Calling All Moms

Calling All Moms

Calling All Moms for Urban FaithWhether you’re a teen mom, a divorced mom, a stepmom, a stay-at-home mom, a foster mother, a mother of a special-needs child, a mom who has lost a child, a mom who is struggling with addiction, or a perfectionist mom who’s realizing she’s not perfect, here’s the most important thing you can do to be a good mother …

This Sunday, May 9, is Mother’s Day. If we’re not careful, this commemoration can go the way of other annual observances — like Earth Day, Columbus Day, and Presidents Day, to name a few — and become nothing more than a perfunctory nod dictated by the calendar. Moreover, with all the intense concern about teenage pregnancy, abortion, foster children, child abuse and neglect, and single parenting, the significance, honor, and privilege of motherhood can get lost in the mire. I’d like to make a concerted effort to not let that happen by sharing some thoughts and giving some shout-outs on motherhood.

Being a mother is a biological fact. Being a good mother is extremely challenging, especially in the face of so many competing priorities, societal pressures and cultural shifts. Everything from the price of diapers to how much water we drink can impact our effectiveness. And I’ll be honest, there are times when I’d rather not be a mom.

I have a reputation as a serious, self-sufficient girl and that often clashes mightily with the goofy antics of a teenager and the occasional depression of a chronically ill young adult. Right now my biggest private joke is what a motley crew my sons and I are: a prematurely menopausal woman, a hormonal teenager, and a twenty-something with a brain injury. Sometimes I count my blessings just to get everyone where they’re supposed to be, and that I haven’t given my oldest son my estrogen pills instead of his own medication. Did I mention I also have a teenager? Hmm … where was I??

Anyway, all of the pressure and responsibility sometimes weighs on me and distorts my view of what it really means to be a successful mom. I get caught up measuring myself against the typical litmus tests: attractive, winsome kids who are good students and active in many extracurricular pursuits, and who don’t smoke, drink, curse, or have sex, who are respectful of authority, and who love church and youth group; a family that follows an orderly but appropriately busy schedule; a great looking house that shows little to no evidence of children even being present … on and on it goes.

When I feel myself sinking under that load, I remember an internal conversation I had with the Lord when my oldest son was still in high school. Long story short, God reminded me that He’s looking for faithfulness, not perfection. For someone who profiles as a perfectionist on just about every personality assessment known to man, that’s a hard message to internalize. But I believe it, and I encourage other moms to believe and internalize it, too.

That leads me to my shout-outs.

To all the teenage or premature moms: It doesn’t matter so much how your journey of motherhood began, but it matters tremendously how you navigate through it, and how it ends up. Whether you’re 15, 17, or 22, be faithful. Love yourself and your children one day at a time, or one minute at a time if necessary.

To all the moms struggling against addictions and other life issues: Whether your bondage involves drugs, tobacco, sex, alcohol, partying, self-pity, shopping, depression, rejection and abandonment issues, dangerous relationships, or some combination of these, be faithful. Dig deep and change your focus from feeling better, to being better. Give your undivided attention to recovery so that your mothering can improve. And don’t be afraid to tell your kids your story.

To all the moms in difficult marriages: Having a bad husband or an unfulfilling relationship doesn’t mean you can forego your responsibilities to your children. Be faithful. If you have to read bedtime stories, review math homework, or braid hair with tears in your eyes, do it. The tears and your kids’ childhood will pass sooner than you think.

To all the stepmoms, play moms, foster moms, godmoms, and adoptive moms: Thanks for not letting the absence of a biological tie keep you from being faithful. You’re a wonderful example for us all.

To all the church mothers: Thanks for faithfully showing us the way to God like any good mother should.

To all the moms who have lost a child: Whether it was a miscarriage, an abortion, a stray bullet, friendly fire, an accident or something else that took your child from you, be faithful to remember that progeny and to thank God for the privilege of being the mother of that child.

To all the single moms: Even though you can’t be mother and father, be faithful. Pray hard, because their lives — and yours — depends on it. I’m a witness that God really is a father to the fatherless.

To the moms of special-needs children: You may not be able to cure their disease, raise their IQ, or prolong their life, but you can be faithful. Give them the best physical and emotional care you can, and you’ll have the peace of a job well done.

To all moms out there: Celebrate yourself this Mother’s Day. If you haven’t been as faithful as you should be, it’s not too late.

