Posted by: Christian Association | March 30, 2010

Where Public Theology Begins: the Experiences of an Emerging Public Leader

This is a post by intern Maria Fumai Dietrich.

At any given moment, the stack of books on my desk at home would confuse many in academia.  In what degree program are students required to be reading Pauline letters, financial accounting textbooks, the Bhagavad-Gita, and literature on the ethics of organizational leadership?  There is only one I am aware of – and it’s the one I’m enrolled in!  The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia began a new degree program in the fall of 2009, the Master of Arts in Public Leadership (MAPL).  This program marries theological study and public service such as non-profit/business administration or social work.  However rare the combination of books on my desk may seem to others in seminary and MBA programs, these are resources being called upon in many non-profit organizations.  The skill sets learned from these resources are the skills my internship supervisor, Christian Association’s Executive Director Katherine Primus, builds from daily.

The MAPL program seeks to develop public theologians through the marriage of an academically rigorous program and practical field education components.  Coursework includes seminary staples such as Biblical courses in the Old and New Testaments, courses geared towards leadership such as ethics, and a branch of courses at Temple University.  Students in the program choose a concentration of study at Temple such as social work or non-profit/business administration.  With my interest in the administration of higher education institutions, I decided to study at Temple’s Fox School of Business where I take MBA courses such as Quantitative Analysis for Business Methods and Conflict Resolution.

The practical field education component of the MAPL program is what interested me most about enrolling.  Having the opportunity to work in higher education with experienced persons in the art of public theology and public leadership is something I am very grateful for.  It seems fitting that I’d conduct my first field education assignment at the Christian Association as balancing the fields of theology and non-profit governance is part of the daily work of Katherine and the nature of the Christian Association as a non-profit organization associated with a university is a great fit for my educational and career goals.

As a member of the advisory board for the degree program since the summer of 2008, Katherine has witnessed and participated in the molding of the degree program. Having Katherine as a professional mentor has been a wonderful learning experience for me for many reasons.  Her expertise in strategic planning and fund development make her an exceptional candidate for internship supervision.  Her background in non-profit administration combined with her interest in continued education, faith-based work and service contribute to her wealth of experience and eagerness to depart some of her experience with me, her mentee.

Since working as a seminary intern for the Christian Association, I have had the benefit of learning the daily functions and mission-oriented work of a Christian organization within larger communities.  Katherine describes the work of the Christian Association and the environment of UPenn; “the University prides itself for being a non-sectarian institution, which provides an interesting challenge for an associated religious organization such as the Christian Association.”  This challenge can be met with many different approaches.  I’ve had the privilege of engaging with UPenn students and witnessing in their relationships with the Christian Association just how diverse the approaches to Christian fellowship and service can manifest.

Students work at the Christian Association as Federal Work Study employees, interns, and volunteers.  They cultivate projects and campaigns as individuals and as groups with the support of the Christian Association.  An example of such an organization is the Queer Christian Fellowship (QCF) – a student organized group under the umbrella of the Christian Association.  A great majority of the student involvement is organically conceived and developed, however a great deal of work is done in support of their involvement in terms of financial and physical support (such as the use of the amazing spaces within the “CA House” as the Christian Association’s building is lovingly called), emotional and spiritual guidance, and personal and professional development.  For these students, the Christian Association plays an immense role in their experience at the University.  This can be seen especially in the warmth and respect recent UPenn graduates feel for the organization.

Although I’ve only been a part of the Christian Association for two months, I can see many ways in which this organization makes an impact on the lives of learners in the communities of the University.  Personally, it is clear to me that the Christian Association is dedicated to the formation and learning of all of its constituencies.  For me, the environment at the CA House is one that encourages learning and dialogue amongst its seminary interns (of which there are four!), UPenn students, volunteers and staff members.  I’ve had the opportunity not only to engage in learning focused discussions with Katherine, but also to exchange with other Christian Association colleagues.  In my short time working for this organization, I have felt an impact on my personal and professional development.  I know the second half of my internship will be even more fruitful considering my ever-growing mentor/mentee relationship with Katherine and my enhanced involvement with the Christian Association.

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Posted by: Matthew Fox | March 30, 2010

Counting Down the Days

I’m a winter person.  I prefer the cold to the warm.  Still, this year even I was ready for winter to end.  The weather the past few weeks has gone from bad to worse.  As a result of my weekend commutes between Philadelphia and New York City, I have been exposed to the best of each city.  Philadelphia saw SNOW-mageddon at the beginning of February, which crippled the city for two days.  NYC had its own foot of snow at the end of February.  Winds the last weekend of February uplifted trees; while driving down Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, one could find a tree lying in the middle of every two to three blocks.

