Thank God for fathers. I hope you have one with whom you can share love and gratitude for positive influence. Perhaps you have precious memories of a dad who now resides with our Father in heaven in the place Jesus prepared for him. Or maybe you are like me, and didn’t have a father who played a constructive role in your life. If so, I hope you have allowed our Heavenly Father to fill that gap. I know I have, and it has blessed me in so many ways.
Betty and I rejoice that our son and sons-in-law are great husbands and dads—they are a joy to observe! In the majority of families in America today, fathers are tragically missing or spiritually dysfunctional. This is a major reason people of faith must point to the Father in heaven and help others understand what Jesus meant when He told His followers He was not going to leave them as orphans. He came to redeem us all and reconcile us to a meaningful relationship with the perfect Father.
All believers who know God through Christ are called to reveal and share the profound positive effect that a personal relationship with Father God can have on anyone’s life, however great their challenges may be. God is the only one who can correct the missing father crisis. We can’t rely on government and their agencies as a substitute.
I don’t have positive memories of an earthly father who loved and nurtured me. In fact, I was conceived as a result of a forced sexual situation. My 40-year-old mother, not knowing what to do, requested an abortion and was refused. After I was born, she placed me in five years of foster care with a pastor and his wife. Then suddenly, my mother came back into the picture and decided she wanted to raise me. She took me from the security I had known during those important early years of life. We lived in poverty for the next 10 years, but our basic needs were met. My mother never turned to the government for a hand-out.
When I was nine years old, my mother married a man 20 years older who could neither read nor write and was living on Social Security. At this tender age, I was taken into custody by detention officers after someone reported that I didn’t have enough to eat. At the time, we were living in a two-room house on the banks of a dirty part of the Colorado River in Austin, Texas. We had no street address. Our home was less than modest. We were truly poor, but I was not malnourished.
At the detention center, I was put in a room with bars on the window. It was terrifying. Miraculously, I was released in a matter of days because my foster parents during the first five years of my life traveled from Houston to Austin to get me released. (My mother didn’t have a phone in her house, so they were unable to contact her.) They met with the authorities and assured them they would stock our cabinets with food. They also left money for my care. At the time, I did not know they had done this. For some reason, they were not allowed to visit with me. They told me years later that they had watched me from a window of the administration building.
It’s hard to describe the traumatic effect this experience had on me. I shudder to think what would have happened if I had spent weeks or months at the detention center. No doubt the authorities meant well, but a government bureaucrat is a poor substitute for a loving parent.
If you don’t believe that the family is a bulwark against big government, just ask a socialist. Did you know that one of the main goals of the founders of modern socialism was to destroy the family? As soon as they took power in a violent revolution in 1917, the Bolsheviks began liberalizing Russian divorce laws. When the socialists took power in Spain in 2005, they did the same thing. Socialists want an all-powerful state that molds every individual into a new human being, the “socialist man.” To do that, they need to get everyone as early as possible, while they are still impressionable. The socialist would much prefer a mass of isolated individuals all dependent on the state from the beginning, rather than having to work through a complicated thicket of family ties. Socialist states don’t like other sources of authority that limit their power.
Frederick Engels, Karl Marx’s coauthor, thought monogamy was capitalism’s partner in crime in oppressing women. He argued that the socialist vision required the destruction of “private property, religion and this present form of marriage.” Feminists such as Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, attack marriage as part of their broader attack on capitalism. Many who practice family law in the United States would like nothing more than to see the legal status of families dissolve.
These facts alone should give libertarians pause and also explain why leftists aided and abetted the sexual revolution from the very beginning: The sexual revolution alone, if left unchecked, would swell the government without the need for a violent revolution. The sexual revolution has led our culture to separate not just sex and marriage, but sex and childbirth. Bearing children is no longer seen as an obligation and a blessing; it is now treated as a costly lifestyle choice.
As divorce laws became more and more liberal in the 1960s, and divorce more and more common, the federal government instituted massive “Great Society” welfare programs. These weren’t part of a grand socialist scheme to destroy the family. Lyndon Johnson, the president at the time, saw these programs as a “War on Poverty.” However, rather than reducing childhood poverty, the programs had the unintended effect of encouraging out-of-wedlock births and generational cycles of poverty. “When the federal government’s War on Poverty began in 1964, only 6.3 percent of children in the U.S. were born out of wedlock…. By 2008, four out of 10 births occurred outside of marriage.”
The trends alone have practically destroyed the black family in many urban areas—more than seven in ten black children are born out of wedlock—and done serious damage to families everywhere. It’s especially devastating for the poor. The sexual revolution and the Welfare State have conspired to create a vicious cycle in which family breakdown leads to a bigger, more meddlesome government, which leads to even more family breakdown.
Marriage, children, and divorce also shape people’s political views. Single women tend to support bigger government and higher taxes than married women. And divorced women with children are much more likely to vote for progressive tickets than married mothers of children. “Generally, as divorce rates have increased, women voters have become more liberal.” Adults in intact families are more likely to support small government policies than their single and divorced counterparts.
Diminishing the importance of fathers and stable families and erroneously thinking bigger government can offer meaningful solutions is foolish and doomed to fail. We need faith-filled people to step into the gap as mentors, good examples, and encouragers. The church offers the best source of inspiration to help raise up a new generation of Father-led families. As Christians, we must point everyone to the perfect Father while freely sharing His love so they can come to know the only hope for fatherlessness is a relationship with Father God.
This commentary was adapted from the New York Times best-selling book INDIVISIBLE: Restoring Faith, Family and Freedom Before It’s Too Late, co-authored by James Robison and Jay Richards.