Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pregnant and On-Display

In a wonderful column in the WaPo on the extremist consequences of the Great Depression, Richard Cohen mentions the weird situation with Sarah Palin's unmarried pregnant daughter, Bristol.

Here you have a conservative, even fundamentalist, vice-presidential candidate whose daughter is pregnant out of wedlock, yet the Religious Right thinks that's just fine. I thought to myself when it first came to light, that if this were an Obama daughter, can you even imagine the firestorm that would have erupted on the Right? It would have been like the Dresden firebombing in its intensity, and would have probably doomed Obama's chances. But when it's one of their own, the Religious Right basically ignores it, or even gives it their blessing (hence Bristol's presence on the stage with her mother recently--within the last week).

Here's what I think, as a parent, a citizen, and a pastor. Having a teenager daughter in high school who is sexually active and not using birth control, and thus taking a major risk of getting pregnant, represents a breakdown somewhere in the parental oversight and responsibility. I speak from personal experience here. We paid very close attention to our daughter in this regard when she was in high school, for obvious reasons. My wife talked to her and had a good trusting relationship with her regarding that very important topic. She knew my views on the topic from sitting in the pew for years listening to my sermons! We had taught her the importance of being sexually pure during those adolescent years. Our church youth group reinforced that message. We also kept close track of who our daughter was dating and what the circumstances were, and that made a difference. And so on.

Now, I don't think a pregnant unmarried teenager is the end of the world, but it is always difficult and serious. She shouldn't be shunned or stigmatized, indeed she should be loved, especially by her parents. The day of sending kids to an institution during the pregnancy are over. But she shouldn't also be made into a hero or a model of proper moral behavior for other teens to emulate. In other words, and speaking very candidly, is it really necessary to have Bristol Palin regularly and frequently on display in political settings, sometimes with her boyfriend, as we watch her figure change as her pregnancy progresses? I find that to be indiscreet and unnecessary.

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