For the past two Sundays, I have been pressing us as a nation to face the truth about the importance of family life in nation building. I have argued that we must attend to fixing and improving the lot of the average family, not only economically but by creating conditions that will eliminate or substantially decrease the incidence of dysfunctional families. We must also stimulate an increase in healthy intact families.
The Root Issue
Being committed to national transformation, I have studied the wisdom of God’s word on what makes families and nations successful. I have examined our nation’s moral and socio-economic conditions for causes and possible solutions and concluded that fatherhood and visionary leadership are essential to success. Martin Henry wrote about it in 2013. Many others have also written on this issue.
Owing to the fear of making some uncomfortable, we sometimes do not talk about it but not to do so is detrimental to all. Our nation is at a point where we must confront and pluck up this national ailment from the root. Lasting solutions to any problem come from finding the root cause and dealing with it. One of the worst things is to misdiagnose the problem and then treat the wrong thing as the cause.
We have established that family, the most important unit of society, is both the problem and solution to a nation’s success. If we accept that to be true, then the head of the family is vital to success or failure. If the head is sick, the whole body is in trouble. The Creator designed man, the father, as the head of family. This places fatherhood at the center of everything – the root that determines the fruit.
Here are some statements of profound truth:
- “Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation. It is the leading cause of declining wellbeing in our society. [It is the engine driving our most urgent social problems from crime to adolescent pregnancy to child abuse to domestic violence against women]. Yet despite its scale and social consequences, fatherlessness is a problem that is frequently ignored or denied – Arthur David, Blankenhorn, Social Scientist.
- A US News and World Report entitled “Why Fathers Count” in February 1995 stated “Dad is destiny, more than virtually any other factor, a biological father’s presence in the family will determine a child’s success or failure.”
- “The greatest spiritual, social, economic and psychological curse on humanity today is fatherlessness, in every country” – Dr. Myles Munroe.
- In a 2010 speech promoting responsible fatherhood, titled, ‘No Excuses’, former US President Barak Obama said, “The work of raising our children is the most important job in this country, and it’s all of our responsibilities — mothers and fathers… Now, I can’t legislate fatherhood — I can’t force anybody to love a child. But what we can do is send a clear message to our fathers that there is no excuse for failing to meet their obligations.”
The fact is most men do not have a full knowledge of what it means to be a father. They are confused or ignorant at best. We have all made mistakes but certainly we cannot continue to make them or raise another ignorant generation to multiply the failure.
This is not the easiest subject to discuss openly, yet it is absolutely essential to the wellbeing of the nation. Man – the cause of fatherlessness or weak fatherhood – is a major problem in our nation. Men do not know their value. They operate below their design and potential. This does not apply to all men in the nation, as many are doing excellently. We have to acknowledge that excellence is however nowhere near the norm for most, with 85% of children born out of wedlock, and up to recently as many as 50% registered without a father named on the birth certificate; marriages on the decline (47% decrease between 2005 and 2015). We have a man problem.
Fatherlessness is No Light Issue
I know from experience, observation and anecdotal evidence that the absence of a father from the home causes all manner of problems in the household, but the numbers are actually staggering. I am compelled to share them with you. Fatherlessness affects every aspect of a child’s development and comes at a high social and economic cost to society.
Dr. Michael Coombs, Regional Technical Director, Southern Regional Health Authority, shares these statistics, drawn from US and local research:
- 90% of homeless runaway children are from fatherless homes.
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes.
- 85% of children who exhibit behavioural disorders come from fatherless homes.
- 80% of adolescents in mental health hospitals are from fatherless homes.
- 77% of teenagers and kids in chemical abuse rehab centers come from fatherless homes.
- 71% of high school dropouts are from fatherless homes.
- 71% of teenage pregnancies are to children from fatherless homes
- Girls who are raised in a fatherless home are 164% more likely to become pregnant before marriage and 92% more likely to dissolve their marriage when they get married.
- The absence of biological fathers increases by 900% a daughter’s vulnerability to rape and sexual abuse.
- 85% of all youths (75% of teenagers) in prison grew up in a fatherless home.
