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Are Dad’s In Decline

Milton Berle jokes about a man who wanted to have breakfast in bed on Father’s Day.  His kinds fulfilled his wishes by putting a cot in the kitchen!  The joke is funny but what is happening to fathers and fatherhood in modern America is no laughing matter.  A recent NEWSWEEK article (“Unmarried With Children”, May 28, 2001, p. 48ff.) reports a dangerous trend.  Statistics from the 2000 Census show that the number of families headed by single mothers increased 25% since 1990, to more than 7.5 million households, in part due to a high rate of divorce and out-of-wedlock births.  According to the article, “For most of the past decade, about a third of all babies were born to unmarried women, compared with 3.8% in 1940.”  Demographics predict that more than half of the youngsters born in the 1990’s will spend at least part of their childhood in a single-parent home.  A telling and disturbing sentence in the article was a statement by Rosanna Hertz, chair of the women’s studies department at Wellesley College, “Twenty years ago middle-class women believed it took a man to have a child, but that’s no longer true.  We’ve reached a watershed moment.”  The article went on to point out that more women are better educated and better able to support themselves- “So a husband is no longer a financial prerequisite to motherhood.”

But a man is still a prerequisite to fatherhood!  More women may be able to afford the financial cost of being a single mom, but a growing body of evidence suggests there is a high price to pay when we diminish dad and his role in the home to the point we either allow or encourage him to be “absent,” either physically or emotionally or spiritually.  As Stu Weber points out, “Even a glance at our culture bears out the power of fathering...or the power of its absence.  It may well be that the major problems in America today stem from a lack of fatherhood.”  (Tender Warrior, p. 134)  There is one thing increasing numbers of people seem to be forgetting, God is not pleased when dads are in decline and thus cause “a lack of fatherhood.”  1 Timothy 5: 8 makes the point succinctly, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  Many single moms (and dads) are doing a good job of being single parents and are raising good kids in the face of titanic pressures and titanic stresses.  They deserve our spiritual and physical support.  But God does not view dad as optional equipment in the home.  It still takes a man to be a dad.  We must stop the decline.

Dan Gulley, Evangelist
Smithville church of Christ