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Sunday
May082011

Dan Quayle: A Mother’s Day Love Story

By Josh Hunt

Some months ago Fox News host/presidential candidate?/Baptist minister Mike Huckabee made public comments about single motherhood, specifically single mother Natalie Portman.

Everything old is new again. The whole situation took me back a couple of decades to a time when my ten-year-old mind knew two things about the Vice President of the United States.

One: he misspelled potato at a spelling bee (and earned the universal derision of a nation known the world over for its spelling prowess?  Yeah, we were blatantly hypocritical back then.  Thank goodness we outgrew that.) 

Two: he had a public scuffle with a television journalist named Murphy Brown.  (What’s that you say?  The journalist was a made-up character on a television sit-com?  Small potatos, dear reader.  Small potatos.)

And here’s the thing about Dan Quayle and me: I still see him through 10-year-old eyes. He was Vice President when I was 10, and then he wasn’t Vice President anymore. And then I didn’t see him and I didn’t think about him anymore. 

The potato thing and the Murphy Brown thing? Those are 20-year-old pieces of information that are stuck in my brain.  I’ve never even looked them up on the Internet to process them as an adult. They’re just there.

We watched Murphy Brown at my house. I understand now that the show made cultural statements about progressivism and feminism, but in my house, I think we watched it because it was funny. The truth, though, is that we had something in common with Murphy Brown. And while I couldn’t care less about the correct spelling of potatoes, Dan Quayle’s statements about a single parent raising a child resonated with me.

No one from the government contacted my family to discern our thoughts on single parents raising children.  No one asked my mother if she was prepared to do this. It just happened. My dad was killed in a car accident the day before my eighth birthday. 

So while my 30-year-old self  now knows that Dan Quayle wasn’t referring to single-parent households in which one of the parents had died, what he said felt to my 10-year-old self like a blanket condemnation of single-parent families, and it hurt.

We became feminists in my house.  Ditch your preconceived notions about what that means. Think Rosie the Riveter kind of feminists.  “By God, I can do this” kind of feminists. My mother was going to do it.  It was up to her. We didn’t have the luxury to make grandiose comments to the press about children raised in single-parent households. 

We didn’t consult sociological studies to understand the feasibility of successfully raising (whatever that means) a child in a single-parent home. Leave all that to the “experts.” We didn't have time for such trivial things.  My mother had a son to raise by herself, so she did.  We were just living, making it. I’ve got no small amount of pride in my mother proving the experts, the commentators, Dan Quayle, and Mike Huckabee wrong.

I write this Mother’s Day because I truly believe I owe whatever good I do and whoever good I turn out to be to two very basic things that continue to be at work in my life: 1) my mother didn’t allow me to use the death of my father (an admittedly unenviable situation) as an excuse to be less than I can be and 2) I had good people in my life who were willing to be surrogate parents to me.  And they did this not because they were part of a program where godly people mentored sons whose fathers had died, but because they made individual decisions to love and care for me. 

It takes a village to raise a child, and I need to say that I have one hell of a village. By the way, there are single parents and children of single parents who desperately need such a village right now. I defy you to find a better village than the Church.  They don’t need our critiques, our judgment, our second-guessing; they just need us.

I’m now cherishing and celebrating my wife's new role as a mother and my new role as a father. We're soaking up the opportunity to love, raise, encourage, and support our son. I wish all parents had the same opportunity to show love. I wish all children had the same opportunity to receive love. That would be—and I think Dan and Mike would back me up on this—ideal.  Truth is, we live (and preach, and teach, and comment, and parent) in a world of reality, not of ideals.

For that reason and so many more, I honor on this day Sandy Hunt and all women and men who parent in a world of reality, who parent in what is all too often a society of naysayers. I honor on this day people who are parents not of blood, but of choice—neighbors, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, school teachers, grandparents, youth ministers. 

I honor on this day anyone who decides to support people who are loving “the least of these” with all their hearts in a world of harsh and difficult realities, the kind of world where true love is most needed.  Happy Mother's Day.

-Josh Hunt is pastor of Ross Grove Baptist Church in Shelby, N.C. A Virginia native, he is a graduate of Carson-Newman College and the divinity school at Gardner-Webb University.

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