Category archives: Family

The Christ-like Sacrifice of Motherhood

by Daniel Hart

May 10, 2019

There are many things we can thank our mothers for this Mother’s Day, but there is one aspect of motherhood that is unique and unrivaled in the human experience that deserves special recognition: the bodily sacrifice that mothers make on behalf of us, their children.

This act of self-sacrifice is so profound in its generosity that it mirrors the ultimate sacrifice that any human being can offer: to lay down their lives for another. Therefore, motherhood can be seen as a beautiful imitation of Christ’s bodily sacrifice for us. In Luke 22:19, He stated the nature of this sacrifice plainly: “This is my body, which is given for you.”

We see this play out naturally of its own accord when a woman becomes pregnant. From the moment of conception, her body literally becomes the home of another human being. In accepting this role, a woman gives her body over to make a series of awe-inspiring sacrifices for her child.

During pregnancy, our mothers increase their blood volume by up to 50 percent. They increase their own lifeblood to give us life, reflecting Christ pouring out His own blood to give us eternal life (1 John 1:7).

Our mothers grow an entirely new organ within themselves—the placenta—to provide our developing bodies with oxygen and nutrients to sustain our own growth. This mirrors how God gives us a new heart when we give ourselves to him (Ezekiel 36:26) and how our hearts are reborn in the Spirit through Christ (John 3:3-5).

Most sacrificially of all, our mother’s bodies are permanently changed in a number of ways as a result of gestating and birthing our own bodies. This reflects the permanency of the wounds that Christ suffered during His passion and death when He appeared to Thomas after His resurrection: “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).

In these physical ways during pregnancy and birth and in the countless ways that our mothers sacrifice themselves for our sake throughout our lives, motherhood truly is a divine and life-giving calling that reflects the very inner life and heart of God, made manifest through His Son Jesus.

On this Mother’s Day, let us reflect on and thank our mothers for the profound and generous sacrifices they have made for us and continue to make, from the moment of our conception to the present day.

Medieval” Times in Verona - A Report from the World Congress of Families

by Peter Sprigg

April 12, 2019

[Note: Quotations in the following piece from speakers at the World Congress of Families may be paraphrased. They are based upon my own notes taken at the time, and in the case of speeches not given in English, based on the simultaneous translations provided by the Congress.]

I was privileged to attend and speak at the most recent World Congress of Families (WCF), held in Verona, Italy from March 29-31. Only after hearing what the Italian speakers at the Congress had to say did I realize that this may have been the most controversial of these events—in its own country—held so far.

The most frequently cited (and refuted) criticism of the WCF was that its views are “medieval.” After two days of hearing references from the podium to the attacks upon the Verona Congress, I finally went online to find Italian news in English to document what had gone on.

The source of the “medieval” charge was an Italian politician named Luigi Di Maio. He is the leader of a relatively young political party in Italy known as the “Five Star Movement” (abbreviated M5S), and is a co-deputy prime minister. He also asserted that the WCF was for “right-wing losers.”

Some Americans may not realize the extent to which a parliamentary system creates strange bedfellows. The Five Star Movement—described by Wikipedia as a populist party taking a “big tent” political position—won the most seats in the Italian Parliament in the 2018 elections, but not a majority. Therefore, it had to form a coalition with The League, a more conservative party centered in Northern Italy (where Verona is). Several League politicians were stronger supporters of the World Congress of Families—meaning that Di Maio’s attack was directed at his own coalition partners. Di Maio had said, “The League in Verona celebrates the Middle Ages, we do not.”

When a criticism is repeatedly cited by those who were the target of it, it has probably backfired (think of Hillary Clinton and the “basket of deplorables”). That may well have been the case with the “medieval” charge, which speaker after speaker at the WCF seized upon.

This is an open community.”

For example, Luca Zaia, President of the Veneto Region where Verona is located (roughly the equivalent of a governor in the U.S.), told the opening session of the Congress, “You must thank those who attacked you—you have become well known!”

Part of the reason defenders of the World Congress were able to take the high ground from critics was because of the heavy-handed efforts not only to stigmatize the event, but to prevent it from taking place at all. This had the effect of turning defenders of free speech into defenders of the World Congress, and vice versa.