Happy Mother’s Day, Ladies!

The Kermit Gosnell Case: America on Trial

The Kermit Gosnell Case: America on Trial

Dr. Kermit Gosnell (pictured above) is on trial for the deaths of four infants and a woman who came to his clinic shortly after her arrival in the United States. This week, the jury began its deliberations on the case. (Photo credit: Yong Kim/Philadelphia Daily News).

Each society and culture has its own barometer for measuring its psychological health, sense of priority, and collective wellbeing. The Maasai tribe of Kenya, for instance, use the traditional greeting, “How are the children?” when acknowledging one another. The expected response between tribesmen is, “All the children are well.” This exchange signifies that because the children are being protected, taken care of, and provided for, all else in their world is as it should be: peace prevails, and society is fulfilling its obligation by ensuring posterity and future survival. What of our country? Are all of our children well?

[Kermit Gosnell] regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy—and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors.  (Report of the Grand Jury used to indict Kermit Gosnell)

Something is happening in our midst right now that is almost certain to become a watershed moment in our history. Kermit Gosnell, a man who took a professional oath to keep his patients from harm, who is part of what we call “the healing arts”, and in whose hands women placed their medical wellbeing, is on trial in Philadelphia for murdering four live babies after failed late-term abortions and killing one female patient. Remarkably, many people still are unaware of this trial or the history of the Women’s Medical Society abortion clinic run by Gosnell for almost 40 years. This stunning lack of awareness is due primarily to the deliberate and intentional absence of national mainstream, and initially, even Christian, media coverage of the Gosnell proceedings. If CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and their colleagues don’t want people to know what’s going on, and if even Christian media is reluctant to address the trial, we have to ask ourselves, “Why?”. Could it be that they all perceive the effect that honest, unbiased exposure of Gosnell’s reprehensible and illegal acts would have on the abortion debate? In the end, their reasons don’t change the fact that we cannot let media disregard of this story force us to miss what’s really at stake—the sensitivity and responsiveness of our individual consciences and the preservation of our country as a civil society.

Gosnell had a simple solution for the unwanted babies he delivered: he killed them. He didn’t call it that. He called it “ensuring fetal demise.” The way he ensured fetal demise was by sticking scissors into the back of the baby’s neck and cutting the spinal cord. He called that “snipping.(Report of the Grand Jury)

Sometimes it takes a jolt to the senses to snap us out of complacency and moral largesse. In 1963, during a critical juncture for the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and local leaders in Birmingham, Alabama decided to include children in a major planned protest, later dubbed the “Children’s Crusade” by Newsweek magazine. Ed Gilbreath, founding editor of UrbanFaith and author of the forthcoming book, Birmingham Revolution, describes how published media images of children being sprayed with fire hoses, and attacked by trained police dogs, brought added pressure both nationally and locally: “The campaign was faltering.  As the nation began to see the images…the true spotlight was shone on Birmingham when the kids got out there. [President] Kennedy had been trying to placate Dixiecrats but he did have concern for civil rights. The images of the kids forced his hand [and] also put economic pressure on Birmingham merchants. Kennedy began to recognize the hypocrisy of us presenting ourselves as being against communism, but right here in our own nation we had this cruel apartheid, [contrary to and] against the virtues we preached.” A teacher resource covering the Birmingham civil rights campaign adds, “Shocking photographs that accompanied the nightly television footage helped stir the nation’s conscience and provoked critical comment around the world.” Will we allow our consciences to be similarly stirred on behalf of the children whose lives were snuffed out by Gosnell? Can we use this moment as a turning point of common allegiance and opposition against such brutality and indifference to human life?

Baby Boy A…was breathing and moving when Dr. Gosnell severed his spine and put the body in a plastic shoebox for disposal. The doctor joked that this baby was so big he could “walk me to the bus stop.” …Baby C was moving and breathing for 20 minutes before an assistant came in and cut the spinal cord just the way she had seen Gosnell do it so many times before. (Report of the Grand Jury)

Women of all faiths, political affiliations, and ideological positions should be appalled that another woman’s children were degraded and discarded in this fashion. This is a time to recover our communal lament over the condition of our nation as reflected in its sanctioning the brutal practice of abortion. The words of Jeremiah 9 ring true in this regard: Consider all this, and call for the mourners. Send for the women who mourn at funerals. Quick! Begin your weeping! Let the tears flow from your eyes. … For death has crept in through our windows and has entered our mansions. 

