Author archives: Laura Grossberndt

Homeschooled Students Make Good, Knowledgeable Citizens, Despite What Elites Say

by Laura Grossberndt

April 24, 2020

Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet recently stirred up controversy when she suggested that homeschooling ought to be illegal. She is concerned that homeschooling poses significant risks to children, including depriving them of a “meaningful education,” and may even make them bad citizens.

Bartholet chose a curious time to try to convince the American public that homeschooling ought to be banned. For one thing, due to the COVID-19 epidemic, all schooling is currently taking place at home. And for another, there is the news that only 15 percent of eighth-graders scored at or above proficiency level in U.S. history on the recently released National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 2018 Report Card.

What do U.S. history scores have to do with the validity of homeschooling as an educational model? A great deal. Bartholet fears that homeschooled children will not “grow up exposed to…democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints.” I believe this fear is misplaced. An education in history is crucial to forming high regard for democratic values, nondiscrimination, and respecting other viewpoints. After all, how is one supposed to value our democratic republic and the ideals it embraces if they don’t know what a democratic republic is or what sets it apart from other forms of government? How is one to recognize the tell-tale signs of discrimination, and how is one to learn to sympathize with the realities and struggles of those different than them, without hearing the stories of people from the past?

Homeschooled students have higher-than-average scores in U.S. history (or “civics” or “social studies” as it is often called in curricula), and adults who were homeschooled vote and participate in community service and public meetings more frequently than their peers. If education in history is crucial to instilling high regard for democratic values, nondiscrimination, and respect for other viewpoints, then most homeschooled students would appear to be in reasonably good shape, despite Bartholet’s concerns, and public schools likely have room for improvement.

I’m not just speaking theoretically, but from personal experience. I was homeschooled from first through tenth grade. This educational decision, while financially costly to my family (my mother, who holds a master’s degree, stayed home instead of earning our family a second paycheck), afforded my family with expansive learning opportunities. Because we weren’t bound by a school calendar, our family was free to take field trips wherever and whenever we wanted. Nearly every family vacation had an educational aspect to it. We visited Boston and Philadelphia. We trekked Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields. We visited presidential homesteads and slave huts. We visited museums and watched documentaries. All these experiences brought history to life for me in a way no textbook ever could. Because we lived in the eastern U.S., none of these trips even required stepping onto an airplane.

You don’t have to be a homeschool family to take these kinds of trips. But time constraints certainly make them harder. And who knows if I would have enjoyed these trips half as much if my mother and teacher (for they were one and the same) hadn’t been experiencing them with me and transforming her passion for history into a lifelong passion of my own.

My rich education in U.S. history, provided by my homeschool experience, has taught me to cherish our form of government. It has taught me to grieve injustices in America’s past (slavery, Jim Crow laws, etc.) and motivates me to fight against current injustices (abortion, sexual exploitation, etc.). It has taught me to respect the human dignity and opinions of others, including those who think very differently than I do. It even taught me to entertain the possibility that I may be wrong or underinformed on a topic of debate.

Homeschooling may not be the right educational choice for every student or family situation, but it provided me with an exceedingly “meaningful education,” despite Elizabeth Bartholet’s concerns. It has been said that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” My mother did her best to raise a child who wouldn’t be condemned to such a fate. Let us all—parents, teachers, policymakers, and community members—recommit ourselves to teaching history in every educational model—home, public, and private—so that future generations can learn to treasure the good things in our history and how to avoid the errors.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus: How to Respond When Your Wedding Plans Change

by Laura Grossberndt

April 15, 2020

Has the coronavirus left you feeling lonely, helpless, angry, or blindsided? If so, that’s okay. All of these are natural human responses. Add a wedding into the mix, and you may be experiencing a particularly heart-wrenching season of life. Maybe you had hoped to have all your family and friends with you when you exchanged vows. Maybe you had hoped to get married on a particular date or at a certain venue. Maybe you had hoped to travel on a honeymoon. And now, the current global pandemic has completely upended all those good dreams, desires, and plans.

How is a couple to make sense of all this?

Several of my friends have seen their wedding plans changed in one way or another due to the coronavirus. One couple kept their original date but had to limit the number of attendees in accordance with social distancing regulations. Another received their marriage license one day, finished premarital counseling the next day, and was married in a small ceremony the third day—two months earlier than initially planned. Another postponed their wedding.

I interviewed these friends, asking what they would say to other brides and grooms facing similar complications. What follows are five truths to remember, all grounded in God’s Word. I hope reflecting on them soothes your heart and edifies your soul.

Remember God’s Sovereignty

Are you frustrated by feelings of helplessness? Are you grappling to make sense of the unthinkable?

