Fatherless Child

Barack Obama has experienced the defining trauma of our culture: He has been abandoned by his father.

Read that linked article for an account of a truly evil man, whose son–to his credit–is responding to the emotional devastation he felt by trying hard to be a good father to his own children.

The syndrome of growing up without a father in the home has devastated the African-American community–so much for the charge that Obama is unconnected to the black experience–but it is also a growing devastation among divorce-prone whites.

The ill-effects of not having a father in the home–or of having a father in the home who is utterly unconnected to his children, which is much the same thing–have been thoroughly documented. They include the “hyper-masculinity” that sends boys to gangs in search of male role models and that lead them act out their macho fantasies in violence. Also the “hyper-femininity” of girls, leading them to sluttish dress and promiscuity in a sad effort to make themselves wanted by a man.

It does not have to end this way, as we see with Obama and many more. Other male role models can step forward to help fill the void. And God Himself in His Word gives many provisions and promises to the “fatherless,” to the point of promising Himself to fill that role: to be “the father of the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5).

But of all vocations, THIS is the one, arguably, in most need of restoration today.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.shempel.blogspot.com Sarah in Maryland

    Thank you for this wonderful post! There is such a dramatic difference between girls who have solid fathers and those who don’t. I have a great father who always made sure I felt secure in his love. I wanted male attention at school, sure, but I wasn’t going to do anything that lacked self-respect to get it. I think that having such a father enabled me to practice chastity in an overly-sexualized world.

  • http://www.shempel.blogspot.com Sarah in Maryland

    Thank you for this wonderful post! There is such a dramatic difference between girls who have solid fathers and those who don’t. I have a great father who always made sure I felt secure in his love. I wanted male attention at school, sure, but I wasn’t going to do anything that lacked self-respect to get it. I think that having such a father enabled me to practice chastity in an overly-sexualized world.

  • http://castingoutnines.wordpress.com Robert Talbert

    Outstanding post.

    I’ve got two daughters, ages 4 and 2, and looking down the next 10-12 years as they enter and progress through adolescence in this sick and dying culture of ours has got to be the most daunting thing I’ve ever faced. And I teach college, and I see the results of young women who grew up without fathers in the home. It’s heartbreaking, and it’s a grave warning to me as a dad that fatherhood is one thing that I really must try and get right (and thank the Lord that He is there to help and enable me).

  • http://castingoutnines.wordpress.com Robert Talbert

    Outstanding post.

    I’ve got two daughters, ages 4 and 2, and looking down the next 10-12 years as they enter and progress through adolescence in this sick and dying culture of ours has got to be the most daunting thing I’ve ever faced. And I teach college, and I see the results of young women who grew up without fathers in the home. It’s heartbreaking, and it’s a grave warning to me as a dad that fatherhood is one thing that I really must try and get right (and thank the Lord that He is there to help and enable me).

  • Bror Erickson

    This one hits home hard, as you probably know.
    I’m not sure what could be more important for a Father than being a dad. Divorce though seriously complicates matters. And with the court system favoring mothers, it is hard to overcome Disneyland Dad syndrome. It can be done though. My own son likes to try the “Dad I won’t be your friend anymore” line. I just look at him and say thats o.k. I’m still your dad. He doesn’t understand that yet. But I’m sure one day he will.
    Problem is I don’t get very much time to be with him. on the upside though, I have very flexible hours, and my congregation is very understanding. So when John is with me I have a lot of time to spend with him. Sad as it is, He probably gets more one on one time with me than most children get with their parents.

  • Bror Erickson

    This one hits home hard, as you probably know.
    I’m not sure what could be more important for a Father than being a dad. Divorce though seriously complicates matters. And with the court system favoring mothers, it is hard to overcome Disneyland Dad syndrome. It can be done though. My own son likes to try the “Dad I won’t be your friend anymore” line. I just look at him and say thats o.k. I’m still your dad. He doesn’t understand that yet. But I’m sure one day he will.
    Problem is I don’t get very much time to be with him. on the upside though, I have very flexible hours, and my congregation is very understanding. So when John is with me I have a lot of time to spend with him. Sad as it is, He probably gets more one on one time with me than most children get with their parents.

