George A Bowers Sr.: Fathers are vitally important
Tomorrow is Father’s Day and a special time to remember and honor those men who have filled and are filling this vitally important role. While many claim that fathers are unnecessary except for reproduction, God’s word and modern research both indicate far differently.
What do 71 percent of all high school dropouts, 63 percent of all teen suicides, 80 percent of all rapists, and 85 percent of all youth prisoners have in common? Fatherless home backgrounds. In addition, girls who lose their dad out of their homes by age 6 are five times more likely to become sexually active by age 17, thereby increasing their odds of getting an STD as well as an abortion.
Putting it differently, children from fatherless homes are five times more likely to commit suicide, nine times more likely to drop out of school, 14 times more likely to commit rape, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison than those who grow up with a dad present. In addition, they are 10 times more likely to abuse drugs, 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders and 32 times more likely to run away from home. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality.” Even childhood obesity has strong connections to fatherlessness.
You would think that any factor that contributed to all of these negative social statistics would be a top priority for politicians, courts, social services, and churches. Unfortunately, we seem to be ignoring what the numbers tell us as we continue to consider fathers to be optional. Thus we fulfill the definition of insanity by doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.
Failing to address fatherlessness is failing to consider the cause of a disease and only treating its symptoms. The inescapable truth is that dads are critically important to their children and to society. God made fathers for many reasons, not just to enable conception and pay the bills, and he saw to it that even Jesus had an earthly dad in the form of Joseph.
We need to reframe not only the social expectations, but also the laws that are removing fathers from American homes. Illegitimate birth and no fault divorce both fuel the epidemic of fatherlessness and need to be addressed immediately. Too often dads are castrated by the courts and relegated to the sidelines of their children’s lives while those same kids suffer the consequences and grow up to create social and economic problems for themselves and others. In other instances, too many men have been simply irresponsible and have abdicated their God-given privilege and obligation of raising their sons and daughters.
A few years back “60 Minutes” did a segment on teenage murderers. But the killers were not human. They were young male elephants who were relocated with their mothers away from any adult male influence. In their new home, they began to harass and kill other animals, including endangered white rhinos. After the rangers brought in older bull elephants, the younger ones fell into line and no further murders were observed. The fathers confronted and restrained the younger males.
We can fault our school systems for the failures of our children, but a 17th century proverb puts the blame where it belongs, “One father is worth more than a hundred schoolmasters.” No teacher will ever take the place of a dad. What happens in our homes is infinitely more important than what happens in our schools.
God made fathers for many reasons and it’s high time we recognize their value in our homes and society and do all we possibly can to keep children and fathers and mothers all together in the way God intended. This Father’s Day, let’s honor our own fathers and all those men who bravely fill that role, and may those of us who are fathers seek to be the best godly men we can be.
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.