Culture of the Fatherless

In 1908 John R. Mott, the general secretary of the World’s Student Christian Federation, said, “If the Church is to grow, so as to meet the growing needs of the age, it must have able men in its ministry…Without such leadership there is danger that it will ultimately be reduced to a negligible force.”1 A hundred years later I think we are seeing Mott’s proclamation coming true.

In our society, 70-80% of boys are growing up with a totally uninvolved, distant, or absent father.2 95% of boys learn to cut off all their emotions except anger by the age of nine.3 What we are, in effect, left with is a society of boys in men’s clothing. Because of the way materialism has deceived our culture by leading us to believe manhood can be bought, the design and purpose of masculinity has been profoundly compromised. The true art and design of manhood has been forgotten. What we have been told is that the measure of a true man is defined by his material gain and sexual prowess.  Yet God in his infinite wisdom created the man to be a guardian and protector—not an exploiter. His purpose was to keep and take care of his home.4 In the American culture however, the majority of men will continue to stare in the mirror in confusion about who they are throughout their lives. Of course, you might never have guessed this for these same men will live much of their lives as imposters, pretending to be men, or worse, convinced that they really are by what they have accumulated, accomplished, or what they have identified themselves with. They live in constant competition with their neighbor because, for them, manliness is measured by how much you can out-do other men. How big is your truck? How much can you bench press? How many ladies have you been with? How much have you accumulated? How much have you accomplished?  Our culture is so deceived that everyone is found to believe these gross errors—mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters alike. One wonders if the feminist movements’ decrying of patriarchy is not so much in reaction to God’s design and purpose of masculinity as it is to their direct experiences of phony masculinity. They likely have witnessed the bitter testimony—often in personal way—of destructive and exploitative man-imposters, rather than the glory of protectors and guardians. They, along with the rest of our society, have forgotten what a true man is really about.

All the while an essential spiritual transition is left undone. Fathers are distant or gone, or have never understood properly their own identity as men, and so their sons are not initiated into God’s design of manhood—as protectors and keepers of their homes. Instead, they learn to live in a fear of life and are content with merely trying to survive it. But they are never truly happy, because they are constantly overcome when they subject themselves, or find themselves subjected to life’s various duties that require men and not boys. They also become unprotective and even destructive to their home environments, because they live in a fearful survival mode and not in a protector mode. This is perhaps what has made our society so environmentally unconscious and destructive. Proving our manhood, then, is no longer committing to the protection of the homefront, but declaring “I’m not afraid of a damned thing”, or feeling powerful through materialism and consumerism, or seeing how many women we can get into bed—the very things that marketers of popular culture cater to and feed off of.  Indeed, our culture and society teach men to never leave adolescence. Adolescence is, in fact, more of a bondage than a transition in that it holds a would-be man in a confusing tension between boyhood and manhood. They are spiritually and emotionally void of manhood, though physically and mentally matured as men.  Thus, in their relationships with women or wives they will long for the emotional support of their mother—whose safe attachment they have not separated from—and, at the same time, will push away from them because they must “be the man” through the false pretense of sexual conquest. A woman’s deepest need in marriage is for God’s design of manhood. That is how he created it to be. That design centers on the spiritual and emotional side of being a man. The highest duty of a husband, according to the Apostle Paul, is that he love his wife.5 Love is a spiritual and emotional element long before it is anything else. The opposite of love is fear. To live in a fear of life is to be entirely unloving; to live according to your duty as a protector is entirely loving and courageous. Yet the uninitiated boy-man knows nothing of how to use his emotions in a manful way as God intended but instead suppresses them or looks for nurturance of them from the woman like a second emotional mother—either the one he couldn’t let go of or never had—and seeks other pretentious ways to prove himself to the woman.