Although you may be disappointed and still struggling to cope with the prospect of relinquishing your dream wedding, God was not surprised or taken off guard by the sudden changes. All of your days, including your wedding day, were written in His book before even one had come to pass (Psalm 139:16). What is unknown to us is entirely known to Him. Furthermore, He is completely in control and will accomplish all of His purposes and fulfill all of His promises to His people. The pandemic might have changed your plans, but it changes nothing about God or His care for you. Consider the following truths from Scripture:

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. (Psalm 147:5)

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. (Psalm 139:4)

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28)

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’ (Isaiah 46:9b-10)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:28-32)

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

From cover to cover, the Bible reminds us of God’s sovereignty. As believers, we must trust that God is using all things in our lives—even the coronavirus and the changes it is forcing us to make—for His glory and our good.

Remember God’s Compassion

Are you grieving the beautiful plans you had for your wedding day? All the time, thought, and energy you poured into preparing for a celebration that now may never happen the way you had envisioned?

If so, be comforted to know that the God who knows all things and preordains your days is also the God who cares deeply about you, more deeply than anyone else. The very same God who, in order to reconcile us to Himself, became a man (Colossians 1:19-20, John 1:14) and experienced the same kind of human sufferings and sorrows that you and I do (Isaiah 53:3). He is not ignorant of His children’s sorrow and pain. He does not begrudge or belittle your grief. Consider just a few verses that describe God’s compassionate and loving disposition toward His children:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15)

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

By meditating and holding on to these promises, we are reminded of God’s kind and gentle character in the midst of the current trial. And despite lost opportunities such as a traditional wedding with family and friends in attendance, or an overseas honeymoon, we can trust that God still loves us and has amazing plans for these new marriages.

Remember What Marriage Symbolizes

Those who desire a wedding and marriage desire a good thing. The union of a husband and wife was instituted by God Himself at the very beginning of human history (Genesis 2). Declaring that it was “not good that the man should be alone,” God created woman—“a helper fit for him”—and brought her to the man. He then gave them a command: to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:28). Even today, those who engage in a marriage covenant are participants in God’s good design for human relationships and flourishing.

But God’s plans for your marriage do not stop with relational intimacy and building a family. God also intends married couples to reflect the gospel. Consider the apostle Paul’s words to the Ephesians:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:25-32)

By citing Genesis 2:24, Paul intentionally draws a parallel between the union of a husband and wife in marriage and the union between Christ and His church. God has always intended marriage to be a means of understanding the profound love Christ has for His bride, the church. Even if your wedding plans were taken away, be comforted in knowing that your participation in this glorious reflection of the gospel (and your participation in the gospel itself! Romans 8:35-39) is a privilege that the coronavirus has not taken away.

Remember to Embrace an Eternal Perspective

Getting married during a global pandemic involves a great deal of deferred or sacrificed hopes. As we have already covered, God is not ignorant or unfeeling towards these present disappointments. In fact, if you have been forced to delay celebrating your marriage with friends and family, no one can understand your situation better than God, because He, too, is waiting on a wedding celebration! Consider:

  • Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to women waiting up all night for the bridegroom—who was delayed—to appear for the wedding feast (Matthew 25:1-13). We, like these women, must wait for the bridegroom to appear before the wedding celebration can begin.
  • When He instituted the Lord’s Supper (symbolizing the covenant between Himself and the church) the night before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine until the day He would drink it again in His Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29). Jesus will not drink the wine until He is finally united with His bride.
  • We know from Revelation 19 that the wedding feast of the Lamb will not occur until the second coming of Christ.

As Christians, we are assured of our Savior’s love. We are betrothed to Him, sealed with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). However, we have yet to see that love’s full fruition. We still live in a fallen, broken world that groans for redemption, and we must wait with patience (Romans 8:18-25). In this way, your deferred hopes for your wedding celebration are not unlike our present spiritual circumstances.

Be comforted that God knows what it is to wait for a wedding celebration! Live in expectant hope, learning to embrace the now and not yet of the promises we have in Christ.

Remember to Delight in Your Beloved

The most important component of a wedding is not the ceremony, not the reception, but the marriage it commences. I say this not to belittle the secondary things—which are themselves precious and good—but to remind you that the thing that remains—your spouse—is the better portion.

If the coronavirus changed your wedding plans, you now face a choice as to how you will respond. Choose to treasure your unique wedding story—even if it in no way resembles what you had planned. Choose to glorify God through your marriage and your response to this temporary adversity. Choose to delight in the one you love.

I hope you and your spouse will choose to delight in this better portion.

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. (Proverbs 5:18-19)

I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go. (Song of Solomon 3:4)

Women’s History Month: Deborah and Jael - No Man’s Victory

by Laura Grossberndt

March 30, 2020

March is Women’s History Month (WHM), so it’s a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of women to American history. The most influential book in the United States—even the world—is the Bible; it not only shapes the way we Christians live, it also helped set the foundations for the way our nation is governed. Thus, women featured in the Bible, despite never having lived in America, have contributed greatly to the spiritual heritage of our nation. Periodically throughout the month, we will be sharing their inspiring stories.

