Bring Back Daddy
When many of today’s children longingly ask, "Where’s Daddy?" the sad answer for too many millions of American children is, "You never had a Daddy." In half a century, the concept of fatherhood in the United States has degenerated from "Father Knows Best" to father is a jerk, a deadbeat, a bigot, an uninvolved, uncommitted absentee father and now finally — the ultimate minimalist position — a "sperm father."
This incredible shift in our national attitude about men’s role within families has had a profoundly negative impact on American culture. Resolving fatherlessness is a major key to our many intractable social problems.
Yet there are relatively few alarmed at America’s growing fatherlessness. Most public commentators featured in the mass media assure us that "new" types of families can rear happy, successful children just as well as the old "Dad, Mom and the kids" model. In fact, many feminists think eliminating the old-fashioned "toxic mascupathology," that "barbed wire of the old masculine stereotypes," is a definite step forward.
One "enlightened" family therapist put it this way: "Cities full of men stomping around flexing their muscles and growling manly noises at one another have become our modern jungles. Men fight for turf and wrestle for control over people and things, whether through war, armed robbery, or corporate takeovers . . . Heavy doses of masculinity are unquestionably toxic, and no longer socially acceptable" (Frank S. Pittman, Networker, "The Masculine Mystique," May/June 1990, pp. 40-41, 48).
Recently, however, a few voices have begun to call for reinforcing the traditional family with its biological father responsibly engaged in the nurture of his children.
Columnist Patrick Fagan writes, "Imagine an America in which most neighborhoods are the bloody turf fought over daily by violent gangs, and where public safety itself has become more the exception than the rule.
"That is the horrifying prognosis if the United States doesn’t bring illegitimacy under control. At present rates, half of all births in this country, not just those in the inner city, will be to unmarried mothers within a dozen to 20 years.
"Over the past 30 years, the increase in violent crime parallels, almost exactly, the increase in families abandoned by fathers; high-crime neighborhoods invariably have large proportions of single-parent families in which the father is absent from the home . . . ." (The San Diego Union-Tribune, "Illegitimacy: Father of Violent Crime," March 19, 1995).
How Bad Are the Statistics? What Are the Casualties?
According to social scientists Larry Bumpass and James Sweet’s 1984 study, "About half of all children born between 1970 and 1984 are likely to spend some time in a mother-only family" (David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America, BasicBooks, 1995, p. 295). However this statistic on fatherless children continues to increase as the percentage of illegitimate births has skyrocketed since 1984, growing 82 percent from 1980 to 1991!
"Frank Furstenberg and Andrew Cherlin, revising Sweet and Bumpass’s estimate, calculated in 1991 that ‘for children born in the 1990s, the figure [of children living without their fathers] could reach 60 percent if the divorce rate remains high and non-marital childbearing continues its upward trend’," (Fatherless America, p. 235).
In his excellent book, Fatherless America, David Blankenhorn argues that we should focus more attention to the leading indicators on the state of fatherhood instead of statistics on the numbers of business failures, rate of inflation or other commonly used business forecasting tools — if we want to see the true future possibilities of our local communities. The present statistical trend isn’t encouraging for America.
Leading Fatherhood Indicators
1960 1970 1980 1990
Percentage of births
outside of marriage 5.3 10.7 18.4 28.0
Divorced males per
1,000 married males 27.4 33.3 76.2 112.5
Male prisoners per
100,000 males 230 191 274 574
Percent of children
living apart from
their fathers 17.5 22.4 32.2 36.3
(From Fatherless America, pp. 227, 314).
Fatherlessness in late twentieth century America has meant an ever-growing welfare roll to support vast and increasing numbers of women and children. "The number of families receiving assistance more than doubled between 1970 and 1990, a period when the U.S. population rose 22 percent. The average monthly benefit tripled" (Los Angeles Times, March 25, 1995). In 1970, there were 1.9 million families receiving an average of $178 per month of welfare. By 1990 this figure had increased to 3.97 million families whose average benefit had increased to $389 per month. Of these, "More families are headed by one parent, and more children are born out of wedlock. The percentage of children receiving welfare where the parent did not marry increased from 27.9 percent in 1969 to 52.9 percent in 1991" (Los Angeles Times, March 25, 1995).
How Did It Get This Way?
During the twentieth century, the United States has sustained three major assaults on the foundations of hands-on, effective fatherhood. The first of these assaults came when the U.S. military conscripted millions of fathers to fight the Nazis and militaristic Japanese.
"By 1943 . . . it had become clear that draft quotas could not be filled solely from the ranks of single men and married men without children. The Selective Service was forced to turn to the ‘father class’ of roughly six million men. As one general bluntly complained in his testimony before the Senate Committee on Military Affairs: ‘If the men are single or if the men are fathers is really immaterial. It is the men, it is the bodies that we need’" (Fatherless America, p. 51).