Yet, winter now seems to have left as quickly as it came.  The changing weather is clear evidence of spring; the sun has been out almost every day for the last week.  Although we have not been without our fair share of wind, the precipitation we’re now witnessing has switched solely to wind.  Finally, spring is here.

Going to class during the spring is so difficult.  Trying to write papers is even harder.  The changing weather is calling for me.  I want to be outside.  Penn only has a month or so left of classes.  Still, this last month is the longest one of the semester.  With finals and term papers coming up, class work is nowhere near done.  If anything, it’s only getting started.

I’m not a very optimistic individual.  Yet, I do know that if I push myself now, I can benefit later.  I’ll continue to push my fun back a few weeks, so that I can finish the semester with my grades intact.  I’m so close to the end that I can see it, although it’s never worth counting one’s chickens before they hatch.

As the year winds down, I have much to look forward to.  Next year is my last at Penn and I hope to be able to take part in all that Penn has to offer.  The key for next year, as well as next month, is to find the balance between work and play that allows me to not only finish my studies, but to enjoy myself.

Posted by: Beverly Dale | March 30, 2010

Tiger Woods and our cultural obsession with apologies

As a culture we are obsessed with apologies, especially about sexual misconduct of those in positions of power (usually men). Because the public disclosure of marital infidelity violates our cultural romantic narrative, tabloid articles, public discussions, and TV talk shows all discuss whether the wife should forgive the errant husband.

There has been considerable debate about whether multimillionaire golfer Tiger Woods was at all sincere in his apologies for his multiple marital infidelities. The Washington Times columnist Janice Shaw Crouse said Woods was “bowed by the weight of his transgressions” that made his apology sincere, while the Politics Daily columnist Francis Tobin was skeptical and “didn’t buy it.”

The New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey took another tactic by buying into the sexual addiction version: “Woods seemed to be saying he was powerless.” And this, according to the columnist, is an appropriate response that infers Wood’s progress toward “recovery.” Never mind that “sexual addiction” is not universally accepted by most psychologists as a disease.

But giving infidelity a medical name somehow removes the culpability of the transgressor, shifts attention away from meaningful discussion of relationships, and obscures cultural obstacles to fidelity. So, besides being titillated by all sexual stories, what does all this hubbub tell us about ourselves? Read More…

Posted by: Beverly Dale | March 15, 2010

Vancouver Olympics focused on the WHOLE body

It is probably a little-known fact that the organizers of the Vancouver Olympics had stashed away a total of 100,000 condoms, or 14 condoms for each of the 7,000 people who came to participate in the games. This included not only the athletes but their coaches, trainers and officials who lived in the two Olympic Villages. The Olympic Games held at Sydney in 2000 had stocked only 70,000 and had to order 20,000 more so Vancouver was well prepared. The fact that this type of arrangement started back in the early 1990’s reveals that planners are well aware of the appetites of young, healthy bodies who might experience an “Olympic high” no doubt serving as an aphrodisiac.

Make no mistake, all of those involved in the Olympic sports focus on bodies sometimes 8 to 10 hours a day for months and years. They push the body to perform, noting every little muscle stretch or twinge, watching and honing every physical maneuver. Is it possible that this focused attention to physicality because of  their sport interest could also translate to also being especially attuned to their own sexual needs? I am not aware of any such research but it is something to consider.

Inversely, I do note a lot of bodies in the culture at large that are out of shape. I know there are a lot of couch potatoes holding remote controls who sit passively in front of the latest technology to be entertained. They seem to be unaware of, or are at least easily disregarding, the growing size of their abdomens. Is passivity an indicator that they are also out of touch with their own bodies’ sensual and sexual needs as well? Is it possible that by shifting from passive sports watching to active participation in some form of body movement and muscle stretching activity we might become more aware of our other bodily needs? Just wondering.

Posted by: Dorothy Ahn | March 15, 2010

Sleeping Through Midterms

The first week of March was just terrible for me: four midterms, two shows to go to, and my little brother visiting. My brother’s visiting is included in my list of terrible things of the week, not because I don’t like my brother, but because I like him too much that I could not focus on other things I had to do.