Be sure to also read our previous Women’s History Month posts on Shiphrah and PuahEsther, and Jehosheba.

Time and time again, throughout the Old and New Testaments, God chose unlikely individuals (by worldly standards) to join Him in completing His sovereign plans and purposes. As the apostle Paul explained to the church in Corinth:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor. 1:26-29)

In the Old Testament, most of the celebrated political and military leaders were men. But not all these men were natural leaders by worldly standards. (Consider Moses, who had a speech impediment, or David, who was a shepherd.) Nor does it mean that God exclusively worked through men to do His sovereign will. For one example, in the book of Judges, God used two women to defeat an enemy that had left even the bravest men of Israel cowering in their homes for over two decades. These women were named Deborah and Jael.

Deborah was an Israelite, a prophet, and a judge. She was married to a man named Lappidoth and may have belonged to the tribe of Ephraim, either by birth, marriage, or both. She lived “between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim” (Judg. 4:5). In Judges 5, Deborah describes herself as “a mother in Israel” (v.7). Biblical scholars are not sure if she was literally the mother of natural children or if she was speaking figuratively of her position as a judge. Nevertheless, this description shows us that Deborah embraced the role of a mother figure, biological children or not.

Deborah is one of only five women the Old Testament refers to as prophets. The other four are Miriam (Exod. 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22), Noadiah (Neh. 6:14), and “the prophetess” (Isa. 8:3). In addition to being a prophet, Deborah was also a judge—a rare combination. Judges were leaders that God raised up to lead Israel after they entered the Promised Land. These rulers judged Israel until Saul was anointed Israel’s first king (circa 1050 BC). Not every Israelite judge was also recognized as a prophet.

Unlike some of the other judges, such as Gideon, Deborah did not lead the Israelite armies into battle. Instead, when Barak had received a military directive from God—and was dragging his feet—Deborah summoned Barak. She reminded him of the Lord’s command to lead 10,000 men of the Naphtali and Zebulun tribes into battle against Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army (Judg. 4:6-7).

Barak was reluctant to trust in God’s promise of victory, however, and refused to go into battle unless Deborah accompanied him! “If you go with me, I will go” (Judg. 4:8). Deborah agrees to go with Barak, but because of his lack of faith in God’s promise, she informs Barak that he will not be the hero: “the road on which you are going will not lead to glory.” Instead, God would choose His own hero from an unexpected place: “God will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Judg. 4:9). Mighty Sisera, commander of 900 iron chariots, who had oppressed Israel for 20 years, would be defeated not by male soldiers, not by the strength of arms, but by the arm of a woman who God would providentially set in Sisera’s path: Jael.

Jael was the wife of Heber, a Kenite (Judg. 4:17). The Kenites were a nomadic people living in Canaan, who emanated from Midian, Edom, and the Arabah. Moses’ father-in-law had been a Kenite. However, while they were generally on good terms with the Israelites, they were not Israelites. In fact, Heber was on peaceful terms with the Hazorites, oppressors of the Israelites. So, when Sisera, commander of the Canaanite army, fled from the battlefield (after Barak’s army decisively defeated them) and sought shelter in Heber’s wife’s tent, it made sense tactically; Sisera believed he was hiding in an ally’s tent. He was wrong.

Commentators have debated why Sisera chose to hide in a woman’s tent (did he think it was the least likely place to be searched?); why Jael, the wife of a Kenite, decided to kill the Israelite enemy (had he offended her in some way?). Whatever the reasons, when Sisera walked into Jael’s tent, he walked unwittingly to his demise at the hand of an unlikely person. While Sisera was sleeping, Jael took a tent peg and hammered it into his head (Judg. 4:21-22). Thus, the mighty oppressor of Israel died at the hands of a Kenite woman.

The author of Judges concludes the story by attributing the victory to the Lord: “So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel” (Judg. 4:23). Indeed, this victory was God’s doing and not man’s. Afterward, the land was at rest for 40 years (Judg. 5:31).

Deborah exemplifies God’s authority and faithfulness to His promises. Jael exemplifies God’s use of weakness to defeat strength. While God used 10,000 Israelite men to rout the Canaanite army—a remarkable achievement and sign of God’s blessing—God’s glory shone most brightly in the slaying of the mighty general by a housewife, as predicted by a female prophet and judge.

Women’s History Month: Jehosheba - Princess, Aunt, Hero

by Laura Grossberndt

March 23, 2020

March is Women’s History Month (WHM), so it’s a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of women to American history. The most influential book in the United States—even the world—is the Bible; it not only shapes the way we Christians live, it also helped set the foundations for the way our nation is governed. Thus, women featured in the Bible, despite never having lived in America, have contributed greatly to the spiritual heritage of our nation. Periodically throughout the month, we will be sharing their inspiring stories.

Be sure to also read our previous Women’s History Month posts on Shiphrah and Puah and Esther.

