Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you rise. Dt. 6:4-7
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Eph. 6:4
The pathologies of Godless living are undeniable and undeniably negative. Humanism, post-modern thought, and institutionalized secularism produce wrecked lives, broken families, and crushed hearts. Lifelong relationships are increasingly rare. The post-modern culture seems inherently hostile to whatever is good and lasting. Relationships with the living God of creation seem increasingly rare and certainly not appropriate for public discourse in “well educated” circles. God is now deemed personal and subjective, and better done in isolation. We’re a mobile, fractured society. We’re easily fractured from each other and ever increasingly fractured from our creator and sustainer God. People from “less developed” areas of the world comment on how we retreat into our closed garages and live inside, isolated from our neighbors and rarely in contact with our families. The body of Christ is thriving and growing most outside “developed” nations.
As people increasingly accept the post-modern paradigm that truth is a subjective experience, the institution of the church suffers. Churches that try to stay “relevant” to the culture and liberalize their theology become irrelevant and die or simply become moral social action clubs. The intellectual elites increasingly view the Bible with hostility. The church in Western Europe approaches extinction.
The family also suffers. Divorce is now accepted as normal. Increasingly, young people decide against marrying and opt instead for co-habitation and increasing numbers of children are born out of wedlock and increasing percentages of children are raised without fathers in the home. Earlier terms had pejorative terms for what we now accept as normal. Reproduction rates across most of Western Europe have fallen below replacement levels. The same was recently reported for the native US population. Within our hermetically sealed suburban homes, family connections are also suffering as we spend more time each year plugged into the latest electronic stimulation and less time each year plugged into each other.
There is an ever increasing body of evidence that these pathologies, particularly the breakdown of the family, have very negative effects on our children, and as a result, on society. Another recent commission of experts has drawn the same conclusion. Of note, this analysis also demonstrated the critical importance of a father’s involvement in the lives of his children.
LARGE AND GROWING numbers of U.S. children and young people are suffering from depression, anxiety, attention deficit, conduct disorders, thoughts of suicide, and other serious mental and behavioral problems. Why? What can be done to reverse this trend? In this pioneering report, the Commission on Children at Risk, a panel of 33 leading children’s doctors, neuroscientists, research scholars and youth service professionals, draw upon a large body of recent research showing that children are biologically primed (“hardwired”) for enduring connections to others and for moral and spiritual meaning.
Children with involved Fathers are more confident, better able to deal with frustration, better able to gain independence and their own identity, more likely to mature into compassionate adults, more likely to have a high self esteem, more sociable, more secure as infants, less likely to show signs of depression, less likely to commit suicide, more empathetic, boys have been shown to be less aggressive and adolescent girls are less likely to engage in sex.
63% of teen suicides come from fatherless homes. That’s 5 times the national average.
SOURCE: U.S. Dept of Health
90% of all runaways and homeless children are from fatherless homes. That’s 32 times the national average.
80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes. 14 times the national average.
SOURCE: Justice and Behavior
85% of children with behavioral problems come from fatherless homes. 20 times the national average.
SOURCE: Center for Disease Control
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. 9 times the national average.
SOURCE: National Principals Association Report
75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes. 10 times the national average.
SOURCE: Rainbow’s for all God’s Children
85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes. 20 times the national average.
SOURCE: U.S. Dept. of Justice
More stats here.
I recently finished reading Steve Farrar’s book King Me, which features Mr. Farrar’s teachings on the importance of and what he learned regarding fathers raising sons. (From what I can tell, most if not all his lessons apply equally to daughters.) Mr. Farrar speaks from his experience with his own son, but he uses the Old Testament kings as his primary teaching tool. With rare exception, these leaders of God’s chosen people did a horrible job raising and equipping their sons, and most the kings of Israel (and of Judah) were terrible wretches. Mr. Farrar does a good job of examining a few of the kings in detail to point out how these fathers failed to invest in their sons. It’s good, convicting reading. (Of course, you do not need to travel back to OT times to see this pattern. Mr. Farrar also points out that the two greatest murderous tyrants of the 20th Century, Hitler and Stalin, were both raised by fathers who professed to be Christian. Both fathers also savagely beat their sons.)
A similar lesson and inspiration can be drawn from Ken Ham’s recent book Already Gone, where Mr. Ham shows how children are effectively leaving our churches, making the decision to leave, while still in our homes. We like to blame the “culture” and/or the universities for destroying the faith of our children, however, Mr. Ham’s research shows that our children are making their decisions to leave the church while they are young and still in our homes – before they leave for college and while they are under our protection. They decide to leave precisely because they have not been equipped in the fundamentals of our faith.
God put the responsibility for equipping our children squarely on the shoulders of fathers. Equipping requires a relationship, which in turn requires time spent together. These readings and Scripture have convicted me to redouble my efforts in this regard and to commit myself to go to the Lord every day in prayer for him to equip me to live up to this charge in a manner pleasing to him. May God gives us the strength and wisdom to fulfill his calling in our lives.