Hunter Camp: A Word About Mothers

By Hunter Camp

I realize that my topic for this month precedes, by quite a few days, the celebration of Mother’s Day. Nevertheless, as the son of a very-fine mother, and a man who has a fabulous mother-in-law, I feel obliged to use this opportunity to exalt the role of mothers. Moreover, my loving wife, though not a “tiger mom” (thank the Lord) is, nonetheless, one of the best mothers I have ever known.

Mother’s Day has a long history, originating with Greco Roman religious rites that celebrated “The Great Mothers,” Cybele and Hilaria. In the United States, Mother’s Day originated with Julia Ward Howe who, in 1870, started a mother’s pacifist movement, which was born out of the destruction of the Civil War. Eventually, in 1914, Mother’s Day was recognized as an official U.S. holiday. It is noted, however, that by 1920 the day had already become commercialized.

You may be surprised to learn that Mother’s Day celebrations occur throughout the world. Many of the celebrations coincide with important religious festivals that honor women, such as the birthday of Mohammed’s daughter in Islamic countries.

But here’s the rub, at least for me. The idea that we set aside one day to celebrate and honor our mothers may lead to a lesser appreciation of our mothers for the remaining 364 days of the year.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the fifth commandment is “Honor your father and mother…” In the Quran, honor and respect for parents is commanded no less than 11 times. And from a Buddhist holy-text we read, “Mother & father, compassionate to their family, are worthy of gifts from their children. So the wise should pay them homage, honor with food & drink, clothing & bedding.”

I cannot prove that the once per year card-buying frenzy of Mother’s Day leads us farther down a road of motherly disrespect. I can only tell you what I see and experience. And what I see and experience is this: mothers are not accorded the honor or respect that our religious traditions command.  

More often than I’d like, I see the disrespect of children for their mothers. And it makes my blood boil; just ask my wife—or my son.  My son knows that one of the quickest ways to anger me is for him to disrespect his mother (or any adult, for that matter). In this regard, I suppose I am old fashioned—out of touch with modern U.S. culture that caters to every whim and whine of children.

And while I do think it important for religious traditions to change and reform, there are some elements in the world religions that, in my judgment, should never change. Honoring our mothers (and fathers) is one of these elements.

On May 12, like many Americans, I will give my mom a Hallmark card written by someone who has never known her. But this I promise: on my honor, and in my heart, every day is Mother’s Day.

Hunter Camp is the pastor at Memorial Presbyterian Church (USA) in St. Augustine, FL.  Follow him on Istagram @ancientcityphotos


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