For the whole week, one could catch me walking around with my glasses and my I-am-studying-for-midterms-hair style, with my eyes more than half closed on Locust Walk and even more in lectures. I used to go to sleep at 10:30 PM and wake up at 7:30 AM. Now I go to sleep at 3:00 AM and – sadly – I still wake up at 7:30 AM. This was definitely not enough sleep for me, and my tendency to fall asleep in every class told me so.

On my third day of trying to stay up – and often failing – I found an article about sleeping cycles and good-sleep methods. According to the article, the optimal time to sleep is from 10 PM to 3 AM. WebMD states that this is the time when melatonin, the sleep hormone, is released. At this time, the hormone repairs the body and lets one wake up with a refreshed feeling rather than a sluggish reluctance. The five hours of sleep one gets from 10 PM to 3 AM help the body so much more than five hours – or more – that one gets after 3 AM. Also, an optimal nap time for average individuals is 15 to 30 minutes – due to many reasons including REM cycles, the right timing, and more we learned in PSYC 001.

This article told me that what I have been doing until now – staying up until I finished all my work and going to sleep then – was all wrong. So, for the two more days left of the week, I decided to follow the sleeping cycle rules. I went to sleep at 11 PM and woke up at 3AM to study. After classes, I came back to take a 20 minute nap. This might have been a placebo effect, but I did feel much better and awake after following this cycle. I really should have remembered the sleeping cycle diagram my PSYC professor showed us my freshmen year.

Of course, all the calculating numbers and setting five alarm clocks to ring at 3 AM could be avoided by planning out one’s study schedule and not cramming the week before the midterms. This, however, is a major part of many college students’ lives, and I am glad I found the solution for my sleeping problem.

And yes, mom, I know this is not “the solution,” because the real solution is dividing up my studying, eating enough food, and sleeping well. With my mom bringing me food because she is afraid the hardcore studying will starve me, and my dad calling me from Korea, because I “need to sleep more, it’s too late,” I better get started and plan out my study schedule for the fast-approaching finals.

Posted by: Christian Association | March 11, 2010

Guest post: Welcoming the stranger among us

This is a guest post from CA board member Cheryl Shipman, the associate director of fellowships at Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

Welcoming the stranger among us – that’s how I remember the line. The Bible in Basic English has it a little differently: Exodus 23:9 “Do not be hard on the man from a strange country who is living among you; for you have had experience of the feelings of one who is far from the land of his birth, because you yourselves were living in Egypt, in a strange land.”

The face of the US is changing. Here in a large coastal city, we’re used to many people of varying races, nationalities, languages and styles – and maybe many have come to terms with the US as a nation of immigrants. But the smaller towns and regions far from the coasts have, many of them, been fairly homogenous, or at least consistent over time – until recently. Newcomers, immigrants, those with funny accents or little English, strange food preferences and strikingly different clothes have been settling all throughout the US in places not used to dealing with the “other.”

This rapid influx seems to be changing public life much too quickly for some folks’ comfort, and there have been plenty of negative reactions. Or perhaps it’s the hard times in the economy and fear of “them taking our jobs.” Whatever the cause, not only does the US have very restrictive laws making it difficult for people to come here legally, there can be a great deal of personal antipathy and emotional outrage over that immigration, whether it’s legal or – because of restrictive immigration laws – illegal.

No matter what someone might think of the politics of immigration restriction and its effect on economics and job creation, I think they need to be touched by the situation of members of a group who are already here – “the strangers among us.” These are young adults and older teens whose parents brought them here when they were young children. Because the parents don’t have legal immigration documentation, neither do these now-adult children. These children have spent their entire life in the US. It’s the only country they know. English may be the only language they know. They’ve attended school in the US, played on the baseball teams, prayed in the churches, etc alongside all the other American children. They probably look no different from anyone else. But they are going to be treated differently as they grow up.

As these young people get toward their junior year in high school, they may start looking into colleges to apply to. They may seek afterschool or summer jobs, or be planning job training. And then they find out (sometimes for the first time) that they cannot. Because they are not legal immigrants, they don’t have social security numbers. That means there is no way they can work legally in the US.

Many colleges or universities will not admit them (although there is no law prohibiting the undocumented from enrolling). In many states, if they are admitted to a state school, they’ll be charged the out of state tuition, even though they have lived in that state almost all of their lives. They won’t be eligible at any school for any state or federal financial aid. No matter how well they’re doing in high school, or how active, they have absolutely no legal opportunities to continue to be productive, successful members of our communities. They can either linger on the fringes of US society or be deported to a country they may have left as infants. This isn’t a small number of individuals; 65,000 such students a year graduate from US high school.

