Fatherlessness: A Crisis of the Highest Magnitude in Our Culture
I probably ought to do this commentary on marriage in Wisconsin. Maybe I should address some of the amazing statements Judge Barbara Crabb made in her ruling that ignored the votes of 1.6 million Wisconsin citizens and overturned the marriage protection amendment. Or maybe I should address the judge’s apparent desire to delay clarifying her order and issuing a stay so that all persons of the same-sex who wanted to could get marriage licenses in the seven-day window her disregard for the rule of law opened. But I’m going to resist the pull to do any of that.
Instead I’m going to talk about fathers—yes, I know Fathers’ Day was this past Sunday. No matter.
Now, I can’t resist the obvious here. In declaring Wisconsin’s Marriage Protection Amendment unconstitutional, Judge Crabb basically said children do not need both a mother and a father to grow up to be productive, healthy, contributing citizens. Yes, that’s exactly what legalizing same-sex marriage does. It purposefully and legally deprives a child of either a mother or a father.
This I know. Children need their fathers. Late last month, Wisconsin Family Council released our new publication, Wisconsin’s Cultural Indicators, 2014 Edition. A couple of weeks ago in this commentary, I discussed some of the data in this document. I noted that written all over it is the impact of fatherlessness on our families, communities and state. When fathers are not in the homes, children are subjected to an unbelievable host of problems. It’s a miracle when a child is in a single-mother home and isn’t profoundly affected by many of these ills.
So here are some of the problems single-mother children are much more likely to experience over children who live with their married moms and dads. They are more likely to experience poverty, to experience truancy, to drop out of school, to live dependent on government, to get in trouble with the law, to abuse drugs and alcohol, to be sexually active before marriage, to have health issues, to be subjected to physical and sexual abuse—and the list goes on.
I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say fathers are pretty much irreplaceable in the lives of their children. More and more research is showing what we should know by experience and common sense that fathers don’t parent like mothers. That they are typically the parent that lays out the boundaries, encourages some risk taking, provides a very real sense of comfort and security, toughens up boys and protects girls, comes at life and parenting from a more logical than emotional approach. All of this balances the incredible, also-irreplaceable contributions from a mother. God, the designer of male and female and marriage, gave to both of them all that they need, in a complementary way, so that they can together provide exactly what children need.
Fatherlessness is a crisis of the highest magnitude in our culture. I am haunted by the closing verses of the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi 4:5 and 6. The prophet Malachi writes: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
That verse tells me, sadly, that fatherlessness is not new—and that it takes work and determination for fathers to stay connected to their children. Apparently God thinks that a strong father-child relationship is important, even if federal judges don’t. He tells us that if the hearts of the fathers and children aren’t turned towards one another, He, Almighty God, was going to smite the earth with a curse. His plan is for men and women to marry, generally to have children, and to together bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. When society skips the marriage part of God’s plan but still has babies or breaks this lifelong commitment by divorce, we reap the natural consequences of our choices. The problem is the children are the ones who suffer first, most and longest.
In a time when judges and liberals are bent on destroying God’s plan for marriage and family, we as Christians must hold God’s standard high and we must certainly rally around fathers and fatherhood—for the sake of the children. May we seek, like Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.