Tag Archives: men

Why Are So Many Fatherless?

By Eugene C. Scott

Sean Daley (Slug) of the hip-hop group Atmosphere wrote and preformed a song, “Yesterday,” that reflects the struggle many of us have after losing our fathers:

“I thought I saw you yesterday . . .

Was that you? Looked just like you

Strange things my imagination might do

Take a breath, reflect on what we been through

Or am I just goin’ crazy ’cause I miss you?”

I too have been looking–in one way or another–ever since my dad’s heart suddenly stopped beating. I remember the day of his funeral sitting on our living room couch, hoping it was only a nightmare, watching for him to reappear. My uncles kept trooping by and, not knowing what else to do, rubbed the top of my head saying, “You’re the man of the house now.” I think they too were still looking for him. In me.

I was eleven then, the oldest boy. I had two older sisters and a younger brother. I tried to become the man of the house but failed. I was not a man and would not be for a long time. As I wrote last week, fatherlessness was to become a long odyssey. Sean Daley’s song goes on:

“Chip on the shoulder, anger in my veins

Had so much hate, now it brings me shame . . .

I thought I saw you yesterday

But I knew it wasn’t you, ‘cause you passed away, dad”

No matter how we lost them, in many ways we’re a culture in search of fathers.

My uncles seemed like perfect candidates for me. But it wasn’t to be.

“I’ll just keep these until you boys are old enough to take care of them,” they each said loading their cars with my dad’s tools. My dad was an airplane mechanic and owned a tool set that would make Tim Taylor weak in the knees. I never saw the tools–and rarely saw the uncles–again. They were incredible tools. Humor aside, however, I have tried to care for some of the fatherless kids in my family. It’s much easier to take care of tools than someone else’s kids.

Since then I’ve noticed more and more men are having trouble even taking care of their own kids. Fatherlessness is epidemic. As I wrote last week, 24 million kids today are growing up in fatherless homes.

Why? What’s going on?

The reasons may be as many as those without fathers themselves. Fatherlessness is a complex social problem with no easy answers. But there is a common denominator: men. As a group we have fallen asleep at the switch. We have lost our courage and forgotten our purpose.

Yes, we are also the victims (I hate to use that word) of the unintended consequences of a changing culture.

For example, I saw in my own family the truth that welfare programs tend to devalue those depending on them. Because food was laid on the table by Big Brother, the men who begat my nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews believed they weren’t needed or wanted and simply walked, or ran away. Yes, these men were often young, uneducated, underemployed, and maybe even fatherless themselves.

But since when do men–or women for that matter–walk or run away from a challenge? When did we men, as a group, lose the courage it takes to look at our own flesh and blood and say, “I will give my all, my life, so that you can live.”

When did we, in such huge numbers, lay down the true courage it takes to father, protect and provide for our offspring and take up the fake bravado it takes to grab a game-stick or gun and mow down those we call enemies?

I remember well the terror and wonder that filled me as I held each of my three naked, vulnerable children. Their every breath depended, in part, on me. What if I turned out to be as much of a failure as a father as I was at being the man of the house? Then God seemed to speak to my heart, “You were made for this. Be strong and courageous. With my help you will do it.”

I have, though far from perfectly.

Another unintended consequence of a social change is that in order to gain God-given equal footing in a patriarchal world, women tore tooth and nail at the definition–not only of womanhood–but manhood too. They said real men aren’t angry, emotionless, distant, driven John Waynes. And they were right. The problem was, in our hurry to demolish straw-men we forgot to replace them with a working definition.

So, I found myself not only growing up without a living, breathing model of what a father was, I struggled to become a man when not many were able to say what purpose real men served. What was my purpose in the world? I wondered.

Again, the answer is forming out of my faith. I was not invented to live for myself, self-discovery, self-fulfillment. These things are crucial signs on the path of becoming who God created me to be. But the end of the journey is not becoming a better me but becoming more like Christ and, like him, to give myself away. First to my family. To show them how to work, live, fail, think, succeed, worship, sacrifice, hunt, fish, and–highest of all–to love God and others.

Men, there may be odds against us, but the root of the problem of fatherlessness is in us and the seed of the solution too.

God is telling us, “Be very strong and courageous.” Father your children; don’t settle for being merely a sperm-donor.

