I was all set to say goodbye to Summer 2008 and write about our first day of school, but I was constantly distracted by one, single thought.
"Palin's 17 yr old daughter pregnant"
This of course was all the talk yesterday all over gossipy, political, busy-body and even conservative blogs, as well as pretty much every news site out there. The news came for me while we were watching FOX's coverage of Gustav yesterday morning, which by God's mercy alone, wasn't nearly as bad as predicted and we are all certainly grateful for that!
Now, back to politics. Or rather, back to humanity. I'm going to just go right ahead and remove all political overtones to this because quite frankly, I don't see it as a political issue anyway.
There have been some extreme reactions (and rather ugly and graceless) to this news from the aghast self-righteous, to the told-ya-so leftist nutties. Both extremes make me gag. I've said it before and I will say it again, people really ought to do a whole lot more shutting up before they fire off some dumb, harsh, cruel, judgemental, obnoxious comment about which they know NOTHING about. Now that I got that out of my system, lets look at this news from two perspectives.
Conservative Christian Parenting
From a Christian parent's point of view (or even a non-Christian parent who is convinced that abstinance is the best way), this kind of news is most definitely not the kind of news you want to hear from your teenage son or daughter. When you have invested your heart, your wisdom, your hopes and your convictions into your children, learning that they have chosen to do exactly the opposite of what you have taught them can be rather difficult.
The thing is, you can teach them and you can explain to them and you can give them all the reasons in the world why living a certain way is the best way, but you cannot live for them, you cannot decide for them, you cannot believe for them and you cannot follow them around 24 hours a day to make sure they do the right thing. There comes a time when our children become the age where they make decisions that are entirely their own and sometimes those decisions are life-altering. It is afterall, their life to live and they will begin (at some point) to begin living it according to their own choices. In the case of the Palin family, I was rather impressed with their public statement which said in part:
"Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We’re proud of Bristol’s decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support."
That is exactly the very best response. It isn't an easy response and it isn't the response any Christian parent ever really wants to find themselves having to express, but it is the best response. You're certainly not happy that your son or daughter chose to do the very thing you've raised them not to do, but now that they have and now that they will face the difficult task of becoming a parent far earlier than they even understand they are ready for, your unconditional love and support is exactly what they need. They don't need a lecture (they already know what you think) they don't need rejection and they don't need you to be angry at them.
Hopefully, as a Christian you will also find unconditional love and support from your fellow believers as you break the news to them. If we're going to be completely honest here, I'll have to say that the sad truth is while you will find some gracious believers in your circle of fellowship that will be there to encourage you as the parent, you're also going to find some judgemental snobbery that points the finger at you, and tries to make you feel like you completely dropped the Good Parenting ball, as evidenced by your child's unplanned, unwed pregnancy. That's almost as heartbreaking as the original news to begin with, and even harder to deal with some times. This attitude is prominantly displayed in the comment that I've read on more than a few sites that says "she (Sarah Palin) can't even keep her own daughter from getting knocked up, how is she going to lead in a political capacity?" Your classic judgemental finger pointing, accusatory guilt-trip, graceless, thoughtless, condescending self-righteous statement. Which brings me to the next perspective.
Sinners in Need of Grace
On the one hand I find it rather striking that we live in a time and a culture that OPENLY embraces all kinds of sexual deviancy and immorality in the name of tolerance, and yet this is the same culture and society that makes a big to-do over the fact that an unmarried 17 year old girl is pregnant. Of course I do realize that there are factors at play there making this more of an issue because she's the daughter of a politician in a hot political time, but the inconsistancy is still striking to me.
The fact of the matter is, Bristol Palin is Every Girl. She could be my girl, your girl, or your pastor's girl. She could be your daughter's best friend, your best friend's daughter, your neighbor, or YOU. She's a teenage girl living in a society that absolutely rejects conservative Christian values, going to a school where the message there reflects what society says, and watches tv shows and movies that reinforces that very same message. She is bombarded with temptation in every direction from fashion to entertainment, culture to relationships. The message of purity and abstinance is a small voice while the message of "live however you want" is the screaming voice. Obviously, like countless other teenage girls and young women, she gave in to the screaming voice of culture the feeds the temptations of the flesh.
I've said before that I would never in a million years want to be a teenager in today's world. I would especially not want to be a Christian teenager in today's world. Our culture is so completely different than it was just 30 years ago, and I cannot even imagine being a young person battling against the screaming voice of culture that tells me it's good and right and okay to give in to whatever temptations I have. It was bad enough the first time around in the late 70s and early 80s when society was still somewhat conservative in small towns like the one I grew up in. It can at times be very difficult to live as a Christian as an adult since we're all constantly battling the flesh anyway, but to live out my faith as a young person would be (I think?) even more difficult. By His grace though, young people ARE doing it and it blesses my heart to see that.
There are, right this minute, adult Christians who heard this news about Bristol Palin and immediately became Henry and Hannah Hypocrite. "Well..." they arrogantly thought as they looked down their proverbial noses from their high moral ground "I'm sure glad MY daughter didn't make that choice!". Yep, I'm glad she didn't either, but we sure do have a tendency to forget that every one of us is a fallen creature in desperate need of God's grace and strength all day long, every day, and every day of our lives. Bristol Palin's choice to give in to temptation isn't (on one level) any different than my choice to lose my temper, or your choice to speak a harsh word to someone, or someone else's choice to have a brutally ugly or lustful thought about someone, or anyone else to have a sickenly self-righteous thought about this situation at all. This is utlimately a heart condition and a sin condition, and one we ALL battle every day. I am a sinner in need of grace, just like you, just like everyone else, just like Bristol Palin. The consequences of her sin show, and will show even more for the next few months while that precious baby grows inside of her, while my sin and your sin is generally hidden on the inside, or hidden away from public view. Let us never forget that just because the public cannot 'see' or know about my sin or your sin the way we know about the daughter of a politician, doesn't mean that we're in ANY way above anyone else, or that God isn't just as aware of ours, as He is hers.
Let us never turn into Hannah Hypocrite and become self-righteously judgemental when we hear something like this. Let us instead respond with compassion and grace, and remember that we too, need such compassion and grace when we fall.