Christians can’t allow media silence to silence us. Will we cooperate with the media’s attempt to harden our hearts and chill our souls as evil is ignored, justified, or blacked out? These were defenseless children, whom Scripture summons us to protect.

And what about Karnamaya Mongar, the refugee woman who was left to die after post-abortion neglect?

Karnamaya Mongar… received repeated unmonitored, unrecorded intravenous injections of Demerol, a sedative seldom used in recent years because of its dangers. … After several hours, Mrs. Mongar simply stopped breathing. When employees finally noticed, Gosnell was called in and briefly attempted to give CPR. He couldn’t use the defibrillator (it was broken); nor did he administer emergency medications that might have restarted her heart. … Doctors at the hospital managed to keep her heart beating, but…by that point, there was no way to restore any neurological activity. Life support was removed the next day. [She] was pronounced dead. (Report of the Grand Jury).

What does it say about us that there isn’t widespread alarm, shock, grief, and outrage over this trial and case? Have we finally been persuaded that protection of human life is secondary to a government-created “right”, and that killing innocent babies is ok?

Decency, regard for human life, dignity, and respect for the rule of law should be public values – even for those who do not claim Christianity. All of us together, believer and non-believer alike, must take stock of our tolerances because they foreshadow our societal trajectory: either upward toward grace, kindness, respect, restraint, and national honor; or downward toward violence, cruelty, rampant evil, and national reproach. Accepting the murder of live babies is just one point on a spectrum of debased behavior evident in other parts of our society—escalating violence against and among young people, sexual violation and humiliation of children and women, abuse, disregard, and neglect of the elderly, infirm, and disabled. We are becoming increasingly unmoved by even the most heinous and vile encroachments on human existence. We should be careful. Just because we might pretend not to see what’s going on doesn’t mean that God doesn’t see. And now we can’t say we didn’t know.

 

Sisters and Citizens, Part 3: Called to Contend

Sisters and Citizens, Part 3: Called to Contend

History—even of the biblical kind—has a way of repeating itself. Solomon, in his typical no-holds-barred style, tells us point blank, “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” When corruption of the Christian faith arose in A.D. 65, Jude—half brother to Jesus—challenged early followers of the Way to contend for the faith they inherited. His fellow disciples were seduced into heresy that pulled them into immorality. Jude cautioned them against those who had “wormed their way” into their fellowship, deceiving them into believing that God’s grace means license to live however one pleases.  He insisted that they strive to maintain the faith’s integrity because their community was being contaminated, their witness weakened, by false teaching.

Christianity is still being distorted by those within and outside the church. Modern-day deceivers repeat their ancient history as they try to persuade Christians today that biblical instructions regarding some of the most fundamental aspects of our lives—family, sexuality, money, relationships—are outdated and therefore should have no meaningful influence on our lives now. They even go so far as to instruct us in tenets of the faith: the character, activity, and relationship of God towards humanity. These distortions cause our community, at the individual and group level, to drift from biblical faith. The black church once enjoyed a reputation for upholding biblical standards of morality that anchored our families and informed our work, politics, and social interactions. Now, after decades of appropriating false ideas from popular media, misguided cultural customs, and mishandled bible doctrine, we are struggling to overcome the ills that plague us.

Thankfully, God is raising up voices from every corner of His kingdom, including black Christian women who are contending for our faith. We are going to seminary; preaching and teaching bible studies; mentoring young women in practical holiness; blogging and writing books with godly messages; fighting for our children’s lives in prayer; birthing transformative ministries; and turning our hearts back to God like never before. We are once again yielding our lives as vessels in ever-expanding circles of influence, raising our voices to stand for biblical truth.  And we need to keep saying it until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I interviewed several contenders whose lives demonstrate the power of answering Jude’s call. Each of these women persists in the face of daunting circumstances, moving beyond personal victory to exercise true influence. Black Christian women can be encouraged and emboldened by women like these to assume our posts, oppose lies with truth, and fight the good fight of faith. Our interviewees addressed a range of topics including the identity of black Christian women, areas of persistent struggle, and women in ministry. Responses have been edited for clarity and space considerations.

Meet the Contenders

Evangelist Faye Dadzie, Founder, Victorious Life Ministries, a global ministry founded on biblical truth to bring hope, help, and healing, especially to women broken and discouraged by life. Ms. Dadzie teaches a weekly bible study, preaches and teaches at conferences and other events, and will begin hosting a radio talk show on the Sunshine Gospel Network on April 2 at 12:30.

