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« Charles Dickens, unsung Nostradamus | Main | This explains a lot »

February 24, 2009

Chaunie’s Journey

I've just been reading "Chaunie's Journey" in The American Feminist, the publication of Feminists for Life (of which I am a member). The magazine offers a decidedly non-Christian viewpoint on abortion.

"Chaunie's Journey" is about a college-age woman who interned at Feminists for Life, returned to college, and found herself unexpectedly pregnant. She describes the unsympathetic campus nurse, the lack of housing for young single mothers, and the lack of campus daycare."I understood," she writes, "how women in such a vulnerable situation could feel they have no choices." While Chaunie was terrified of telling her parents about her pregnancy, she discovered, to her joy, that they were extremely loving and supportive, as were other members of her extended family. Relatives offered to help in any way they could.

But then she set off my worldview alarm bells (you get them when you attend Centurions) when she wrote:

It took me a long time to overcome the shame that I thought was associated with an unplanned pregnancy. I have stood next to an older, successful, married woman and heard people congratulate her on her "miracle from God," while they avoided looking at my expanding belly and muttered a quick hello. Why should one mother be treated differently than another? Does one mother deserve to be pitied, while the other celebrated, simply because of age, status or circumstance? Is it any wonder women feel driven to abortion?

Many Christians might answer: "Yes, women deserve to have their pregnancies treated differently depending on whether they are married or single, because the Judeo-Christian teachings that inform our culture tell us that sex outside of marriage is morally wrong." The non-Christian might note that 40 years of research on family formation proves conclusively that children do far better if they are born into a home that includes a married father and mother--and so we should certainly discourage unmarried childbearing. Orthodox Jews and Muslims would agree with orthodox Christians that sex outside of marriage is a sin.

However . . . 

Until recent decades, shame over a possible pregnancy kept many young women from engaging in premarital sex--protecting both themselves and their future children. Not anymore. And today, abortion is shoved hard at frightened young pregnant women, especially those who live on college campuses, where sensible, intelligent women are expected to have them because babies interfere with completing one's education.

Which means we Christians need to lighten up on the shame thing, right? Should we, in order to discourage abortion, at least go through the motions of celebrating the babies of single mothers?

I know that if I had a daughter who found herself in Chaunie's situation (also Bristol Palin's situation), I'd want to let her know how disappointed I was that she did not live up to the teachings of her faith. But I would not want her to feel so afraid of how I'd react that she'd run to the nearest abortion clinic.

I think about all the young women who are not so fortunate as either Chaunie or Bristol Palin, both of whom enjoy considerable support from their families: Poor, inner-city women, for instance, who, like Chaunie, see no reason why their pregnancies should not be celebrated just as much as--oh, I don't know--mine? 

I plan to write about this elsewhere, and I want to solicit the opinions of Point readers. What should our reaction be to young women like Chaunie? How can we discourage both unmarried childbearing while also discouraging abortion?

On a related matter: As much as I appreciate Feminists for Life, and all they do for vulnerable pregnant women, Chaunie's story exposes the irrationality of the worldview that says sex outside of marriage is appropriate. In part, it's the story of a worldview that doesn't work. Young, fertile women who engage in sex frequently get pregnant despite faithfully using birth control. This happens with young married women, too, of course--how many times have you heard couples talk about their "surprise baby"? For that matter, I've known 40-year-olds who faithfully contracepted who found themselves pregnant. But the point is, if this happens in marriage, the woman and child have the protection, love, and financial resources of a husband and father.

A fully prolife message tells young women to eschew sexual relations until after they tie the knot because--news flash--this is where babies come from.

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Comments

LeeQuod

In the future whenever anyone attacks you, Anne (or rather, their usual caricature of you), I will remind them of these two phrases: "Feminists for Life (of which I am a member)" and "found herself unexpectedly pregnant". You're clearly a more complex individual than your critics would like to admit.

Jason Taylor


As far as the inner-city goes, is it really famous as a place where it is considered shameful for a woman to be easy?

salt.racer

The worldview includes the notion that contraception works. The lie is believing that is true. When it fails then the only two options are either embracing that life or aborting it.

