The tacky ties have been tucked away, and the greeting card companies have switched over to the next “big day” to milk for profit.
Now that the “buzz” has subsided, and we have stopped giving the obligatory responses expected of us in certain times of the year, we can spare a moment to reflect on what Fathers’ Day — and fathers themselves — truly mean to us.
All the lip-service and token appreciation fathers receive on their “big day” is more than offset by the contempt fathers face the rest of the year. Do you need someone to star as your underachieving, beer-swilling, slow-witted oaf? Dad’s your guy!
Our media, including TV, film, and advertising dutifully present moms, and especially single moms, as the multi-tasking, uber-competent superhero. Men, especially dads, on the other hand are best remembered for their principal flaws. The standard default might be the Homer Simpson “idiot loser” version of the story.
Financially successful, happy “Alpha males” are typically narcissistic serial womanizers, incapable of meaningful relationships. In contrast, the stand-up guy who really wants to be a good husband, father and provider gets portrayed as mediocre, unhappy, brow-beaten and the brunt of most jokes.
Not that this is anything really new and surprising. A generation ago, the big story was when the title character from “Murphy Brown” intentionally became a single mother. “Intentionally” being the key word.
Dan Quayle was among the critics of that TV event, making his case that fathers remaining with their families are a major foundation stone in the remedy to poverty, especially inner-city poverty. (The speech isn’t long, and it is worth reading.) As it turns out, Quayle was right and the stats back him up. Even the actress who played Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) praised him: “…his speech was a perfectly intelligent speech about fathers not being dispensable and nobody agreed with that more than I did.”
Single parents (usually moms) are — of course — a reality. It can happen for all sorts of reasons. But presenting fathers as the “optional add-on” to the family unit, rather than a biologically necessary universal fact has reframed our attitudes toward both families and the fathers that complete them. Simply put: dads are now “expendable”.
The family unit has become so fractured that we now shy away from words or terms that indicate any “insensitive” cultural assumptions of the traditional, biological family as normative.
Schools don’t want to embarrass kids, so some cancel or reframe events that celebrate Fathers’ Day. Events meant to celebrate father/child relationships are either quietly swept aside, or else bureaucrats — embarrassed by this faux pas — carefully expunge the word “father”.
Government forms are even more careful to expunge fatherhood — and family altogether. “Mother” and “Father” as official terms are periodically updated to whatever politically expedient term is currently in vogue, in much the same way that “husband and wife” is no longer the societal benchmark.
Add to that the complicating situation of same-sex pressure groups moving our cultural goal posts yet again, and who knows whether traditional institutions will soon be recognizable at all: families and fathers among them.
This shouldn’t surprise us. As fellow “Clasher” Matt Barber reported, this has been “by design”. He quotes activist and Journalist Masha Gessen explaining that her intent was “elasticity” in marriage, leading to the “ultimate goal of marriage extinction”.
We come now to the pivot point in the article, where, having presented an issue, the author puts forward his response.
Typically in an article such as this one, a case might be made for establishing stronger traditional families. It might lay out the positive case for why fatherhood should be defended or embraced. It might chide us for having turned our backs on what was good. It might even put forward a call to action so that people should step and make positive changes: perhaps in law, perhaps in our personal response and challenge us to consider things like mentoring.
Many of those would be good ways to proceed from here. We should have second thoughts about our prevailing attitudes to fathers. The stats do show the many benefits of healthy father-child relationships. We truly should feel sorrow for the effect of that neglect upon the generation coming up behind us. There are many positive actions to which we might be called.
But I am writing this from a Christian perspective. And these are all, in a sense, secondary issues. The word “Father”, to a Christian, has a much deeper significance. It is a key term by which God has defined his relationship to us. Not that mothers aren’t special, but “father” has a role unlike any other.
Identifying as God as Father marks him out as all the wonderful things only a father unencumbered by ordinary human failings can be. It sets an impossibly high and noble standard of what our role as father looks like. We see how Christ — the Son — interacts with Him, and it challenges us to follow (however haltingly) that example with our own kids.
None of us has had (or been) a perfect human father. We can always raise the bar higher for ourselves. The best way to do that, is to look to the One who got it right.
If your relationship with Him is broken, if you’ve failed, he knows it. But there is still hope… it doesn’t have to remain that way.
He offers forgiveness and repentance. However broken your family life is (or was) He offers you adoption into His own family, through Christ Jesus.
Image: Courtesy of: http://www.quotecounterquote.com/2011/03/you-cant-handle-truth-from-jack.html