Evangelist Dorothy White, Founder, God’s Glory Unlimited Ministries

Evangelist Dorothy White, Founder, God’s Glory Unlimited Ministries, a multi-component ministry with a special focus on missions to help the world’s poor live better lives now, and live forever in heaven. She has organized many international missions trips, concentrating her efforts in Jamaica, Haiti, and Kenya. Also, she has conducted many telephonic bible studies and leads retreats nationwide.

Markiya Collier, a student facilitator at Community College of Philadelphia, and founder of Isaiah 54 Group International, a nonprofit ministry created to empower people, especially minority women, to enlarge their vision: bridging generational gaps; destroying cultural myths; and bringing reform to their homes, churches, and communities

Vilma Davis, Founder of MPUSH (Mothers Praying Until Something Happens)

Vilma Davis, Founder of MPUSH-Mothers Praying Until Something Happens, an organization to empower mothers to be on the offensive in consistently praying for their children, their neighbors’ children, their community’s children, and the nation’s children. Ms. Davis sponsors a monthly prayer call for mothers to pray for their children and a monthly support meeting for moms.

 

Leslie Sherrod, author of Like Sheep Gone Astray, Secret Place, and Losing Hope

Leslie Sherrod, author of Christian fiction, including her newest release, Losing Hope, and Secret Place.

Chandra White-CummingsWhat does “contending for the faith” mean to you in the context of the ministry work you do?

Markiya Collier: Contending for the faith means living with a conquering attitude… living with compassion rather than condemnation for those who appear to be immoral or who have not yet acknowledged their faith. This is a time to contend for the faith like never before. The pressures of immorality weigh heavy upon the church and many have yielded to the perversion of [false teachers]. Working with people requires you to contend for their souls. You will find yourself contending for their faith, even while you struggle with your own doubts.

Dorothy White: [It means] living a life consistent with biblical principles; using the power of my words and influence: all that I have and all that I am to stand for righteousness and against cultural and politically correct norms.

Leslie Sherrod: Contending for the faith to me means fighting to get the truth of God’s Word out into a society that is fighting against hearing that very truth. It means being bold and unashamed, staying in a place of fellowship and study of Him so that weariness and misdirection do not set in.

Vilma Davis: Contending for the faith in the context of Mothers Praying until Something Happens means that as mothers we first need to recognize our privilege of motherhood. We need to learn what the Promises of God are for our children, teach them the word of God, pray for their salvation [and] that they will walk according to the will of God and fulfill their purposes.  Satan cannot be allowed to sift our children like wheat.

Faye Dadzie: I fight for [people] through the Word of God and the promises contained there, through my life, my witness, the joy that I have in Jesus Christ to be a living testimony that He is more than enough and to say and show that recovery [from painful and negative experiences] is possible.

CWC: Do you think African American Christian women are losing our heritage as bold witnesses for biblical truth?

DW: Difficult for me to say…[but] I feel that the Christian worldview is being squeezed out of the marketplace and society at large to the utter destruction of life as we now know it in America. Our choice to defy and ignore the Word and ways of God are inviting the judgment of God on us.

LS: I sometimes get concerned that [black] Christian women get caught in the traps of our society that emphasize feel-good messages versus the hard truths about God and His standards. The so-called Black Church was instrumental in our history as a place of community empowerment, civil rights, and our communal self-image.  As wives, mothers, sisters, and leaders, black women played pivotal roles in those movements, which started and ended on the word of God. With messages from the pulpits now seeming to focus more on individual attainment and personal wealth, and not as much on godliness and loving others as much as ourselves, it’s easy for our witness to get watered down.

VD: I have met and seen great [black] Christian women standing up for biblical truths. [Black]s have inherited a strong history of reliance on God especially [during] our history of slavery.  However I feel saddened…Some have embraced behaviors contrary to the word of God and have also kept silent when confronted with issues that they need to speak up about. There seems to be a couple of generations where we neglected to teach the word of God and hence it has created a disconnection in our values and reverence of the Lord.

FD: [I think we have become weary in standing up for truth for various reasons]. We are ostracized many times in our own churches especially when God has called us to leadership roles; we are frequently portrayed as the least attractive and least desirable in the media; and we are definitely in a “down” position in corporate life. [And] in the process of standing for the Gospel, we are [also] hit by other believers. It can be difficult and some no doubt are growing weary in the fight.

