"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day: a blessing and a warning

The Lord Jesus reminded us that the Father—uniquely his father, yet also ours—showers his most obvious blessings on good and bad people alike. God is to be thanked for such sublime indifference to our conceptions of justice. The Deity's infinitely liberal fecundity, which befits his Perfect Goodness, is not only the source of creation but the paradigm of fatherhood. The latter in turn is a gift and privilege that men share with God himself even as angels do not. Such co-creation of lives destined for eternal life is one of the distinctive, and greater, privileges God bestows on us. Men who, like me, are fathers need to appreciate that. Many do, to be sure; but even among those who do not, meditating on it should induce enough awe and gratitude to motivate better parenting. So my message to all fathers today is: appreciate what you are, so that you can become a better example of it.

Some fathers will learn to appreciate better who they are by how their wives and children express their own love and appreciation for him. That is very important. Nowadays it needs to happen more than it does. It's a standing joke that the highest volume of collect calls during the year are those to Dad on Father's Day; worse, many more people are (rightly or wrongly) alienated from their fathers than from their mothers. Yet study after study has indicated that fatherlessness, in the sense of being raised in homes where the biological father is absent, is the single biggest common factor in a host of social maladies among young people. Indeed, fatherlessness virtually defines family breakdown; and I'm far from alone in believing that family breakdown is our single biggest social problem. In Britain that belief has become conventional wisdom; and just as in this country, it is popular there to castigate men who abandon their families voluntarily. But as popular as scapegoating and ridiculing the male has become, abandonment is not the primary cause of fatherlessness.

There are two main causes of children being without their fathers. One is sexual licentiousness, in which either the father, the mother, or both have no intention of committing themselves to a long-term relationship that would provide a stable context for raising children. The answer to that is plain old common sense and morality, which can probably be provided only by sound religion. But an equally important cause is no-fault divorce and the lucrative industry that has grown around it.

When it comes to family matters, the machinery of the state is most often devoted to decreeing no-fault divorce, pursuing non-custodial parents for child support, and preventing or punishing domestic violence. Politicians are almost unanimous in their support for all three, and particularly vigorous in calling for more of the last two. In practice, what that usually means is that the law is in the business of barring men from their homes, presenting them with a bill for the privilege, and sending them to debtor's prison if they fall far enough behind in paying that bill. Federal law provides strong financial incentives for states to do precisely that. And that is why the fact, which is no secret to family-law practitioners, that women initiate about four-fifths of divorces when children are involved is so easily explained: the law not only permits, but provides strong incentives for, women to dump and loot their husbands. That the law ought to do so is of course an article of faith among self-styled feminists; but as long as it remains what it is, our society is headed for irreversible decline.

There are other causes of family breakdown as well; many are as old as humanity; indeed, there are some cases where it is not as bad as the alternatives. But those are not the majority of cases. People must be convinced once again that the intact family built on marriage between men and women, both nuclear and extended, is essential not only for the health of society in the present but for bequeathing to our children a future worth having. Right now, Western society is too besotted by individualism, materalism, and moral relativism to understand that. I hope and pray that it is understood anew, especially by men, before it's too late. If men wake up to the problem and act accordingly, the women will follow. I suspect they're waiting.
blog comments powered by Disqus