Why anyone (married or unmarried) is surprised that they get pregnant when they are having sex shows how much we have divorced the marital act from its procreative function.

Steve (SBK)

"Why anyone (married or unmarried) is surprised that they get pregnant when they are having sex shows how much we have divorced the marital act from its procreative function." I think you got that right salt.racer.

As far as Chaunie is concerned,
"Does one mother deserve to be pitied, while the other celebrated, simply because of age, status or circumstance? Is it any wonder women feel driven to abortion?"

Well, I'm not sure what she's saying. Is she saying there's no room for pity?
And "driven" implies that they don't have a choice (ironic). But I definitely think that we can show more grace to people who are seeing the consequences of sin. (What? Non-marital consequence-free sex might be sin? Prude!)
An obvious problem is people (esp. Christians) aren't sure how to be accepting of people who have 'engaged in sin'. Babies are always miracles from God, but can we separate our social baggage and love people where they're at? Of course we can be disappointed - but that doesn't mean we don't want the best for the loved one.

"Should we, in order to discourage abortion, at least go through the motions of celebrating the babies of single mothers? "
If the only other option would encourage abortions, yes. Better would be to celebrate the babies (not just 'go through the motions'). But, as others have pointed out, our whole culture has separated the idea of sex and procreation and children within the context of marriage, raised by a mom and dad. People are going to have pain in this world if they don't see and live by the truth. We need to meet them where they are and hopefully try to defeat the darkness that currently holds so many.

Jason Taylor

One problem is that in old times, people lived with the same villiage or neighborhood their entire lives. A scarlet letter really did mean something and only the very rich and the very poor(Dicken's inner city is not really all that different from the modern one) could circumvent the rules.

Catherine

In answer to your question, Anne, I think it's just an extension of how God treats sin and how we as people striving to be godly parents should treat sin. My parents always let me know things that were wrong, things that were right. But they always in word and in deed, also let me know that they would be a safe place for me, even if I did commit wrong. They would help me find the way again. I think that's the attitude that we've got to exude concerning this issue. It's the attitude our Heavenly Father has toward us.

labrialumn

Chaunie found herself unexpectedly pregnant? What? Even in the unique case of Mary, God announced the pregnancy through the archangel Gabriel. I find it hard to believe that a 'feminist for life' would not know how all other babies are conceived.

Should we lighten up on the shame thing? NO. God's standards have not changed, and we don't have permission to weaken them. What we -do- need to do is get back to the Bible and use law and gospel appropriately. If someone is unrepentant, they need to hear the law. If someone is repentant and is troubled, they need to hear the Gospel. In the past 20 years, evangelicals have gotten very bad at doing this. They used to be pretty good, fairly cross-centered. Now they tend to be experience-centered, fun-centered, and self-help centered.

A single mother who is repentant ought to be fully forgiven, accepted and helped by the church without further shame. And unmarried women need to know that that is how it will play out. But a single mother who isn't repentant needs to understand just how God views her sin - which isn't the baby - and that hiring an assassin to murder her baby makes things even worse, not better. Churches need to stop being supportive of women who have had abortions in the church - those who have not repented. Unfortunately too many will go for cheap grace and say 'well so many of us have done this' or the pastor will think "I'd better not touch that subject, or so many will leave, and there will be less money coming in, or the elders will kick me out, and then how will I feed my family?" We need serious and deep repentance, not papering over serious sin.

The *babies* should *always* be celebrated - including the octuplets in the news these days.

Rachel Coleman

Shame is part of the true, real picture -- i.e., a world that includes absolute values. Those who would discard it altogether want something bland, lukewarm, not righteous, not glorious.

Still, I think we are careless (or at least imprecise), sometimes, in how we think and talk about shame.

Internal shame, which originates from our inner sense of right and wrong, aided by the conscience and not least the Holy Spirit, can be most effective in prompting us to repent. It can soften our hearts, break our hearts, turn our hearts in God's direction.

There's also what I think of as "false" internal shame (akin to false guilt) that is rooted in lies and deceptions. That's not useful and can cripple, preventing or delaying us from being reunited with Christ.

