally for some, this means standing against LGBTQ people is more important than standing up for women. Standing up for mothers.
Every Sunday, walking through our doors are mothers and women of all ages who have experienced years of untold pain by assault, harassment and objectification. To add insult to injury, their voices are often silenced and marginalized in churches and denominational life. Furthermore, we cooperatively fund institutions that give people like Patterson a platform to spew misogynistic ideas and teachings to women in abusive relationships.
How many of our churches will give lip service, a prayer and perhaps a flower, on Mother’s Day while continuing to support (if even nominally) institutions that insulate a seminary president who literally told a beaten and bruised woman at his church that her only option was to “submit” to her abuser and pray for him?
Want to know if your church means it when they say “Happy Mother’s Day”? Perhaps it’s time to follow the money, and start asking how much women are valued in the agencies and institutions many of our congregations continue to back with tithes and offerings.
Three individuals, in the time you’ve read this column, have been sexually assaulted. Can we honestly say we love our mothers if we don’t confront the devaluing of women in the church, and name it for the evil it is?
I love my mom. It’s true that Mother’s Day is a great reminder to communicate to my mom the love I have for her, and to even publicly acknowledge her. I am reminded of Jesus’ public acknowledgment of his mother, a sentiment that was meaningful and sincere not because of the words he said, but because of the way he served women throughout his earthly ministry.