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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Kids need dads, not just fathers

Well, I guess I’ll have to take back what I said about columnist Kathleen Parker. She’s written a pretty good piece about the folly of assuming that kids don’t need dads in Deleting Dad.

She decries, as I do, the fact that many seem to think dads are superfluous, or, worse, not even necessary, or, worse yet, that sex itself isn’t even necessary for the creation of a child:

The cover story of the [New York] Times' Sunday Magazine, for instance, was headlined "Looking For Mr. Good Sperm" and featured women who have given up on Mr. Right and are searching instead for a good vial of sperm.

Another Times story was about "virtual visitation," which allows absent dads to stay in touch with their kids through instant messaging and webcams. A third told the plight of unwed fathers powerless to block the adoption of their babies.
Finally, the fourth was a first-person narrative by a woman who married and had a child with an incarcerated murderer, whom she later abandoned. The dad, not the baby.

While such distilled summaries can't tell the whole story, the unspoken essence is that women have all the power when it comes to children, and men are only as good as their sperm count.

Parker regrets the “embrace of superficiality” of those who are more interested in the traits that their children will have than in creating those children via consummation of a marital relationship. She rues those who are more interested in a “calculated, literally detached selection of a stranger's body fluids [than] the random matings that passion inspires.” Such calculation and detachment “feels as sterile as the vial containing the lucky specimen.”

Indeed, it’s worse than sterile...it’s utilitarian in the most narcissistic of ways. It desecrates a sacred process. It dissects and misappropriates the process of sex, removing certain elements and leaving the rest as waste. It abstracts these elements from the context, the whole to which they belong, thereby robbing them of their intended significance. In a very real sense, it abolishes man in the way that C. S. Lewis spoke of.

Parker acknowledges the situational difficulties of infertile couples and “women who can't manage a relationship with men for whatever reason,” although I wouldn’t say that these conditions necessarily justify use of certain reproductive technologies, especially the latter. (If you can’t manage a relationship, then don’t create something that ought only be created within a relationship.)

She concludes aptly:
There's something terribly wrong with this picture, and it is this: These are sad stories that reveal symptoms of a diseased culture in which human relationships have no moral content and children are treated as accessories to adult lives. Yet, these trends are portrayed as the latest gosh-gee fashions.

A society in which women are alone, men are lonely, and children don't have fathers is nothing to celebrate. And a future world filled with fatherless children - bereft of half their identity and robbed of a father's love, discipline and authority - won't likely be a pleasant place to live.

Bravo, Kathleen, and thank you.

Although experience isn’t the final arbiter of truth and should not be required for obedience to it, I can say that experience has shown me the incredible importance of a strong and caring father to the inner (and outer) well-being of a girl. Actually, the experience (regardless of how good or bad it was) of everyone who’s ever been a child should be enough to teach him/her the importance of good parents (of both genders) to the well-being of a child. It’s one of those “can’t not know” things a la Romans 1:18-22. Sadly, though, many people disregard the lessons of life to their peril and especially the peril of those who depend upon them.

Personally, I have dealt and will deal with the consequences of the fathering deficiencies in my own life as long as I’m alive. This is not to say that difficulties cannot be overcome; God is our ultimate Father and indeed fathers us in a way that no earthly father can, no matter how good. But in my own life and psyche there will always be deficiency and pain in certain areas that remains as result of the lack in my own life. Yes, God can, does and will use this for good, of this I have no doubt. But I’m saying that no one should cause injury or lack in another’s life if they can at all help it.

This means that fathers need give themselves to to their children rather than just give children to someone else or to the world-at-large. This requires giving themselves to the relationship that ought to exist between the producers of the gametes involved in creating the children (i.e., a consummated marriage).* If a man is not prepared to do that, then he must reconsider his relationships and his actions. It also means that women should not assume that they can always have what they want or get it by whatever means happen to be available. We must be willing to submit to the conditions required in order to acquire those things properly, or do without if acquiring those things results in desecration. We must go without if having those things will necessarily damage them and others because of the circumstances involved in their acquisition and keep.

The point Parker makes about identity is salient as well – kids need to know who they are because of whom (and where) they came from; they ought to learn it every day by growing up with these people (if this is possible). Such identity can be idolized, of course, but at the same time the yearning to know who one is and to be encouraged and trained in this runs deep. People often spend their entire lives looking for and never finding important aspects of their ancestral identity, or even trying to avoid these things or the circumstances surrounding them, or else making up whatever identities they fancy because of fault in passing these things down. This is a very sad thing indeed.