External shame of the heavyhanded sort (think of a teacher "shaming" a child in front of the classroom, for example) is usually not useful and, to me, falls closer to accusation. And we all know who is "the accuser of the brethren." Imposed external shame often leads to rebellion and stubbornness. I'm not saying personal responsibility dissolves, but there is always that pesky verse about parents not exasperating our children, which, to me, illustrates the twofold nature of that kind of situation.

I suppose there can be a good kind of external/societal shame ... but it is easy to err so that, while you think you are "upholding standards," you are putting yourself in God's place. Think here of the Pharisees, who were chastised for loading people with burdens "too heavy to bear," as contrasted with Christ, who gently encourages us to "take my yoke, which is light and easy to carry."

I'm also thinking of the verse (Isaiah, I think) that says, "A bruised reed he will not break," which evoke a beautiful image of God's tender heart toward his children -- even those who are struggling with sin and its consequences. I remember, too, how Paul himself talked about the sin that "so easily entangles us."

The "us" he mentions? That's talking about *believers.*

Maybe this is essentially a question of methodology. If we, as believers, aim to celebrate the babies, uphold the standards, receive, aid and love the truly repentant and not paper over serious sins ... how do we determine who gets a baby shower, for example? Whose baby announcements find a spot on the church bulletin? Which pregnant teenagers are welcome at youth group? Hard questions.

Jason Taylor

While external/societal shame certainly has disadvantages, the problem is that it's primary replacement seems to be a choice between license and force. It would be better to replace it with real virtue but no one has quite figured out how to manage that on a societal scale yet. Though some have done better then others, I suppose.

David

The original question, "What should our reaction be to young women like Chaunie? How can we discourage both unmarried childbearing while also discouraging abortion?" The dilemma is less difficult if we recognize that Chaunie is beyond the point where "discouraging" is useful. It is other young women we want to discourage. So, let's just love and support Chaunie, because that is appropriate to her situation; and at the same time, keep talking as often as we can to our own children, and others that we have a legitimate responsibility and opportunity to influence. There is no need to make Chaunie an "object lesson" while in her presence. However, it is completely OK to talk about her with your sixteen year old daughter.

Chaunie's question, " Does one mother deserve to be pitied, while the other celebrated, simply because of age, status or circumstance?" illustrates one of the most vexing problems facing our culture: people's refusal to accept that actions have consequences (some of which are "unexpeced"). Just fill in the blanks: "Does one ________ deserve to be ________ just because he/she ________ ? (For example: homeowner/homeless/a big house; or, student/kicked out of school/sold a little pot in homeroom)
I have always taught my children that they ought to do right for both practical and spiritual reasons, but that I would always help them as best I can. But it is important to recognize that no one can protect the ones they love from every consequence. Life is tough, so we need to be careful!

labrialumn

True accusations are not wrong, but right, and you will find them throughout the Bible. Do you think that the Devil wrote 1 Corinthians and God 2nd? Come, now.

One helpful way to think about this is that when you are tempted to sin, it is God who is warning you how serious it is, and the adversary telling you that it is no big deal, and that God will forgive you. After you've sinned, it is reverse, God is calling you home to Him, but the devil is saying that your sin is too horrible for God to accept you and forgive you.

One is not taking God's place by proclaiming and living out God's Word, or in the civil sphere engaging the teaching purpose of the Law, and the Law as curb against sin. (1 Tim. 1). One -is- trying to take God's place when one rejects God's commands in favor of easy believism and cheap grace.

Is it perhaps that we are so unwilling to truly forgive that we think we ought to water down God's Law? Or that we must disobey God when it comes to proclaiming it, and pretend that only Pharisees do that (they were making up -new- laws that God had not made, "do not touch", "do not eat", "do not handle") Biblical literacy has fallen on hard times in Evangelical Christianity, hasn't it?

