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Topic: MARRIAGE & THE NATURAL FAMILY
Fathers: Key to their Children's Faith
June 13, 2006
S. Michael Craven
I originally published this article last year in conjunction with
Father's day and given the overwhelming response I thought it
worthwhile to offer it again this year as we approach another Father's
Day. I hope you enjoy.
I am afraid that our culture in general and subsequently too many
fathers themselves have reduced the role of fatherhood to something
nonessential or unnecessary. Many men today regard parenting as being
primarily the mother's role and somehow no longer associated with
masculinity or "real" manhood.
Instead they have bought into modern cultural caricatures along with
[radically] feminist psychology and its label of "hunter-gatherer" and
thus assume this to be their primary and sometimes only contribution to
the family. As a result too many men, including professing Christian
men, express their role as "father" exclusively in terms of financial
provider. The fact is children are not looking for financial provision;
they are looking for love, guidance and a role model for what it means
to be a man.
During the Colonial period in America men defined themselves by their
level of community involvement and fatherhood. Marriage and fatherhood
were seen as being among the highest aspirations in a man's life,
namely because that generation was less individualistic and
self-centered. Today the highest aspirations of men seem to be career
success and personal leisure and against these they seek to "balance"
marriage and family.
The lack of actively involved fathers is producing societal conditions
necessary for the intervention of government. It is a sobering fact
when the government is forced to respond to the failure of such a
fundamental institution as family! In 2001 the US Department of Health
& Human Services launched its "Fatherhood Initiative" with this
"The President is determined to make committed, responsible fatherhood
a national priority... [T]he presence of two committed, involved
parents contributes directly to better school performance, reduced
substance abuse, less crime and delinquency, fewer emotional and other
behavioral problems, less risk of abuse or neglect, and lower risk of
teen suicide. The research is clear: fathers factor significantly in
the lives of their children. There is simply no substitute for the
love, involvement, and commitment of a responsible father."
While the research does indeed show that paternal absence (whether it
is physical or practical) is a significant contributing factor in
almost every category of societal ill my concern here is the spiritual
A rather obscure but important study conducted by the Swiss government
in 1994 and published in 2000 revealed some astonishing facts with
regard to the generational transmission of faith and religious values.
In short the study reveals that "It is the religious practice of the
father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance
at or absence from church of the children."
The study reported:
"If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their
children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up
attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not
practicing at all.
If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the
children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further
59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.
If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of
children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend
irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely
to the church!"
Let us look at the figures the other way round. What happens if the
father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing?
Extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goes up
from 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and to 44
percent with the non-practicing, as if loyalty to father's commitment
grows in proportion to mother's laxity or indifference to religion.
In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his
wife's devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular
worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice
of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children
will become churchgoers (regular and irregular).
This confirms the role of father as spiritual leader which I would
argue is exactly what fatherhood itself is, to love our wives as Christ
loves the Church, to model Christ-like love for our children in our
most important earthly relationship, to care for our children as our
Father in heaven cares for each of us and finally, that we diligently
teach our children the truth about reality. This means that we instruct
them in their understanding of life and the world and everything in it
using God's revelation as the basis by which they analyze and assess
life's challenges and opportunities. It means that we send them forth
with a biblical view of the world and a faith in Jesus Christ that is
rooted in solid understanding and not merely blind tradition.
Dear brothers I pray that as we lead our children to Church this
Father's Day that we will reflect deeply on the vital role of
spiritually mentoring our children in the faith of our Lord Jesus and
put into practice the admonition of the Lord to teach our children
'when they sit at home, when they walk along the road, when they lie
down and when they wake up.' (Deut 6:7) Happy Father's Day!
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