"The Revival of Fatherhood?"
THe Rev’d Quintin Morrow
Father’s Day 2002
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Ft. Worth, Texas
In a speech a decade ago, then Vice President Dan Quayle criticized Murphy Brown, the lead character of a CBS sitcom of the same name, for choosing to bear and raise a child without a father in the home. The sum of his critique was simple: It may be cool, chic, and a symbol of feminism’s triumph for women to raise children without a father in the home, but it isn’t good for kids and it isn’t good for our society. The response from the liberal cultural elite in this country was swift and savage. Quayle was heckled as a right-wing Neanderthal who wanted nothing more than to keep women bound in the stifling and servile drudgeries of wife and mother. Less than a year later, interestingly enough, a sociologist named Barbara Defoe Whitehead authored and published a 37-page article revealing the numbers, trends, and consequences on children of fatherless families for The Atlantic Monthly magazine. The title of the article was Dan Quayle Was Right.
Listen to these numbers. Today, almost 1 out of 2 American children go to bed each night without a biological father in the home. And fifty-percent of our children today will spend at least some time before age 18 with only 1 parent. The poverty rate for children born to mothers who finished high school, got married, and waited until they were 20 to have their first child is 8%. The poverty rate for those who don’t do those things is 79%. The average poverty rate for children of single mothers is currently 47%; it is 65% for black children. 60% of America’s rapists, 72% of adolescent murderers, and 70% of long term prison inmates grew up without fathers. Do the math. What conclusion do you draw?
It is incontrovertible. Despite the messages of Hollywood and Madison Avenue, having a biological father in the home to help protect, provide for, and raise the children is an essential element of societal health and happy, well-adjusted kids.
In 1996 another sociologist named David Blankenhorn published another important piece on domiciles without dads entitled: Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem. In that book Blankenhorn makes the case that not only are we raising a generation of children without a father in the home, but we are no longer providing our little boys with a cultural script describing what fatherhood is. The days of Leave It to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet, and Father Knows Best are over. And without a dad in the home, and without healthy, happy fathers in the house being presented in the public square, our boys have no idea of what being a father means. The chickens of the sexual revolution and feminism have come home to roost, and we are paying the price.
God’s unchanging Word reveals that the family is not a culturally-initiated social construct that can be changed, melded and molded to suit man’s whims; rather, it was given, mandated, and blessed by God in creation. The foundation of the family is one man and one woman in a lifelong, exclusive, committed bond called marriage. And God blesses that union with children to be nurtured, loved and taught the fear of the Lord, as He chooses.
On this Father’s Day, Dads, let me tell you that you are absolutely essential to healthy children and a safe, prosperous nation. And today I want to honor you with the “Three Ps of Fatherhood.” These three Ps will show you your purpose as a father, your positions as a father, and your potential as a father.
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. So says St. Paul in Ephesians 6:4.
What is your purpose fathers? What function do you perform in the home? You have two.
The first job you have is to love, protect, and provide for your children. This may seem to some of you like merely a reiteration of the obvious, but the number of so-called “Deadbeat Dads” and the number of children on Welfare in this country would seem to indicate otherwise. Dads, it is your job to love, protect, and provide for your children. They have been given to you by God as a sacred trust, and you—you—bear the responsibility for them. Sometimes fatherhood is demanding; sometimes marriage is boring; often the daily 9-5 is tedious. I know that, but you stay put and do your duty by your kids. Flight is possible, but there are consequences—for you and for those you leave behind.
The second job you have is to raise morally responsible, biblically-literate, and Gospel-sensitive children. In Deuteronomy 6 God speaks to the fathers of the homes of the people of Israel. And He says,
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
At their baptism you promised to teach your children the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, as well as every other thing that they ought to know and believe for their soul’s health. How ya doin? Your children are not going to grow up and be kind, generous, and honest, unless you teach them. You must be deliberate and intentional about it. Television, the radio, and the public schools have your children more than you do; but they aren’t teaching your children virtue, integrity, love of God, and self-sacrifice. You must, dads. You must. It is your job. Everyday life will present you with teachable moments to impart to your children the gifts of the true, the beautiful, and the good. Seize those moments and bring up kids that are morally responsible, biblically-literate, and receptive to the Gospel.
In I Thessalonians 2:10-12 St. Paul writes,
10 sYou are witnesses, and God also, thow devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and 3charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 uthat you would walk worthy of God vwho calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
You know your purpose in the family, Dads, but what positions do you play?
Firstly, you are the pastor in the home. That’s right, Dad. God has given you the responsibility of spiritual leadership in the family. That’s one of the reasons, by the way, we stand against the ordination of women to the priesthood. God has ordained the father to be the head of the house, and He has ordained that a man bear the responsibility of leadership in His house, the church. But as pastor of the home you have two important functions. The first is to lead your family in worship. Dads, I implore you to institute family altar in your home. If you feel inadequate, there is an order of family worship in the prayer book. Follow that. If you are too busy to lead your family in worship, you are too busy. Start small, but start. Set a time every evening before bed to gather the entire family, read a portion of Scripture aloud and pray. Make it habit. The second important function you exercise as pastor of the family is to intercede for your children and wife. Pray for them. In the morning on the way to work; in the evening while alone in your study. Pray that God will protect your children from physical harm; pray that He will make them honest, generous, and compassionate; pray that He would grant them everlasting life. Don’t let a day go by, Dads, when you aren’t lifting your family before the throne of grace. Michael S. Beates, in article entitled The Father as Priest, writes:
God ordained the family as the basic social unit, a microcosm of society. A father, as head of this unit, carries responsibility for going before God to intercede for his family, and, having done so, to lead his family to God in worship. Though difficult and demanding, this task (by God’s grace) yields eternal, spiritual, and relational rewards against which earthly material gain cannot be compared.