CWC: Describe an area in which you believe black Christian women are not thinking and living biblically. What effects are our errors having on us, our families, our churches, etc.?

LS: I believe we are especially missing the mark in the area of sexuality. The decline of standards in society seems to be trickling into the church as premarital sex, pornography, and other sexual matters have found places in our pews. The sanctity of marriage does not appear to have the same meaning as more people are living together and starting families before wedlock, and [we’re] not seeing [these behaviors as] issues that affect godliness.

FD: [Both single and married women] are struggling in the area of having successful relationships. For singles the challenge of being lonely and dealing with our sexuality has hampered us. We need more sound biblical teaching, imparted in a way that doesn’t hesitate to deal with the real issues. We need instruction for married women on what a godly wife really looks like. We also need to be taught how to choose a mate, what to look for and how not to allow our sexual needs and desires tie us to people that we should never be with in the first place. This [instruction should] start much younger and be consistent. As a result of our refusal to do things God’s way, we are raising another generation of girls who will model our rebellion. The generational issues that followed us, we are now passing on.

I think that we [also] need good sound teaching on giving. The Word of God is clear what the Lord requires in terms of the tithe, yet we don’t teach this to our children. Whatever money they earn or that we give them is usually spent quickly with no regard for giving to the Kingdom of God. Yet when they become adults, there seems to be an expectation that somehow they will miraculously know what to do and have a willingness to do it. As a result of our failure to teach them, they rob God and their finances are “cursed” rather than blessed.

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How we see ourselves relative to our role in ministry significantly affects our willingness, ability, and extent to which we will actively challenge false teachings and cultural lies. So I asked the ladies: Do you believe that black churches hinder women in ministry? 

DW: No not necessarily. Black women probably enjoy more acceptance in church than our white counterparts. In many cases we, the women, are the greatest hindrance to our own ministry. We often get ahead of God and fail to recognize, honor or submit to God-ordained leadership. [Furthermore] we often strive and compete for leadership roles, titles, and recognition.  We fail to really understand and value the true call on our lives and proceed to title and appoint ourselves which leads to much anger, bitterness and frustration. This toxic attitude leads to inappropriate behavior which results in exclusion and rejection by senior pastors and those in authority.

LS: Many black churches appear to support women in ministry, specifically by allowing opportunities and training depending on the denomination. Women seem to make up a large portion of church membership and as such, many ministries appear to welcome female leadership and participation. Also, “co-pastoring” has seemingly become popular in black churches, where a husband and wife team work together as pastors, challenging the traditional role and expectations of the “first lady.” Considering these factors, I think the black church as an institution tends to be more accommodating to women in ministry as compared to other traditions.

VD: I have some different views from others in this. I believe that we can only be hindered if we allow ourselves to be. In some churches, women are not allowed to preach from the pulpit and may not be allowed to hold certain leadership positions. Some women are not allowed to even do what is biblically sound, as some pastors may feel threatened by their biblical knowledge. Yet again, some women also lack the support of their pastors when they identify their call to have a ministry. On the other hand there are pastors or church leaders who will mentor women who are in ministry and will support their ministry as best as possible. Some will encourage enrollment in bible school if needed. Having said this, I strongly believe that the field of ministry is so large and those who labor in it are so few that there is a place for everyone. If God has called an individual to a ministry, He will equip them and their gifts will make room for them.

CWC: Please briefly describe your views on the identity of today’s African American Christian woman? How do you think we see ourselves?

LS: I think the picture painted by [Mary Mary in their hit song, God in Me] mirrors how today’s Christian woman sees herself – or at least aims to see herself. She is polished and powerful, living a life of purpose and balance, financially independent, and someone for others to aspire to be like.

FD: Unfortunately, in too many churches there is still the “fashion show” affect. Too many women are overly concerned about their outfits and minimally focused on their relationship with Jesus Christ. There are still others who believe that their primary purpose is to serve the pastor and male leaders of the church. Then there are still others who have a genuine desire to be used to the glory of God and believe that we have a calling to serve the Lord.

How do you see yourself as a black Christian woman? Like these women, are you convinced of your call to contend for the faith? What will you do to answer the call? There are people in your family, church, and community who are waiting for you to step up and be a contender.