Zaia reported, “I’ve been attacked a lot—people said we should not have this event in Verona.” However, he declared, “This is an open community as long as I am here. There is freedom for everyone to talk. The fundamental rule is to have respect for everybody … I do not consider this the middle ages.”

Everyone has a right to express their own ideas.”

Federico Sboarina, the Mayor of Verona, struck a similar note. “In my city, everyone has a right to express their own ideas—no one has a right to intimidate them. Verona is being depicted as a ‘medieval’ city. It’s those who stop people from speaking freely who are ‘medieval.’”

The worst thing you can do is prohibit [an] idea.”

This theme of free speech even led to an unscheduled appearance by Italian radio host Giuseppe Cruciani. He said bluntly, “I’m not one of you,” as far as pro-family and pro-life policy is concerned. However, he noted that “for weeks now, there has been a campaign against this event.” He said he had learned from his experience in radical politics, “If you want to fight an idea, the worst thing you can do is prohibit that idea.” Therefore, Cruciani pledged, “Every time they want to stop you from expressing your opinion, I will be with you, even though I do not agree with you.”

The media … want to suppress freedom of expression.”

Writer Maria Giovanna Maglie said, “The controversy actually attracted me; but I didn’t think the attack would be so violent. If you read the papers, you would think we were here to create an outrageous scandal, to celebrate the funerals of freedom and liberty.”

Actually, she said, “Freedom is of fundamental importance—but much of the media is here to stop it. They want to suppress freedom of expression.”

Does the World Congress of Families promote hatred?” she asked. “No, it promotes the family” (and “so does the Italian constitution,” she noted. Article 29 of that document says, “The Republic recognizes the rights of the family as a natural society founded on marriage.”).

If you are pro-life, why should you be called ‘medieval?’” asked Maglie. She referred to political correctness as “a new authoritarianism,” and drew prolonged applause when she concluded by calling on all to resist its “tyranny.”

This event has become a symbol of freedom.”

Sandro Oliveri, President of the Federation of Italian Pentecostal Churches, praised the organizers of the Congress, saying that they “have been very brave in light of what you have faced in the last few days,” including “aggressiveness and violence.”

This event has become a symbol of freedom,” he declared—although not the kind promoted by those who “think that freedom is [only] to say what they agree with.”

Why should people be afraid of talking about family?” Oliveri wondered. “This is about protecting the weakest people, the children.”

Saying no” to practices that harm women and children “does not limit anyone’s freedom,” he insisted. “It does not mean to be ‘medieval.’”

So much hatred”—but toward the World Congress of Families, not from it

For Lorenzo Fontana, Italy’s Minister for the Family and Disabilities, the attacks on the WCF had a personal cost. “I saw so much hatred in the polemics of the last few days,” he said. “I had to be accompanied by twice as many police as usual in my own city. Many people suffered: my wife was ill-treated at work because of the polemics. My child has been discriminated against at kindergarten because she is the daughter of Minister Fontana.”

Fontana addressed another stereotype about the Congress. “I was told that those at that Congress are against women who work,” he said. “I was told I wanted to keep women at home.” In reality, he insisted the opposite is true—“All the women in my life work!” Instead, what he wants to do is to aid female employment by facilitating “work-life balance.”

Having a child is positive for business,” Fontana declared, citing research showing “an increase in productivity” with mothers in the workplace. “Unfortunately,” he lamented, “some people in Italy still have a ‘medieval’ view and don’t understand these things!”

The real “backward thinkers”

The fieriest speech at the Congress came from Giorgia Meloni, a member of the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of the Italian parliament) and president of a conservative political party known as the Brothers of Italy. One article describes Meloni as the “leading lady of Italy’s right.”

They said we are medieval, depressives, losers,” Meloni said. “I reject these [charges] and send them back to those who formulated them.” They are the real “backward thinkers,” she insisted. “A loser comes to insult us when we talk about families,” she declared. “Losers are those who accept abortion at the ninth month!”

The fascists are gone.”

The highest-ranking government official to address the Congress was Matteo Salvini, who serves as both Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in the current Italian government, and who was described last year by Time magazine as “the most feared man in Europe.” Salvini said that the criticism of the World Congress of Families had been “surreal,” with people asking him, “Are you sure you want to go to Verona? It’s the middle ages, losers, right-wing people.”