Rachel, what baby doesn't deserve a shower? Which pregnant teens? Well, who is repentant and who is defiant about her sin? And the guys that got them pregnant - who is repentant, and who is defiant. Is that so hard to understand? Read carefully. I do believe you have 'heard' but not 'listened' to what I wrote. The distinction between Law and Gospel and their right use are modeled throughout the Bible from the Fall through the New Testament. If you truly love people, and love God even more, and soak your mind in Scripture, it will become natural to you, for your mind will be more and more conformed to Christ's (Romans 12:1-2) You will desire their healing through repentance and forgiveness, and you will not be content to leave a festering wound uncleaned, or a bullet lodged near the heart. You will be willing to do what is needed for healing, even though it may sting at first - or even cut to the heart as it did for Peter the night of Jesus' trial, and again when Christ re-instated him. You need not fear being unnecessarily rough, because your heart will be crying for the opportunity to apply the balm of Gilead; God's love through you and His forgiveness, but you will know you can't give it to those unwilling to be healed, that it would only make matters worse, and eventually, that bullet will work its way to the heart and kill.

David, if the woman is pregnant, and the father won't marry her (or she him) then what else but to encourage the unmarried childbearing? It is the unmarried sex we must oppose. It is the cheapening of Christ's death on the Cross which we need to fight against. The 'healing of the wounds of My people lightly" which we must oppose. When the consequences of sin come, we the Church must work hard to protect those who have repented of their sins.

Steve (SBK)

I'm enjoying reading your well-written thoughts people.

Anyway, labrialumn, I wonder if we sometimes sell 'sinners' short? Do we give up too early on people? Are we justified in giving up even if we 'know' that some are unwilling to repent? We know this eternally?
I'm thinking of the Story of the Lost Sheep, where the lost sheep is sought.
Eugene Peterson says it well:
"Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn't you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, 'Celebrate with me! I've found my lost sheep!' Count on it—there's more joy in heaven over one sinner's rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue."

Thoughts?

labrialumn

Steve,
Thank you for asking me to clarify. I do not believe that we should ever give up on someone who is still alive, and after they are no longer alive, we do not know what they might have done in their last minutes.

When referring to those who are defiant in their sin, I heartily do not mean giving up on them, but rather Jesus' teaching to us in Matthew 18. The step by step process of restoring someone through what might look like the opposite. This not only works to restore them, but also to prevent others from being deceived into thinking that imitating their sin is not a big deal. And we should pray for them, without giving up.

David

labrialumn,
Thanks for that thought about God and the devil and the opposing roles they play before and after sin. I've not encountered that thought before, and it is a helpful.

Your statement "...you will not be content to leave a festering wound uncleaned..." brings to mind the question Jesus sometimes asked people: "Do you want to be healed?" The church needs to be ready to help in healing when the sinner is ready to repent; to force the issue is not likely to be productive for God or man.

Steve (SBK)

Thanks for the clarification labrialumn...
And for showing your sincere heart.
Blessings.

Anne Morse

Thank you for all your comments. They will be very helpful when I prepare a longer piece on this....

Chaunie ended up marrying her boyfriend, and they are now the proud parents of a little girl. Chaunie also graduated on time with her class (with honors), proving the lie of abortion-minded feminists who tell college women they must choose between their baby and their education. It's a false choice! But Chaunie is right--we must fight for greater resources for single, pregnant mothers on college campuses so that college women have a REAL choice--even if they do not receive much support from their families. And the college loan folks ought to change their policies--they should have a special category for single moms who may need more expensive housing than a dorm room, and must pay for daycare and diapers. I look for the leaders of campus Women's Centers to take the lead in this effort....

Rachel Coleman

labrialumn, I wholly agree with your thoughts about "true" accusations. Certainly, sin must be identified as such. And not all accusations come from the Devil although God warns us that he does love to accuse believers.

The main point I wanted to make was that when we do the identifying -- often delivering a dose of "external shame" -- we must take care that we are doing so in a Christlike manner. I don't mean wimpy, feel-good, tell everyone they're pretty much fine. I mean tell the truth in love, don't waffle and don't needlessly humiliate. "Truthfully accuse," if you will, in a way that does more good than harm.

