The Lost Art of Fathering

The Lost Art of Fathering

Though individuals can and often do overcome broken homes and/or poor parenting, it certainly appears to us that our nation and culture may not be able to rise above the overall damage that has been done. The Bible speaks of woe for the nations that forget God. In order to “forget God,” these nations had to know Him at some point in time – and then very foolishly cast Him aside. Yet, as Christians, whatever may happen, we take great comfort in knowing that the Lord will not forsake us, his children. No matter what the future may hold, we know who holds our future.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

Over twenty years ago, Joy and I came across a news story about an increase in “rogue elephants.” Okay, what is a “rogue elephant?” It turns out that when male elephants are raised without a father present, they are likely to act out with violence and extreme mayhem, causing much trouble in Elephant “society,” as well as other smaller animals that may cross paths with them. Who knew? We also watched a fascinating documentary on the horrendous problem of young male elephants that have been orphaned. “Orphan elephants go on the rampage” by Eddie Koch tells the reader the problem’s source in the first paragraph.

Like children, young elephants need discipline if they are to grow up as responsible members of society. Wildlife biologists say that orphan bull elephants in South Africa’s Pilanesberg Game Reserve have turned delinquent because they have never been taken in hand by their elders.

This came to mind as we discussed the recent opinion piece, “America’s crisis is a lack of fathers,” by  Rep. Burgess Owens, Rep. Byron Donalds, and Jack Brewer, which focuses on the issue of the importance of human fathers. They write:

There is little doubt that America is experiencing an unprecedented fatherless crisis. Approximately 80% of single-parent homes are led by single mothers; therefore leading to nearly 25% of our youth growing up without a father in the home.

They go on to note a seeming correlation:

85% of children and teens with behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes, and over 70% of all adolescent patients in drug and alcohol treatment centers originate from homes without fathers.

In addition:

data shows that children without a father in the home are five times more likely to live in poverty than a child in a two-parent household. Furthermore, research indicates that children without fathers at home are nine times more likely to drop out of school and represent 90% of all homeless and runaway children. We can no longer afford to ignore the debilitating impact that fatherless homes have on our youth and our country.

This situation has been a long while in the making. Until the last six decades, America lived under an essentially Judeo/Christian sense of morality and ethics. It isn’t that most Americans were Christian in the biblical sense. They weren’t. However, their general beliefs about right and wrong were informed and shaped by the Ten Commandments and New Testament ideas, encapsulated in “The Golden Rule,” for example. Americans had a strong sense of “fairness,” and most believed it was right to protect the weak, live honorable lives, and remain faithful to one’s spouse and children. This certainly does not mean that all individuals were fair, honest, or faithful to their marriage vows, etc., but people believed these things were right, even if they themselves violated them in practice. Peer pressure also tended to keep people “in line” to a certain extent. Television shows and movies also reflected a Judeo/Christian ethic and promoted solid “family values.” It was firmly held that the welfare of “the children” should be put before any selfish pursuits of either spouse. It was a different world.

The family was considered the building block of society. In that milieu, the importance and roles of the fathers and mothers were well understood. They both contributed to training their children. Through observation and imitation, the children learned about relationships, work ethic, the importance of education, and how to live in a complicated world. Not all families were healthy, and the children were often trained in those environments to mimic bad behavior. But there were usually other good role models that children could emulate. Often these alternative role models would be extended family members and neighborhood men and women. One’s friend’s parents could also strongly influence the path a child would ultimately take, as could adults at church and school. It is fair to say that most children treated all adults with a respect we do not see anymore. As the 1960s rang in, the nation gradually moved away from God, and Judeo/Christian values and families became increasingly fractured. This has deeply affected and changed communities of every stripe, but it hit first and especially hard in minority families.

A study of 1880 family structures in Philadelphia showed that three-quarters of black families were nuclear families, composed of two parents and children. Data from U.S. Census reports reveal that between 1880 and 1960, married households consisting of two-parent homes were the most widespread form of African-American family structures. Although the most popular, married households decreased over this time period. Single-parent homes, on the other hand, remained relatively stable until 1960; when they rose dramatically. (African-American family structure)

While 25% of children across all ethnicities are currently being raised without a father in the home, this statistic nearly triples among African-Americans:

In the Harlem neighborhood of New York City in 1925, 85 percent of kin-related black households had two parents.

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