Mother’s Day has become a sub-Christian church observance marked by sentimentality and commercialism, devoid of its original purpose and foreign to the biblical witness.
Let’s take back Mother’s Day this year from Hallmark, the florists and the candy corporations with their commercial interests wrapped in sentimental appeals. Let’s take back Mother’s Day from the misogynistic preachers who recognize the most fertile women with carnations in worship services and misuse the Bible to insist that the proper role for women is as homemakers.
Let’s refocus Mother’s Day on its original intent–peacemaking.
That is some eight years after she wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a hymn about the struggle against slavery. A hymn in the Baptist Hymnal, it is sung in churches with fervor about God’s future triumph, but it is really a text about ending social injustice.
The carnage of the Civil War and the commencement of the Franco-Prussian War turned Howe’s heart toward peace with a proclamation. She penned in part:
“From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: ‘Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.’
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
“Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.”
President Woodrow Wilson established Mother’s Day as a national holiday in 1914, some three years before taking the nation into World War I.
Mother’s Day should be a time to speak against war and for peace. And this year, it’s a time to speak against the Iraqi War and take concrete steps to aid war victims.
Brave New Foundation has produced a video short that deserves watching and offers a tangible way for Christians to lend a hand to the victims of violence.
Their Mother’s Day video recalls Julia Ward Howe and calls viewers to support No More Victims, a non-profit, non-sectarian organization seeking support for war-injured Iraqi children.
One of those children is 10-year old Salee, who lost both her legs and a brother when a U.S.-fired missile hit her home. Shriner’s Hospital in Greenville, S.C., is providing her surgery and prosthetics. More than $16,000 is still needed to cover transportation costs and living expenses, according to Mother’s Day for Peace.
Seven women narrate the video short: four of Hollywood stardom, two of Muslim commitment and one of pro-choice leadership.
That mix might be too much for a lot of Christians to handle. Yet their politics or religious adherence should not block the clear call in the biblical witness for Christians to work for peace through compassion for war-injured.
When Jesus defined his ethic of love for neighbor, he told a story about the Good Samaritan, who bound up the wounds of a victim of violence (Luke 10:29-37).
Healing is at the heart of Jesus’ mission statement (Luke 4:18), and caring for those in ill-health is at the core of Jesus’ conclusion of his ministry (Matthew 25:31-46).
We can spit the word liberal until our mouths are chalk-dry, but that will not alter one iota what Jesus expects from those who claim faith in the one called Prince of Peace.
Let’s make Mother’s Day a day to end the violence against American children in Iraq and Iraqi children.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.