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Tuesday, April 04, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Christian 'Conception' Parties Raise Ire, Eyebrows

Thousands of Christian couples plan to celebrate the occasion of their savior's creation by attending 'conception parties' this weekend, intimate gatherings where the conception of the world's most famous baby is lovingly reenacted. Fans of the pro-life parties say that theirs is a way of livening up the culture of life. But some Christians say that they're uncomfortable celebrating the pregnancy of a teenage girl, even if the father was a heavenly one.

Let's party like it's 4 BC

By Cole Walters

FORT WORTH, TX—While the vast majority of Christians in the US will spend this weekend marking a tragedy—the crucifixion of Jesus Christ upon the cross on Easter Sunday—a small but determined minority plans to celebrate their savior with a bang. Against a backdrop of farmland, city streets, even mountain vistas, this merry band will spend tonight marking not Christ's death, but his conception.

They're called 'conception parties,' intimate gatherings where creation of the world's most famous baby is lovingly—and literally—recreated. And for a few lucky couples, the event will pay off in a big way. Since the biblical bashes burst onto the scene just five years ago, 13 couples have gotten pregnant as a result of attending the gatherings. Two of the lucky mothers went on to have children—both girls—who share Christ's December birthday.

A celebration of life
"It's just a lot of fun," says Fort Worth resident and party host Earl Silos. "We'll bake a ham, put out bowls of macaroni salad and potato salad. People can relax a little, take a load off." He says that he's expecting 25 married couples to attend tonight's festivities. Marriage is a condition of attendance, says Silos, who advertised the event at his church, on local Christian message boards and on telephone poles in his neighborhood.

Silos says that he got the idea from his brother-in-law, who has hosted a conception party in Pascagoula, MS, since 1999. Today, notes Silos, his brother-in-law's annual March 25th bash attracts upwards of 100 people, including many town notables. "He does it up with a deep-fried turkey, the whole she-bang. We're a little less fancy around here," notes Silos. "We keep most of the attention on the main event."

Christian critics
But not everyone is enamored of the idea of celebrating Christ's conception—especially in the form of physical reenactments that even participants admit can get out of hand. Some Christians say that they're reluctant to shine a spotlight on the event's surrounding Mary's pregnancy. Christ's mother was only a teenager, after all, and according to Matthew, a friend of the couple, was not actually married to Joseph. "When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost," Matthew wrote in a tell-all account.

If Matthew's version is correct, Mary's actions would contradict the teachings of many abstinence-only education programs, which encourage women to remain pure virgins until their wedding nights.

A down hill slide?
For critics, the new popularity of conception parties is a disturbing reminder of their faith's pagan past. Among social conservatives there is also mounting concern that their iron grip on cultural discipline is already beginning to loosen. This past year, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a practicing Mormon and a likely republican presidential candidate in 2008, raised eyebrows with his statement that "marriage should be between a man and a woman…and a woman, and a woman."

But for thousands of Christians who plan to don party dresses and suit jackets, tonight's parties represent nothing more than a chance to celebrate one of history's most magical moments. "Obviously none of us is going to be lucky enough to get pregnant by Him," says Earl Silos' wife Carol. "So this is the next best thing. We're celebrating what turned out to be the biggest night of Mary's life."