  • Bror Erickson

    Funny Father’s Day doesn’t get near as much attention as Mother’s Day. Yet Fathers for all their bad rap in today’s world seem to have much more influence on their children than mothers, at least in the long run. This is true of both daughters and sons, but probably more so with sons. I read somewhere that if Fathers take children to church, the children are much more likely to keep going to church when they are older. But if it is the mother alone, it doesn’t seem to have that much impact. It is also true that Churches with male pastors are much more likely to have an even attendance of male and female parishoners than churches with female pastors. (My cheauvenism shows here, my take is men have to listen to women to much during the week these days, the last thing they want to do is give them another hour on Sunday, when they could be home watching football of fishing. But that is admittedly a cheauvenistic take, and meant to be more tongue in cheek.)
    I don’t think having the pastoret dress up like a cheerleader for Football sunday is going to do much to address the problem of male church attendance.
    I think the church though could be more aware of the needs of fatherless children, who come from broken homes, and possibly do more to provide those role models they need. This is getting me to think…
    It’s one reason I think confirmation age kids ought to be brought into the adult Bible studies, and not set off into the “youth group” for that hour. Part of the over all probelm, in my opinion, is that we spend to much time treating them like children, they don’t know how to become adults.

  • Bror Erickson

    Funny Father’s Day doesn’t get near as much attention as Mother’s Day. Yet Fathers for all their bad rap in today’s world seem to have much more influence on their children than mothers, at least in the long run. This is true of both daughters and sons, but probably more so with sons. I read somewhere that if Fathers take children to church, the children are much more likely to keep going to church when they are older. But if it is the mother alone, it doesn’t seem to have that much impact. It is also true that Churches with male pastors are much more likely to have an even attendance of male and female parishoners than churches with female pastors. (My cheauvenism shows here, my take is men have to listen to women to much during the week these days, the last thing they want to do is give them another hour on Sunday, when they could be home watching football of fishing. But that is admittedly a cheauvenistic take, and meant to be more tongue in cheek.)
    I don’t think having the pastoret dress up like a cheerleader for Football sunday is going to do much to address the problem of male church attendance.
    I think the church though could be more aware of the needs of fatherless children, who come from broken homes, and possibly do more to provide those role models they need. This is getting me to think…
    It’s one reason I think confirmation age kids ought to be brought into the adult Bible studies, and not set off into the “youth group” for that hour. Part of the over all probelm, in my opinion, is that we spend to much time treating them like children, they don’t know how to become adults.

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    “But of all vocations, THIS is the one, arguably, in most need of restoration today.”

    Amen, Dr. Veith.

    There are political implications to the lack of a father in families as well. Single-parent (usually single-mother) families are more likely to look to government to help provide for them and their children. It really does take two.

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    “But of all vocations, THIS is the one, arguably, in most need of restoration today.”

    Amen, Dr. Veith.

    There are political implications to the lack of a father in families as well. Single-parent (usually single-mother) families are more likely to look to government to help provide for them and their children. It really does take two.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Can’t stand Obama’s politics, but I’ve got to admit that I like him as a person. Good for him to emphasize this!

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Can’t stand Obama’s politics, but I’ve got to admit that I like him as a person. Good for him to emphasize this!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Bror, that’s a great idea, bringing teenagers into adult Bible studies. Or young men into Men’s Bible studies. Has anyone tried that?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Bror, that’s a great idea, bringing teenagers into adult Bible studies. Or young men into Men’s Bible studies. Has anyone tried that?

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    I and my wife teach the teenage Sunday school class in our church. As much as I’d like to join the adults on Sunday morning along with the teenagers, I’m not sure that would always be to their benefit.

    Before I started teaching, there would be times the teenagers would join us in the adult Bible study, but they would usually sit together, and they rarely participated unless called upon — and then perhaps reluctantly. Perhaps they felt unsure of their answers, perhaps they were intimidated, perhaps they just didn’t feel they fit in very well. Hard to say, since teenagers aren’t always the most transparent people in the world.