Several of the officials who spoke at the Congress are referred to in the media as “far right” or even “neo-fascist”—but it is hard to know how seriously to take those characterizations, coming from outlets that unquestioningly accept the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of mainstream conservative organizations like the World Congress of Families and Family Research Council as “hate groups.” Responding to such attacks, Salvini said wearily, “The fascists are gone;” but then added wryly, “There are still communists, though.” Salvini also declared, “Racism and excessive religious beliefs are not here in this room—it is others who are [wrongly] judging us.”

Grazie, Italia!

Given the ferocity of the attacks, the organizers of the World Congress of Families (especially Chairman Antonio Brandi) deserve tremendous credit for persevering. And the speakers who braved the criticism to address and/or actively support the Congress deserve the thanks of all those of us who attended. Special kudos to those not even part of the pro-family movement who nevertheless stood for the principal of free speech. To all of these, I say—Grazie, Italia!

Defending Family Values Across the Globe

by Travis Weber

April 10, 2019

This past weekend I was in Bogota, Colombia, to attend the 2019 Transatlantic Summit of the Political Network for Values—a conference where socially conservative legislators and activists gather from around the world to discuss the pressing concerns of life, family, and religious liberty. Many of the members of this network—which has asked me to serve on its committee of experts—come from primarily Catholic areas in Latin America and Europe, but share the concern of evangelicals in the United States that the historic Christian positions on these issues are being threatened. Meeting inside of the magnificent Congress of the Republic of Colombia, it became clear that there is much we can—and should—work on together.

In addition to remarks by pro-life and pro-family political leaders, the conference featured impassioned speeches like that of Obianuju Ekeocha, a Nigerian pro-life activist living in the UK. Obianuju rose to prominence after penning an open letter against Melinda Gates for pushing population control on Africa, and in addition to her day job as a scientist, she heads the pro-life organization Culture of Life Africa.

One of the most promising aspects of this gathering was the number of young people, not only in attendance, but who are seeking to serve their countries through political leadership. The young Colombian leader Angela Hernandez, who I met several years ago in Belgium at the same conference, again gave a fiery defense of the family this year.

Near the end of the conference, I spoke about FRC’s efforts to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and end birth day abortion here in the U.S., in light of the increasing radicalism of the Democrat Party on this issue. When we have our own elected leaders openly defending infanticide, we know the time has come for action—and prayer.

We in the United States must remember that there are many fellow believers around the world who share our commitment to life, family, and religious liberty. This year’s Political Network for Values Conference was an encouraging reminder of that. May we continue to work together with all allies—foreign and domestic—to advance faith, family, and freedom.

All Policy is Family Policy

by Alyson Gritter

April 2, 2019

Recently, FRC hosted Professor R.J. Snell for a Speaker Series event to discuss the relationship between natural law and public policy. He explored the crucial question of what natural law is and what its role should be in making policy.

Professor Snell defined natural law as a “universal objective moral normativity.” Translation? Basic human rights are not defined by what is relative based on the cultural trends, or “whims” of today. Instead, much like other great thinkers including Plato, Edmund Burke, John Locke, and Martin Luther King Jr., Snell agrees that natural law is based on an absolute Truth. He stated that “all human reason participates in the natural law of God.”

But what role should natural law play in the making of policy?

Policy should not be about winning for winning’s sake, or power grabbing. It should be about what we value as a society. According to Professor Snell, policy secures the blessings of natural law within our society by ultimately serving the person. Policy teaches society by showing what we value—what we actually seek and why. It is “non-theoretical teaching.”

Snell explained this importance by addressing the audience: “You, policy types, teach just as much as I as a professor do, albeit differently. Now I, as father and husband and citizen, need you to teach well because I need our policy to support my family [and] to support my friend’s family. “

As he observed, many students today have been taught that natural law doesn’t exist and instead are taught that public policy is the highest law: “I as a professor and teacher need you to teach well because by the time I get to students [at] age 18 or 19, they have 18 or 19 years of relentless policy education.” If bad policy is enacted based on relative cultural circumstances, then students learn merely conditional views of what is right and what is wrong.

He emphasized, “You [policymakers] are teachers.”

