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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fatherhood, Fear or Largesse?

Originally posted Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My mother died when I was six years old. I don’t remember much about her in a physical sense, I remember she was pretty and she always smelled good. The way she made me feel is what I remember most strongly about my mother, I remember the warmth and love she exuded were almost palpable things, always compelling me to seek her side of my parent’s bed in the mornings so it would be the first thing I experienced everyday.

My father I had until I was twelve. I was very close to my dad, he had his failings like we all do, but he was what a father ought to be. He was filled with love for my older sister, and me. He was certainly the person I most wanted to hang around with when I was a boy. A boy could not have had a better fellow for bolstering the old self esteem than my dad, he would always brag in front of his friends and say things like; “Look at my son, he’s got arms like truck tires. But when he laid down the law...

My father was one of the most intimidating people who ever lived, he had piercing deep set eyes which seemed to glow with a red hot severity whenever he was upset or intensely serious about an issue. He wasn’t physically imposing, he wasn’t a large man, but he had a native potency that just seemed to give one pause in his presence. I saw men twice his size deferring to him and it always seemed they did so naturally.

It takes my older sister to tell some of the best stories about his effect on her dates. Even the most arrogant of her suitors withered under his gaze, enduring his scrutiny for what must have felt like an eternity before being granted permission to date my sister. On occasion, he would even arrange to be cleaning his M1 carbine when meeting a potential beau for the first time. I have a 30-06 in reserve for the same employment.

My dad didn’t have to repeat himself, when he told me to do something I did it. This was learned behavior, as I had suffered the consequences of having to be reminded to do something, the lesson learned in the seat of my pants stuck. But, being a boy, a boy with BB guns, a Ruttman mini bike, a love for explosives and an imagination fueled by comic books and a few too many trips to literary places like Barsoom and Pelucidar, I had quite a few lessons never repeated after the rod of correction.

Eventually you begin to count the cost, should I do this thing which may be fun while it lasts and suffer the inevitable wrath I’m sure to face, or should I seek more paternally approved diversions? If you are wise you opt for the latter. It is at this point your relationship with your dad begins to change, or at least it should.

Just about a year or so before my father's death, he stopped spanking me.
I wish I could say he stopped because I had ceased all the activities I had an affinity for warranting a heaping serving of “hot cakes”, I hadn’t. He told me I was old enough to know right from wrong, at this point, I began to obey my father not out of fear of the corporeal ramifications of my actions, (which I had begun to understand took an emotional toll on him to have to mete out) but out of the love he showed me every time he forgave me. You begin to recognize you both feel better when he is bragging on you and proud of you, than when he is punishing you.

I dialog with agnostics and atheists fairly often on a variety of subjects. When the opportunity to discuss morality arises with them I am fascinated by a recurring theme I have heard from more than one non-believer. The idea Biblical morality is predicated on the fear of displeasing the God of the Holy Bible, rather than what they believe to be the (self evident) natural desire to do good or to treat others well because it is what is best for society in a purely naturalistic sense.

It is true the Bible states without equivocation:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7

I agree with this statement, we should fear the Lord in my opinion. It goes on to say in verse 8 and 9:

“My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:  For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.”

Fear of the Lord is the beginning, not the end, the beginning of knowledge. This is why God structured the family the way He did, it is a type of the relationship we should seek to have with Him. A child should fear his father in the beginning, it is the fear of a good father in early life that forms the foundation for and is integral to learning the behavior that will stand the individual in good stead throughout life and is the plumb line proving an orderly society.

As you study the Bible you get to know the God of the Bible, He should be feared, but just like a healthy relationship with your father changes throughout life as you mature from one of fear to deep admiration, appreciation and love, so too does the portrait of the Biblical Father. We find Him making a provision through His Son to reconcile even the vilest of us to Him.

We see over and over again throughout scripture His deep desire to have and maintain a close and meaningful relationship with all of us. He promises when we accept His Son and His sacrifice, no matter how much we screw up, He will call us righteous. This is not a license to do wrong, but a promise not to reject His children, because He knows we can never measure up to His standards.

So, yes, after reading the Holy Bible in it’s totality and fully apprehending His teachings, I would have to say the God of the Holy Bible is wiser than me. His rules are better and far more complete than anything man left to his own devices has managed to come up with.

There is a plague of boys in this nation that grew up, or is growing up without the fear of a father because the father was not, or is not there to instill it.

Far more tragically those fathers are not there to lead their families to the heavenly Father who writes His laws on the hearts of believers. Subsequently we have prisons filled to the bursting with children who are following their (self evident) natural desires.

It is not a mistake we find in the media the father is so often portrayed as a buffoon or a brute, and liberalism and secularism does so much to downplay the importance of fatherhood in modern society.

Whether it be through the grim promotion of abortion on demand, absolving men from familial responsibility by removing the child from the world all together, the advocacy of gay marriage and blurring the rolls of men and women, or the creation of the welfare state making it unprofitable to have a father in the home, they are all eating away at the moral foundation undergirding America and they serve formidably as surrogate attacks against God himself!

So I ask my agnostic and atheistic friends this question: As we banish the Biblical, fearful God, our heavenly Father, more and more from the public square by removing the Ten Commandments from municipal buildings, or banning prayer in schools... As we edge ever closer to a secular America and the protean largesse of men, are we better off?

Digital Publius