Do you know who Jehosheba is?

If not, you should.

Her story is contained in just a few verses in 2 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 22-23. But do not mistake its brevity for inconsequence. Jehosheba’s heroism looms large, for, without it, the kingly line of David would have been cut off forever.

Jehosheba (Jehoshabeath in 2 Chronicles) was a princess of Judah in the 9th century B.C. Her father was King Jehoram, and her brother was King Ahaziah. Her grandfather was the righteous King Jehoshaphat.

Unfortunately, Jehosheba’s father and brother were not godly men. Her father Jehoram married a woman named Athaliah, who was most likely the daughter of the infamous Ahab and Jezebel, the wicked king and queen that led the northern kingdom of Israel to worship Baal. Queen Athaliah brought the worship of Baal to Judah, even as King Jehu was removing the worship of Baal from Israel (2 Kings 10:18-28). She taught her son Ahaziah, prince of Judah, to do evil in the eyes of the LORD (2 Chron. 22:3-4).

As for Jehosheba, she was married to a man named Jehoiada (2 Chron. 22:11b). The biblical narrative does not tell us how Jehosheba, daughter of a wicked king, came to be married to Jehoiada, a righteous priest who served in the temple in Jerusalem. Their marriage was part of God’s sovereign plan, however, as we shall soon see.

Our story opens when King Ahaziah, brother of Jehosheba, is slain by Jehu, king of Israel (2 Chron. 22:9). When Athaliah, now the queen mother, heard of her son the king’s death, she responded by waging genocide on all of the males in the royal household of David—even her own grandchildren—and seizing the throne of Judah for herself (2 Kings 11:1, 2 Chron. 22:10). Thus, we see that the wicked, Baal-worshipping Athaliah threatened much more than Judah’s religion. She also nearly succeeded at wiping out the royal line God had promised David would sit on the throne forever (2 Samuel 7:8-17).

Athaliah might have succeeded with this massacre, were it not for God’s intervention and the brave actions of a princess who loved her family, feared God more than she feared the queen, and believed God’s promise that a descendant of David would reign forever. Jehosheba took her nephew Joash (also known as Jehoash), infant son of the slain Ahaziah, and hid him where Athaliah could not find him (2 Kings 11:2-3, 2 Chron. 22:11-12). This rescue is yet another example of God miraculously preserving and extending the Abrahamic and Davidic lines. Jehosheba not only protected her infant nephew from her father’s wicked wife but also ensured the messianic genealogy contained in Matthew 1 would continue, and God’s promise to David would, therefore, be fulfilled.[1]

Athaliah reigned over Judah for six years. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, her grandson Joash was raised within the house of the Lord. Jehosheba and her husband Jehoiada were his guardians. When Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada crowned and anointed Joash king of Judah in the temple. When Athaliah heard what was happening, she rushed to the temple, tore her clothes, and screamed, “Treason! Treason!” But Jehoiada commanded the execution of Athaliah and all of her supporters. The people of Judah then made a covenant to be the Lord’s people, and they destroyed the temple of Baal (2 Kings 11:12-18, 2 Chron. 23:11-17). Thus, the threat to God’s chosen messianic line was defeated.

The story of Jehosheba teaches us that caring for and raising a child to serve the Lord is a heroic act that can have an enormous impact on our family, our country, and even salvific history.


[1] While Joash is not mentioned in Matthew 1 by name, his grandfather Jehoram and grandson Uzziah are (Matt. 1:8-9).

Michelle Williams Chose a Career Over a Child. But What If She Never Had to Choose?

by Laura Grossberndt

January 8, 2020

Michelle Williams made headlines with her acceptance speech at this year’s Golden Globe Awards. After accepting her prize for best performance by an actress in a limited series or motion picture made for television, Williams said she is “grateful to have lived at a moment in our society where choice exists.” She went on to declare that the award—and her career—would not have been possible “without employing a woman’s right to choose.”

When you put this [award] in someone’s hands, you’re acknowledging the choices that they make as an actor, moment by moment, scene by scene, day by day, but you’re also acknowledging the choices they make as a person, the education they pursued, the training they sought, the hours they put in.

I’m grateful for the acknowledgment of the choices I’ve made, and I’m also grateful to have lived at a moment in our society where choice exists because as women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that are not our choice. I’ve tried my very best to live a life of my own making and not just a series of events that happened to me, but one that I can stand back and look at and recognize my handwriting all over—sometimes messy and scrawling, sometimes careful and precise, but one that I carved with my own hand. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose. To choose when to have my children and with whom. When I felt supported and able to balance our lives knowing as all mothers know that the scales must and will tip towards our children.

Williams may feel gratitude for the choices afforded to her, but she shouldn’t have even had to choose between career and children if she didn’t want to.