For example, students in America today are growing up in a society where pro-abortion policies have been enacted and are therefore deemed acceptable by many. This causes these policies to act as a kind of teacher about how society views humanity. So, by the time students get to college, many of them have come to understand the dignity of the unborn child as a flexible concept depending on the circumstances of that child’s conception. They are valued either as “wanted” humans or they are otherwise aborted. Natural law standards instead view both born and unborn life as equally valuable, regardless of the situation surrounding conception.

Professor Snell emphasized that policies based on natural law need to be encouraged in order to have a more stable society. Otherwise, anything can be deemed relative, including life itself. Many students today lack a basic understanding of natural law because they lack a basic understanding of a natural family. In many ways, a person’s family is the natural image of the natural law. Everyone has a family in some form. When the family structure that a child is brought up in does not reflect the natural structure we were created for, it can have a lifelong impact on that child’s life. It distorts a healthy view of marriage, human sexuality, and society.

That’s why the family structure is so incredibly important to teaching children values. It is, according to Snell, “the main bearer of tradition [sacred order].” In other words, it is the way that natural law is most made known and the means to which a person’s morals and norms are formed.

However, many of today’s policies are aimed at dissolving family values that reflect natural law. This leads us, as citizens, to an essential question: What is our public policy teaching our children? Is it aligned with natural law, or is it relative to the “whims” of today’s society? As Snell stated, “All policy is family policy.” Therefore, we must advocate for policies that support natural family values and continue teaching those principles in our homes.

Be sure to view the entirety of Professor Snell’s important lecture.

Alyson Gritter is an intern at Family Research Council.

Women Naturally Embrace Motherhood, And That’s Just Fine

by Alyson Gritter

March 18, 2019

A few weeks ago, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decided to take to Instagram Live and make a statement about the environment, but instead ended up raising a question about motherhood. It was a question that, frankly, was irresponsible for a public figure, let alone a member of Congress, who wields so much influence and power, to subject our society to. In the video, she said, “There’s scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult, and it does lead, I think, young people, to have a legitimate question, you know, ‘Is it okay to still have children?’”

The statement, fueled by her own personal agenda, points to a much bigger issue that is affecting our country. Regardless of her intentions, AOC is discrediting women everywhere by questioning their natural desire to have children and also questioning the responsibility of having children in today’s society. There is already a huge stigma around women who long for motherhood and pursue having a family over having a career.

On Fox News, Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women of America, fired back at AOC’s comment: “[This is] the same apoplectic anti-child rhetoric we’ve heard before.” Such radical anti-children comments are smearing the earnest intentions and desires of women all over the U.S. whose greatest ambition is to be a mother. For many, including myself, the calling to be a parent is the most important thing they will ever realize in their life.

Women who place their focus on motherhood and raising a family are often looked down upon in today’s pop culture. Television shows like Sex and the City, Vampire Diaries, and Two and a Half Men and movies like How to be Single, No Strings Attached, and He’s Just Not That into You glamorize casual dating and make parenthood seem like a trap, implying that by having children, a woman can no longer fulfill her career ambitions and be fully empowered as a woman because she has a baby to care for and nurture.

Women who choose to seek motherhood or to be a stay-at-home mom are viewed as weaker than those who stick to their career and don’t pursue marriage and a family. Women are falling for the lie that they must be self-dependent and self-sufficient to be fulfilled.

Sarrah Le Marquand, Editor-in-Chief of the Australian magazine Stellar, once wrote, “There’s one issue guaranteed to trigger hysteria across the nation … It’s the topic of stay-at-home mums. More specifically, the release of any data or analysis that dares recommend Australian women should get out of the living room/kitchen/nursery and back into the workforce.” Jody Day, author of Living the Life Unexpected, denigrated motherhood by stating, “As we continue to delve into a realm where childlessness is not just a choice, but a common part of our culture, perhaps the glorification of motherhood will start to disintegrate.”

The horrifying reality is that society today no longer wants to celebrate and give God the glory for the gift of motherhood, which is a natural blessing of womanhood. This cultural shift is showing in the falling number of women having children. According to a recent study, the average number of children women are having in their lifetime has fallen from 4.7 in 1950 to 2.4 in 2017.

Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, addressed the reason for this trend when he said, “There is no getting around the fact that the relationship between gender equality and fertility is very strong.” He elaborated: “There are no high-fertility countries that are gender equal.” Many assume that a woman chooses to have more children or stay at home because there is a lack of gender equality. No one appreciates the woman whose main “career goal,” her greatest personal achievement, is to be a mother, even a stay-at-home mother.

