Every third Sunday of June, for the past 51 years, Americans have celebrated Father’s Day. June brings with it many other celebrations and remembrances as well. We remember the heroes of D-Day on June 6th; we honor the Stars and Stripes with Flag Day on June 14th; and this year, we also celebrate the first anniversary of the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. June is also associated with more than a dozen awareness weeks and more than 100 awareness month designations. Unfortunately, the most visible of all these celebrations, “Pride Month,” undermines the very meaning of Father’s Day. With Pride ideology, sexuality and gender are redefined; man and woman are alleged to be entirely malleable concepts; and the roles of mother and father are left without real meaning. In the face of these falsehoods, the need for upholding the importance and truth of fatherhood is all the more urgent.
Whether it’s the marketing choices of Bud Light, North Face, or Target, or the infusion of “pride” themes and material into kids’ shows and school libraries, it is clear that our children are not growing up with the same level of protection and youthful innocence as we once did—and as our parents did. Therefore, if we want our children to retain their innocence and grow up to walk a virtuous path, fathers must take action to make that happen, because it will not happen on its own. It will require fathers to actively step up as protectors and providers.
As fathers, we are called and designed by God to love, serve, provide for, and protect our families. This is both a gift and a responsibility. Having two children who get excited when I come home and who want to be picked up and kissed as soon as I walk through the door is one of the greatest blessings in my life. That blessing brings with it the responsibility to provide for and protect them both—and their sister whom we look forward to meeting next month.
Providing for them doesn’t merely—or even primarily—refer to food and shelter. The Bible clearly says in both the Old and New Testaments that fathers must pass on the faith to their children. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deut 6:6-7). Similarly, Paul tells us, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4).
This is a real and demanding commission. The world is not going to do this work for us. Our children need us, as their fathers, to be present, to be engaged, and to teach them the faith. The Bible and social science agree: no one can do this for us.
The National Fatherhood Initiative has numerous statistics showing the impact of a father’s involvement in the lives of their children. Based on census data and their research, they conclude: “Research shows that a father’s absence affects children in numerous unfortunate ways, while a father’s presence makes a positive difference in the lives of both children and mothers.”
Research in recent decades has revealed a similar and unique importance of fatherhood when it comes to passing on the faith. In his 2013 book, Families and Faith, Vern L. Bengtson, Ph.D., concludes, “A crucial factor in whether a child keeps the faith is the father’s warmth; parental piety cannot make up for a devout but distant dad.” Dr. Paul Vitz proposes a theory to explain this effect. In his work, Faith of the Fatherless, he introduces the ‘defective father hypothesis,’ arguing that an absent or defective father can result in a child rejecting belief in a personal heavenly Father.
Looking at more recent correlative data, research done by Communio shows that “those who avoid church are statistically more likely to have an estranged, difficult, or absent relationship with their father than those who do attend church.” In fact, according to a recent article by Communio president, J.P. De Gance, the decline in engaged fathers in the home may be the single best explanation for the dramatic decline in faith practice in the US over the past 40 years.
This echoes the well-known proverb, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6). If we, as fathers, engage with our children while they are young, and encourage them in the faith, we can have a tremendous influence on how they will live their faith as adults. However, things are not as simple as they once were.
Unfortunately, the task of engaging with our children and passing on the faith is further complicated by the world we currently live in. Whether it’s amusement park events like Disneyland’s Pride Nite (all ages) or Six Flags’ Pride Celebration, drag shows for children, or child-oriented content like Queer Kid Stuff on YouTubeKids or the Blue’s Clues Pride Parade Song, there is rampant content in the world that poses threats to our children’s innocence and virtuous upbringing. Even Sesame Street, a show aimed at a pre-school audience, promotes Pride month.
And when parents try to insulate our youngest children from this excessively sexualized content, there is pushback. The American Library Association is actively fighting against what they refer to as censorship and “book bans,” despite the fact that all of the thirteen books on their “Most Challenged Books of 2022” list were challenged for being sexually explicit. That means that school and public libraries find it problematic that parents want to limit children’s access to sexually explicit books aimed at children and youth.
Even baseball, popularly referred to as “America’s pastime,” is far from immune. This month, 29 of the 30 teams in the MLB will have a pride night. The Los Angeles Dodgers are taking it even further. Not only are they having a pride night, but they are honoring the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with their Community Hero Award. This group openly mocks Christianity as it describes itself as “a leading-edge Order of queer and trans nuns.”
In April, borrowing language from this year’s Teacher of the Year, President Biden boldly declared, “‘There’s no such thing as someone else’s child.’” He added, “Our nation’s children are all our children.” But there absolutely are other people’s children. My children are not our nation’s children.
A New Hampshire state representative recently went so far as to tell a parent, “Do your children a favor, let the teachers teach, and shut up. You’re clearly no professional.”
I have been a professional in multiple areas. I was even a professional teacher. But none of my professional experiences make me the primary caregiver for my children. Being their father does.
As we celebrate Fathers’ Day this year, the gift I will be praying for is the armor of God. Shortly after exhorting fathers to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, Paul goes on to tell us to take up the armor of God.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:10-12)
So, fathers, let us enjoy Father’s Day. Fathers are indeed worthy of celebrating. But let us also take the time to reinvigorate our sense of mission so that we can rise to the occasion to which we have been called. Let us fight the good fight for our children and our families, knowing that we do not fight alone. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh 1:9)