Scripture Lesson: Psalm 148
Sermon: A Mother’s Manifesto
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells
I’ll start with a confession. I love being a mother. It is the most interesting and challenging thing in my life – and that’s saying something given my job which is extremely interesting and challenging and my husband! I take great delight in my children. It is amazing to watch them develop and grow. I am grateful for the humor and fun that children bring to life. There is wonder and satisfaction in investing your life in future generations. I also had the random good fortune to have an amazing mother who was filled with love not only for her family but for every family and for the world. So, my mother and the many mothers of this congregation whom I have known through the years have been wonderful role models and sources of help and comfort. I have somehow landed in a situation conducive to being a mother with much support for the journey. So, for me, being a mother is an amazing delight – most of the time. I know that it is not so for all mothers. Some have it much harder than I. And I would like to be part of making this world more supportive of parents and families of every kind.
So, as a mother of three now adult children, I would like to share what I would like to see for the wellbeing of my children and all children. And when all the children of our society and the world are well taken care of this mother, as well as most people of goodwill I think, will experience the full delight and joy of children. So, I would like to share how I would like to see the wider community come together for the well being of all children. Here is this mother’s manifesto.
First, guarantee equal rights to women. This will make all mothers equal to men under the law. As long as women are not considered equal to men, children will suffer because of it. You can’t have a culture that is fully supportive of children when the mothers are not equal to the fathers under the law. To address this in our current situation involves endorsing and implementing the Equal Rights Amendment. That is the first thing that I think needs to happen to improve the standing of children, boys and girls, in our society.
Second, and this should come as a result of number one, but it should be pointed out in and of itself. Women, mothers, need to receive pay that is equal to men in comparable jobs. This, too, will vastly improve the well being of children in our society.
Third on my manifesto and maybe this should have been first because if we don’t get this right, nothing else matters. But here it is. I want our society to immediately take drastic measures to address global warming. This needs an all out effort like the mobilization of our society in World War 2. Everyone on deck in some way pitching in. Only in this instance, we battle an enemy that we have created. Nonetheless, this effort is necessary if children are to be healthy. Children and young people are suffering from diseases and health conditions that impede their growth and development specifically because of the state of the air and water and food that are intended to sustain them. In addition, psychologists tell us that young people are suffering from greater anxiety, depression and mental illness than ever before and that this is directly related to the climate crisis. And this includes the increasing suicide rate among youth. In these conditions, mothers cannot raise healthy children. The very air and water and food as well as the future are tainted and toxic. How can a mother raise a healthy well adjusted child in these circumstances? The environmental crisis must be attacked with the full force of our industry, technology, economy, and ingenuity.
Fourth on my manifesto is access to healthcare for everyone including mothers and children. A mother has to be healthy in body and spirit to be a good mother. And a good mother provides what her children need for them to be healthy in body and spirit. But often neither mothers nor children have access to adequate healthcare. The system we have for healthcare delivery works very well for some. But it does not work well at all for others. And now that my husband has retired and we are no longer under an employment related plan, I count myself among those who do not have access to adequate, reasonable healthcare. The prescriptions I have taken for allergy related asthma for decades now cost $1,000 a month. I just got them filled in Canada for $133 for a month’s supply. And I have health insurance.
To this demand for healthcare, I want to specifically note that women, all women, including young women, must have full access to all healthcare options regarding reproductive health. That’s a way of saying, abortion, as well as birth control of every kind, must be accessible, safe, affordable, and legal. A woman has the right to choose whether or not to be a mother with no stigma attached. When women are equal to men in this country we won’t even be discussing this. But until women at least have equal rights under the law, we must discuss this because limiting these healthcare options for women is a direct assault on the dignity and equality of human beings with XX chromosomes.
To have healthy mothers and children, we must deliver quality healthcare to all women and children, as well as to all men.
Fifth on my manifesto is education. Not only is much of the approach to education lacking in our country, it is also biased and continues to reinforce the inferiority of girls and women. Yes, I know that graduation rates are higher for girls, and gee, they let girls be valedictorians but the system is still slanted toward boys and men in the content of the curriculum and in the behavior of many who work in the schools. How can they help it? They simply reflect society. But that is the problem. Education should not reflect society, it should be shaping society and moving things in a direction toward equality and justice for all.