In college, I had a close friend who confided to me that she felt hopeless and alone because she felt that her greatest calling in life was to be a mother. My sweet friend was very much single with little to no relationship prospects. She told me, “Everyone keeps pushing me to a more realistic goal to work towards, and I feel like they think me building a career is the most important thing in my life. It is only a secondary goal for me.”

My friend made it clear to me that to the world, having a successful career is the primary goal, but for many women of God, it is only secondary. Like her, my main calling in life is to grow and raise a God-fearing and honoring family. Every other goal, including my career goals, will fall into place around it. So, how can we as godly women not be discouraged in this pro-singleness culture?

Many in our culture seem to think that motherhood is the end of your life, but it isn’t. It is the end of living for yourself. Motherhood is often a thankless job, and many feminists don’t want to give up the worldly career recognition that often has to be given up when motherhood is placed first.

I believe wholeheartedly that mothers should be honored and cherished. They deserve recognition and praise for everything that they do. Regardless though, being a mom requires self-sacrifice, and frankly, that is something that the feminist movement does not want to accept. To them, it means giving up a career position, title, and status.

Motherhood is about laying down one’s ambition for the sake of their children and putting their needs, wants, and futures first. As women, motherhood is not about giving up our strength but about utilizing it for the sake of others. It is about embracing our vulnerability to be a woman and a mother.

Alyson Gritter is an intern at Family Research Council.

 

SOTU: How the President Led on Life, Family, and Fighting Sex Trafficking

by Patrina Mosley

February 6, 2019

The State of the Union has historically been the time when the president, our Commander in Chief and the leader of the free world, puts Congress and the world on notice of the legislative agenda and priorities for the nation. This is why it’s so significant to see President Trump take a firm stand on the sanctity of life, the acknowledgment of what real families need, and the injustice that is happening at our borders.  

Life:

There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our nation saw in recent days.  Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth.  These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and their dreams with the world.  And then, we had the case of the Governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.

To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.

Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life.  And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.

All of this came just a day after the Born-Alive Abortion Survivor’s Protection Act was blocked by Democrats not willing to give unanimous consent to the fact that babies deserve a chance at life if they survive an abortion attempt. As I mentioned here, the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency was nothing short of unprecedented when it comes to defending life. The Republican party platform now more than ever stands in stark contrast to the Democrat’s extreme abortion agenda. His statement was not only a rebuke of the lack of humanity shown by the Democrats but a fixed point of reference that valuing life is never anything to be ashamed of and that this value is what will make America great.

Family:

To help support working parents, the time has come to pass School Choice for Americans’ children. I am also proud to be the first President to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave, so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child.

Lack of access to school choice has been one of the biggest factors separating the haves from the have-nots. Giving families the option to use their tax dollars to educate their children as they see fit is critical to setting them up for success later in life. Another part of the “success sequence” in marriage is taking the time to invest in your children from day one. Chasing the American dream should not be the goal in life—being faithful to your family and to God should take priority. Paid family leave will help relieve the stress of working parents and encourage these eternal values.

Sex Trafficking:

Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate, it is actually very cruel.

This is certainly true. Not only does illegal immigration defy what scriptures teach on respecting the authorities God has put in place, but it also hurts our national security as well as our communities who are already hurting for jobs, and it certainly hurts the illegal immigrant who is being taken advantage of (in some ways trafficked into labor) with unfair wages. To many in the elite class and to those with political power, the illegal immigrant is nothing more than someone who cleans their house or mows their lawn. For big business, they are cheap labor, so they can keep more profit for themselves. To the Democrats, illegal immigrants are future voters whom they can entice with amnesty so long as the immigrant faithfully votes to keep them in power. What most do not know is how illegal immigration has facilitated sex trafficking:

One in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north. Smugglers use migrant children as human pawns to exploit our laws and gain access to our country. Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide-open areas between our ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery.

Most people are unaware of how sophisticated their system is—how smugglers promise to get women and children over the border but then hold them hostage by demanding more money once they are over the border and then violently forcing them to pay off their “debt” with sex. Often these girls are supervised by the women involved with the smugglers.

ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults. 30,000 sex crimes, and 4000 killings or murders.