There is no greater gift and purpose in life than to have someone created in your image and then have that Creator say, “Here she is. Show her what it takes to be human. Show him how much I love him.” This takes much more strength and courage than simply being the man of the house.

Eugene C. Scott writes the Wednesday Neighborhood Cafe blog.  If you’re reading this on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO


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Facebook states the average user has 130 Facebook friends.  I know people who boast of more than 1000 friends on the social networking site.  Some people challenge each other to see who can “friend” the most people. Quantity often trumps quality.

I enjoy and utilize Facebook. Through it I have engaged in theological conversations with people as far away from my native Colorado as Australia. Reconnecting with long lost friends has been rewarding. And social networking sites allow us to keep up-to-date and communicate with many people we would not otherwise be able to.  A Daily Bible Conversation is just such a site.

To name each of the 493 people listed on my Facebook page as friends, however, stretches the definition of friendship out of recognition. Many of them are acquaintances or contacts at best. Can anyone really be friends with 1000 people or even 130?  I suppose it depends on your definition of friendship.

In today’s reading we see that Jonathan and David’s definition of friendship may challenge many of our modern assumptions about relationships.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

1 Samuel 20-21:15

John 9:1-41

Psalm 113:1-114:8

Proverbs 15:15-17


1 Samuel 20-21:15: We catch a candid glimpse of the life of the court of Israel’s first king. Saul is grooming Jonathan as heir apparent and has given him much authority. But everyone, including Jonathan, knows that God has decreed the crown will go to David. The tension and intrigue are high. David must hide from a murderous Saul, who is hiding his hatred for David from Jonathan. The issue comes to a head at the New Moon Festival which was a festival the first of each month celebrating God’s constant provision. Jonathan and David meet secretly so that David will not be killed and Jonathan cannot be accused of treason by his father.

Knowing how common it was for those aspiring to a throne to kill anyone who may be in the way, it is remarkable that Jonathan does not betray and kill his friend. Rather he preserves his life and ensures he will not inherit the throne.

John 9:1-41: The religious leaders of Jesus’ day rightly see him as a threat to their power. And he is, though not through Jesus wresting their power from them but rather by transforming what it meant to walk with God. Once again Jesus heals on the Sabbath. This is not coincidence. The Sabbath laws were fiercely debated and enforced. Jesus consistently chose to heal on the Sabbath and “disobey” their pet law to prove who he was and to provoke them. Though Jesus was not political in the way we view it today, he did spend a great deal of time and energy working against established religion. This angered the religious leaders.

Today many Christians are tireless in their critique of governments and political parties they view as wrong. I do not necessarily disagree with this. But following Jesus, I believe, also calls us to evaluate and reform the religious establishment in areas it has lost sight of Jesus‘ mission and where it is as confused and oppressive as any government is and as the Pharisees of old were.

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Jonathan and David would have scoffed at what many of us today define as friendship, especially the Facebook kind. We shouldn’t castigate ourselves, however. Because we can learn from them. What made their friendship so exceptional?

Close friends often share common interests.  More than that, David and Jonathan shared a deep, living faith in God. They made at least three covenants to one another that they based on their common Hebrew faith.

This covenant also shows they were both intentional about their friendship. They did not just meet in a bar and “hang out.” They chose to walk with one another through some very difficult times.

Giving not taking was foundational. Both were willing to give up their promised future crowns for one another. Jonathan gave up his relationship with his father. David refused to fight back against Saul and gave up his safety for Jonathan.

They were incredibly loyal to one another. Jonathan kept his promise even though his father threatened to kill him. And David kept his promise to Jonathan’s family long after Jonathan’s death.

They shared their passions and emotions, and even affection.

They were not utilitarian. They did not use one another. Each loved the other as he loved himself.

Several hundred years later Jesus would say this trait–loving others as oneself–was second only to loving God.

In the end what made their friendship uncommon was that they held their relationship sacred. They knew it was from God, holy, living, life-sustaining, worth sacrificing career, standing, and fame for. They weren’t “just” friends.

According to a 2004 Gallup article the average American has nine “close friends.” I probably could count that many myself. But as I look at what these two ancient warriors had, I have some work to do in order to have many of those go as deep as did Jonathan and David.

  1. How do you define friendship?
  2. How many close friends do you have?
  3. Is there anyone in your life with whom you have a friendship similar to Jonathan and David’s?
  4. What issues/practices in modern religious life do you believe Jesus would make a point of resisting

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com


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