No, schools can’t do it all, and we have some amazing teachers in this congregation, but schools can make sure that every child learns how to read and write and communicate and do the math needed for daily life without a calculator. Every student needs to learn how to analyze information and think critically. Every student needs to know how to test the truth claims of the politicians they will vote for. Every child should have the opportunity through the education system to explore and discover their interests and passions. They should learn about expression through the arts which offer enrichment, insight, delight, and self-discovery. Every student should have access to athletics and recess for development of the body and socialization and team work. Education is our frontline against future problems of many kinds and we are neglecting this defense. Education is a tool for creating a productive, happy citizenry. And we are neglecting this pursuit as well. Along with healthcare, education is key to raising children who are healthy of mind, body, and spirit. Schools need to be fully funded and filled with the most capable adults we have properly compensated for the critical work they are doing for the well being of society.
Sixth on my manifesto is a more equitable economic system. Great schools and wonderful healthcare available to all are needed, but overall, we need some kind of new economic arrangements. We can’t have youth who are healthy of body, mind, and spirit and who don’t have access to work that satisfies and sustains a person in today’s world. There are countless mothers in our community who have to work several jobs to keep food on the table for their children. How are they supposed to also provide enrichment activities, family meals and outings, homework help, wisdom and consolation and inspiration to their children when they have to work constantly just to maintain a precarious material existence? How much do you have to give if you’ve worked 80 hours at 3 different jobs just to make rent and the grocery bill? And God forbid the parent get sick and miss work. The next stop could very well be Family Promise, a ministry that helps homeless families get back on their feet. The system we have allows the rich to make a killing by abusing the labor resources of this country and this is killing families, parents, and kids.
Seventh, and last on this mother’s manifesto is reverence for life. Mothers are life bearers; we bring these precious human beings into the world. And then they learn to devalue life, maybe of people who are different than they are. They see people treated like trash, waste, expendable. They see nature abused and debased. They learn to take life as they see life taken around them. Kids witness literally hundreds of killings – in movies, games, and other entertainment. Killing as sport. As a mother, a life bearer, I share the views of Julia Ward Howe. Our sons and daughters “shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience.” Exactly. I want society to reinforce the reverence for life that we teach in our homes and here in church. That is what is conducive to raising healthy children who respect themselves and others as well as the natural world.
So, those are the seven things on this mother’s manifesto: Equal rights for women, equal pay for women, stop the climate crisis, healthcare for all, high quality education for all, a just economic system, and reverence for life. That is what I want in the world for my children and all children. That is the kind of world that supports mothers and fathers in their parenting. That is what creates a society offering life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all. Fathers you are not left out of this. Those who are not parents, you are also not left out of this. Creating a world that is healthy for all children means creating a world that is healthy for boys, fathers, and men, as well as all girls and women. It also means creating a world that is healthy for those who identify as none of the above and who consider themselves gender fluid. A world that is good for children is good for everyone!
Nature teaches us about species that protect their young. When there is a threat, adult elephants will form a circle around the youngsters and protect them. This is common in the natural world; adult animals banding together to nurture the offspring so that they flourish. Nature teaches us about being devoted to the wellbeing of the young. Like other animals, when we do this, we are fulfilling our role in nature and thus praising God. [See Psalm 148]
You may have thought you would hear some soaring ode to motherhood this morning. Motherhood, it is glorious. It has treasures and delights and challenges that are beyond expectation. It is a holy calling. But for mothers to know the full joy of their role, for children to be blessed fully by those who mother them, our society needs to make the nurturing of children and young people top priority ahead of getting rich and before getting re-elected.
This past week, the world has oo-ed and ah-ed at the birth of a biracial baby named Archie [son of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle]. It has been a wonderful glimmer of joy, a relief really, in the midst of the news about the trade war with China, the constitutional crisis, the border problems, extreme weather events, and the horror of another school shooting, among other things. In the midst of that sludge, the world celebrated the birth of a beautiful baby. And that baby will have every advantage that can be provided. But you shouldn’t have to marry a prince to be able to raise a healthy child in this world. Amen.
A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.