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Clinton Chisholm | For fathers and other men

Published:Sunday | June 19, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Clinton Chisholm
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The 20th century was, arguably, the first century in human history that a call for men to arise was necessary and rang with urgency because the 20th century was the first century in human history that men had not been clearly seen as leaders in homes, churches and the wider society.

Concepts such as the 'marginalisation of men' and the 'feminisation of the male temperament' could not have been coined and would not have been taken seriously in any other century prior to the 20th century.

Not before the 20th century could a movement such as militant feminism arise and be taken seriously. Not before the 20th century could there be serious talk about women in the security forces fighting on equal terms with men.

Not before the 20th century could a male teacher in day school or church school be regularly called 'Miss' by innocent children.

Not before the 20th century could a book be written with the dubious title My Mother who Fathered Me.

Not before the 20th century could you find churches that are more populated and dominated by women than by men.

The call for men to arise in the home, in the Church, and in the wider society is not only necessary but urgent now because the 20th century has seen the reversal of millennia of male leadership and because the 21st century is likely to be worse than the 20th.

 

FATHERHOOD STATUS

 

So then history declares that men should arise, the present demands that men should arise, and the future, if it is to be better, dictates that men should arise as good leaders.

Towards this end, I share with you two lessons for fathers and other men. The first lesson pertains to fatherhood status.

I wish to emphasise a simple yet fundamental reason why every father should be engaged in serious efforts for his child. You owe your child the best parental efforts you can give because of the status and responsibility you have been given arising from that child's existence. So parental efforts are necessary because of the parent's status and responsibility.

What status, you might ask? Ponder this simple, even trite, but fundamental notion that is deliberately not gendered in any exclusive way. Every grown male is a man, and every grown female a woman, but being a mother or father is a status conferred upon you by a child.

Your status as a mother is dependent on that child. Your status as a father is dependent on that child, and for some, on the child's mother (short of a conclusive paternity test).

That should be a humbling thought, and my conviction is that if for no other reason, the child deserves proper parenting as a way of saying 'thank you' for the status you have conferred upon me.

The second lesson has to do with fatherhood responsibility.

You must take responsibility for your child's upbringing (whether you are a parson, politician, policeman or whoever) because, as a parent, you have both affected and afflicted your child.

 

GENETICS

 

I explain. That child has been affected and afflicted by your genes. That child may not physically look like you (a blessing for some children), but is like you genetically, diseases or infirmities and all.

I was walking with and holding our son's hand one day on Half-Way Tree Road. He was then about nine years old. I noticed a lady who seemed quite taken with him and she kept looking at him and even looking back at him when she had just passed us.

So I asked her why she was looking at him so much, and she replied that she wanted me to give him to her. So I asked her why she wanted him. She smilingly replied, "Because he is handsome." Our one and only beloved son muttered audibly, "Pity it doesn't run in the family."

Okay, so his mother's genes affect his good looks, but I told him that he has my marks within his body (my respiratory allergies, etc.) and informed him how easily a will can change!

It surely must be given serious thought that your negative genetic qualities can be passed on automatically by just contributing a cell, yet, your most wholesome abilities and traits are the results of your nurturing and caring for that child.

Most of what now characterises you as a parent has been acquired or developed by you and thus can be assuredly passed on only in the context of a stable and wholesome family setting, where the child can learn what is seen regularly.

The child's existence confers status on the father and it also creates the need for fatherhood responsibility.

In a nutshell, fathers and other men, we have an awesome responsibility in child-rearing and role-modelling, but a dangerous trend (hinted at in my introduction) has been undermining that responsibility with our complicity.

Listen to pastor and historian Weldon Hardenbrook:

"The groundwork for the 20th-century fatherless home was set. By the end of the 19th century, for the first time it was socially and morally acceptable for men not to be involved with their families." (Weldon M. Hardenbrook, Missing From Action, 1996, p.127)

Twentieth-century societies have paid a heavy price for the absence of positive male presence in the home, the Church, and the wider society.

Brothers, we cannot compete with our wives or babymothers in the raising of children, but know this: Our positive input in the lives of our children is critical for their psychological development. And this is true not only for boys, but for girls as well.

Let this now stick in your minds, brothers: When a man, single or married, decides to have a child, he does, in principle, and should, in practice, put his career, his interests, his ambitions on a modified path for the early years of that child's life. Why? Because proper child-rearing, of both girls and boys, demands the unique input of the biological father who, aware of the cruciality of his influence as one of the most significant persons in the child's life, will seek to improve his parenting skills in the interest of his child's holistic development.

Men, we have to arise for the sake of our children, our homes and our society.

- The Reverend Dr Clinton Chisholm is a theologian. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.