    Either way, in our own teen Sunday school, we can (sometimes) get them to talk more, venture forth answers that they’re unsure of, and so on.

    We don’t try to talk down to them, though — my wife and I basically run it like we would any other Bible study. As one example, a few months ago we did a fairly lengthy, in-depth study of Romans, with the People’s Bible commentary our only resource. We don’t always have that sort of energy, so we sometimes rely on the ChristLight Bible studies WELS puts out, though we often have to remove the elements that are too silly for them.

    All of which isn’t to say that what Bror suggested is a bad idea — it just depends on your teenagers, really. Some of them would blossom in an adult Bible study. Others would turn into wallflowers.

    But I assume the principle that Bror and I share — that catechized members of a church should be treated as just that, full-fledged members — is the same. Whether or not we cater to some members’ particular cultural desires is a case-by-case thing.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    I and my wife teach the teenage Sunday school class in our church. As much as I’d like to join the adults on Sunday morning along with the teenagers, I’m not sure that would always be to their benefit.

    Before I started teaching, there would be times the teenagers would join us in the adult Bible study, but they would usually sit together, and they rarely participated unless called upon — and then perhaps reluctantly. Perhaps they felt unsure of their answers, perhaps they were intimidated, perhaps they just didn’t feel they fit in very well. Hard to say, since teenagers aren’t always the most transparent people in the world.

    Either way, in our own teen Sunday school, we can (sometimes) get them to talk more, venture forth answers that they’re unsure of, and so on.

    We don’t try to talk down to them, though — my wife and I basically run it like we would any other Bible study. As one example, a few months ago we did a fairly lengthy, in-depth study of Romans, with the People’s Bible commentary our only resource. We don’t always have that sort of energy, so we sometimes rely on the ChristLight Bible studies WELS puts out, though we often have to remove the elements that are too silly for them.

    All of which isn’t to say that what Bror suggested is a bad idea — it just depends on your teenagers, really. Some of them would blossom in an adult Bible study. Others would turn into wallflowers.

    But I assume the principle that Bror and I share — that catechized members of a church should be treated as just that, full-fledged members — is the same. Whether or not we cater to some members’ particular cultural desires is a case-by-case thing.

  • Another Kerner

    Whilst male heads of households and fathers missing in the home can and do present some serious problems in the family unit, perhaps we should also reflect seriously about the “feminization” of our culture in general.

    If we widen our view a bit, we may be able to additonally observe that the”feminization” of the “kinder, gentler” Military, the Church in general, and our Society also is a serious challenge which sometimes exibits itself, even in homes where there *is* a husband and father present.

    Some of the more obvious ill effects of women in the pulpit, a gender-neutral military and the lack of male leadership in the family should have alarmed us quite a while back.

    “Feminist” zealots, in concert with “social” engineers, have been busy undermining the role of men in our culture for more than just one generation.

    Unhappily, some men have willingly backed away from any confrontation with the “correct political” view and have given up their appropriate roles in the home, church and society, and instead have embraced the faulty idea that they must somehow “get in touch with their feminine side”.

    To even suggest that women are to have a different role in the home, church and military than men do often brings howls of “sex descrimination”, sometimes ending in threats of legal action.

    Young men need to be able to observe an entire society of men, husbands and fathers, who will assume their leadership roles, without apology.

    Dare I suggest that mothers, even absent a husband and father in the household, must also bear responsibility if they do not teach their sons to be virtuous and strong men?

    In deed, God promises not only that He will be Father to the orphan, but also Husband to the widow.

    Still, it could be fair to say that, in some cases, the Church may given up its role also as regards the widow and orphan, instead being seemingly content to let the Government provide.

    Not only has the single woman been content to look to the Goverment for provision: it appears as though the society at large has thought it a good idea also.

  • Another Kerner

    Whilst male heads of households and fathers missing in the home can and do present some serious problems in the family unit, perhaps we should also reflect seriously about the “feminization” of our culture in general.