‘October Baby’ Celebrates Choice of Life

‘October Baby’ Celebrates Choice of Life

While The Hunger Games received most of the attention at the box office last weekend, another film also opened that, in its own way, was equally as notable. October Baby, a small-budget Christian film with a pro-life message, earned $1.7 million, which may seem negligible when compared to the $155 million of Hunger Games, but October Baby opened on less than 400 screens (compared to more than 4,000 for Hunger Games), and was produced for a fraction of the cost. The fact that it was ranked number one for limited-release movies demonstrates the continuing demand for quality Christian films. Not that long ago, a film made by overtly Christian filmmakers and released nationwide happened infrequently. Thankfully, that is changing. The quality and quantity of faith-based movies is increasing and so are the topics these films are addressing.

October Baby tackles admittedly provocative questions like: What would you do if you discovered you’re not exactly who you think you are, and that what you assumed about your origins is not true? What if you found out that you almost weren’t born, and furthermore that someone wanted it that way? It’s not easy to approach a subject like abortion, but October Baby does it with grace, class, and love. Rather than beat you over the head, or even tap you on the shoulder, the film wraps its arms around you and simply waits for your reaction to all it has to say.

I recently had the privilege to chat with brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin, the co-directors/writers/producers behind the film, both in person and by telephone. Excerpts of our conversations follow, edited for clarity and conciseness.

CHANDRA WHITE-CUMMINGS: Considering that this is your first foray into filmmaking, why did you pick such a provocative and emotionally charged subject matter? 

ANDY ERWIN: If you had asked us a few years ago, what would our first feature film be, we would have probably picked something other than this one. Not because it’s not a compelling story, but because it’s such a risky subject, and there’s so much heated emotion attached to both sides of this issue. I think as a filmmaker, sometimes you go out to find a film, but nine times out of ten the story finds you. Jon heard a woman speak named Gianna Jessen. She gave her testimony of surviving a saline abortion and having cerebral palsy as a result. She just has a beautiful spirit, and when we heard her story, Jon was so moved by hearing her speak.

CWC: Jon, what was it about her story that captured your attention and moved you?

THE STORY FOUND THEM: 'October Baby' filmmakers (and brothers) Jon and Andrew Erwin decided to tell a story that is a 'celebration of life.'

JON ERWIN: Andy’s right — sometimes a movie finds you, and when I heard Gianna speak … just the concept of an abortion survivor, those are two words I had no idea fit together. I was jarred, surprised, and shattered by it all at the same time. The more I researched it, the more I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I just felt this was a unique take on the topic, and it made a political issue become very real. When you look at it through that lens, when you put a face on it, you look at the person. You look beyond the politics to the human issue. And the whole thing moved me. People have said, “You’re very brave taking on this issue.” It’s really not that at all. I’m an artist and whatever is going on in my life works its way out in what we do. In this case, God moved in my life, shattered me over the issue, and it worked its way out into a movie. I felt like we’d been given a gift, a tool to shed light on the issue, but the challenge became how to do that. We ruled out a documentary, so we thought maybe we could take a different approach and make an entertaining film about a beautiful young girl.

AE: Yes, we used the context of Gianna’s life and inserted it into a coming-of-age love story in which a 19-year-old girl finds out that she’s a survivor of an abortion, goes on a road trip to find answers, and ultimately finds forgiveness. But our goal going into it wasn’t to do a political film but to do a human film, a human story that looks at the issue of abortion as a human rights issue, not as a political debate. So it was very interesting that through the eyes of the victim the story became much more entertaining and engaging. That’s when we knew this was the story we wanted to tell.

CWC: So the film was really story motivated and story driven, rather than message driven?

AE: Any movie should be. I think the movies that engage me the most as a viewer are not the ones that try and get a message or agenda across. I think that comes across as propaganda. Our goal is to tell a good story. The story that captivated our hearts as filmmakers was hearing Gianna’s testimony of survival. That’s what motivated us to tell this story of Hannah in October Baby. Being story driven allowed us to speak on a lot of topics we’re passionate about in a way that was not forced.

CWC: Let’s talk for a moment about the idea of “messaging” in films, especially those made by Christian filmmakers. I know you weren’t message driven with this film, but if you had to identify a message, what would it be?

