The Father Factor

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America — one out of every three — live in biological father-absent homes. Nine in ten American parents agree this is a “crisis. Absent fathers impact numerous social issues chronicled well by the National Fatherhood Initiative.  That organization has helpful tools and statistics.

As we celebrate Father’s Day, it can be easy to address the impact of absent fathers which cost us over 100 billion dollars a year.  Rather than belabor the negative, we should be extolling the positives of marriage and intact families.  Marriage is one of the most effective anti-poverty measures.  Jim Wallis in his book, On God’s Sidewrites, “Research from across the political spectrum – from the liberal Brookings Institution to the conservative Heritage Foundation – shows that marriage is one of the most critical factors in assessing the well-being of children and the common good – period.” p. 167.

According to the Heritage Foundation, “marriage drops the probability of poverty by 80 percent.”  And the Brookings Institute finds, “if we had the marriage rate we had in 1970, the poverty rate would fall by more than 25 percent.” Marriage matters.  Fatherhood matters.

I volunteer for Administer Justice which provides free legal help and gospel hope for the poor in Chicago’s suburbs.  On the Saturday before Father’s Day I met with a young woman who is facing divorce.  She was married last October and when marriage wasn’t as perfect as the dream she and her husband had envisioned, the husband left and found another woman.  These tragic circumstances demonstrate the new status of disposable marriages.

I celebrate 24 years of marriage this summer.  Helen and I have faced many challenges which you may know from the book Gospel Justice.  Those challenges have drawn us closer.  And those challenges make us better parents.  I love my sons and honestly don’t understand those fathers who miss out on the joy of fathering.  I know it is hard, but it is absolutely worth the effort.

Breaking the cycle begins one parent and one couple at a time.  Let’s not push dad’s away but encourage them.  Let’s thank our dad’s regardless of their imperfections.  And for those who struggle with a broken relationship with your father, may you be encouraged by your heavenly father who loves you unconditionally and will never leave you or forsake you.  Let’s start breaking the crisis of absent fatherhood, by resolving not to be one of those fathers regardless of our own past.  We can start a new future today.  Let’s fight poverty with good marriages and intact families.  Let’s model the love our Heavenly Father shows us as we go and do likewise.