Summary: Part 8 of a series on the Life of David - Preached on Father’s Day, 2004
Insights from the Life of David – Part 8:
“The Legacy of a Man: Solomon’s Father, David”
I Kings 2:1-4, 10-12; 3:3-14
A Michigan high school senior, Kara Hewes, entered a crowded conference room to face cameras and reporters. She was about to make a public appeal to her seventy-three-year-old father. She asked him to admit his paternity. "I’d just like him to be a father," she said. "I want very much to develop a relationship with him." Her biological father, identified through a reliable blood test, was Bruce Sundlun, World War II Air Force captain, Harvard Law School graduate, and second-term governor of Rhode Island.
Kara Hewes got her wish. Shortly after the press conference in June 1993, Sundlun acknowledged his paternity and agreed to pay Kara’s college tuition. She withdrew her paternity suit. Father and daughter dined together in the governor’s mansion, and he invited her to visit him and his other children at his Newport estate.
The case was a complicated one. The thrice-divorced governor was single at the time he fathered Kara. He had already paid $30,000 to Kara’s mother to settle an earlier suit, and Kara had been adopted by her stepfather, who later vanished.
As for the governor, he was reluctant to dwell on the past: "I think the important thing is not to look back," he later told reporters in a joint press conference with his daughter. "We’re here to look forward and try to create a relationship. You can’t wave a magic wand and have a storybook life."
Governor Sundlun’s unstorybook story, though a bit more public than most, has become increasingly common. It’s a story unfolding in countless courtrooms and welfare offices across the nation. Like the governor, more and more men are fathering children outside of marriage. More and more men are failing to support or even acknowledge their children. More and more men are simply vanishing from their children’s lives.
The story of Kara Hewes is a familiar one. A growing number of American children have no relationship with their fathers. Court and school officials tell us that many children don’t even know what to put in the "Father’s Name" blank on printed forms. An even larger proportion of children have only the slightest acquaintance with their fathers.
Fathers are also vanishing legally. More than one-third of all childbirths in our nation now occur outside of marriage. In most of these cases, the place for the father’s name on the birth certificate is simply left blank. In at least two of every three cases of unwed parenthood, the father is never legally identified.
When Governor Sundlun said that we "can’t wave a magic wand and have a storybook life," he implied that the storybooks may be unrealistic. But the sad reality is that even storybooks for children now reflect the story of our society. "There are different kinds of daddies," one book for preschoolers states, and "sometimes a Daddy goes away like yours did. He may not see his children at all." Another children’s book says: "Some kids know both their mom and dad, and some kids don’t." One child in this book says: "I never met my dad, but I know that he lives in a big city." Another says: "I’ll bet my dad is really big and strong."
So Kara Hewes and Governor Sundlun are, after all, something of a storybook story. It’s a story we all know. It’s becoming our society’s story. We see it everywhere around us. We tell it to our children. It’s the story of an increasingly fatherless society. The moral of this new narrative is that fathers are unnecessary.
Imagine something big, made out of glass, called fatherhood. First imagine it slowly shrinking. Then imagine it suddenly shattering into pieces. Now look around and try to identify the remains. Over here is marriage. Over there is procreation. Over here, manhood. Over there, parenthood. Here, rights. There, responsibilities. In this direction, what’s best for me. In that direction, what’s best for my child.
And off to one side, looking nervous, is a fellow society calls a biological father, filling out forms and agreeing to mail in child-support payments. Off to the other side is some guy the experts now call a social father, wondering what to do next and whether he wants to do it. And in the middle, poking through the rubble and trying to make sense of it all are mothers and children.
Ladies and Gentlemen: our nation is in a crisis. The institution of the family has been devalued and the role of a father has been belittled. The debate over homosexual marriage is a symptom of the problem that our country has been facing for many years now: the break up of the family. Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote a book entitled “It Takes A Village” in which it is her assertion that society must become involved in raising children. While I agree with much of her assertion I’d like to take it to the next level and suggest that It takes a Family to Raise a Child! It takes a mother and father to raise a child! That’s the way God designed it to be. And it’s the breakup of the family that has brought our society to the place where it is today.