On the last full day of my teaching career, as my students studied for their finals, I overheard a conversation between two freshman girls that still haunts me. One asked the other, “How many different guys do you think you can have kids with before it’s weird? Like 3 or 4?”
Heartbroken, I asked these girls if they wouldn’t rather wait to have kids until marrying a man who would help raise the children. They scoffed at me and politely informed me that things just aren’t done like that anymore. According to them, they will be fortunate to have a child with a man the courts will force to help pay for the kids. These young women have little or no hope of a marriage or parenting partnership.
I’d like to say they’re wrong. I’d love to write off their opinions as ignorant or naive. I’d love to, but I can’t. According to the U.S. Census, 43% of American children don’t live with their father. That’s over 30,000,000 children. Of babies born last year, 41% were born to unwed mothers. That number climbs to 72% in the African-American community. Those numbers have been climbing, revealing a growing epidemic of fatherlessness in America.
How Fatherlessness Affects Our Society
According to various government agencies and research journals, fatherless children account for:
- 90% of homeless and runaway children
- 71% of pregnant teenagers
- 63% of youth suicides
- 85% of kids who display behavior disorders
- 71% of high school dropouts
- 75% of adolescents undergoing drug treatment
- 85% of youth now in prison
A 2009 study on women with children who choose to abort their newest pregnancy found that the main reason for those abortions was the lack of a father willing to assist in taking care of the new baby. It also stands to reason that if something were to stop the torrent of fathers abandoning their families, many of society’s other plights would be addressed.
If we vigorously surround single moms with love and support, if we gladly become foster and adoptive parents, if we start treating adolescents less like helpless boys and girls and more like soon-to-be-responsible dads and moms, if we become a role model for a fatherless child through Champions of Hope or Big Brothers Big Sisters or The Mentoring Project or Mercy Street or our church’s NextGen department, if we labor for marriage reconciliation and marital health, if we teach our children about the worthwhile strenuous beauty of marriage and we model it, if fathers who aren’t absent shed passivity and commit to fulfilling God’s role for them, if we start to intervene on behalf of the fatherless and prevent future fathers from abandoning their families, then we can positively impact crime, poverty, homelessness, education, suicide, abortion and divorce.
If you’re yearning to be part of something that would unquestionably revolutionize your community, get involved in counteracting and ending fatherlessness.
Scripture’s Compelling Words for Fathers
In the final verses of the last Old Testament book, just before hundreds of years of scriptural silence preceding the birth of Christ, the prophet Malachi gives us this last old testament prophecy:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children. Malachi 4:5-6
In the first chronological events of the New Testament, an angel tells Zechariah to expect his wife to give birth to a son. About that son, John the Baptist, the angel issues this proclamation:
He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children. Luke 1:16-17
How marvelous of God to make the renewal of family relationships a sign of the impending arrival of Christ and the nearness of the kingdom of God. That same turning is exactly what we crave again in our time. Let’s join in praying that God would make himself and His kingdom known among us with a great and marvelous “turning,” both of people’s hearts to the Lord their God and of fathers’ hearts back to their children.