Becoming husbands and fathers is the universal prescription of human societies for the socialization of the male. It’s how societies link male aggression, energy, purpose — maleness — to a pro-social purpose. The way human societies do that is by linking them to the lives of their children and to the lives of the mothers of their children through marriage. That’s how it works. This is a universal human institution, and what we have decided recently is that we don’t have to do that anymore. And, increasingly, we’re not doing it. And as we don’t do it, social and child well-being decline.
Paul is a great model for what it meant to be a spiritual father. He exhorts the church at Corinth to “be imitators” of his fatherly example (1 Corinthians 4:15–17). In this passage, Paul points out that the Corinthian Christians have many “guides” but few fathers. The difference between teachers and fathers is intimacy. Paul perhaps recognized that mere words are insufficient — opening our mouths isn’t enough if we never open our hearts to train. Paul sends Timothy, his beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind the church of his “ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.”
For most men, marriage instills a sense of maturity and responsibility. They will work hard at whatever job they can find in order to provide for their wife and children. This is the fundamental nature of a needed male. But when men aren’t needed – when the federal government takes their place as financial provider – too many men throw up their hands and say, “I’m outta here.” That’s when the tragedy of fatherlessness comes full circle. There are few things more painful to a child than to be raised without a dad.