Good, better, best?

I love the line in the Incredibles where the mom says "Everyone's special, Dash" to which Dash replies "Which is another way of saying no one is." It reminds me of how people are afraid to call something good, because that might mean you are saying the opposite is bad. Or why no one wants to label something "the best" (commercials being the exemption) because that might mean the alternative is something less than the best. Why does our society have such a problem with that?

Lately I have been seeing a number of these situations, and it's frustrating. Maybe an example or two would clear things up.

- Breastfeeding. Studies show that breast milk is the best thing you can feed your child. Even formula ads say so, albeit in fine print for only a few seconds, but if you look, it is there. That being said, there are a number of situations where that isn't possible (mom needing to be on meds that can be passed through to the baby, not producing enough milk, multiples, adoption situations, to name a few). Luckily there are formulas available for times like that. But almost every time I see any study or post citing the benefits of breastfeeding, I see lots of comments saying that all that information is doing is making women who don't breastfeed feel guilty about it.

But breastfeeding isn't really what I want to talk about today, it is just an example of society's dislike of classifying something as better than something else. The impetus for this post came from this slate article that highlights some data regarding children born out of wedlock. The point of the article is that a child does best in a home with a father and a mother that are married to each other. Shocking, but true!

Apparently, this article has stirred up some controversy and just a quick search on my part brought up a number of rebuttals blasting Emily Yoffe for having written such a "moralistic and judgmental" article, spouting "How dare she say that a single mom can't raise children without them ending up as poor, ignorant criminals." Now, if you read the article you will see she said no such thing. But the fact that she says one situation (married two parent home) is better than another (single parent) apparently means she is an evil person.

I'm not really surprised to find anti-family articles on the mothers who also happen to be lesbian site I ended up on. I was however, surprised at a comment on Boundless, a Christian blog I frequent. This comment, which is now mysteriously gone so you will just have to believe me that it did exist, talked about an a circumstance where the mother could have married the father but he was a selfish, juvenile, jerk who wouldn't have made a good father so isn't it better than she didn't and included complaints that you can't judge a mother and say she isn't a good parent when you don't know the circumstances. The Boundless article wasn't saying we should go around judging single mothers, pointing our fingers and yelling "heathen" at them. It was simply saying that it is nice when studies back up biblical truths.

I get annoyed at this when I see it in the media or on a secular blog, [or a lesbian mom website :-], but I can let it roll of my shoulders relatively well. When I see today's Christians responding that way however, I get really frustrated because not only do I think in many of these cases it ends up with those people accepting the world's opinions over God's truth, I think it hurts our witnessing opportunities and ability to love those around us.

Let's take the example of single parenting. First off, I will say that I think single parenting is not God's design for raising children. However, we live in a fallen world and it happens. So what should Christians and the church do about it?

a) Ignore it
b) Say it isn't a big deal and kids raised in single homes are just as well off as kids in a married, two parent home.
c) See it as yet another consequence of living in a world full of sin and use it as an opportunity to show God's love to that family.

I think c. While I don't know of any Bible verses that speak of single parents, if we see them as a less than ideal situation, I think we can easily put them into the same category as widows and orphans. And God obviously has a special spot in his heart for those in need:

Psalms 68:5 - A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

And if we look at these verses, I think we get a good picture of how we are commanded to treat them as well:

Psalms 82:3 - Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

James 1:27 - Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

So guess what? God wants us to show love to them! (This post is just full of shocking statements, isn't it?) Amanda Cate wrote this great article that mentions just a few of the ways we can help single moms and show them love through our actions. Most of her ideas, which include offering rides, babysitting, meals, or a chance for adult conversations, don't involve more than a little time and thoughtfulness but can make a big impact in someone's day.

But if single parenting is just another of the many suitable options a person has when choosing what type of family they want, why should we as Christians go out of our way to help and encourage them? If a two parent home isn't better than a single parent home why would they need any extra encouragement? One of the main purposes of the church is to encourage one another in our struggles, and if keeping God's ideal in mind helps us to see areas where people are struggling, why is that a bad thing?

On the other hand, if you find yourself judging someone because the circumstances they find themselves in aren't God's ideal, you had better than a look at yourself, cause I'm pretty sure your aren't God's ideal either. I know I'm not. We all are in need of His mercy and love. But as I said, God has a special spot in his heart for all those in need. Hallelujah for that.


  1. I think its funny that people get upset over articles like that and get defensive. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, children do do better in homes with parents living in a healthy marriage. Just like God made man for woman, because their charictaristics support eachother, they also support the needs of a child. Yes little girls seem to relate mostly to their mothers, but they also need a strong male role model in their lives (and vice versa for boys)women are getting therepy every day because of the damaging results of an absent father. Every child needs the nurturing of a mother and the practiacality of a father. Sure children are raised everyday by single parents, and many complain about how hard it is to juggle a family and jobs alone. Of course it's hard, its not meant to be that way! (not that its easy when you are married, I wouldn't know for sure, i don't have kids, but i've spent some time with them, and they seem cute and all, but not easy to raise) I don't think that article meant to say either that those raised by single parents are hooligans, but they did miss out on having the other half of the parent-hood.

  2. mackenzie, this is such a great post. i often don't "get" the hostile responses i see posted on the Internet towards articles like the ones you mentioned.

    it's important to judge each situation differently. if the dad was such a jerk...why did the mom choose to put herself in a situation where a baby could be produced? women really need to THINK about what they are doing.

    i was a single mom for years...and it was HARD. it was a direct result of choices i made.

    however, i know a mom of four boys...she's a widow. she needs help.

    thought provoking for sure...