For many women, pregnancy can feel like a career death sentence, with the potential to jeopardize their self-identity, education, training, and hard work. Meanwhile, their male peers rarely must choose between having children and a career. Working women everywhere are justified to feel dismayed at this imbalance. But the alleged solution, that of “a woman’s right to choose,” is not as egalitarian and empowering as its proponents claim.

When we talk about a woman’s “right to choose,” rarely do we discuss what exactly is she choosing between—and why she can’t have both.

Consider the story of Susan Struck. She wanted to keep both her pregnancy and her job in the Air Force. But military regulations at the time said she couldn’t have both. Struck wanted to choose childbirth and place her child for adoption, but her superiors would not allow Struck to keep her job unless she got an abortion. This shouldn’t have been a choice Struck had to make. But in 1970, it was. Ruth Bader Ginsburg recognized the injustice of this choice and took up the case on Struck’s behalf. Ginsburg noted years later:

It was, I thought, the perfect first reproductive-choice case to come before the Court. The government was telling Captain Struck, ‘You cannot exercise your choice for childbirth unless you give up your chosen career.’ She had the choice of leaving the service or having an abortion, available to her on the military base pre-Roe v. Wade. She became pregnant in 1970, if I recall correctly. Susan Struck’s position was, […] ‘[The Air Force] cannot force me to give up my career if I make the choice for childbirth.’

She further commented:

Susan Struck was told by her commanding officer you have a choice: you can get an abortion or you can leave the service, because pregnancy was an automatic ground for discharge. Susan Struck said, I am Catholic. I will not have an abortion. But I will use only my accumulated leave time, I have made arrangements for adoption of the child. Nonetheless, her choice was, you get an abortion or you get out. That’s the reproductive choice case I wish had come to the Supreme Court first.

After becoming a Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg reflected on her legal career and credited motherhood as a reason for her own success, rather than a hindrance:

When I started law school my daughter Jane was 14 months … I attributed my success in law school largely to Jane … I went to class at 8:30 AM … so I came home at 4:00 PM; that was children’s hour. It was a total break in my day … and children’s hours continued until Jane went to sleep. Then I was happy to go back to the books, so I felt each part of my life gave me respite from the other.

If Michelle Williams and other actresses like her think they need to have abortions to keep the careers they’ve worked so hard for, then it’s a somber indication of the cost of doing business in Hollywood. However, it shouldn’t be surprising. You don’t have to look any further than the #MeToo Movement to know that Hollywood has a long, ugly history of mistreating and exploiting women.

The lesson of #MeToo has been lost on Hollywood. Instead of making the entertainment industry more accommodating and respectful of women, it still demands its actresses submit and conform to a status quo shaped by and better suited to men. If Hollywood truly respected women, it wouldn’t exploit them as often as it stands accused of doing. If Hollywood truly respected women, it would value the children and families of its women. Instead, Hollywood insists that female bodies must perform like male bodies, leading its women to believe that they must choose between giving life to their children and having a career with which to support themselves. And after the women choose the career, Hollywood stands and applauds when these same women confess on awards stages to aborting their unborn children.

In her speech, Williams said she sought to carve out a life for herself with her own hand. But is that really what happened? Or is Hollywood’s handwriting all over her story? The scales may have tipped towards Williams’ children now, but not before Hollywood insisted that they tip towards her career first.

In addition, Williams said she felt ready to have a child when she “felt supported and able to balance our lives.” But what if Williams—and women everywhere—never had to worry about feeling supported? What if she knew her employer, family, friends, and community would be on her side and wouldn’t force her to choose? What if she knew there were health clinics and adoption agencies ready to help her should she need them (and there are)? Would she still think her abortion was necessary for her success?

Scientific advancements make an increasingly overwhelming case for life in the womb. The pro-abortion lobby is losing on that front, so they have fallen back on the argument for women’s autonomy. No woman should be robbed of her life choices and career opportunities, they say. But this is simultaneously a false and an unjust choice.

Why pit a woman against her children? Instead of expecting a woman to end her unborn child’s life for the sake of a career, we should make it easier for a woman to have both the child and the career (with which to support herself and her child). The most empowering thing for a woman is not “choice,” but instead not needing to choose at all—because she can have both.

How Game of Thrones Mainstreamed Sexual Exploitation

by Laura Grossberndt

November 25, 2019

The HBO television show Game of Thrones enjoyed much critical and popular acclaim during its eight-season run. It was heralded as “the world’s most popular show,” and its series finale drew 19.3 million viewers. However, this massive success was built, in part, upon the exhibition of its actors’ naked bodies in graphic, sexually charged situations—all for viewers’ entertainment. A recent interview with British actress and former Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke reveals her pain of being exposed for the camera. Her account should serve as a chilling reminder that the entertainment we choose to consume has consequences.

Clarke recalls being 23 years old and fresh out of acting school when she was offered the part of Daenerys Targaryen. She was eager to have a job on a film set, but when she received the script and learned that her character would be naked and brutally raped on-screen, Clarke was shocked and apprehensive.