It’s a bizarre shuffling of cards that results when people ignore heritage, or try to seek after some sort of perfection that in the end is an illusion anyway, whether it be designer children or a “perfect” ancestry. We are who we are, and God has promised a redemption that represents the real perfection of which earthly perfection is a sham. Let’s let Him do the redeeming instead of us trying to do it ourselves, by following the natural order of things.

*I’d even go so far as to say that the procedures involved in “harvesting” gametes represent a sort of unfaithfulness, especially in cases of “anonymous” donation, but I won’t get into that now. :-)

8 Comments:

  • In a sense, this behavior is objectifying men for procreation. Many people, even non-Christians, will at least verbally agree that objectification of women for sexual pleasure is wrong. Yet we (as a society) charge ahead doing basically the same thing to men. It is sad.

    By Blogger Hannah Im, at 1:42 AM  

  • Solid post, but I have one question. Does this mean that you are opposed to all artificial fertilization, including, for example, a case where a husband is sterile, and he and his wife agree to go this route to have a child, which he treats as a father should?

    By Blogger Martin LaBar, at 5:18 AM  

  • Good post. Melinda, at STR, has a related post here. Kevin Leman has an excellent book titled, What A Difference A Daddy Makes: the Lasting Imprint A Dad Leaves On His Daughter's Life. In the past, I've referenced our society's tendency to see things from a self-serving, utilitarian point of view - a kind of "pragmatic nihilism."

    By Anonymous Rusty, at 3:21 PM  

  • If we say that men and women are completely interchangeable, which is what society is arguing, we have to say that children raised by single mothers turn out just the same as children raised by couples, whether hetero- or homosexual. And this is what many are claiming, that the particular mix of parents has no bearing on the children, as long as there is love.

    It's a bogus viewpoint and lots of studies show it. But gender politics trumps science in this case. Children are becoming like fashion statements to some people, and if you don't want to adopt, you have to find a sperm donor. I'm confident that we'll manage to do away with the need for male participation in this whole process in the not-too-distant future.

    Meanwhile, children are growing up without fathers. That lack of life-long male parental influence to balance the female does serious harm to the psyches of both girls and boys. Fatherless boys tend to be more anti-social. Fatherless girls more promiscuous. Society will pay the price for our recklessness.

    By Blogger Charlie, at 6:27 PM  

  • Great comments, everyone. Hannah, you're absolutely right -- it does objectify men.

    Martin, good question. I have to say that I can only see possible justification for AI in a few types of cases, and even those are not without concerns. In the case of the example you give, I can't condone it.

    Thanks for the link & info, Rusty. I could probably write a book similar to Leman's :-) As to "pragmatic nihilism" -- yes, nihilism it certainly is.

    I'm with you, Charlie!

    You know, there are lots of moms with infants and young children who could sure use the help of a couple with no children of their own to take care of. There are also vast numbers of precious children who've been abandoned by their parents who need a loving couple to raise them, for those who can afford to adopt.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 12:23 AM  

  • Thanks for your response. Another question, then. What about the practice (as far as I know, only Old Testament) of a surviving brother having sexual relations with a dead man's wife, to produce a child "for the brother?" Do you see this as at all relevant to the issues in your post, and, if so, how?

    By Blogger Martin LaBar, at 5:41 AM  

  • Well, that's an interesting question, Martin. I guess I don't see the practice as being relevant today. #1, lineage does not have the significance it did for the nation of Israel. (Now that I think of it, isn't barrenness accounted to women in the OT? except for one verse in Deut.)

    In the case of a sterile man, could his (unmarried) brother legitimately donate sperm to his wife? I don't think so, because, #2, his brother could not legitimately have sex with his brother's wife, and #3, his brother is not dead :-).

    What are your thoughts?

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 12:32 AM  

  • Thanks for your response. I see Deuteronomy 25:5 as a divine command, not on the same level as the Ten Commandments, and probably only a cultural/civil command, not a moral one, but a command nonetheless. It seems to mean, however that God condoned, even commanded, one way to have children other than by a female married to a male only, and that by the "normal" means, under special circumstances.

    By Blogger Martin LaBar, at 10:57 AM  

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