Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Turns 100... and a blind eye.

I don't want to come across as a hater. And Lord knows I love my mother (and am the spittin' image of her). But I do not like Mother's Day.

And I'm not the only one.

In 1923, nine years after Anna Jarvis talked President Woodrow Wilson into establishing a national "Mother's Day," Ms. Jarvis turned around and began protesting it.

On facebook today, fourteen months after the death of his mother, Jason Nethercut describes Mother's Day as "prominent, glaring and threatening."

And for five years when I served at First Baptist Church in Austin, TX, I could be counted on to cry (hopefully non-conspicuously) at one service every year: Mother's Day.

Why don't we like it?

Well, Anna Jarvis hated how commercial it became in just nine years (oh Lord, she'd HATE it now). You see, she didn't start the movement to create a national holiday for "we the people" to give our moms flowers, and candy and cheesy greeting cards. She petitioned for this national holiday because her own mother organized "Mother's Work Days" to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality, to tend to soldiers who had been injured in the Civil War.  Anna's mother's contemporary, Julia Ward Howe (who composed "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"), issued a widely read "Mother's Day Proclamation" in 1870, calling for women to take an active political role in promoting peace.

Mother's Day, for Anna, was to recognize extraordinary women, and specifically the one she was the closest to: her mother.

In other words, "Mother's Day was born in the aftermath of the Civil War, as a rallying cry for women worldwide to oppose war and fight for social justice." It wasn't actually about mothers being good moms, it was about women being good people.

Mother's Day was a cry to action. It was a call from the feminist and Christian communities for women to live to their fullest potential as God's children... and to protect God's other children.

Happy 100th Birthday, Mother's Day. You have forgotten who you are.