AE: The message of October Baby is very much about forgiveness and healing. Those are universal and relatable topics and they allow you to address issues that you normally wouldn’t. This film deals with everything from abortion to adoption, from abstinence to post-abortive realities. There’s a line in the movie that says to be human is to be beautifully flawed. I think the reality that some films miss out on is that as humans, we are broken and we have issues. We use that reality to touch on these topics through the eyes of grace and through the eyes of the gospel in a way that I think a secular world can engage with.

JE: We hope the film doesn’t tell anybody what to think, but the biggest thing we wanted the movie to confront was indifference and inaction. This is one of the crucial issues of our time, and we very rarely stop and think about it. We wanted to address that apathy.

CWC: Do you consider this a pro-life movie? Are you comfortable with that term?

JE: Yes, I do consider it a pro-life movie. Is this a political movie? Absolutely not. The movie is about celebrating the value of life. In my opinion, that should be the definition of pro-life. It’s not an “anti-anything” movie. This film has a broad brush and encompasses not only the abortion/pro-life issue, but also adoption and caring for those who can’t care for themselves. I believe there’s an awakening in our culture, especially among our youth, to the value of life. I think we can all agree that we haven’t valued life enough, which manifests itself in a lot of different ways. So I would even go beyond pro-life and say the film is a celebration of life.

AE: I don’t think people will be offended at the way it’s presented. We don’t vilify or demonize anybody as much as we look at a very harsh reality, the very hard subject of abortion in a fresh way — through the eyes of someone who survived one.

CWC: But given that October Baby speaks to so many universal themes, like forgiveness and healing, do you have any concerns about people pigeonholing it as just a theatrical vehicle for the pro-life movement? Conversely, are you at all concerned about groups intentionally minimizing that aspect of the movie?

AE: My job as a filmmaker is to stir the pot and get people talking. If I can do that, then I’m able to step back from the process and trust that God will allow it to be productive. There are a lot of hurting people from all walks of life that will watch this film and it will stir all sorts of emotions and issues in them, and they will need to deal with those things. This is why our ministry partners are so valuable. For example, a ministry like Surrendering The Secret can step in and minister to post-abortive women. Or Care Net and Heartbeat International can minister to girls that are in a crisis pregnancy and don’t know what to do. I’m very excited about that.

I’m very comfortable with how Jon and I present the message in October Baby. I think we took an honest look at it. So I’m not ashamed at all, because I don’t think there’s anything about the way the story is told that I would apologize for. I think one thing my generation craves is a positive way to engage these issues. We’re tired of the negativity and the hurtful rhetoric. But we do want to stand for life and to raise awareness of the value of human life.

CWC: The value of human life is an important theme in the film. How have you extended that theme beyond the movie-going experience?

AE:  Every life deserves a chance. Every life has value, no matter what. Jon and I decided that our film needed to be a catalyst for active involvement on these issues, so we started the Every Life Is Beautiful Fund. We and our distributors agreed that once the movie turns a profit, 10 percent of that profit will be set aside and distributed to frontline organizations that work with crisis pregnancies, post-abortive care, and care for orphans and adoption. We’re still working out all the details on that, but we’re excited to be able to give back with our movie.

CWC: Given the disproportionate incidence of abortion in urban communities, what do you think is an effective way to bridge the gap and use a film like this to penetrate that audience?

A DIFFERENT ROLE: Actress Jasmine Guy's time on screen is brief, but her character is pivotal in 'October Baby.'

JE: Great question. I think one of the biggest ways is to persuade people in all communities to wake up to the value of life and realize that faith without works is dead. Let’s get beyond politics and bring help to girls making this incredibly difficult decision, especially in our urban communities. As Andy stated, that’s one of the reasons we started the Every Life Is Beautiful Fund. We want those funds to go straight through to pregnancy care centers, including those in black and other urban communities.

CWC: One potential draw for the black and urban community is the role of Jasmine Guy. So many of us remember her from her role as Whitley on A Different World. Talk about the significance of her presence in this film.

JE: Without giving away the story line, she plays a character that ends up being the key that unlocks the mystery for Hannah. Hannah understands exactly what happened to her after her encounter with Jasmine. The whole movie hinges on Jasmine’s scene. If we didn’t have her, we wouldn’t have a movie. You can get ostracized for taking a role like this, so I’m just grateful she was bold enough to take it.

October Baby released nationwide March 23, 2012. Check the official film website for a list of cities where it’s showing and for resources related to the issues and themes presented in the film.