    If we widen our view a bit, we may be able to additonally observe that the”feminization” of the “kinder, gentler” Military, the Church in general, and our Society also is a serious challenge which sometimes exibits itself, even in homes where there *is* a husband and father present.

    Some of the more obvious ill effects of women in the pulpit, a gender-neutral military and the lack of male leadership in the family should have alarmed us quite a while back.

    “Feminist” zealots, in concert with “social” engineers, have been busy undermining the role of men in our culture for more than just one generation.

    Unhappily, some men have willingly backed away from any confrontation with the “correct political” view and have given up their appropriate roles in the home, church and society, and instead have embraced the faulty idea that they must somehow “get in touch with their feminine side”.

    To even suggest that women are to have a different role in the home, church and military than men do often brings howls of “sex descrimination”, sometimes ending in threats of legal action.

    Young men need to be able to observe an entire society of men, husbands and fathers, who will assume their leadership roles, without apology.

    Dare I suggest that mothers, even absent a husband and father in the household, must also bear responsibility if they do not teach their sons to be virtuous and strong men?

    In deed, God promises not only that He will be Father to the orphan, but also Husband to the widow.

    Still, it could be fair to say that, in some cases, the Church may given up its role also as regards the widow and orphan, instead being seemingly content to let the Government provide.

    Not only has the single woman been content to look to the Goverment for provision: it appears as though the society at large has thought it a good idea also.

  • Van

    I don’t know about bringing young men into adult Bible studies but as a teenage female I attended adult Bible studies. I was always welcome. It was a great experience. If offered the more meaty teaching that I was craving. The studies for my age seemed silly and geared toward emotion. Teenagers and even younger are capable of hearing and learning MUCH more than we’re given. This is why I typically am disgusted with Sunday school cirriculum.

  • Van

    I don’t know about bringing young men into adult Bible studies but as a teenage female I attended adult Bible studies. I was always welcome. It was a great experience. If offered the more meaty teaching that I was craving. The studies for my age seemed silly and geared toward emotion. Teenagers and even younger are capable of hearing and learning MUCH more than we’re given. This is why I typically am disgusted with Sunday school cirriculum.

  • Pr. Conner

    One of my most desperate prayers is that God would raise up men of honor in the Church and in the home. Just imagine if people threw out their gender neutral Bibles and saw all the times God speaks to fathers and to men regarding their responsibilities as head! Just imagine how this would influence the church, the home, and the culture.

    I’ve read the same thing Bror Erickson read about the importance of fathers taking their children to church. Something about seeing the head of the family bow to The Head of all creation sticks with children.

    Regarding the feminization of church and culture, I’m wondering, does a female pastor contribute to this?

    Here’s why I ask: the pastor stands in the stead of Christ for the benefit of Christ’s Church. In other words, the pastor images the Bridegroom (Jesus) for the Bride (the Church). In other words, the pastor images the ultimate marriage: Jesus and the Church so as to give people a picture of what marriage should be – husband (the head/Christ) joyfully dies for wife while wife (the church) lovingly submits to husband’s headship (Eph 5). Does a woman standing in the place of Jesus/Bridegroom/Head mess things up? Seems like it turns God’s order (established way back in Genesis and redeemed in Jesus) upside down.

    Any thoughts?

  • Pr. Conner

    One of my most desperate prayers is that God would raise up men of honor in the Church and in the home. Just imagine if people threw out their gender neutral Bibles and saw all the times God speaks to fathers and to men regarding their responsibilities as head! Just imagine how this would influence the church, the home, and the culture.

    I’ve read the same thing Bror Erickson read about the importance of fathers taking their children to church. Something about seeing the head of the family bow to The Head of all creation sticks with children.

    Regarding the feminization of church and culture, I’m wondering, does a female pastor contribute to this?

    Here’s why I ask: the pastor stands in the stead of Christ for the benefit of Christ’s Church. In other words, the pastor images the Bridegroom (Jesus) for the Bride (the Church). In other words, the pastor images the ultimate marriage: Jesus and the Church so as to give people a picture of what marriage should be – husband (the head/Christ) joyfully dies for wife while wife (the church) lovingly submits to husband’s headship (Eph 5). Does a woman standing in the place of Jesus/Bridegroom/Head mess things up? Seems like it turns God’s order (established way back in Genesis and redeemed in Jesus) upside down.

