There has been no shortage of analysis. Every expert has an opinion. Recent events have riveted our attention. We see the results and they are disturbing. What’s the cause?
Regardless of one’s politics, we seem united around one inescapable, longstanding, well-documented and deepening conclusion. The increasing number of homes without fathers is an unmitigated American tragedy. More than 65% of African-American boys under the age of 17 live in a home headed by one parent, usually the mother. Only 24% of white boys live in a single-parent home. The sociological, emotional, cultural, and societal consequences of this decimation of the Black American family are incalculable. Research has consistently shown that children in fatherless homes are more likely to leave school, display behavioral problems, commit crimes, go to prison, be unemployed and experience alcohol and drug abuse.
The absence of a father creates an aching void in the heart and life of a child that no government program can fill. In point of fact, it’s been well-documented over the years that many such programs have actually contributed to the pathologies and destructiveness that have hurt families. As a nation we must address in new ways the problem of race. We must reform our criminal justice system, improve policing, punish brutality, encourage good cops, weed out bad ones, protect all Americans and act to insure equal justice under the law. Our government and our courts can help in many of these areas. As a people, we can unite on these goals. Until we find ways to strengthen and encourage families and reach troubled youth, however, no law, court or government can save us.
Ninety percent of one family therapist’s clients in Washington DC are black boys without fathers. They come to him with serious depression disorders. “We look at our youth and say that they’re bad,” he told a reporter. “I like to say they’re hurting. Their behaviors are behaviors of them acting out pain. They’re just trying to meet a need - the need to be included, to be loved, to be welcomed, respected and wanted.” Is this not what every child needs? Is it not what every child yearns for? Is it not what every child deserves?
God has placed in the heart of a child the need and love of parents. Boys need fathers in their lives. They need men they can look up to. They need mentors and examples. They need role models. They need teachers. The tragic and significant absence of a male figure in the lives of children underscores the paramount need of good fathers. More than 20 years ago, David Blankenhorn, author of Fatherless America, wrote:
“The most important domestic challenge facing the U.S. at the close of the twentieth century is the recreation of fatherhood as a vital social role for men. At stake is nothing less than the success of the American experiment… to tolerate the trend of fatherlessness is to accept the inevitability of continued social recession.” A recent survey by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News revealed that 80% of the public thinks “things are out of control” in the United States.
Families need fathers. This country needs men. Real men. Some may not know what a man is biologically. We know what a man must be morally. The Apostle Paul told the fathers in Ephesus, “provoke not your children to wrath” (Ephesians 6:4). Build them up, don’t tear them down. Encourage them, don’t berate them. Be kind, don’t belittle. Paul admonishes dads to “bring them up” – nourish your children, care for them, guide them, cultivate their lives with love and wisdom. Start by paying attention. Listen. Respond. Fathers, bring your children up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” In loving discipline and wise instruction. “Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master” (The Message). Fathers, teach your children well. Teach them right from wrong. Teach them that the Bible pulsates with truth, all truth. Teach them that being right is better than being popular.
Men in positions of leadership - whether fathers or not - must be living illustrations of integrity, strength and courage. Christian men must act and speak -they must live - according to the truth. Illustrations of character and right living that children will see, hear and admire. Especially now. “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous. Be strong” (I Cor. 16: 13). “Be men!”
We face a crisis of spiritual leadership in the Christian church in America. For Christians, that’s a more important issue than anything political or legal. Many of our pastors are failing us because they no longer have confidence in biblical truth. Their new truth is post-Christian, post-modern “wokeness.” Fashion tramples truth. While we must address candidates and political issues, we must never forget this is, at its heart, a titanic spiritual war. It is being waged in the churches, pulpits and in the hearts and minds of Christians and their leaders. It is spiritual before it is moral. It is moral before it is cultural and it is cultural before it is political.
Culture seeps into the home, into the office; it then seeps into the pew; then soon enough, it seeps into the pulpit. Satan is nothing if not subtle. Our children pay the price for men who are afraid. Our sons and daughters are fortified and inspired by men of courage and principle.
When a false friend advised Nehemiah to go into the temple to hide, he answered: “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in” (Nehemiah 6:11). Let’s not go in to hide. Let us go out and take our stand and speak our mind.
“God, give us men! A time like this demands. Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands; men whom the lust of office does not kill; men whom the spoils of office cannot buy; men who possess opinions and a will; men who have honor; men who will not lie.”
--- Josiah Gilbert Holland