One real life example of this was shared by the president in his address:

We are joined tonight by one of those law enforcement heroes: ICE Special Agent Elvin Hernandez.  When Elvin — thank you.

When Elvin was a boy, he and his family legally immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic.  At the age of eight, Elvin told his dad he wanted to become a Special Agent.  Today, he leads investigations into the scourge of international sex trafficking.

Elvin says that, “If I can make sure these young girls get their justice, I’ve [really] done my job.”  Thanks to his work, and that of his incredible colleagues, more than 300 women and girls have been rescued from the horror of this terrible situation, and more than 1,500 sadistic traffickers have been put behind bars. Thank you, Elvin.

We will always support the brave men and women of law enforcement, and I pledge to you tonight that I will never abolish our heroes from ICE. Thank you.

I hope the president’s address opens many eyes to see the compounding effects of criminal behavior. If those who have been entrusted with the authority to protect and pursue justice do nothing, then many immigrant lives will be needlessly victimized.

President Trump’s address is a flag planted in the ground of who we are as a nation, what we should strive to be, and what we’re going to get done by the grace of God.

What Could Have Been, and the Hope of What Is to Come

by Cassidy Rich

November 29, 2018

I recently spoke with a friend who works in the pro-life movement and told her that my mom had suffered three or four miscarriages. A few days later, I was talking to my mom on the phone and she corrected me on the number of her miscarriages. I winced as I held the phone a little tighter and tried to grasp what my mom just told me. I was missing nine siblings. Nine. Nine little lives that would never be. Nine babies I would never know, nine friends I would never have, nine people I would never get to share life’s adventures with. I can’t explain why it hit me so hard right then that I didn’t have these siblings.

According to my mom, “After a miscarriage, I initially felt disappointment and sadness. Sometimes I felt like I did something wrong. Was it because I ran upstairs, did I eat something wrong, did I think something wrong, was I not excited enough, is God mad at me, am I being punished? Sometimes I felt angry, like I was tricked. Sometimes I felt like God used my womb to fast-track souls to heaven. Many women fear miscarriage in the first trimester, but once you’ve had a miscarriage, the fear can be overwhelming in future pregnancies. Miscarriage certainly challenges your trust in God. Suffering is miserable, but it isn’t pointless. God uses your suffering, not only in your life but also in the lives of others. I learned to hang onto God through the deepest valleys. And maybe it was really God who was hanging onto me.”

The Mayo Clinic defines miscarriage as “the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week. About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage.” When you think about it, that’s a considerable number. It’s even more astonishing when you realize that it’s only 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies. The Mayo Clinic goes on to say that the true number of miscarriages is likely higher due to the miscarriages that happen when women are unaware that they are pregnant.

When I was 11 years old, my mom sat my siblings and I down in the living room. One of my mom’s closest friends was there in the room because she had just accompanied my mom to a doctor’s appointment. My dad would have gone with my mom, but he was fighting an ugly case of the flu and was cooped up in bed all day. She told us that she had just gone to the doctor and found out that she was miscarrying a baby. I sat there in silence. I didn’t know what to say. My 11-year-old self didn’t grasp the fact that my siblings and I had just lost a little sibling. I knew my mom suffered her first miscarriage about 12 years before this time, but I never gave it much thought. I understood that life was lost and that we would never have the opportunity to meet the baby this side of Heaven, but it didn’t sink in. I don’t remember anything else about the conversation.

It wasn’t until I was in college, when girls around my age started getting married and having babies, that I began to understand the impact a miscarriage can have on a woman. The thought of a life that could have been but wasn’t because God took it away seemed wrong and unfair to the woman and all those who cared about her. Why would God give a woman a baby, only to take it away? It seems so harsh. But as believers, we know that we live in a fallen, sin-ridden world, and until the Lord returns and restores all things, there will be hurt and suffering (see Ecclesiastes 11:5, Isaiah 55:8-9, and Revelation 21:5). God doesn’t explain everything to us, He just asks us to trust Him. So, I will. I will mourn my siblings that could have been, but I will still put my trust in the Lord.

Cassidy Rich is an Administrative Assistant at Family Research Council.

Christianity’s Blessings to Society

by Travis Weber

October 24, 2018

The new life of a believer in Christ motivates him or her to be a good citizen—to seek the well-being of the city or place in which they live. The latest example of this principle comes not from the United States, but from Nigeria.

