Last week Instagram went crazy because model Chrissy Teigen posted a heartbreaking picture after her miscarriage.
While there was an outpouring of support, there was also a ton of criticism. She has no right to be sad because of her political views. She shouldn’t be taking pictures like that.
I chimed in to support her.
As someone who has returned from the hospital without a baby, can I ask us to be kind to Chrissy Teigen?— SheilaGregoire (@sheilagregoire) October 1, 2020
She needed others to know that Jack existed & mattered.
Criticize her, and other moms with empty arms will feel it.
Jack lived. He mattered. My Christopher mattered.
A number of things have been on my mind lately, and I’d like to take today and just lay them all out here. It’s been a while since I did more of a “stream of consciousness” post of the things that I’m thinking, but here goes!
We’ve become so calloused and hardened that EVERYTHING has to be about scoring political points.
A baby’s death should not be about scoring political points. Everybody needs to get a grip. We’re forgetting that those who may disagree with us are people, too. And if our aim is to spread the gospel, well, how do you think beating up on grieving parents is going to do that? Seriously. Sheesh.
But also–I understand why she took that photo.
Every year, on my son Christopher’s birthday and the anniversary of his death, I write something about him, like these posts:
I post pictures of him on Instagram and Facebook.
View this post on Instagram
My baby would have been 24 years old today. I had a hard time sleeping last night. August 6 is always a difficult day for me. Some years it's easier than others. This year, I think, is a tougher one than usual. And you know what? That's okay. I know I will see Christopher again. I know that God carried us through that pain. I know that I have great relationships with my living children, who also look forward to seeing their brother one day. I know all that. But it's still tough. And so, if it's okay, I'm not going to try to cheer myself up today. I'm going to get teary if I want to get teary; I'm going to let myself eat more chocolate oat squares than usual. I'm going to go to the beach with my grandson who shares his uncle's name, and I'm going to giggle at him and be grateful for him and let his splashes wash over me. And then I'm going to come home and I may look at old pictures and cry again. Or I may not. I'm going to let myself do what I feel like doing. And that's okay. (I'm linking a post I wrote about Christopher in the bio, too, about how you can grieve and still be okay! Just click the link in bio!) https://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2016/08/im-okay-20-years-son-died/ #babyloss #hypoplasticleftheartsyndrome #babylossawareness #grief
Some people think I do that because I want the sympathy. But that’s not it.
It’s because if I don’t do that, it’s as if he never existed.
People who meet our family would never know that there’s a child who isn’t there–a child who came between my two girls. When Rebecca and Katie were growing up, and they had friends over, those friends were often really surprised to see a picture of another baby on a bookshelf. They never knew.
And how would you? We don’t go talking about this in normal daily life.
But Christopher existed. He mattered. And Chrissy Teigen’s and John Legend’s son Jack existed. And he mattered.
And taking that picture in the hospital room was, I think, her way of putting up a memorial, of saying, “he lived.” If others didn’t know, then it’s like he never existed. And there’s no pain worse than that–to realize that life is going on and all of those around you don’t even realize how much you’re hurting because to them–the baby was never even there.
At least we have a grave to go to, but many parents who go through early miscarriages don’t even have that.
In many hospitals, volunteer photographers will come in and take pictures of parents with stillborn children, just so they have something to remember them by. When Christopher died, they cut off a lock of his hair for us, and took little handprints and footprints. Those things matter.
So I hope that in all the outcry, we can find a little humanity for this grieving couple, and for all grieving parents who have lost children. We all need to remember in some tangible way. We all need to reassure ourselves that, yes, they existed. They mattered.
And I’m so glad that I will one day see my son again.
But grief is never a time to score political points, okay?
In some ways, I feel like I’ve been grieving for my faith for several years now.
The sexual abuse scandals in the evangelical church lately, and what we have learned about harmful evangelical teaching about sex in the last few years, has made me very, very sad. I have had to say good-bye to a lot of the trappings of the faith that I grew up with.
