What's Tony Thinking

Fast Takes: Nation Relapses, A “Say No” Club, Mother’s Day and Church


After three months of sobriety, it’s happened. Relapse. We’ve fallen off the wagon. We’ve relapsed. Suddenly, this week, it is once again all Trump all the time.

First, it was big-deal columnists like Tom Friedman and Tom Edsall sounding the alarm on the pages of the New York Times. Trump is no more dead than the Glenn Close character, surging up from the bloody bath water, in Fatal Attraction. 

Then it was the Facebook Advisory Board non-decision keeping The Donald off Facebook. Trump the martyr in the cause of freedom of speech!

And finally all the hubbub around Liz Cheney. Speaking of “inconvenient truth!” Cheney doesn’t seem to be able to stop saying that Trump’s efforts to steal the election were outrageous. How impolite, not to say impolitic, of her!

And whoever thought you and I would be thanking God for someone named “Cheney”?

We’ve relapsed. The only thing to do is go back to our meeting, own up to it, and tell the truth. We can’t help ourselves, our lives have become unmanageable. We’re addicted, we need our fix of Trump outrage.

Second, do you have trouble saying “no?” Kay Milkman did. She is a behavioral scientist at the prestigious Wharton School at Penn. Milkman and female colleagues at similar institutions noticed a pattern. Women faculty said “yes” more often, too often, to hum-drum administrative assignments dodged by male faculty.

What to do? They formed a “No Club.” A group of women colleagues who would talk about situations where they were in danger of saying “yes.” They pumped each other up. “You can do it — just say no.” “Let Mr. Chair of Blah-Blah-Blah do it.”

There’s a church application for some clergy and some laity, those inclined to say, “I’ll do that” and “I’ve got it!” Or, when no one else steps up, “I guess I can do it.” Only to find themselves overwhelmed and resentful. It’s not only women in ministry, but probably more of a risk to them. Form a “Say No!” club of your own with colleagues. Consult. Discern. Encourage. Saying “no” can be a sign of health. (That said, there are others who need to form a “Yes Club.”)

And finally, this Sunday is Mothers Day. Which presents a challenge for the church. What to do? Make a big deal of it? Ask all Mothers to stand and receive roses from cherubs? Ignore it?

I remember a Mothers Day, thirty years ago, when I preached at sermon on gay/ lesbian inclusion on Mothers Day. I honestly had not thought much about that until a really steamed guy, who had brought his mother to church for the occasion, told me how “totally inappropriate” my sermon was. It crossed my mind to say, “Gay and lesbian folks have mothers too,” but I held my tongue (for a change).

Some people had/ have great relationships with their Moms. Wonderful. But not all have, by any means.

And not all women are moms. Some don’t wish to be. Others would like nothing more, but it’s not in the cards for one of any number of reasons. Churches tend to make an idealized mother the model of the Christian woman. Don’t do it. There are too many mothers out there burdened by regrets. Or women who feel that by not being a mother they are “less than.”

I’m all for celebrating and encouraging the vocation of parenthood, which is both super-demanding and important. But Mothers Day may not be the way, or the time or place. Idealization of a certain picture of motherhood substitutes law for gospel, human achievement for grace. Parents too need forgiveness.

Mothers Day in the church? Caution advised.

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