Casting Stones

With the observance of Father’s Day and the heartbreaking, sudden death of Tim Russert, author of the best selling Big Russ & Me, the nation’s attention has been focused on fathers. Russert’s Big Russ & Me about Tim’s working class, “Greatest Generation” father and his enormous influence on his “Baby Boomer” son helped countless American sons and daughters more fully appreciate how much their own fathers have influenced their lives. I know it served that purpose for me.
Sadly, for many children today, such a relationship with their father is an unknown and foreign experience. As late as the early 1960’s, when Tim Russert was in his early teens, only 2.3 percent of white children and 24 percent of black children were born to single mothers. Now, approximately 28 percent of our nation’s children live in a household without their fathers, up from 14 percent in 1970. The vast majority of such boys and girls see their fathers less than once a month if at all. For such children, Father’s Day is more of an illusion than reality.
Over the past four decades, our society has conducted an unwitting experiment on whether fathers are optional accessories in rearing healthy, well-balanced children. They are not.
Having a father is rapidly becoming a luxury, rather than the norm it has been in the past. This development has had devastating impact on our children and on our society. Children who have fathers in the home are nine times less likely to drop out of school, five times less likely live in poverty, and twenty times less likely to end up in prison. The negative impact of fatherlessness is even more dramatic when girls are taken out of the equation and just boys are considered.
And when the children’s fathers attend church regularly with their families good things happen. As W. Bradford Wilcox points out in his Report on Faith, Fatherhood, and Marriage (Institute for American Values), “Religious faith is linked to happier marriages, fewer divorces and births outside of marriage, and a more involved style of fatherhood.”
Religion is not the only answer to the vexing problem of absent fathers, but research and experience show it is an excellent place to start mending this terrible hole in the nation’s social fabric. As Wilcox reports, “Religious fathers are about 65 percent more likely than unaffiliated fathers to report praising and hugging their school-age children ‘very often.'”
What better place to start the “refathering” of America than to encourage Dads to take their families to worship services on a weekly basis.

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