    Any thoughts?

  • http://www.shempel.blogspot.com Sarah in Maryland

    “It’s one reason I think confirmation age kids ought to be brought into the adult Bible studies, and not set off into the “youth group” for that hour. Part of the over all probelm, in my opinion, is that we spend to much time treating them like children, they don’t know how to become adults.”

    This is one thing that I am trying at our church. I’ve been teaching Sunday School to teens. The attendence is spotty. Some of the adults think that my material is too hard. I told the kids that I think they are capable of more than they’ve been given. They smile at that. Next “semester” we’re going to have a mixed class with grown-ups and teens. After all, we’re all the Body of Christ. My aim is to raise the bar a little bit. Education is lacking in our congregation. (This is ironic considering that many of the people who come are well-educated professionals. They are not catechized well, though.)

  • http://www.shempel.blogspot.com Sarah in Maryland

    “It’s one reason I think confirmation age kids ought to be brought into the adult Bible studies, and not set off into the “youth group” for that hour. Part of the over all probelm, in my opinion, is that we spend to much time treating them like children, they don’t know how to become adults.”

    This is one thing that I am trying at our church. I’ve been teaching Sunday School to teens. The attendence is spotty. Some of the adults think that my material is too hard. I told the kids that I think they are capable of more than they’ve been given. They smile at that. Next “semester” we’re going to have a mixed class with grown-ups and teens. After all, we’re all the Body of Christ. My aim is to raise the bar a little bit. Education is lacking in our congregation. (This is ironic considering that many of the people who come are well-educated professionals. They are not catechized well, though.)

  • Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    I don’t think youth Bible studies are a bad thing. Though I wonder if they might be better scheduled.
    When I first got here to the one and only congregation I have ever had I suggested the idea. It was shot down, and I figured I had other things more important to introduce. I compromised in other words. In anycase the youth Bible study continued to falter and is now none existent. So I’m working again to get the confirmands into the Adult Bible Study on Sunday morning again. I only have two though so…
    But as to they won;t participate. Well that is the whole point. I’m sure some would swim right away. others it might take time. But then part of the whole reason for doing it is to let them get their feet wet before having to jump in whole hog later in life. The idea is to get them to gradually leanr how to be adults by introducing them to adults in an atmosphere that surronds them with Christian adults.
    As for the idea that they won’t have the same interests as the adults. I don’t think that is necessarily true. I think both parties will have some different interests but they will share many in common. And the interests the Youth have will have been had already by the adults there. The Adults can then share the answers they have attained over time.

  • Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    I don’t think youth Bible studies are a bad thing. Though I wonder if they might be better scheduled.
    When I first got here to the one and only congregation I have ever had I suggested the idea. It was shot down, and I figured I had other things more important to introduce. I compromised in other words. In anycase the youth Bible study continued to falter and is now none existent. So I’m working again to get the confirmands into the Adult Bible Study on Sunday morning again. I only have two though so…
    But as to they won;t participate. Well that is the whole point. I’m sure some would swim right away. others it might take time. But then part of the whole reason for doing it is to let them get their feet wet before having to jump in whole hog later in life. The idea is to get them to gradually leanr how to be adults by introducing them to adults in an atmosphere that surronds them with Christian adults.
    As for the idea that they won’t have the same interests as the adults. I don’t think that is necessarily true. I think both parties will have some different interests but they will share many in common. And the interests the Youth have will have been had already by the adults there. The Adults can then share the answers they have attained over time.

  • Bror Erickson

    Pr. connor,
    I heard it once refferred to as theological lesbianism.

  • Bror Erickson

    Pr. connor,
    I heard it once refferred to as theological lesbianism.

  • Pr. Conner

    Bror Erickson,

    I’ve heard “theological lesbianism” before too. I’m not sure, however, that’s the kindest way to put it (I’m not accusing you of being unkind, it’s just I don’t think Christians should drag homosexuality into discussions inappropriately – it unnecessarily alienates).

