The following post originally appeared as a BreakPoint radio commentary.
Now that Father’s Day is past, we can ignore dads again for another year. I’m joking, of course, but society isn’t. And that’s the problem.
We’ve discussed the cultural attacks on men many times before on BreakPoint, how pop culture is fond of portraying them as over-grown adolescents, or worse, as sadistic and violent haters of women.
Sure, some men have given women reason to fear. Most recently, we witnessed Elliot Rodgers’ murderous rampage against women at UC-Santa Barbara. But as we struggle to understand this violence, we need to make sure we are looking at all the data.
Writing in the Washington Post, sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox examined the research on violence against women and came to a striking conclusion, one that upends a politically-driven cultural message.
Wilcox agrees that some men do pose serious threats to women, of course; but others—a specific category of men, actually—are “more likely to protect women, directly and indirectly, from the threat of male violence.”
Who are these great protectors? Married biological fathers.
Drawing from a host of research published by the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, the journal Pediatrics, and others, Wilcox concludes that: “Married women are notably safer than their unmarried peers, and girls raised in a home with their married father are markedly less likely to be abused or assaulted than children living without their own father.”
There are many reasons for this, but one is that marriage stabilizes men and draws them into a story much larger than themselves.
This conclusion doesn’t mesh with some social policies being driven today. Same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption can only succeed by eliminating the biological distinctions and unique social contributions of men and women, making them interchangeable or replaceable.
But minimizing the value of married fathers opens up a whole host of problems in addition to the violence we’ve discussed.
Although it hasn’t seen a lot of national attention yet, an important new report out of Wisconsin tells us anew that married fathers play a key role in the social and economic stability of society.
Compiling and analyzing government data over several decades, The Wisconsin Family Council found that married two-parent families had significantly higher median incomes and were far less likely to be in poverty or receive government assistance than single-mother or single-father homes. Married two-parent families also saw less teen sexual activity, lower teen pregnancy, lower rates of drug and alcohol use and higher educational success than single parent homes. Fatherlessness, they found, was the key contributor to some of the state’s most pressing social and economic problems.
The irreplaceable importance of fathers shouldn’t surprise us if we are followers of Jesus. After all, we know that the love between the Father and His Son is the very core of all existence.
Our task as Christians is to translate research like this into a practical love that serves, nurtures, and heals the broken families in our midst. We can mentor youths, support single-parent families, and create a culture of fathering and family in our congregations. It’s time to realize that fatherhood is broken to the point that we can no longer protect it. We must now turn our energy and creativity into rebuilding it with all the care and urgency we can muster.
Thankfully, the Church has a compelling vision of family that invites everyone into that great love that defines the universe. Let’s not be afraid to share it.