“What have you done to Mother Church?” rings in my ears. I’ve heard those words preached recently by a passionate Roman Catholic priest on the internet. Lots of people have been concerned about the erosion of values like respect and morality. Common decency is far too uncommon. There also seems to be a universal concern over the state of the church. Has the church lost its way? Is it irrelevant in our pluralistic society? The assault on our culture and church has been going on since most of us can remember.
It isn’t new, but what is new is that the assault is now unashamedly out in the open. It’s direct. The nonchalant cavalier manner in which we have become anesthetized to the attacks on our very foundations is utterly appalling, and we hardly wring our hands at it anymore. We don’t blush, and we hardly fight back. Perhaps that’s because It has crept up on us. We have betrayed Mother Church and other cultural building blocks in little ways, inch by inch, little by little, and have become the proverbial frog in the pot of water who doesn’t mind the temperature slowly rising until it is too late to do anything about it.
With Mother’s Day approaching, is that also where we are with our understanding of family? We have redefined so many givens in such short order that if we dare speak up for traditional values, then we are instantly castigated, canceled, protested, or even slapped in jail like Pastor John Sherwood in the UK 5 days ago. Something is really awry if “woke” people can say all sorts of things, but a guy who happens to be quoting the Bible is arrested. This sounds too much like some situations in the United Methodist Church where some bishops and progressives have claimed to be “Big Tent Methodists,” except when the tent has conservatives in it. Some pastors have been arbitrarily moved, licenses revoked, and churches closed.
This culture war makes me wonder how we will celebrate Mother’s Day 5 years from now? Maybe we won’t even have a Mother’s Day or a Father’s Day per se. Our designations may evolve into a generic politically correct “Parent’s Day.” Don’t get me wrong. I understand and appreciate all the ways that families are configured, and praise foster parents for their sacrificial ministry. Maybe I’m being nostalgic for the days when it seemed like all the Mothers in town set a commonly agreed upon curfew. There were certain rules, spoken or unspoken, that defined acceptable behavior, but “Ozzie and Harriett” are long gone. Think about it, though. “The Andy Griffith Show” didn’t have a Mom unless you counted Aunt Bee, and “My Three Sons” didn’t have one unless it was Uncle Charley. So, I get it, families come in all shapes and sizes.
What ever happened to when we used to celebrate “Festival of the Christian Home” during the week of Mother’s Day? That’s about as out of sight and mind as what we used to call revival services, or “Festivals of Faith.” Those things seem so passé to a lot of people. The world has changed, some for the better, but a lot for the worse. Somehow down at the gut and soul level, it seems like we’ve reached a tipping point. We’ve gone over the brink, and crossed the proverbial Rubicon. Has COVID accelerated the point of no return? Maybe, but surely, we shouldn’t toss out time-honored definitions of human personhood and family, or the church’s positions on critical issues?
Part of me wants to rail on a street corner like the priest, “What have we done to Mother Church?” What have we done to the church that gave us spiritual birth and sustenance? I also want to say, “What have we done to the family?” It strikes me that there is a corollary between the two. Both are our mothers. How we treat one says a lot about our treatment of the other. It seems to me that a laissez-faire attitude about either is the death knell of much that we hold dear. Trust me, this concern isn’t about preserving motherhood or church as a static institution. We need these hallmarks of culture to be living and breathing. By definition, doctrine should never change, but theology, the contemporary interpretation of doctrine, should always be changing. Institutions can be so self-serving and self-perpetuating, seeking their preservation as an entity over their purpose. So, how do we ask the right questions so we can better discern and fulfill John Wesley’s admonition: “In essentials, let there be unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity?” What are the most important questions that we need to ask this Mother’s Day? How do we shore up, promote, and strengthen motherhood and Mother Church?