Secondly, Dads, you have the position of prophet in the home. That may sound daunting, but by and large, in Scripture, a prophet was a regular guy just like you. He sometimes had a family, and most often was a farmer or a shepherd. Finally, a prophet was a man God chose and raised up to proclaim and model those things that please the Lord. The prophet was given the message, “Thus saith the Lord.” He was to go and proclaim it and model it by his behavior. He was to repeat what God had said to him exactly, and incorporate it also into his life and live it. And that is exactly your position in the family as prophet: To declare and model what is right. Being a prophet in the home, of course, demands intentionality and consistency. It means you must know what pleases the Lord, what doesn’t, and you must strive to live it yourself. You can never take your family farther than you yourself have gone. That means you, Dads, must be disciples walking in the footsteps of the Savior. In a Puritan tract on the family published in 1646, John Geree wrote of the father: “His family he endeavored to make a Church,…laboring that those that were born in it, might be born again to God.” On Genesis 17:23 the Geneva Bible 0f 1560 makes this comment: “Masters in their houses ought to be preachers to their families, that from the highest to the lowest they may obey the will of God.”
Thirdly, Dads, you have the position of prince in the family. Now I know that in this so-called enlightened day in which live, where men and women are seen as interchangeable and anything a man can do a woman can do better, rigid egalitarianism is the model. But you can’t find that structure anywhere in Scripture. In Ephesians 5:22-33 St. Paul tells us that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church. I know that in the past some men have bullied and abused their families under the admonitions of Paul in Ephesians 5, but the abuse of a thing does not invalidate the truth of a thing. Headship in the home doesn’t mean tyranny, nor does it mean dictatorship. It means one humbly leads and the rest dutifully follow. Being a prince in the home, Dads, means taking leadership in righteousness, humility, and service. It means being fair, reasonable, and consistent. It means taking the responsibility you have been given by God soberly and deliberately, realizing that eternal souls that God loves are in your care.
We have examined the purpose and the positions a father has in the home. We now conclude with your potential as fathers.
Let me share with you, Dads, the sad case of the failure of one father, a man named Eli. In the opening chapters of the Book of I Samuel we find a priest named Eli who ministered in the Temple before the Lord with his two sons, who were also priests, Hophni and Phineas. Eli’s two sons were dissolute, immoral, and self-absorbed men. They fornicated with the daughters and sisters of Israel on the steps of the Temple and they extorted money and goods from worshippers. God warned Eli to reign in his boys, but he refused. And as a consequence we read this indictment from the Lord:
11 Then the LORD said to Samuel: “Behold, I will do something in Israel gat which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 In that day I will perform against Eli hall that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 iFor I have told him that I will jjudge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because khis sons made themselves vile, and he ldid not 2restrain them.”
Don’t be an Eli, Dads. You may be here this morning, however, and think that this message has come too late for you. Maybe your children are gone, or are adolescents, and you think nothing can be done now. Take heart. As long as there is life there is hope. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:13 that one of the essential keys to Christian living is forsaking the past, forgetting it, and moving on. Forgetting those things which are behind, he says, and pressing toward those things which are ahead, we are to strive toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Dads, guilt has one purpose and purpose only: It is an instrument God uses to get His people to forsake those things that displease Him. Now, Satan misuses it to accuse, beat up, and defeat Christians, but God doesn’t do that. If you have failed as a father—or feel like you’ve failed—confess it to the Lord, forsake it, then forget it.
Start fresh today being the father God wants you to be. Or be the grandfather He wants you to be. Your purpose is to provide for your children and raise them in the nurture and instructions of the Lord. You are the pastor, the prophet, and the head of your family. Your failures are in the past. Forget them. Your opportunities begin today. The future is God’s. Don’t leave the same Dad you came in here as.
At a 1994 gathering of the Promise Keepers in Denton, Texas, a pastor, Jim Ryle, told his story. When he was 2 years old his father was sent to prison. When he was 7 the state placed Jim in an orphanage. At 19 he had a car wreck that took the life of a friend. He sold drugs to raise money for his legal bill, was arrested and sent to prison. While in prison James Ryle received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He did his time, left prison, and eventually went into full-time ministry. Years later, hoping to reconcile, Jim looked up and found his father. When they got together, talk soon turned to prison life. James’ father asked him, “Which prison were you in?” Jim told him, and his father was stunned. “I helped to build that prison,” he said. It seems Jim’s dad had been a welder who went place to place building penitentiaries. “I was in the prison my father built,” Ryle concluded.
What is impossible with men, Jesus said, is possible with God. You can be a good father, with God’s grace and aid. Your kids, Dad, are watching what you say and what you do. You build a mansion of righteousness, truth, integrity, and faith for your children, and your children’s children, to dwell in years after you’re gone. We’ve built enough prisons.
The title of this message is “The Revival of Fatherhood?” but it comes with a question mark. I hope for a revival of fatherhood in this church, this city, this state, and this nation. But I don’t have a crystal ball. I have no idea what the future will hold. But it is up to you, Dads. It is up to you.