Obviously, I can't assess the Christlikeness of my words by the response I get; truth can sting. A person rightfully confronted might still say, bitterly, "you made me feel so ashamed!" But the speaker/accuser should bear the burden, nonetheless, of doing everything possible to speak from a clean heart of love.

The best example I know would be the woman at the well who said she had "no husband," and Christ replied, essentially, "that's a nice way to put it!" and laid it out. But kindly. She was, at that point, unrepentant. Being "accused" by the Lord -- in no way, shape or form the Devil! -- brought her to a point of repentance.

When you comment "One -is- trying to take God's place when one rejects God's commands in favor of easy believism and cheap grace," you are right. I love the way you fiercely defend scripture.

However, just because I'm suggesting we should weigh our words carefully, that doesn't mean I want to default to cheap grace. When that happens (in a church) the results are so sad. Our family left a church because nearly all the teenaged girls had babies out of wedlock -- I can think of only two in a 15-year span who managed to avoid doing so. We had two little girls at the time, and didn't want them to grow up seeing all those single teen mothers in the pews with their babies, and everyone acting like it was no big deal. Sure, none of those moms left the church feeling rejected and scorned. But neither did they change their ways: they had more babies.

That was a place where cheap grace had replaced holiness. And you're right, it does no one any good.

LeeQuod

I've been waiting patiently, but within some of the best comments ever written at The Point no one has already expressed my thought. What is the main uproar over the mother of the octuplets? It is that she will be a burden on society; that our tax dollars will go to support her and her "overfull" quiver.

I wonder if the "shame" factor of unwed pregnancy doesn't derive partially from a pragmatic worldview, rather than solely from a Judeo/Christian one. It is certainly true that a stable family unit contributes more to society economically than does an unstable one. And a family without the stress of trying to simultaneously raise children and build careers and do so with only one adult is certainly more productive than one with that stress, all else being equal. (Toss in the stress on the grandparents who have to help much more than they would have with a son-in-law around, too.) So "Shame on you!" means not merely "You broke the rules!" but also "You've hurt everyone else, to a greater or lesser degree - but still, *everyone* is affected by what you did!"

We Christians are conflicted about our desires to at the same time help someone in need, and also let them carry some of the burden of their selfishness. (Anyone having unmarried sex is certainly not at that moment thinking carefully and feeling deeply about their complex web of family and friend relationships, much less of the needs of strangers.) It's a good thing we're conflicted. We've seen what happens when people suffer not at all, or suffer enormously, for their sins. Finding a middle ground is difficult, but right.

Gina Dalfonzo

Good thoughts, LeeQuod.

You might like to read Chuck Colson's BreakPoint commentary on the subject:

http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=11084

Rolley Haggard

Rolley “Caboose” Haggard here, trailing along with some late thoughts on all the good discussion that has preceded.

The thing that helps me with any of these “hate the sin / love the sinner” questions is a principle that, frankly, and to my everlasting bewilderment, I don’t hear repeated a lot. Namely, that the reason God hates sin so much is precisely because He loves people so much. The formula is straightforward enough --

1) God loves people
2) Sin destroys people
3) Therefore God hates sin and is exceedingly intolerant of it

But the formula I invariably hear is simply, “God hates sin but loves the sinner.” I certainly agree with that because it is thoroughly true. But (to me anyway), it doesn’t tell the whole story because it doesn’t tell WHY God hates sin.

What I’ve always heard (as to why God hates sin), and what those with whom I’ve discussed it have argued, is that God hates sin not so much because He loves people, but because He is holy and sin is an affront to His holy character. But if that is closer to the mark, how do we explain Calvary? John 3:16 does not say, “For God so hated sin that He gave His only begotten Son to put it away”, although that is true. He said…well, you know what He said.

All I know is that when I see sin in or around my erring children, this is what is going on in me –

1) I love my children
2) I know that sin can destroy them
3) Therefore I hate sin (both theirs and the world’s) and am (more or less) exceedingly intolerant of it

I may be off track (caboose that I am) with this. But I wonder.

