A Compassionate Approach to Crisis Childbearing by Susan Olasky and Marvin Olasky
The harshest criticism levied against pro-life advocates is that they are religious zealots who only care about stopping abortion. Not only does it seem that they care nothing for the young, unwed mother, they are also accused of doing very little to care for children’s lives once they are born. How do we go about changing this? Susan and Marvin Olasky offer a biblical response in More Than Kindness, the tenth book in the Turning Point Christian Worldview Series.
We cannot abandon the fight against abortion. The key lies in recognizing that abortion is “the central battle in an arc of conflict concerning definitions of the family and the basic structure of modern society.” The Olaskys believe that the only appropriate response to such criticism is for Christians to embrace a radical commitment to being pro-family.
More Than Kindness is divided into four (untitled) sections. I cannot improve upon the Olaskys’ own summary. “Our first section examines the conventional solutions to crisis childbearing and indicates how and why they have failed. It focuses on what the enemies of life and family have been doing. Our second section discusses Bible-based efforts to prepare these mothers to help their children after birth, and shows what we are doing right and how we need to improve. Our third section predicts areas of future combat and looks in more detail at some of the current battles. It considers difficult questions such as trans-racial adoption and economic support for single parents. A concluding section summarizes the findings, proposes personal and church agendas, and includes appendices that list resources and deal with some common misunderstandings.”
In order to fully understand and appreciate America’s current status regarding abortion, the Olaskys offer a brief history that demonstrates how feminism, social mores, government, and public policy have intersected since the 1950s. Gone are the days when unwed sex and pregnancy were severely frowned upon. We are living in the days when a movie entitled Knocked Up is a hit1 and a group of young girls, none older than 16, can make a pregnancy pact2 with the confidence that government entitlements will fill the gap left by a husband and father. How did we get to this point? A woman’s right to engage in sexual activity (whenever and with whomever she pleased), the development of the birth control pill, abortion, and social programs have converged to give young and old women alike the illusion of autonomy. The Olaskys also remind us that we cannot discount the roles played by academia and the media in transforming public opinion regarding unwed childbearing. Having been subjected to many after-school specials in the 1980s, annual sexual education classes in the 1990s, and single-parent sitcoms, I can attest to the efficacy of “trickle-down” knowledge and conventional wisdom that has led to widespread acceptance of unwed sex and pregnancy. Crisis pregnancies lead to crisis childhoods and crisis lives; conventional methods for dealing with unwed pregnancy do not work. The next logical question the Olaskys seek to answer is, How do we transform the conventional wisdom of our era?
According to the Olaskys, a transformation in conventional wisdom regarding unwed sexual activity and pregnancy will follow acceptance of God’s standards regarding the relationships between men, women, and children. This includes a biblical understanding of marriage, family, motherhood, fatherhood, fornication, and adoption. But pro-life advocates cannot stop with theological education. Olasky profiles several successful Christian agencies which seek to help the unwed mother. These agencies fall into three general categories: baby-saving centers, mommy-help agencies, and women’s centers. The classifications “roughly describe differences in focus, though not in pro-life conviction…All three types of centers have flourished since the mid-1970s. The dedicated leaders and volunteers at all three types deserve praise. But all three types implicitly tend to encourage single-parenting and show a bias against adoption or marriage.” The Olaskys believe that a pro-family agenda that encourages marriage and adoption, rather than only a pro-life agenda, is the appropriate response to affect long-term change in behavior and law. Pro-family activism, however, is not without its difficulties.
In the three chapters in this section, the Olaskys point out the difficulties of US domestic adoption, the bias against the two-parent family, and then offer a rebuttal. They also offer suggestions for how Christians can respond on all fronts. This is the most challenging portion of the book. The reader and family advocate must grapple with government roadblocks to adoption, the high cost of adoption, obvious double-standards, discrimination, and racism which impede adoption. Next, the reader must come to terms with the desire to support two-parent families while the government gives greater aid to a woman who decides to raise her child alone. Despite mountains of research proving that marriage is best for men, women, and children, and for eliminating poverty, US social policy continues to undermine marriage by providing substantial benefits for unwed mothers. The final chapter of this section includes an apologetic call for Christians to demonstrate biblical charity and to accept the long-term challenge to be not only pro-life, but pro-family.
The final chapter of the book is a simple summary of the book and the actions Christians can take immediately. The main body of the book is followed by two appendices. The first is a response from Bethany Christian Services to Bill Gothard’s 1983 paper, “Ten Reasons Why Adopted Children Tend to Have More Conflicts.” Gothard’s faulty interpretation of scripture betrays his anti-adoption bias. Bethany’s rebuttal is biblical, sensible, and gracious. Appendix B is a listing (including contact information) of all the resources, agencies, and programs referenced in the book. Because the list was published in 1990, it is likely that much of the information needs to be updated.
More Than Kindness is well-researched, and offers a thorough and insightful account of how America arrived at widespread acceptance of unwed childbearing in only two decades. It also explains the difficulties in turning away from abortion-on-demand and single-parenting. Since its publication in 1990, however, the landscape surrounding the pro-life and pro-family movements has changed quite a bit. I’d like to read a 20th Anniversary edition that addresses more recent developments in the battle to end abortion and restore a biblical worldview in the United States. For the last 18 years, Christians have entered court rooms, voting booths, film editing rooms, adoption agencies, and counseling centers. Inter-racial adoption is more common. Pro-life and pro-family movies and television programs are more common. The ban on partial-birth abortion was upheld by the US Supreme Court in 2007. Even with this progress, however, the US is still struggling under the same burdens mentioned in this book. Today, men are not encouraged to be men and take care of their families, government entitlements grow every year, abortion is easier than ever to obtain, and same-sex marriage recently became legal in Massachusetts and California. This battle is far from over. Pro-life and family advocates should not lose heart, though. God’s plan for the family will always be relevant and right for men, women, and children. The suggestions and challenges put forth in More Than Kindness are radical and difficult to carry out, but they are right. I am persuaded that they remain the appropriate responses for Christians to carry into our culture.
2 Kingsbury, Kathleen. “Pregnancy Boom at Gloucester High.” Time. 18 June 2008. 7 July 2008 http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1815845,00.html