American society, however, was vociferously reluctant to separate the fathers from their families and many protested such an action. They knew that fatherlessness, "even temporarily, would present a clear and present danger to child and societal well-being" (p. 51). Legislation was introduced in Congress to delay that proposed draft of fathers, but by October 1943 military needs prevailed, and Daddy had to go to war to kill other peoples’ husbands and sons. War has always been a curse to families.
When the end of the war neared, many wanted the soldier-fathers given the priority in the order of demobilization and brought home immediately after the enemies’ surrender. "Mothers formed ‘Bring Back Daddy’ clubs to organize lobbying campaigns, presenting members of Congress with baby shoes with tags reading ‘Bring Daddy Home’ . . . As one congressman from New Jersey put it: "A generation of fatherless children would make our country a second-rate power and everything should be done to prevent such a tragedy" (p. 52). Sadly, for about 183,000 of these American children, Daddy would never be coming home again.
But the curse of death in battle was not the most bitter of the blows against the family. Rather, the cultural loosening of the nation’s moral fabric and a lessening of family ties during the war presented the gravest threat to the culture of fatherhood. "During and immediately following the war, there was an upsurge in men deserting their families . . . . Many fathers were tormented with doubts about whether the children presented to them by their war brides were, in fact, their own . . . . The war clearly undermined male habits of family commitment . . . . Army life and the accompanying decline of sexual restraint, constituted a poor preparation for monogamous marriage" (pp. 59-60).
It was also the approach to interpersonal relationships which many of the young men learned in the military during the war which set up society for the moral rebellion of the post-World War II "baby-boomer" generation against their fathers. "For fathers coming home after prolonged absence in a military environment in which they either gave orders or promptly obeyed them, there seemed little doubt that their sons and daughters should respond to them as buck privates had to first sergeants. A militaristic approach to family life provoked resentment and sometimes rebellion among children, in turn leading some fathers to ‘crack down’ even harder" (p. 58).
The fatherlessness of 50 years ago bears some similarities to today’s version of life without Dad. During World War II, 20 to 25 percent of families with children were fatherless while, in 1992, the number was 21.5 percent of families. However, when the war ended, the soldier-fathers did come home. Today, absent fathers almost never do.
Divorce and illegitimacy have been the second and third prongs of attack against fatherhood. From 1960 to 1990, the divorce rate has increased more than four times while illegitimacy is more than five times more prevalent.
Our society has stopped teaching that self-sacrifice, responsibility and commitment are essential elements in creating a happy family. Today the selfish ego is in full bloom. "When individual freedom becomes the reigning ethos not only of political life but also of sexuality and procreation, the primary result for children is the loss of their fathers. As a political and civic ideal, ‘starting over’ has been a potent American strength. But as an ideal of family life, it constitutes our most disabling weakness: the animating cause of contemporary fatherlessness and thus the propeller of our most urgent social problems" (p. 167).
Today we like to deceive ourselves about the effects of divorce and illegitimacy. Since many modern family therapists and feminists believe that fatherhood is superfluous, they suggest that all we need to do to ensure a child’s well-being is to create a more effective support web of social services to replace that old dysfunctional masculine figure — Daddy. Social services cannot replace what a father contributes to the family. The human casualties of our culture of divorce and sexual irresponsibility — fatherlessness — are filling our homes with hopelessness. We don’t need more prisons and welfare programs; we need committed fathers.
"Paternal disinvestment cannot be offset by either maternal investment or public investment. As a society, we will not solve our crisis of fatherlessness with prison cells, mentoring programs, antiviolence curricula, boyfriends, anti-stalking laws, children’s advocates, income transfers, self-esteem initiatives, or even mothers. We will solve it only with fathers" (p. 48).
What Does a Father Do?
In the modern Western world, especially America, society’s understanding of the role of fatherhood has been shrinking since the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century when the physical location of home and work were separated. "No longer, according to Alexander Mitscherlich, could children typically acquire skills ‘by watching one’s father, working with him, seeing the way he handled things, observing the degree of knowledge and skill he had attained as well as his limitations’," (Fatherless America, p. 13).
Today, Daddy goes some place, works, and comes home with an automated bank deposit receipt. We still expect the man of the house to be the chief financial provider for the family. In fact, the federal government is going on the warpath to make financially irresponsible men, "Deadbeat Dads," pay up or else!
In his political contest with the welfare-reform-minded Republicans who dominate Congress, President Clinton has sounded a public call to return to personal responsibility. The President, strongly implying that it isn’t up to Uncle Sam’s taxpayers to support the offspring of every Tom, Dick and Mary’s flings, said, "Join us to send deadbeat parents all across this country a loud signal: If you neglect your responsibility to support your children, we’ll suspend your license, garnish your pay, track you down and make you pay!" (The San Diego Union-Tribune, March 19, 1995).
In today’s political climate, even liberals would agree with the Apostle Paul’s admonition to fathers, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim. 5:8). From God’s point of view, even the most carnal, blockhead guy should understand that he has a duty to provide for his own family! This is a spiritual preschool-level lesson.