I have no idea what I’m doing; I have no idea what any of this is…. I’ve been on a film set twice before then, and now I’m on a film set, completely naked, with all of these people—and I don’t know what I’m meant to do, and I don’t know what’s expected of me, and I don’t know what you want, and I don’t know what I want. Regardless of whether there’d be nudity or not, I would have spent that first season thinking, I’m not worthy of requiring anything; I’m not worthy of needing anything at all.

Clarke says she drank vodka and cried in a bathroom while trying to cope with filming the rape scene. Since that time, she has been repeatedly pressured to do nude scenes. Producers would try to coerce her, saying things like, “You don’t wanna disappoint your Game of Thrones fans.”

Most poignant about Clarke’s account of her early days on the set of Game of Thrones is her feeling of helplessness. Many women whose bodies have been exploited via the commercial sex trade and the porn industry have felt similarly powerless. That is because selling the human body is not female empowerment, but human abasement.

Movies and television shows such as Game of Thrones enjoy a patina of respectability due to their complex plots, extensive viewership, and numerous awards—making them more palatable to a wide audience than a pornographic film would be. However, by treating human sexuality as a commodity, Game of Thrones and its ilk are just another incarnation of the commercial sex trade.

In October of this year, I attended a D.C. Council hearing on the proposed decriminalization of the buying and selling of sex in the nation’s capital. Many of the witnesses opposing decriminalization were survivors of the commercial sex trade. Several of these survivors explained how it is common to turn to drugs and/or alcohol to deal with the anxiety, stress, and shame felt as a result of their bodies being bought and sold for others’ sexual pleasure.

Other witnesses, who were still presently engaged in prostitution, were in favor of decriminalizing the commercial sex trade. Tragically, they believed their economic wellbeing depended on selling themselves. They did not realize that their willingness to be sold (due to their desperate financial situation) makes them no less victims of sexual exploitation than those forced into the commercial sex trade by a trafficker. Choosing to be exploited, out of fear of retribution or financial ruin, is not much of a choice at all.

While the circumstances surrounding Clarke’s performance—e.g., her acting school training, the show’s critical acclaim and distribution on a major cable network—may have lent her some dignity not afforded to women who are trafficked, the trauma that drove her to tears and drinking is strikingly similar to the experiences of the sexually exploited. Feigning graphic sexual acts on a film set is not very different than any other type of commercial sex trade in that it demeans human beings and degrades human sexuality.

Consuming sexually violent and explicit media not only damages our mental, physical, and spiritual health, it negatively impacts those around us by creating a demand for this type of entertainment, motivating the entertainment industry to create sexually graphic content in order to meet the demand and increase profits. The industry will, in turn, pressure actors (particularly women) to degrade themselves in front of the camera. Christians and anyone who advocates for women’s dignity should oppose media that exploits human beings in such an offensive and toxic manner.

The Unintentionally Powerful Pro-Life Message of One Child Nation

by Laura Grossberndt

August 30, 2019

One Child Nation co-director Nanfu Wang stands with her son in front of a Chinese propaganda mural.

Faced with a national population approaching one billion, the People’s Republic of China instituted a one-child-per-family policy in 1979. This policy was in effect until 2015, when the government expanded the birth limit to two children per family. While the policy may have “succeeded” at slowing the national birthrate, it also forcibly violated the bodies of millions of women and resulted in the death or disappearance of millions of pre or post-born children, most of them female.

One Child Nation, winner of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, is a heart-rending, eye-opening account of China’s one-child policy and the human rights violations that ensued. The documentary is narrated and co-directed by Nanfu Wang, a Chinese-American immigrant who was born in China while the policy was in effect. In the film, she conducts a series of interviews with victims of the one-child policy, former government officials and midwives entrusted with enforcing the policy, citizens who defied the policy, and members of her own family (some of whom supported the policy and others who opposed it). The result is a vivid portrayal of Chinese life and a compelling critique of government authoritarianism. Because of this, the documentary One Child Nation is the rightful recipient of much critical acclaim and deserves a wide viewership. However, a surprising moral inconsistency and a false comparison in the closing minutes of the film prevents this otherwise superb documentary from having its fullest impact.

A Heartbreaking Account of State-Enforced Brutality

Aspects of the film worth commending include Wang’s compelling first-hand experiences about the one-child policy. She explains that propaganda supporting the policy was woven into virtually every facet of life while she was growing up: from murals and advertisements to entertainment and music. She recalls feeling shame for having a sibling (some rural families were allowed to have two children). Her family felt immense relief when her younger brother was born—if he had been a girl, the family most likely would not have kept the baby.

Wang expresses frustration that her family and the Chinese people did little to stop the practices that she believes are morally reprehensible. In terms of presentation, little of the documentary’s runtime is dedicated to expressing her own feelings. Instead, she and her co-director Jialing Zhang allow the interviews to speak for themselves, without inserting commentary.

