He is a young man, just turned 15, whose mother was a drug addict, and whose father has been serving time in the local penitentiary since his birth. As a baby he was looked after by his grandmother, then moved from foster home to foster home till he was adopted by a couple.  However, this couple could not hold their marriage and family together, so he now resides with  yet another couple.  Over the course of the year I have asked him about his family. I can’t keep track of who is his blood brother, half-brother, adopted brother, or just a brother of another boy who is living in his home. I spent some time talking to him. Somehow the conversation ended up being on families. He told me he never wants children. I told him he would probably change his mind as he got older. He looked at me and said emphatically, “No I won’t. I would be a terrible father. I don’t want my kids growing up without me in their lives. They will hate me because I won’t be able to take care of them. I don’t want them to have the feelings I have towards my father. He was in prison when I was born, I don’t even know who he is!” I don’t think I have heard such pessimistic talk regarding fatherhood from such a young man. It was sad to hear him talk that way, yet his life experience had taught him to have such a negative outlook on fatherhood.

Unfortunately, this young man’s negative experience is now becoming the norm. Today, more than fifty percent of U.S. babies are born out-of-wedlock. Many single women are choosing to rear their children alone. I remember when I was a child, I only remember one friend who came from what they termed, “a broken home.” The consequences of the “me” generation is now coming full swing. Marriage and particularly the role of the father has been marginalized,  leaving behind the broken lives of those who have listened to the Siren calls of the world.

In contrast, we have been taught the sanctity of marriage and the family unit. I was reminded of better times, when the role of the father was respected, when, while searching for something on TV, I came across the movie, “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  There has always been one scene in this movie that has stuck with me. Atticus Finch, (Gregory Peck), has just represented a black man, unjustly accused of rape. Although it is clear that the black man is innocent, he is convicted. The lower level of the courtroom, full of the white people, file out after the verdict is read. Satisfied! As Atticus Finch gathers his papers together, the black people stand up silently and stay in the gallery till he walks out of the courthouse. Atticus’s daughter is among them and is squatted down on the floor watching her father. As he leaves, an older black man says to her, ” Miss Jean Louise. Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” The daughter rises as her father walks out of the courtroom. (I have since found out that this line was also a favorite of  a woman who I greatly admire and respect. All the more reason for me to cherish this scene of the movie.)

Every time I see that scene I am grateful to have had a father that gained my respect and admiration so that “I stood up” when he was passing. It is sad to see the role of fathers be so minimized, leading to the pessimism demonstrated by this young man of whom I have spoken. To resolve most of societies problems, we need look no further than the strengthening of the family. May we honor the role of father and of mother! May we keep our marriages strong, love one another,  and be patience with one another’s faults. As we honor each other in our godly roles, we will be teaching our children to do the same and they will desire to have stable homes of their own.

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