It’s been hard. But it’s also pushed me back into the arms of Jesus, as I rediscover the gospels, and rediscover what it means to have church in community, rather than trying to just win culture wars.
Last week, even more revelations broke about Ravi Zacharias and sexual abuse, with many corroborating witnesses. Stories in Christianity Today, World Magazine, and on Julie Roys’ blog suggest that he was not the man he portrayed himself to be. His organization and his denomination say that they are now launching an investigation, but I think we know where that will end up.
The endless string of evangelical big name leaders who have fallen and proven themselves to be scoundrels or unfit to lead just keeps getting bigger and bigger: James MacDonald; Bill Hybels; Mark Driscoll; Jerry Falwell Jr.; Paige Patterson; Bill Gothard; Doug Phillips; Josh Duggar; and now Ravi Zacharias. The list keeps getting longer.
I have to admit that this one threw me more than the others. Most who have fallen have been so authoritarian and judgmental that I was just waiting for the shoe to drop. I actually enjoyed listening to Ravi Zacharias, so this one was tough for me.
I think the problem is with evangelical celebrity culture. Why are we so intoxicated by big conferences, by megachurches, by everything flashy? Why do we want a big production and show, and want a big name to look up to? This doesn’t resemble the early church, which excelled in living in community and giving to one another.
When we put people up on pedestals, we give them so much power with little accountability–well, is it any wonder things like this happen?
(And I just finished reading Kristen Kobes Du Mez’ book Jesus and John Wayne which explains so many of the issues with evangelical culture, too!)
One of the ways that I’ve always tried to do my blog is to keep interacting with people. I don’t want to ever become inauthentic. I don’t even want to be part of the evangelical celebrity culture, which is hard, because I do have a big blog and I do have big books (with more coming out). But I want to be well known because of ideas, not because of me.
Rebecca said to me last week that her aim is that in 3 years, everyone knows our names because of our book The Great Sex Rescue, which will rock the evangelical world (it’s coming out in March 2021!). But then in 15 years, we hope no one knows our names, because we want to transition eventually into a different kind of blog/online community that lifts up voices with something important to say, not just me, and not just people who are already famous. I want to retire eventually by working myself out of a job. We need to get away from Christian celebrities, because the whole idea seems so antithetical to the gospel. Let’s instead just focus on Jesus and cutting through all the cultural noise.
I used to think that I’d love to be invited to speak at something like Women of Faith.
Now that idea makes me slightly nauseous. I’d rather just hang out here with you all, getting to know the people who comment, and not trying to be someone other than who I am.
I think COVID is pushing us away from “big” and back to community.
We can’t do big conferences. We can’t do big events. Megachurches can’t meet in the same way.
But smaller churches can (or maybe will be able to soon; I know it’s different in different jurisdictions). One of the problems with bigger churches is that people go and sit in the pews and don’t participate. You feel as if you’re living your Christian life because you’re attending church, but it’s easy to skate by. In smaller churches, you can get to know people and invest in them more easily and more naturally, and it seems like that may be more in line with Jesus than thousands of people listening to one person preach.
I know there are problems with both large churches and small churches; and both large churches and small churches can be toxic. But, once Ontario fully opens up, we’re looking forward to trying a small church in our neighbourhood, for the first time ever. We want to be able to walk to church; to go to church with our neighbours; to have it so that when we’re not there, people notice. I’m eager to see how that goes.
If you’ve been grieving as scandal after scandal has hit the evangelical church, please know that this doesn’t reflect on Jesus. And please, just let the confusion and the grief and the disillusionment push you back towards finding the real Jesus, because many of our churches have been missing Him. It’s okay to get upset. God doesn’t get mad at us for getting upset.
Let’s just keep it real. Keep community. Remember the humanity in others. And never, ever treat a cause, or an organization, or politics as more important than a person.
What do you think? Do you understand Chrissy Teigen wanting to take that picture? Have you become jaded by evangelical culture lately? How can we do better? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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