Jesus did say, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

What is that if not an invitation to apply the principle that we can infer much about the Father’s goodness from the goodness we sometimes find in the better angels of our nature?

Is it an unwarranted stretch to paraphrase the principle thus -- “If we being evil do some things that are universally recognized as good, how much more does our Father in heaven?”

Not to make too much of it – I repeat, not to make too much of it -- I think we sometimes forget that being in the image of God – i.e. us being like God -- also means in some significant ways God is like us.

Someone has said, “we become like the God we believe in.” If that is true, it may explain why some of us “love” the sinner the way the Pharisees did – with palpable disdain and a remarkable willingness to call them to account, elaborating on the holiness of God and the heinousness of sin.

It may also explain why others among us love “the sinner” the way the Good Samaritan did – with hatred for the effects sin has upon infinitely precious people.

To me the question is “WHY?” Why do we hate sin? What is our motive?

What is God’s motive for hating sin?

Our answer to that question may shed some light on how we deal with the Chaunies in our life.

---

Well, it’s past my bedtime, and this has been a tough week at work. So I’m heading for the sleeper car. Ta-ta for now. Or should I say, tootle-oo.

Rachel Coleman

LeeQuod, I think people *say* that's what angers them -- the idea that "those people" are "leeching" off the government is a complaint I've heard leveled against many groups, particularly races other than the speaker's own and immigrants. And there are probably a lot of people who resent the notion that some folks aren't "being good citizens" and "paying their way."

Over the years, as a sometimes full-time SAHM, sometimes part-time worker, I've felt the varying levels of public approval or disapproval. There are times when I have sensed, even at church, that among some groups, our family's decision to home school rather than having me go to work to help raise our standard of living is not completely "responsible." We are frugal, our kids sometimes don't see a doctor for a whole year because they eat healthy foods cooked at home, we're educating them well ... but some people are confused about what a "good" childhood is and what "good" parents provide: vacations, college funds, newly purchased clothes and gadgets.

I mention this only to illustrate how such ideas can become subtly embedded even in genuine Christian communities. So you might just have unearthed a core sentiment that's feeding the outrage.

And then, there's the fact that an awful lot of people nowadays *just don't like children.*

And, on a more positive note, there's also the possibility that even though our society has gotten quite comfortable with selfishness, this case is so over-the-top that it's more than even mainstream modern pagans can stand. Everyone's just instinctively shouting, "Enough!"

You just can't dismiss the mother's self-centeredness because it is so blatant.

With the childless neighbors across the street who explore all sorts of infertility treatments or the same-sex couple in the news or the movie stars who acquire children in some artificial and ethically suspect way, the temptation (in the culture at large, anyway, and even in some church circles) is to say, "Well, that's their business," or "Maybe they mean well," all the while ignoring the fact that there are some basic moral principals being violated.

Wow, that's a really long sentence. And it's really late. And I think that was a series of posts triggered by JT-whatever it is condition. Maybe I need to follow his example with a computer-use sabbatical.

Rolley Haggard

Oh, and LeeQuod, DO NOT say, in answer to my question "what is our motive?" -- do NOT say, "Loco".

If you do, I will pay Allen to drop an incendiary teddy bear on you.

Gina Dalfonzo

Oh goodness, don't everyone take a break at the same time! Our numbers will plunge!

Gina Dalfonzo

And Rolley, NONE of my bears are suicide bombers. They've been better brought up than that. And even if they were, they certainly wouldn't hire themselves out to Allen!

(And this is what happens when we blog at 11 p.m. . . . we're all punchy. Or at least I am.)

LeeQuod

Gina, I think you must have given your teddy bears infidel names: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1687755,00.html

11 p.m.? Oh, man, I guess it is. Some East Coaster called me just the other day, forgetting that 8:15a.m. *his* time wasn't also 8:15a.m. on the *Pacific* Coast. My alarm hadn't even gone off yet, but my cell phone stays on for emergencies. Groan. Nite-nite time by now, for sure. Sounds like Rolley back there in the sleeper car... or else someone is using a chainsaw in one of the boxcars; can't tell. Gotta crash here and let the clickety-clack lull me to slee...

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