So then, let us ask ourselves a serious question. If this is the case with the vast majority of men, then what can we say of what is happening with our Church? What can we possibly do if this deception is destroying our churches, our leaders, our marriages and relationships, and our society? To begin with, 40% of church-goers are male. Women are more likely to read the scriptures, pray, do missions, and attend church than men.6 Author and Professor Leon J. Podles sheds some interesting light on the situation:

Men can be taught to be men only by other men, and all too many pastors are not real men. A pastor called me about my book. He had been ordained in the mainline Presbyterian Church. When he entered the seminary, he had to take a battery of psychological tests and talk to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist looked over the tests, and the first question he asked the candidate was, “Are you a homosexual?” The candidate responded, “No, I’m not, and why do you ask?” The psychiatrist replied, “You have the psychological profile of a homosexual. But don’t worry, all the successful ministers in your denomination have this profile.7

The prophetic vision of the Church is that of a Bride, Mother, and Whore. The Bible refers to her in this way because it is through her that we all receive the implanted word of truth. It is she who was commissioned to carry forth the blessing of Abraham to all nations, the seed of faith, the Gospel of the Kingdom. She gives birth to many children around the world. She rears them as babes in Christ through discipleship using the milk of the Word, so that they might become men and women of God able to handle the meat of truth.8 The Lord himself declares in Isaiah 54:5, “Your maker is your husband.” The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 4:26, “But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” St. Augustine is quoted as saying, “The Church is a whore, but she’s my mother.”

Bishop Cyprian declared in 251 A.D.,

“Thus also the Church, shone over with the light of the Lord, sheds forth her rays over the whole world, yet it is one light which is everywhere diffused, nor is the unity of the body separated. Her fruitful abundance spreads her branches over the whole world. She broadly expands her rivers, liberally flowing, yet her head is one, her source one; and she is one mother, plentiful in the results of fruitfulness: from her womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, by her spirit we are animated…He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the Church for his Mother.”9

When you bring a generation of boy-men into a local church what you end up with is a heavy burden that the church cannot handle, nor is its leadership—if they are also void of real masculinity—able to handle. Such adolescent men seek for what they can get out of the church rather than how they can empower it, provide for it, and share with it. They exploit it rather than protect it. A real man of God will pour himself out; for when it comes to the Kingdom of God, he measures his life by loss instead of gain.10 He serves and protects, provides and sustains. Meanwhile, the Church engages more and more in adulterous behavior as she compromises her dignity and gives in to worldly values. She is clueless about what to do with the fatherless as well as the widows and neglects to take care of them.11

The answer to this dilemma is a fatherly redemption. And that redemption has a name: The Lord Jesus Christ. The one of whom Isaiah proclaimed, “Everlasting Father”.12 He is the truth that will free us from the deceptions. This one man alone will heal every wound left by mothers and fathers hindering boys from becoming men, redeem and restore every church from weak and failing masculinity, save every marriage from confused and overcome husbands and wives, and light up a selfish and materialistic society with living examples of what it means to be a real man. Christ was the ultimate man living the ultimate manhood by laying his righteous life down for the lives of sinners—the true protector and keeper of us all. May our fathers and mentors rise up and raise up men, and may our churches become supportive communities for them!

1 Mott, John R. The Future Leadership of the Church. New York: Young Men’s Christian Association, 1909. p.4

2 Morman MT, Floyd K. A “Changing Culture of Fatherhood”: effects on affectionate communication, closeness, and satisfaction in men’s relationships with their fathers and sons. West J Speech Communications. 2002

3 Michael Gurian, Mothers, Sons & Lovers (Shambhala Publications, 1994). 36

4 Genesis 2:15

5 Ephesians 5:25

6 Leon J. Podles, “Missing Fathers of the Church”, UTouchstoneU January/February 2001

7 Ibid.

8 See Isaiah 54:1-17; James 1:21; Galatians 3:14; Hebrews 5:11-14

Bishop Cyprian, Treatise I. On the Unity of the Church. p423. 251 A.D.

10 “Measure your life by loss instead of gain.  Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth.  For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice.  And whosever suffereth most hath most to give.” Ugo Bassi (1800-1849) From a sermon entitled “Love’s Sacrifice”.

11 See James 1:27. The theme of caring for the fatherless and the widow is poignant throughout the scriptures: Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 10:18; 14:28-29; 24:17-22; 27:19; Job 22:9; 29:12-13; Psalm 27:10; 68:5; 94:6; 146:9; Proverbs 23:10-11; Isaiah 1:17; 1:23; 10:1-2; Jeremiah 5:28; 7:6; 22:3; Jeremiah 49:11; Hosea 14:3; Malachi 3:5

12 Isaiah 9:6