It’s no secret that families depend in many ways on the involvement of fathers.
A striking illustration of this can be found in America’s prisons, where charitable groups donate greeting cards for inmates. Mother’s Day cards are quickly snatched up, while Father’s Day cards go unclaimed. Most of the inmates either had a bad relationship with their dads or never knew them.
Likewise, we can trace many social ills to the demise of strong marriages and the absence — physical or emotional — of husbands/fathers in the household.
This isn’t to say parents are to blame whenever a child goes astray. Far from it. Everyone is responsible for his or her own behavior. Even in the strongest, most loving families, some children choose a difficult, self-destructive path. But the pattern is generally clear; sacrificial love and long-term commitment mitigate problems of all kinds.
The idea of sacrificial love has been under attack since the 1960s, when the “counterculture” told us to concentrate on our own happiness, even at the expense of others. The Me Generation absorbed this lesson and went on to create a society in which sacrifice was for losers, not the hip, cool, with-it people.
Popular culture was chockful of TV shows and movies that made fathers out to be dim-witted suckers. There are far more Fred Flintstones or “Family Guys” than Andy Griffiths. And we still have Homer Simpson, whose childish persona is tempered by his sensible wife Marge and even his daughter Lisa. On the up side, Homer often puts his family first, and phoniness is always smacked down.
After a couple of generations of cultural messaging that kids know better than their dads, we’re reaping the whirlwind, including a drift away from America’s Christian roots.
The same forces that urged us to look inward for inspiration instead of toward a loving Father God are telling us that we no longer need God at all, just state-run education and a bigger, more centralized government to take care of everyone. See the $6 trillion Biden spending spree for details.
At the other end of the spectrum, some secular libertarians insist that logic and rational thought alone will yield a just and free society. Good luck with that. Love transcends rationality, and it’s certainly not transactional. Ask any parent who has stayed up all night to care for a crying newborn or a sick elder. It’s a pretty one-sided affair.
Sacrificial love is what holds families, and hence, society together. Single mothers can do wonders, and they do, but they can do much more with the help of a committed husband and father.
Along with a growing, activist “momma bear” movement, strong fathers, grandfathers and other male authority figures are desperately needed to stem the current Marxist-inspired tide of dependency and steer us back toward personal responsibility.
An ad campaign by Family Research Council a few years ago used powerful imagery to make a singular point: Boys need their fathers. One ad showed a Black man in front of a mirror shaving, with a young boy at his elbow, looking up at him. The text said, “All he wants to be is the man in the mirror.”
Children of all ages are desperate for role models. Girls look to their mothers for how to act as a woman; they look to their dads to see how they should be treated by men. Boys look to their moms for emotional support and unconditional love; they look to their dads for affirmation and clues on how to become a man.
Male and female dynamics are quite different, and children benefit from having a mom and dad in the household. As noted, few offerings in popular culture reflect the power of a respected father’s love on his family.
An exception is the long-running CBS cop series “Blue Bloods.” In every episode, NYPD Commissioner Frank Reagan, played by Tom Selleck, holds court at a Sunday family dinner.
At the other end of the table sits his father, Henry Reagan (Len Cariou), himself a former commissioner. Despite some often-heated discussions, the love and firm direction of Frank and Henry, both widowers, steer the family back to solidarity every time.
The show is also unusual in that the strongly Christian family is shown praying at nearly every meal.
Two things are going on here: the importance of a regular family dinner as a place to reconvene family regardless of what happens outside, and the impact of fathers who speak truth in love.
More than ever, American households could benefit from regular family dinners. A study cited by the Partnership to End Addiction found that children who regularly attended family meals were less likely to sink into depression or get into illicit drug use.
Frequent family dinners also correlated with good relationships between teens and their fathers. Teens who were less close to their dads were almost four times likelier to have used marijuana; twice as likely to have used alcohol and 2.5 times as likely to have used tobacco.
In a time of moral chaos, we have to reclaim America one household at a time, and we can start by honoring fathers who take their responsibilities seriously.
Here’s to those dads who love their families more than themselves and show it every day.
• Robert Knight is a contributor to The Washington Times. His website is roberthknight.com.