These past few months I have been making my way through Victor Hugo’s enormous masterpiece Les Misérables. One thing that is clear in reading this book is that Victor Hugo was a Christian who lived with his eyes wide open. The social issues and the cycle of poverty in his day was an intense concern for him, so much so that he is not beyond scattering mini-sermons throughout the book. It causes me to wonder what Victor Hugo would write about if he lived today.
The perennial favorite social issue for Evangelicals today is abortion. Much money and lobbying efforts are spent to make it illegal. Would Victor Hugo write about the tragedy of abortion? My guess is that he would have gone deeper, a skill we have lost in this highly politicized society. Social issues are rarely as simple as their loudest champions make them out to be and Victor Hugo recognized this.
Suppose a girl who has gotten pregnant, but has decided to keep the baby. She has made a mistake; she has sinned, as all of us do. The baby’s father has cowardly disappeared. It is far easier for him to do as he pleases sexually without anyone knowing about it. It is the girl has to make the decision between abortion and letting everyone know what she has done. There is no way to hide what happened when she decides to keep the baby. Eventually everyone who sees her will know, which begs the question, will she be made to feel welcome in my church. And this is only the start.
In my opinion single moms are some of the most courageous people in the entire world. If the she is lucky she will have a strong family to support her, if not things will be even more difficult. Does the church step in to help them? Most often it is the government. The single mom will rely on (traditional liberal) entitlement programs like food stamps and unemployment to get by.
Besides the physical needs are the emotional and developmental. Both a father and mother are important for the healthy development of a child. This is all the more important when the child is a boy. If he has no positive male role models it is likely that he will grow up believing that his masculinity depends on his prowess with women, but he will lack the skills to deal with the consequences. Hence the cycle starts over again. Where is the church in this, especially the men of the church?
If the mother is unable to care for the child then he or she may go into state foster care. From my own brief contact with the world of foster care I can say that it is less than adequate. What goes on there could supply a modern Victor Hugo with many pages of writing, which makes me wonder, where is the church there.
More often than not we(I) are busy. We are too busy and preoccupied to do anything, living with eyes closed. The church that works so hard to support life can sometimes do so little to make that life worth living. Here’s my suggestion, and I offer it humbly as someone who is a part of the problem, we give single moms a hand. Whether gifts of food, babysitting so she can have some rest and relaxation, or inviting her and her child to activities where family and community do exist. Men, spend some time with a young boy who doesn’t have a father. You may be doing more than you think to promote life. Churches can be a place of refuge and encouragement for single moms, not judgment. Finally, if Christians took some of the money and effort they are using to fight abortion and use it to value the life that has already been born, that value for life might finally overcome the defenses of those who support abortion. Perhaps that is what Victor Hugo would write about if he lived to day.