The Dream Act proposes a pathway to legal status for some of these young people. Through it, according to http://dreamact.info/ “ undocumented young people could be eligible for a conditional path to citizenship in exchange for completion of a college degree or two years of military service. Undocumented young people must also demonstrate good moral character to be eligible for and stay in conditional residency. At the end of the process, the young person can finally become an American citizen.”

It seems little enough to do for those who really aren’t strangers among us. http://dreamact.info/ has links to US representatives and senators who still need to be lobbied to pass this bill.

Posted by: Christian Association | March 7, 2010

Guest Post: Why the Census Is a Social Justice Issue

CA Board member Warren Cederholm has written this post.

Why is the 2010 US Census a Social Justice Issue?

Since it is coming close to the time when the 2010 census will be taken, it might be wise to take a look at why the census is a social justice issue. (These are not my words, they are taken from Train the Trainers Manual. But they are words that need to be shared and understood.)

An accurate census directly affects our nation’s ability to ensure equal representation and equal access to important governmental resources for all Americans, and thus must be regarded as one of the most significant civil rights issues facing the country today.

Low-income people, people of color, children, immigrants, people with disabilities, and people living in urban areas are most likely to be undercounted. In contrast, college students living away from home, people who own more than one home, non-Hispanic Whites, suburban residents, and higher-income people are more likely to be counted twice, leading to an overcount of these population groups.

Despite more resources and better planning, the 2000 census missed about 16 million people. Low-income communities, particularly low-income communities of color, were disproportionately undercounted in the census. As a result, many individuals were denied an equal voice in their government and many communities were shortchanged on federal and state funding for schools, crime prevention, health care, and transportation.

If that pattern of undercounting and overcounting happens during the 2010 census, people in undercounted communities will be unfairly denied representation and resources for the next 10 years, directly affecting access to health care, education, employment and job training services, veterans’ services, economic development, and more. Undercounted communities are also underrepresented in local, state, and national government, which means they have less influence than they deserve over decisions affecting their lives, families, and neighborhoods. That’s why the census is a civil rights issue.

Why are people of color and low-income people disproportionately undercounted?

There are several reasons for the persistent and disproportionate undercount of people of color and low-income people, including: Lower response rates for mail and door-to-door collection methods in lower-income areas; Lower education levels, higher rates of illiteracy, and limited English proficiency make it harder for some people to understand the census process and questionnaire; A general lack of understanding about how important census participation can be to individuals and their communities; and Distrust or suspicion of government, leading to a fear that census responses may used by immigration or law enforcement officials to detain or deport people, may be given to landlords or creditors, or may affect eligibility for social welfare programs.

What is the relationship of the census to voting rights?

Undercounting some communities leads to underrepresentation at many levels of government. Census data are used to determine how many representatives each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next 10 years. Census data are also used to draw lines for voting districts for Congress, state legislatures, school boards, and city councils. In addition, census information is used to assist enforcement of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which outlaws drawing of legislative districts with the intention of diluting the concentration of minority voters. Failing to accurately account for local concentrations of minority groups in a census count hampers fair redistricting efforts since voting power would not be properly allocated on the basis of population.

Census data directly affect how more than $400 billion per year in federal funding is allocated to communities for neighborhood improvements, public health, education, transportation and much more. That’s more than $4 trillion over a 10-year period.

Posted by: Robert A. Holsapple | March 1, 2010

Confessions of a second year seminarian: Part two

There are times the words flow smoothly and freely as if of their own volition, and there are times when the arid desert wind might appear refreshing and inspiring as there is nothing else to draw upon.  At times such as these I pray.

One of the nicest surprises and most fulfilling discoveries of my now two-year seminary education is the ability at any given moment, in the midst of class, while in conversation with others or when alone such as now, to pray.  Surprised because I have been living in a world where such behavior has been considered an affront to the sensitivities of others and tolerance for public displays of spirituality have been outlawed in many places.  I am sure you are sufficiently familiar with any number of cases that have slogged their way through our country’s courts over the years for me to have to elaborate further.  Fulfilling because prayer has become more than simply something I do when I want something or when I want to give thanks or ask for intercession on behalf of others.  It has, in fact, become simply a way of being.  Nothing more is required than to engage in a deep dialogue with the creator of the universe and try to see what it is that is being done around me that calls for my accompaniment.

