A British cleric created a stir recently by accusing Jesus of teaching something wrong. Jesus told us that when we pray, we should say, “Our Father…”
But the Archbishop of York told his fellow clergymen: “I know the word ‘father’ is problematic for those whose experience of earthly fathers has been destructive and abusive, and for all of us who have laboured rather too much from an oppressively patriarchal grip on life.”
The U.K. Guardian notes further: “In February, the [Church of England] said it would consider whether to stop referring to God as ‘he,’ after priests asked to be allowed to use gender-neutral terms instead.”
The prelate said in effect that there are so many bad fathers out there that Jesus has brought harm to the world through this teaching. Ironically, the cleric said the main purpose of his talk was to promote unity among Christians.
Is it true that fathers have been overall “destructive and abusive” and that humanity must be freed from “an oppressively patriarchal grip”?
For a “Christian” leader to so disregard God’s self-revelation in the Scriptures, in which God presents Himself as Father and uses masculine pronouns, is quite hubristic in my humble opinion. Don’t they have any Biblical standards any more at the Church of England in terms of leadership?
But what about the issue he raises as to dads? Are fathers part of the problem of society or a major part of the solution?
I remember once visiting a liberal evangelical church—that sounds like an oxymoron. This was about 40 years ago in Chicago. A lay minister offered a prayer, saying, “Our Father, our Mother….” I asked him about this after the service, and he explained that it was because they were so close to Cabrini Green, the notorious housing project (so bad that it eventually was torn down) where many of the residents did not know a good father.
Week in and week out, what happens in Chicago and Baltimore and Detroit? There are multiple shootings, including many fatalities. The left blames the guns. But in reality, it is largely fatherlessness at work.
Many young men join gangs because in effect the gang leaders provide the male leadership they desperately crave. The gang leaders become surrogate fathers.
The vast majority of prisoners come from broken homes.
- 85% of youths in prison come from fatherless homes.
- 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.
- 90% of all homeless and runaway children come from fatherless homes.
- 60% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes.
In short, we don’t need less fathers—we need more fathers—to stay in the home.
In his End of Day Report, Gary Bauer pens, “If you were to make a list of the top problems we’re facing in America today, one of them would have to be the epidemic of children being raised without a father in the home. Fatherlessness is associated with higher rates of poverty and virtually every other social ill.”
In our society, we’ve gone from “Father Knows Best” to Archie Bunker, who was a bigoted dad, to “father’s a complete idiot,” as in Homer Simpson.
Our view of our Heavenly Father is often linked to our view of our earthly father.
I once had the privilege to interview Dr. Paul Vitz, psychology professor emeritus at New York University. He has gone on to teach at Divine Mercy University in Sterling, Virginia.
I interviewed him because of his classic book, Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism, in which he documents the link between fatherlessness or bad fathers and bad results for the children—including atheism.
Vitz told me, “I would say the biggest problem in the country is the breakdown of the family, and the biggest problem in the breakdown in the family is the absence of the father. Our answer is to recover the faith, particularly for men, and we’ll recover fatherhood. And if we recover fatherhood, we’ll recover the family. We recover the family, we’ll recover our society.”
In this country, we often talk about the “founding fathers.” George Washington was “the father of the country.” James Madison is often described as “the father of the Constitution.” Even the word patriotism is derived from the word patra—as in father.
Today’s society is in chaos. It is in rebellion against God’s order for society. Even one of the Ten Commandments admonishes us, Honor your father and your mother that you may live long lives.
Contrary to what some Church of England officials say, we need to strengthen our view of the father, including our Heavenly Father, not to continue to emasculate it.
©2023. Jerry Newcombe, D.Min. All rights reserved.