The people Wang interviews have varying attitudes towards the one-child policy. Some, like Wang’s mother, maintain that the Chinese government was right and that the policy was necessary to prevent wide-scale starvation. Others, like the village midwife, deeply regret the policy and their participation in its enforcement. This particular midwife performed an estimated 60,000 abortions in her career. Now she tries to atone for her past by offering medical care for infertile couples and delivering babies.

The first-person accounts of One Child Nation appeal to the viewer’s humanity again and again. The documentary successfully communicates an important moral point: What may have begun as a government’s sincere attempt to raise a nation’s standard of living has resulted in a human rights crisis. The blood of discarded children practically cries out from the ground. During one interview, Wang talks with an artist committed to documenting the horror of infant bodies left to rot under bridges and on top of trash heaps. The artist shows the camera one such body he has managed to preserve in a glass jar and marvels about how the baby resembles his young son.

An Incoherent Conclusion

As the documentary draws to a close, Nanfu Wang reflects on her journey, including the shocking brutality and human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of the one-child policy. However, as she discusses everything she’s learned about China, her family, and the one-child policy, she arrives at a surprising conclusion: the horrors of the one-child policy are parallel to abortion restrictions in the United States.

Despite over an hour carefully describing the horrors of forced abortions, sterilizations, and the horror associated with abandoning one’s child, Wang argues that both countries are guilty of policing a woman’s sovereignty over her body, albeit in different ways. In an interview with Vox, she expressed much the same sentiment:

I remember when I first came to the US and learned about the restriction on abortions in the US. I was very shocked. It wasn’t the free America that I had thought it would be. I was surprised by the government control on reproductive rights and the access to reproductive health care.

Making this film, I also had a lot of conversations with people about the topic, and I was surprised. Sometimes people couldn’t see how forced state abortions and the state limiting access to abortions are quite similar; they are both the government trying to control women’s bodies and trying to control women’s reproductive rights.

I hope that the film reminds people what would happen if their government takes away women’s choice, or any individual’s choice. And sadly I think it’s happening in China, it’s happening in the US, and it’s happening in a lot of countries throughout the world, where women do not have the freedom to make their own reproductive decisions.

These statements are stunning because of the inconsistency with the moral appeals for the humanity of the pre and post-born throughout the documentary. After seeing footage of babies preserved in jars and thrown onto trash heaps, is the viewer supposed to believe that the sole atrocity of the one-child policy is the violation of reproductive choice?

The policy’s crimes against adult women—such as forced abortions and sterilizations—are horrific, and Wang is right to expose and censure them. But as One Child Nation clearly depicts, adult women were not the policy’s only victims. The countless children killed in the womb or immediately after birth, as well as the children abandoned in marketplaces, on roadsides, or in dumps were also victims. Furthermore, the Chinese government’s one-child policy, paired with the culture’s preference for male children, practically guaranteed that most of the slaughtered or discarded children were girls. Women—both adult women and infant girls—were the victims most deeply harmed by the policy.

It is worth noting that sex-selective abortions are a type of misogyny that is often ignored by the pro- “reproductive rights” wing of feminism because it doesn’t neatly fit their narrative of abortion-on-demand. But as long as some cultures value male children over female, sex-selective abortions and other crimes against female children will continue to be a problem.

An Inadvertently Pro-Life Message

While One Child Nation adeptly exposes the tragedy of China’s one-child policy to a wide audience, a moral inconsistency and a false comparison in the closing minutes prevents this otherwise superb documentary from having its fullest impact. Both children and adults are clearly victims of China’s government-imposed birth restrictions. Furthermore, China’s birth restrictions and America’s abortion restrictions are far from parallel policies. The former kills children, while the latter seeks to prevent the killing of children. The Chinese policy violates women’s bodies with forced sterilization, while abortion restrictions seek to protect the bodies of all women: adult women from risky abortion procedures and pre and post-born girls from being aborted.

Harrowing and poignant, One Child Nation illuminates the problems with China’s one-child policy while making a strong pro-life case that perhaps its own directors do not even fully understand.

One Child Nation is rated R for some disturbing content/images and brief language (via subtitles).

Speaking the Truth in Love: How The Bachelorette Got It Both Wrong and Right

by Laura Grossberndt

August 8, 2019

Is it ever okay for a Christian to question or “judge” the behavior of another person, particularly if that person also professes to be a Christian? ABC’s wildly popular reality dating show The Bachelorette, which wrapped up its 15th season last week, served as an unconventional and unexpected proving ground for this deeply theological question.

This season’s star of The Bachelorette, Hannah Brown, openly describes herself as a follower of Jesus and a woman of faith. One of her suitors, Luke Parker, is also a professing Christian. In the season premiere, Luke described the moment he decided to put his faith in Jesus and make a lifestyle change which included abstaining from sex until marriage. Luke quickly emerged as a frontrunner for the coveted “final rose” and Hannah’s love—and their seemingly shared faith was a primary reason.