- 72% of all teenage murders grew up without fathers.
- 85% of rapists come from fatherless homes.
- Fatherless children are 11 times more likely to exhibit violent behaviour than children with both parents at home.
- 90% of all gang members grew up in a fatherless home.
- The most reliable predictor of criminal behaviour is the absence of a father in the home.
This issue of fatherlessness is no light issue.
It is clear that the social ills that we complain about daily – the crime, gangs, child abuse, sexual offences, poverty, teenage pregnancy, drug use – without exception are more rampant where fathers are absent. It took 2 parents to produce the child. It takes two parents to properly raise the child. Citizens must be schooled in this principle.
The Fatherhood Responsibility
The scriptures are clear – the man is the head of the household. This kind of statement will no doubt ruffle many feathers primarily because the meaning of true headship has been lost or misunderstood. It doesn’t mean that men should be autocratic and authoritarian or be dictators in their homes. Quite the opposite. The true understanding of headship is ‘the one who is responsible’ to ensure that all members of the family are loved and protected and given the best opportunity to develop and grow to their full potential. A husband is a gardener charged to ensure that everything in his realm is growing.
Anything else is a misrepresentation of manhood. It is not a position that is oppressive. It is a role of the highest servanthood to the family.
The responsibility to love is directed firstly to the man – Husbands love your wives. It is not an emotional response but is other-centred; expressing a commitment to seek the best welfare of others so that every member of the family is convinced of his commitment to seek that best welfare and interest.
It is the role of the father to be self-sacrificing to ensure that the total needs of the family are met – not only economic ones, but especially the spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical needs. Therefore poverty does not provide an excuse for father absence or give a reason for the inability to raise a family. A father enables his family members to take their place in life because he inculcates in them the values, principles and emotional stability needed to become good contributors to the society at large.
How we Raise Boys
Our focus has got to return to our boys – how we raise them is critical. We must teach them what manhood is – and what it’s not. Most of our boys do not know how to be an effective man because they did not grow up seeing the male example. They had no model of appropriate male conduct to pattern themselves on. Instead they take their cues from a range of inappropriate sources.
Our girls do somewhat better because at least most of them grow with their mothers and have seen an example of what it is to be a woman and mother.
The father is the one who sets order and discipline in a family. If order breaks down in the family, it is inevitable that it will break down in society – the whole society will be out of order.
If we are talking about restoring the society to order, we must train our boys/men in what is the responsibility of fatherhood. Much emphasis has to be placed on restoring to the nation true manhood, a deep sense of responsibility, and a commitment to fathering. The welfare of the children is heavily dependent on how well men exercise their roles as fathers.
We must teach our men that manhood is more than his biological distinguishing feature. It is about responsibility.
The decision to father is a decision to accept responsibility and that demands commitment, presence, care, resources, support to mother (emotional and physical) and readiness to shape a life for positive contribution to society. If you are not prepared for that “tek weh yuself and no trouble it; don’t trouble it”. Keep your tings to yourself.
Irresponsible fathering is a destroyer of lives and society. Men must know this and have it drilled into their heads and hearts. No longer can we afford to ignore it, make light of it…we must do something about it.
One of the grave mistakes the UN and multi-lateral organizations have made in the last 30 years is to reduce to almost zero, the funding to empower men in favour of empowering women. Empowering women was and remains necessary but to have ceased male empowering activity was ill advised. The effect of that action is evident in the increase of social problems in developing nations. Corrective measures must be taken now to restore balance.
What measures are we going to take to hold fathers accountable and teach them? The courts in dealing with fathers seem only concerned with financial support. Whereas that is necessary, the evidence is showing that loving presence and active involvement in the life of a child is of equal or greater importance.
The father has a central role in the development of a child. Our women must be counseled against the danger of cutting off the child from father on account of their adult differences. The child’s welfare must take priority.
If we, the people, and our leaders are serious about dealing with crime and other social ills and fixing economic woes,
then the issue of fatherlessness must be confronted and transformed.
Copyright © 2017 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.