A recent profile in The Economist, of all places, discusses the development of the “church-city” and the benefits it has brought with it.

Begun as a church, the plot of land north of Lagos, Nigeria now houses 12,000 people and covers more than 6,000 acres. That population will likely double by 2036.

As The Economist notes, “[m]ost African cities are messy, especially around the edges. Suburban roads are invariably crooked, unpaved and unsigned. Houses are plonked down wherever people can acquire land. Many homes are half-built . . .”

Yet in Redemption City, “[e]verything tends to work. Whereas Lagos hums with diesel generators, Redemption City has a steady electricity supply from a small gas-fired power station. It also has its own water supply. ‘We make life easy,’ says Pastor Fola Sanusi, the man in charge of Redemption City’s growth. The city also makes rules, of the kind that could never be enforced in the hurly-burly of Lagos. ‘No parking, no waiting, no trading, no hawking,’ reads one sign.”

‘If you wait for the government, it won’t get done,’” says Olaitan Olubiyi, one of the pastors. “So [Redemption City] relies on the government for very little – it builds its own roads, collects its own rubbish, and organises its own sewerage systems.” The Guardian reports that the government sometimes sends its own municipal experts to learn from Redemption City’s.

Though the properties are supposed to be kept within the community of Christians inhabiting the city, they seem to be making their way into the broader real estate market, being listed on some agencies’ websites.

Other churches in the surrounding area are currently building communities of their own. The Economist concludes: “Pentecostal Christianity has already remade many Africans’ spiritual lives. Now it is remaking their cities.”

While the concept is a bit unusual, this story reminds us that what one believes has direct consequences for society and the conditions in which we live. Our faith leads us to care for our surroundings, and religious organizations often have a widescale impact on the common good. While we are all imperfect, the Christian is (and should be) driven by principles which flow from a faith that seeks the good of our neighbor—and our cities.

Our Gifts Received through Child Loss

by Katy Downey

October 18, 2018

As October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I was asked by a dear friend to share my experience with miscarriage. I ultimately decided to write this because I feel I am through the dark, heavy, suffocating fog of infertility and child loss. If I am able to share any words with anyone to make them feel less hopeless or less alone, the past four years of suffering have been worth it. My husband and I together have been blessed enough to discover the gifts and beauty of infertility and child loss. This is a journey that so many of us walk, but it can still feel overwhelmingly lonely.

I married my best friend on an excessively rainy day, but we didn’t notice because we were smiling and laughing the entire time. All our friends and family joked about God’s blessings raining down on us and how this meant we’d have lots of babies. As a naïve, blushing couple, we secretly wished it would be true. We had so many hopes and dreams about growing our family. We planned out our whole path over a bottle of champagne on a beach in Antigua. But as usual, God had a much better plan.

When I reflect on our time of infertility and miscarriages, I think about how my husband and I suffered together, but we very much had to traverse our own journeys of faith and suffering separately as well. The first gift of losing a child is suffering, which counter to popular culture, is indeed a gift. Two quotes often come to mind when considering suffering and they still bring tears to my eyes. The first is from St. Faustina with whom I found so much comfort: “Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Savior; in suffering, love becomes crystallized; the greater the suffering, the purer the love.” Child loss made me profoundly feel how pure God’s love for His children truly is and how much He loves me. It shed new light on my ability to feel how our Lord and Savior feels when we offend Him, how deeply He must suffer when we hurt those He loves. It also taught me to offer up my suffering for others; crying feels more productive when you know someone else who is suffering is benefiting from it. I would often offer up my suffering for women who could have children easily, but who were not in a loving marriage and felt trapped by their pregnancies.

The second quote I hold dear is from St. Josemaría Escrivá which says, “God in His providence has two ways of blessing marriages: one by giving them children; and the other, sometimes, because he loves them so much, by not giving them children. I don’t know which is the better blessing.” This quote definitely made me ugly cry, but it helped me realize that the second gift is time. Time is one of the most precious gifts on earth, and child loss gave us time with our Lord, time with each other, time to travel the world, and time to help others. I was able to use my gift of time for and with others to share my talents or help others let their talents shine.

