Father’s Day is meant to be a celebration of all that a father is and does for his family, especially his children. It is a reminder that men have a God-given role to play in the raising and development of their children; a unique role that women cannot fulfill.
When I think about all that I do as a dad (toothbrushing, correcting about rules and habits, explaining [insert everything], challenging to do better, encouraging when they do well, etc.), I can’t imagine how children don’t miss something without a dad around. Dads aren’t better than moms; they just do things differently, and children need the influence of both.
Sadly, however, many in America are growing up without the positive influence that only a father can provide. The fatherless home is probably one of the most devastating pandemics to American society, leading to a variety of negative outcomes for the children who experience it.
Obviously there are those who thrive despite not having a father in the home. But, the percentage of those who do not is higher.
A Racial Disparity
With all of the recent attention on racial disparity in our country, lamenting the absence of fathers in their children’s lives should be a high priority. That is because, between America’s ethnic groups, the scourge of absent fathers is worst within the black community.
A staggeringly high percentage (77%) of blacks are born to single mothers. This has been a trend since at least 1970, and has been attributed to different reasons. Prior to that time, fatherless rates did not differ much at all from the general population.
(Note: Contrary to criticisms, this statistic and the use of it is not intended to malign the morality of blacks. Even a child born out of wedlock could grow up with two parents [a mother and a father] in the home, especially if they married after-the-fact. The issue here is fatherlessness, not immorality per se.)
The 1970 date is significant since it falls within the early years of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs. Johnson’s stated goal was to “end poverty in our time.” But those programs actually de-incentivized marriage. And, after more than $22 Trillion of spending since the inauguration of those programs, how has this “War on Poverty” fared?
“Systemic racism is why those programs haven’t worked,” someone will say. Is it?
When it comes to criminal behavior, there has been a correlation between fatherless households and a rise in juvenile violent crime. The political talking points tell us that poverty and unemployment (due to “systemic racism”) lead to higher crime rates within the black community. However, it is fatherlessness that accounts for all of those issues regardless of ethnicity as detailed in this thorough report.
“Implicit bias is why there are more police interactions with the black community and higher incarceration rates,” someone will say. Is it?
A Father’s Influence
Fathers typically provide a role model for their boys and a sense of protection and value for their girls. Virtues such as restraint, delayed gratification, responsibility, a work ethic, commitment, all tend to be modeled by a dad who lives in a loving, committed relationship with the mother of his children. Poverty, unemployment, crime, deviancy, and, yes, even out-of-wedlock births can stem from the absence of a father in the home (see studies cited above). The recent riots (and here I differentiate between peaceful protest and looting) show in full relief the catastrophe of fatherlessness.
But, perhaps it is easier to blame invisible and dissociative specters like systemic racism and implicit bias.
Note: Lest anyone should think I am suggesting this issue is tied only to a particular race, I recommend your reading Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance, which traces this issue in white Appalachia.
A Father to the Fatherless
Despite the high possibility of youth from fatherless homes turning to crime, one thing has shown to be a deterrent to that: religious involvement in the community. For example:
“Neighborhoods with a high degree of religious practice are not high-crime neighborhoods.”https://www.heritage.org/crime-and-justice/report/the-real-root-causes-violent-crime-the-breakdown-marriage-family-and
The Church should be at the forefront of teaching on the home. There should be regular sermons on the topic in local churches, conferences about the Bible’s teaching on the home, and the topic of family should be a feature of Christian discipleship.
Beyond just a renewed emphasis on teaching about the home, the Church should actively engage fatherless homes. The Bible tells us that God cares for those who cannot care for themselves. It is especially his defense and care for the fatherless that should draw our attentions toward this engagement today.
“…thou art the helper of the fatherless.”Psalm 10:14
“A father of the fatherless… [is] God in his holy habitation.”Psalm 68:5
If the Church has been lamenting the recent racial tensions and the obvious cultural and political decline, and has been seeking a way to make its presence known and influence felt again, this may be a door. Outreach which begins with the Gospel, promotes a Christian ethic, and provides for those in need must be a priority, especially among those most affected by absent fathers.
It will take creativity. It will take out-of-the-box thinking. It will take “social” work. It will take patience. It will take hard work and tough love.
It will take men.
It will take Christian men demonstrating the love of the “Father of the fatherless” to a fatherless around us.
“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.”Psalm 27:10
At the same time, fathers who are honoring their responsibilities should be honored by the Church. No dad is perfect (I should know); but dads who stick with their wives and children need the encouragement and support that the Church can offer.
There is much to lament about our country’s predicament because of absent fathers. At the same time there is hope for the future if we share and live the Father’s love to a fatherless world.