Friday, June 16, 2006

Happy Father's Day

I'm not a Dad unfortunately (long story). But in a culture that is very schizophrenic when it comes to Dads and fatherhood (Dads and fatherhood are important, but constantly a source of derision at the same time), Dads in particular need a pat on the back. There's a blog on titled 'On Balance', which is ostensibly a blog designed to discuss work-home issues that women have. Well today, the husband of the blog's owner delivered a post on Father's Day in which he basically said that he does more than he's given credit for, most fathers are like him, and so it would be nice to not be a constant source of derision by women because we're doing more than you think and we're doing it better than you think. Well as one might unfortunately expect, a post like this from a man was not exactly well received by a significant portion of the female posters to the blog. This is typical stuff, and most of us simply can't get beyond our own blinders to see how ludicrous and hurtful this all is. Here we have a day, Father's Day, that's designed to celebrate the contributions of fathers. Yet even on this day, fathers get to 'enjoy' the all too familiar sounds of criticism, critique, and belittling of their concerns mainly by those who claim to be members of the more emotionally sensitive gender.

Like other things, the church is not much different. Lost amidst the duststorm of gender roles in the church is a rather depressing reality. The typical evangelical church offers very different messages to men and women on Father's and Mother's Day respectively. Mothers tend to be celebrated from the pulpit, encouraged, loved, and appreciated for all they do. And this is completely appropriate and I say Amen. But is this what the typical Father's Day sermon looks like? In your dreams. Pastors all too often imitate the world in using Father's Day as a special day on the calendar to bash the Dads of the world for not doing a better job. I know Dads who won't go to church on Father's Day because the last thing they want to hear is their own pastor sounding like a group of disgruntled wives sharing war stories about their terrible husbands. Increasing numbers of men and Dads are saying 'Enough already' and are defecting from church not just on Father's Day, but permanently. Men rightly expect better from their church than simply a mirror reflection of the world's often misguided grudges. And thankfully, a lot of women church attendees agree, in part, because they personally know that male flight from the church hurts them and is not what they want to see. So while there are no shortage of female man-haters around, there is thankfully also no shortage of women who are the staunchest allies of men and Dads. For that, I say 'thank you' to these women, because we need you.

Men and women are different, but they are not diametric opposites of each other. Men and women both need to be appreciated. Men and women both need to know that their efforts make a positive difference. Men and women both need encouragement a lot more than a constant barrage of belittling criticism. As a man, I do not claim to be neutral about this. But it has been my experience that for whatever reason, it is simply more acceptable for men to publicly praise women (which is good and appropriate) than it is for women to publicly praise men. I don't know why this is, but I am increasingly convinced that it's a reality. And to whatever degree this is true, it needs to stop. A culture, and a church, that is hesitant to affirm men and Dads and all that they do forfeit the right to then turn around and wonder why the men they know are lethargic, unenthusiastic, and negative. If criticism is most of what they hear, I don't know how in the world we can expect anything else.

So in that vain, Happy Father's Day to those many Dads who work hard, love their wives and children, and live lives of integrity in spite of the culture's drumbeat of negativity that's often directed at them. You deserve better, much better. And there are both women and men who know it, even if they don't control the tenor of the cultural conversation these days.


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