For me it has become increasingly more important that I allow time and space for prayer and meditation, for the practice of several of the spiritual disciplines.  I find that if I take the time to center on something larger than myself or my own circumstances – and I think the God of all creation to whom I pray would be considered larger than myself – the day and all that is encountered therein generally is more positive and productive than it would otherwise have been.

Prayer provides a connection with the divine, with the spirit and with others in God’s Kingdom here on earth.  This connection I am experiencing while in seminary compels me to want to remain connected throughout the day; not merely at its earliest part.  Why am I not able to more fully live out the gospel in all of my day to day interactions with others, with the environment and with whatever resources over which I am granted stewardship?  There are times I lose sight of the bigger picture and get caught up in the drama being lived around me, reactive to rather than nurturing the social milieu.

In the Christian faith we believe that Jesus lived a life here on earth as fully human and fully divine.  In his life we hear of no time at which Jesus failed to carry out what he believed to be the will of God.  I know from the deepest part of my being that while I want to be more like Jesus in my daily journey through life, I will stumble and fall along the way despite my best efforts or at times perhaps because of my best efforts.  But I can keep before me the image of Christ and remember the message that he brought to earth, remembering every now and again to take the time to pray and to love others and to give freely of myself.

Posted by: Beverly Dale | March 1, 2010

I believe in education…and so does California

I have a strong bias toward education. I admit it. That is why I am at a university. I think we enhance our chances for a better life with more information and can then become better problem-solvers both for ourselves and our world. Now, I am aware that education does not make us smarter than others. People with fancy degrees after their names can still commit heinous crimes or act like idiots with no common sense.  But I am not dissuaded that instilling knowledge is better than living in ignorance. So why would anybody not want to educate their children about sexuality?

We don’t limit their education in math, reading, and science, how to drive a car or how to behave  civilly and respectfully in public.  Most parents help their children and youth develop any natural or latent talent they might have in the arts or sports as well.  And we want them to make wise relationship decisions and to explore their world safely. So it is puzzling why teaching about their bodies and reproduction is problematic.

There is a dangerous myth that if kids are uninformed they will somehow remain “untainted,” a myth that would laughable if it were not so dangerous for the young person’s health and well being.  And only the naive parent who doesn’t  watch television or check out the internet could cling to such ideas. There are plenty of stereotypes and sexual misinformation, not to mention amoral perspectives  in the culture at large, to fill any educational void.

I can document the level of sexual ignorance of many college first-year students at this Ivy League university. For example, several didn’t know the meaning of the word “sexologist” while one group didn’t understand a question about the difference between “quality sex” and “quantity of sex!”

But now that teen pregnancies and abortions are on the rise after some years of being in decline, there is a great debate as to why.  Some blame abstinence-only teaching in the classroom, while others say its our sex-saturated culture. But there is good news if we all look toward California. California believes in education too.

This state has never accepted abstinence-only funding and instead spends $45 million of its $450 million health dollars annually on teens. This is called prevention and the teens are getting the message. California has been teaching comprehensive sex education for years and has consistently led the nation in lower teen pregnancy statistics. However, the latest reported statistics have  not only NOT followed the national trend upward, but are continuing to go in the opposite direction to an all time low. One UC-Berkeley researcher at the School of Public Health is using words like “phenomenal” and “unbelievable.” And researchers are not known for hyperbole!

But of course, other countries, especially in those in Scandinavia, also get it. Teach at the child/youth level. Teach medically accurate facts and only give correct information. (But without the scare factors as the Penn Drs. Jemmott and Jemmott found in their recent study.) Educate them to make informed choices they feel ready to handle, and if they are too young, they most likely will abstain until they feel ready. Now, will they always make the choices the parents might want them to make? Perhaps not. But by the time young people can leave the house on their own or turn on a computer, the only issue parents need to worry about is, do they know enough to stay safe and healthy and where did they learn about sexual relationships? If there is no proactive education taking place, then what they learn will not help them become sexually confident and at ease in this most important aspect of our lives.

(I always refer college students to the award-winning sex ed textbook A Guide to Getting it On by sexologist Dr. Paul Joannides.)

Posted by: Beverly Dale | March 1, 2010

Wisdom in the Bible, wisdom in the clinic

Is it possible that wisdom does not lead to uniformity in our spiritual solutions? Can some of our moral decisions as people of faith be at odds with the decisions that others might make who are equally committed to their faith, and if so, can all of us still be wise and faithful? On the culturally-divisive topic of abortions we would do well to ask about the discernment process and just what makes for wisdom.