    Others’ thoughts?

  • Pr. Conner

    Bror Erickson,

    I’ve heard “theological lesbianism” before too. I’m not sure, however, that’s the kindest way to put it (I’m not accusing you of being unkind, it’s just I don’t think Christians should drag homosexuality into discussions inappropriately – it unnecessarily alienates).

    Others’ thoughts?

  • organshoes

    Another kerner has nailed it.
    Churches, trusting in either the foresight of husbands to have made material provision or in the state to take up the slack, have as much as delivered their orphans and widows to their own devices.
    But it’s hardly material concerns keeping widowed mothers of teenaged sons awake at night, but the lack of a presence no mother can provide.
    Two societies co-exist: the widowed/orphaned and the not. One society politely refrains from imposing itself and asking too many questions, while another society realizes it’ll have to figure it out itself, with God’s help. And this society must also learn to accept the kind gestures volunteered by the first, working inside herself to see them as more than hollow or timid gestures, while aching for more recognition of need than that of a poinsettia or fruit basket on Christmas Day or a lily at Easter, or even donations of money to help cover expenses.
    It’s shocking–and dismaying–how little each cares to learn from or to teach the other; how little is done to bridge the two societies, even while they share pews and hymnals. All the stations and situations of our lives are opportunities to point us to Christ, and boldly; and every day–not just a Sunday morning hug and a ‘How are ya?’ or a widow’s potted plant on a holiday–is a day for bold Word and bold deed.
    I’d give anything to have had the church impose its polite self just a little more boldly.

  • organshoes

    Another kerner has nailed it.
    Churches, trusting in either the foresight of husbands to have made material provision or in the state to take up the slack, have as much as delivered their orphans and widows to their own devices.
    But it’s hardly material concerns keeping widowed mothers of teenaged sons awake at night, but the lack of a presence no mother can provide.
    Two societies co-exist: the widowed/orphaned and the not. One society politely refrains from imposing itself and asking too many questions, while another society realizes it’ll have to figure it out itself, with God’s help. And this society must also learn to accept the kind gestures volunteered by the first, working inside herself to see them as more than hollow or timid gestures, while aching for more recognition of need than that of a poinsettia or fruit basket on Christmas Day or a lily at Easter, or even donations of money to help cover expenses.
    It’s shocking–and dismaying–how little each cares to learn from or to teach the other; how little is done to bridge the two societies, even while they share pews and hymnals. All the stations and situations of our lives are opportunities to point us to Christ, and boldly; and every day–not just a Sunday morning hug and a ‘How are ya?’ or a widow’s potted plant on a holiday–is a day for bold Word and bold deed.
    I’d give anything to have had the church impose its polite self just a little more boldly.

  • Bror Erickson

    Pr. Connor,
    You are right. It’s blunt and to the point, but not kind. And I should have thought, it probably could alienate the Homosexual crowd. I’m not too concerned about those who will continue to apostasize with their behavior, even though God’s word is very clear that women’s ordination is wrong.Maybe some of them don’t know any better, but my experience shows otheriwse.

  • Bror Erickson

    Pr. Connor,
    You are right. It’s blunt and to the point, but not kind. And I should have thought, it probably could alienate the Homosexual crowd. I’m not too concerned about those who will continue to apostasize with their behavior, even though God’s word is very clear that women’s ordination is wrong.Maybe some of them don’t know any better, but my experience shows otheriwse.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    I’m probably admitting a weakness, but I got a kick out of Bror’s characterization….. :^) (thankfully, I’m not in a church where it’s an issue, so I won’t need to repeat it, I think)

    And teens and young men in fellowship with adult men? I can’t commend it enough. I’m a kid of divorce, and I got a lot of dads this way, to draw a picture.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    I’m probably admitting a weakness, but I got a kick out of Bror’s characterization….. :^) (thankfully, I’m not in a church where it’s an issue, so I won’t need to repeat it, I think)

    And teens and young men in fellowship with adult men? I can’t commend it enough. I’m a kid of divorce, and I got a lot of dads this way, to draw a picture.


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