But for many men, if they aren’t involved with their children and don’t have a working relationship with the mother of those children, they are reluctant to pay. "Ultimately, meaningful child-support payments will come only from men who see themselves as fathers . . . Calling them deadbeats, circulating Wanted posters aimed at humiliating them [which is ineffectual] — the evidence clearly shows that the nature of child-support payments depends primarily upon the nature of the father-child bond . . . . In short, the more fatherhood, the more money" (Fatherless America, p. 134).
Our society has been trying to cheat men out of fatherhood and then expect them to pay for it. Effective fatherhood requires that the man have a happy marital relationship with the mother of his children and that he reside with his children. Public policymakers should be obsessed with promoting these two foundational principles of effective fatherhood and as an individual, you should be too if you care about your children!
Yet, when a man gives sperm, maintains a parental alliance with the mother, resides with his children and provides financially — he is only being a minimalist father from God’s point of view.
Much more is required of fathers! "In sum, over the past two hundred years, fatherhood has lost, in full or in part, each of its four traditional roles: irreplaceable caregiver, moral educator, head of family, and family breadwinner" (p. 16).
Our society has forgotten that it is the father’s duty to morally instruct his children by both his words and actions. We teach by what we say and do. This is why the importance of fatherhood was more clearly understood in previous centuries, when fathers worked with their children at or near the home, than it is in our present, unsustainable, self-destructing, "modern" culture of fatherlessness.
Notice the importance that God attached to a father’s responsibility to provide a righteous moral education to his children: "And the LORD said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him’," Genesis 18:17-19.
The LORD talked with Abraham and showed him what He was about to do. This was God’s method of teaching Abraham about a father’s responsibilities. Because the LORD knew Abraham’s character, He had confidence that Abraham would teach his children the right way to live. God placed immense importance on Abraham’s willingness to teach his children, calling Abraham the father of the faithful. "You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed’," Acts 3:25 NRSV; cf. Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:7.
However, God also knew that some fathers would abdicate their duty to provide a true moral education and He warned them of the consequences: "The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation," Numbers 14:18. As our loving heavenly Father, God administers discipline.
If a child learns violence, sexual irresponsibility and drug abuse from his parents, and as an adult, lives that way showing the same example to his offspring — what will be the consequence?
"For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality," Romans 2:6-11 NRSV.
A Father to the Fatherless
If you are a fatherless youth, or a not-so-young person, how can you experience a loving father’s influence in your life? You know and deeply feel the need for a real father in your life, yet perhaps you realize that your own physical father will probably never return to help you.
What can you do? To whom can you turn? You should turn to the Everliving One, your heavenly Father who will remember you: "A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a dry land," Psalm 68:5-6. When God calls Himself "a Father of the fatherless," He is not proclaiming empty words. He means what He says!
Here is a promise in which you, personally, can have TOTAL CONFIDENCE: "Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me," John 14:23-24. Please notice that, like any conscientious father, God the Father requires something of you: you must KEEP HIS WORD!
If you will bring your heavenly Father into your home, He will take the keenest interest in your most intimate hopes and even your mundane activities, Psalm 139:1-16. The Heavenly Father will protect and provide for you in spite of any danger or hardship you might face. "I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles," Psalm 34:4-6.
You can count on your Everlasting Father. He will always come through for you if you faithfully walk with Him. "Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass," Psalm 37: 4-5.
God the Father is our ultimate "irreplaceable caregiver, moral educator, head of family, and family breadwinner." This is true whether or not you had a physical Daddy who cared for you.
While you may have many difficulties to face in your life, you should be encouraged that your elder brother in God’s family, Jesus Christ, who faced similar problems and overcame them with His Father’s help, Hebrews 2:11, 4:15; Ephesians 3:15. Remember Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. He allowed Himself to be tortured and then executed while doing His Father’s business, absolutely trusting that His heavenly Father would resurrect Him later, Matthew 20:18-19. If you put your life in the Father’s hands, He will not desert you.
In fact, Jesus Christ says to you, "But I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God," John 16:25-27.
Much of America, today, is literally fatherless. We say on our money, "In God We Trust." But we don’t. A living relationship with God the Father isn’t found in most homes these days. As a nation we are in confusion: "One primary result of growing fatherlessness is more boys with guns. Another is more girls with babies" (Fatherless America, p. 45).
Every child deserves a father. If you are a man don’t abandon your children, leaving them to cry, "Where’s Daddy?" Have compassion on them. Seize the happiness and fulfillment that awaits you and become a loving, cherishing, nurturing father who will guide a new generation into a loving relationship with their heavenly Father. You can count on Him to instruct you on proper fatherhood, just as He taught Abraham. You only need to study and then act on God’s instruction manual, the Bible.
Let us all take to heart this warning to our generation living in the end-time: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse," Malachi 4:5-6. We all have a part to play to "Bring Daddy Home." W
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