by Tom Wacaster
The title for this week’s article is derived from a piece that appeared in the Weekly Standard, May 25, 2015, entitled, “A Dad’s Life,” by Jonathan Last. Though not written from a religious standpoint, I found myself not only agreeing with what he said, but seeing in his thoughts Biblical principles that are the very foundation of what he considered common sense observations. His thoughts triggered some thoughts of my own; which by the way is how I get a lot of my ideas for bulletin articles, sermons, and personal conversations. Originality is often saying something that has been heard before, but saying it in a little different way. But I digress.
In recent sermons I have shared with you the staggering statistics regarding the breakdown of the American family. We can place a lot of the blame on our educational system, the entertainment industry, and affluence. But it comes down to this one undeniable fact: fathers are not being the kind of fathers God wants them to be! Mr. Last points out that “the single worst thing men have done over the last two generations is abandon their families: Today, 40 percent of children in America are born out of wedlock—that is to say, without a father standing there, committed to help raise them.” Seems like I have heard that somewhere before. If Mr. Last’s information is up to date, the full impact of the abdication of fatherly responsibilities is worse than you might think. “In America, only about 69 percent of kids live in a home with two parents” (Jonathan Last). How do we measure up to other nations with other countries that make up the vast majority of the world’s population. Are you ready for a real shocker? “The percentage of children who live with two parents is 88 percent in the Netherlands, 85 percent in the Philippines and Indonesia, 83 percent in Germany, 78 percent in Canada, 76 percent in Nigeria, 74 percent in Ethiopia, and 72 percent in Bolivia. With our 69 percent, the United States sits in 32nd place” (Jonathan Last). Satan is fully aware that if he can destroy the family he can destroy the nation and thereby destroy more souls. Too bad 31 percent of our families with children don’t realize this undeniable truth.
With the breakdown in the family comes a corresponding increase in societal ills. Behavior has consequences. Look at recent headlines; what do we see? Unrest has run its ruinous course in Ferguson Missouri, Baltimore, Maryland, and now tempers are simmering in Cleveland, Ohio. Riots are the reaction to perceived injustices by those who, themselves, never seem to take justice into consideration when it comes to destroying the property or running rough shod over the rights of others. I used to watch the villain on some TV show or some movie, and I would comment facetiously: “That boy did not have a proper upbringing at home!” I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that those who riot in the streets of our large cities (and not so large cities) would fall into that same category: “They did not have a proper upbringing at home.”
Mr. Last focuses on this complete breakdown in societal behavior. I share with you this lengthy quote from his article in the Weekly Standard:
Take a look around modern America. With each passing year our society becomes more callow, nasty, and unpleasant— predisposed to juvenilia, ephemera, and self-centeredness. Look at our politics. Look at our entertainment. Look at Twitter. Now, this isn’t the sort of thing you can measure precisely, but ask yourself this: Does America feel like a happier, more contented place than it was five years ago? Ten? Twenty? This is a subjective question, but if you’re the kind of person who likes confirmation, the data are there. The General Social Survey finds that over the last generation, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as being “not too happy” has nearly doubled. Economists and sociologists have spent years trying to figure out why this is. It isn’t a question of money—in real terms, per capita GDP has increased by 37 percent in a generation, so we’re a lot richer. It isn’t a question of education—more people go to college and graduate school than ever before. It might have something to do with marriage and family, though. For decades, surveys have consistently shown that married people are happier, on average, than people who aren’t married. And today, the percentage of married people in America is at an all-time low. People stay single longer, get divorced more often, and have fewer children to boot. The American decline in happiness has occurred at the same time as the collapse of the family. All of which is to say that if we are failing as a nation, it may well be because we’re failing at manliness. And if we are failing at manliness, it’s almost certainly because we’re failing at fatherhood” (Jonathan Last).
After reading Mr. Last’s article it dawned on me that successful fatherhood relies on men being men, and, as leaders of the family, exercising the kind of manliness that it takes to be a good father. Perhaps this is why Paul (i.e. the Holy Spirit) put that responsibility of raising children in the hands of fathers: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, ASV). Manliness is that indispensable character trait that enables us to face up to our duties, lead as we should, and refuse to abdicate the responsibility of raising our children to anyone, be it the public school system, the government, or a “village” (as some are now calling for). I’ll close with one last quote from Mr. Last with regard to this manliness of which I speak: “Manliness bring change or restores order at moments when routine is not enough, when the plan fails, when the whole idea of rational control by modern science develops leaks.”