Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 16th, 2013.
Father’s Day doesn’t seem to get the same fanfare that Mother’s Day does. Fair enough. Mothers are a tough group to compete against. I mean, they gave birth to you. How can a father hold a candle to that?
While fathers haven’t carried children for nine months or given birth, they are important in the emotional development of their children. The importance of fatherhood is often overlooked in our culture. Part of that has to do with the images on television.
Fathers have taken a beating on the television the last two decades. Think about the last admirable television father you can remember. What decade was that? Fathers, when they are shown, tend to be portrayed as passive dopes. Peter Griffin and Homer Simpson stand as the worst archetypes of this dark vision of fatherhood. During the 1950s, fathers such as Robert Young, on Father Knows Best, and Ward Cleaver, were revered paragons of wisdom. During the 1960,s the inimitable Fred McMurray carried on the tradition with My Three Sons. Of course, this will be our first Father’s Day without the wise yet warm Andy Griffith. The 70s was another good decade for dads. Howard Cunningham was the hard working, sensible, loving father of Happy Days. Mike Brady fathered television’s first blended family as another hard-working, hard-loving family man.
Television fathers took a downward turn during the 1980s. Bill Cosby and Family Ties’ Steven Keaton were good role models while being the occasional brunt of the joke. Who’s the Boss showed a good family man in Tony Danza. He was responsible and engaged even if the punch-line was aimed at him. Bob Saget in Full House was a loving buffoon. The big change in the 80s was that fatherhood became goofy while television mothers filled the role of wise and sensible leaders of the home.
The 1990s brought fatherhood to new lows with Al Bundy, Homer Simpson, and Frank Barone (Everybody Loves Raymond). Married with Children was probably the worst thing to happen to the American family since no-fault divorce laws. Al Bundy did not have one redeemable quality. Homer, while being one of the funniest fathers, perpetuated the low expectations of the “new” fatherhood. Today Homer Simpson doesn’t even compare with Peter Griffin (Family Guy) or Stan Smith (American Dad!).
I don’t share this to reminisce a bygone era. Our culture has forgotten the importance of respecting fatherhood. We shouldn’t be surprised that so many of our men rise no further than a low expectation. While television has not provided many good examples, I am encouraged by the many good fathers I know. These fathers ought to be celebrated.
I read an article a while back that compared the role of fathers in the lives of several notable theists and atheists. The article pointed out that many of these atheists grew up with abusive, neglectful, or absentee fathers. That is not to say that all atheists had bad fathers. By contrast, the theists, who were mostly Christians, were raised almost exclusively by warm, loving, and present fathers. This is not to say that all Christians have or had good fathers. While this is hardly a scientific analysis, it does lead us to ask: what role does our earthly fathers play in forming our view of our heavenly Father?
I thank God for my father. He gave me my strong work ethic, my rabid curiosity, my love for books, and my sharply honed sweet-tooth. Many of my best qualities as a man and a father come from him. I hope you can say something similar about your father.
My favorite television father? Redd Foxx as Fred Sanford in Sanford & Son!
-by Pastor Shawn Martin