The would-be couple’s budding relationship quickly turned turbulent, however, as Luke was constantly at odds with the other men seeking Hannah’s favor. But Luke’s sometimes imprudent behavior and immature reactions to interpersonal conflict were just precursors to the season’s most explosive drama: a highly-charged conversation concerning premarital sex.

We Can’t Have Grace Without Repentance

Luke wanted a verbal confirmation from Hannah that they were on the same page about saving sex for marriage. He tells Hannah that he would remove himself from the competition if she (hypothetically) were to reveal to him that she had been sexually intimate with another man on the show. Hannah then says that she has had sex with another one of her suitors, and while “sex might be a sin out of marriage,” she is confident Jesus loves her despite it.

Hannah compares Luke’s desire to end their relationship to the famous John 8 account of the woman caught in adultery. Hannah views Luke’s disapproval of her actions as him holding a metaphorical stone in front of her face. In her opinion, Luke’s sin of pride precludes him from objecting to her behavior.

Is Hannah right?

For context’s sake, here are some key takeaways from John’s account of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11):

  • Jesus shone a light on the sinful nature of all those involved.
  • Jesus is the only one without sin.
  • Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery.
  • Jesus forgave the woman and instructed her to go and sin no more.

The woman caught in adultery committed sexual sin; and yes, Jesus still loved her. While Jesus, by virtue of his sinlessness, had the right to condemn sin, He does something unexpected, yet in keeping with His mission to fulfill the law. He extends grace (“neither do I condemn you”) while also instructing her to repent and change (“go and sin no more”).

Many want the grace Jesus offers without the repentance. But we cannot have one without the other. Receiving God’s grace is inextricably tied to repentance.

Avoiding Hypocritical Judgment

Can a Christian call another Christian to account for their sin? Was Luke wrong to find fault in Hannah’s actions?

In Matthew 7, Jesus warns his followers against judging others while simultaneously ignoring their own sin, because “with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”

Does that mean Christians can never judge the actions and behavior of others? No. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians to judge those within the church and refuse them the status of “brother” if they continue in patterns of unrepentant sin:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

Speaking the Truth in Love

The act of a Christian calling another Christian to account for their sin can be a loving one, provided it is done out of a desire to help the other Christian toward righteousness, and that it is done with tenderness and humility, recognizing one’s own sinfulness and need for God’s forgiveness.

Christians (“little Christs”) get our name because we are called to follow the example of Jesus. We are called to forgive one another and pursue holiness in our personal and corporate life. It is easy to emphasize one to the neglect of the other. However, to faithfully follow Christ, we need to be walking in both forgiveness and repentance. Extending forgiveness without requiring repentance leaves someone still under the curse of sin, while repentance that is not accompanied by forgiveness is antithetical to the gospel’s offer of reconciliation with God.

Hannah and Luke’s conversation in the late stages of the show reveals they were not as likeminded on sex and theology as they initially thought. A lot of pain and heartache could have been avoided if this conversation had taken place much earlier in their relationship. Whether one is a professing Christian or not, if you have radically different opinions on sex than the person you are dating, you should not be dating them. Those irreconcilable differences will inevitably cause problems down the road.

However, in addition to their disagreements about sexual intimacy, Hannah and Luke also displayed different, improper, and inadequate reactions to sin. Hannah demonstrated lack of remorse for the actions Jesus tenderly warns against. While Luke is justified for wanting to be on the same page about sexual intimacy as his potential future spouse, his manner of approaching the topic needed more Christ-like humility and discernment. Scripture speaks to both improper perspectives:

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2)

[S]peaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ … [L]let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. … Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:15, 25-27, 31-32)

Wisdom says a reality dating show such as The Bachelor or The Bachelorette is not the ideal environment for Christians to find a spouse. The concept of dating multiple people at one time, while being cut off from the fellowship and counsel of friends, family, and church community for several weeks, is not a recipe for righteous living or lasting love (Proverbs 18:1, Hebrews 10:24-25).

But while it may be unwise, that does not mean that those appearing on the show who profess to be Christians are not sincere in their profession. While I do not know either Hannah or Luke personally, I wish nothing but the best for them and hope this experience will drive them closer to God and to a better understanding of sin, the gospel, true love, and compassion in Jesus Christ.

This season’s viewers of The Bachelorette probably did not expect to encounter conversations about sin and the nature of God’s forgiveness. However, the contestants are real-life people wrestling with real-life problems, and it is only natural for two people contemplating marriage to want to agree on matters as weighty as theology and sex. Unfortunately, the seriousness of sin and its consequences was minimized, while the love and forgiveness of the gospel was inadequately conveyed. Despite what The Bachelorette may have led its audience to believe, Christians are right to judge the behavior of other Christians, provided we do so out of Christ-like compassion, speaking the truth in love.

Laura Grossberndt is on staff at Family Research Council.

Archives