I do not think it is coincidental that of the 165 Biblical references for the word wisdom (NIV), 21 of them are found in the book of Job, a story of intense suffering and quandary. All of Job’s questions of God are, “Why? Why me?” and, “Why now?” But wisdom surely comes about when we grapple with difficult questions. And it is in engaging with them and struggling to find our answers that we oftentimes can come to a greater understanding of ourselves and the complexities of life, sometimes gaining a sense of humility in the process.

The author of a letter to the church in Philippi prays that our “love may abound more and more in real knowledge and discernment” and, in that process, become “blameless before God.” (1:9-10 NAS) Blameless means becoming righteous through our discernment. It does not mean finding a singularly “right” or pure answer. We stand blameless after we have struggled and grappled to discern a resolution to the best of our abilities. That is the key. Job became a wiser man because he had grappled with God about the difficult questions. Like him, when life hits us unexpectedly with challenges that may well test our faith and when we desperately need to know what to do, according to the writer of James, wisdom comes from “God who gives generously without finding fault” (1:3-5). God’s generous response comes with no strings attached. Sometimes wisdom comes not from the outcome as much as from the grappling for discernment.

One day my 40-year-old mother announced to her two teenagers and two preteens that she was pregnant; we were stunned! No one had expected our family to change, nor frankly, did we want it to. Although abortions were legal by this time, my mother’s ancestry was filled with stories of women giving birth to large numbers of children throughout their reproductive years. She considered her surprise pregnancy at this age simply part of being a married woman. She accepted this reality. We would just have to adjust.

That is how I ended up having a sister and a brother (he came along two years later) near the age of my children. My mother and I were each changing diapers at the same time on our own children. Now, do I love my siblings from this second family? Of course. Do I wish they had never been born? Of course not. Does my mother regret having her children spaced into two families? Or regret having six children instead of four? Not at all. She chose to readjust her life to accommodate these changing realities.

One afternoon while I was serving as a volunteer chaplain at Planned Parenthood I was surprised to meet two grandmothers, both in their 40s, who had thought they were premenopausal. To their great surprise and chagrin, they were not. After the abortion procedures I asked each one if she had made the right decision. The first one quickly said, “Absolutely! I have several grandchildren I want to play with. I’m the babysitter for one of them.”

The second grandmother responded, “Oh, my! Yes! I am in the midst of planning for my daughter’s big wedding. I am making her dress. This is the biggest day of her life. It should be all about her. I couldn’t be pregnant at this time for her. Yes, it was the right choice for me…even if it’s not one I thought I would ever have to make.” It was clear each woman had assessed what she felt was best for her and her other children, and, in each case, her grandchildren. With no regrets, each had chosen to have an abortion.

The stereotype of women who seek to terminate a pregnancy is that of self-absorbed, irresponsible yet sexually active young, single women unwilling to assume the responsibilities of adulthood. But according to the Guttmacher Institute, over one-third of the women who seek abortions are married women who, for a variety of reasons, believe that adding to the size of their family at this time would be detrimental either to themselves, their children, or the family as a whole. Patients at the clinic have told me they feared another child would place too large of a burden on an already-fragile marriage. Several have indicated their husbands had lost their jobs and though they did want children, they simply didn’t have the resources for a newborn at the time.

Which of these grandmothers made a morally defensible decision: the one who chose to adapt to the unexpected changes of life’s circumstances and start over with her second family? Or those who chose not to return to a life of diapers and baby food so they could devote themselves exclusively to being grandmothers? We are inclined to believe that as we age we may make wiser choices. So, is it possible that having already experienced child rearing and child loving, each of these three women was being wise, one to embrace motherhood again and the other two to refuse?

Each of these grappled with their decisions and yet each came to a different solution. One started her second family, becoming a grandmother and mother at the same time. One grandmother chose to spend her time helping her youngest daughter transition to becoming a young wife, while the third chose to focus instead on her grandchildren. Those of us who are not in that same struggle do not grapple with their “why?” questions nor do we have insights into the limits of their family, resources, or their own capabilities. Those of us on the outside of the struggle are not privy to the wisdom that comes to those grappling with the questions. And since God gives generously without finding fault, why do we?

This article is reprinted from the Inaugural issue of the e-newsletter for Clergy for Choice sponsored by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

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