The third gift is one that has strengthened my trust. I had no option but to fully throw my whole soul into trusting God. All the earthly things I had put my trust into—doctors, medication, fertility charts, vitamins, and procedures—had let me down time and time again. I also had to fully trust my husband. We had to have the talk about how he didn’t marry me for my reproductive abilities, but because he loves me, all of me, even if it means we can’t have a child together. As much as we love each other, I never imagined how the solid foundation we built together could grow our love even deeper in the most amazing way.

The fourth gift all of this has brought us is a change in heart. Once our priest told us we may be praying for the wrong thing and to pray for God to change our hearts, we were able to discern that our calling was different than we imagined for so long. We, as humans, can become so blinded by our own wants and perceived needs that we forget we have no control. In our case, it was a loud and abiding call to adoption. We are now traveling down a new path that is still quite narrow and difficult at times to navigate. I also recognize, however, that this new path is indeed glorious as it is filled with light, beauty, and joy because of the gifts we have received along the way.

I urge you to find your gifts along your own difficult journey. They may be the same as ours and they may be unique to you. But remember, there are many gifts, and you are most certainly not alone. We pray for you every night and walk beside you in spirit. May God grant you peace and the ability to find your gifts along the way.

Katy Downey and her husband live in Cheverly, Md. She is a teacher for the Archdiocese of Washington.

World Congress of Families Seeks to Strengthen the Family Unit

by Family Research Council

September 26, 2018

Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at Family Research Council, was a speaker at the latest meeting of the World Congress of Families (WCF), held September 14-16 in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Moldova is located between Romania and Ukraine. Peter’s talk described “Five Myths About ‘Gender Identity’” as part of a panel discussion on “Gender Ideology—The Latest Attack on the Family and the Legal Challenges It Poses.”

The “Gender Ideology” panel was moderated by Patrick Byrne, President of the National Civil Council in Australia, who is also author of a new book, Transgender: One Shade of Grey. The panel included Stephen Baskerville, a professor at Patrick Henry College who is the author of The New Politics of Sex: The Sexual Revolution, Civil Liberties, and the Growth of Governmental Power. Former FRC Fellows Pat Fagan and Allan Carlson (founder of the World Congress of Families) were also among the speakers in Moldova.

FRC renewed its formal partnership with the WCF this year, and Peter has attended all but one of the World Congress events since 2004, speaking in Mexico City (2004) and Salt Lake City (2015).

The event had the active support of the President of Moldova, Igor Dodon (pictured), and Moldovan First Lady Galina Dodon’s charitable foundation “Din Suflet” (From the Soul). President Dodon spoke at the opening and closing ceremonies (despite having survived a rollover car accident just days earlier, after a truck swerved into his motorcade). Dodon declared at the opening session:

[T]he philosophy aimed at strengthening the institution of the family and based on the priority of traditional family values should become an alternative to the actively propagated anti-family ideology. Our motto is: “Every child should be brought up only in a family”. A family should only be regarded as an alliance between a man and a woman, a father and a mother.

Moldova’s Constitution includes reference to the family, with Article 48 stating:

The family shall be founded on a freely consented marriage between a husband and wife, on their full equality in rights and the parents’ right and obligation to ensure their children’s upbringing, education and training.

Dodon also expressed concern over demographic trends in his country, noting, “Over the past 27 years – the years of independence – we have lost up to one third of our population for various reasons.” He warned that if current trends continue, Moldova may lose another third of its population within the next 20 years. For this reason, he has supported policies such as paying subsidies to families that have four or more children. Dodon also officially declared 2019 to be “The Year of the Family” in Moldova.

The theme of the Congress was “The Natural Family: Uniting East and West.” Most of the residents of the former Soviet bloc hold conservative views on social issues, and the last three WCF gatherings have been held in Eastern Europe: in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2016; Budapest, Hungary in 2017; and in Moldova this year.

The World Congress of Families is also significant in bringing together the three main branches of Christianity: Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. An elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) also spoke at the event. Moldova is predominantly Orthodox, and representatives of both the Moldovan Orthodox Church and Russian Orthodox Church participated in the event. Many participants, including Peter, attended worship Sunday morning at the Central Orthodox Cathedral in Chisinau, along with President Dodon.

At the closing ceremonies for this year’s Congress, Brian Brown, President of the International Organization for the Family (IOF), which organizes the WCF, announced that the next World Congress of Families will be held in Verona, Italy from March 29-31, 2019.

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