First, the admission. I imagine that I — a card-carrying male, husband, and father — am more sensitive to the way males, husbands and fathers are regarded. After all, I are one.
Now the musing. An editorial in the Washington Times briefly discusses "Anti-dad bias." At the start, it says that "American television has come a long way from the 1950s series 'Father Knows Best.'" I think the writer was riffing off the title of that series as a bench-mark of a day when fathers were respected and well-regarded. I loved that series as a child, but in fact it leaned in the opposite direction. The father, played by Robert Young (good actor, sad life and wretched religious choice), was portrayed as a well-meaning, bumbling inept. He's been followed by countless other similar portrayals, cut from the same moldy mold.
Here we part from the article, which leaves the general treatment of fathers in our culture to focus on on divorce, child-support payments and visitation issues. But as we pass Mother's Day and head towards Father's Day, my thoughts turn to dear ol' dad.
To say too much too briefly, I think men/husbands/fathers receive very varied treatment in evangelicalism, broadly defined.
On the one extreme you have folks who say, in so many words, that the father (has so much power and responsibility that he) is directly chargeable for everything that goes wrong in the family. He just needs to man up, feel the power, and get 'er done. There! There y'go. Now: on "three": one... two....
As I have argued at some length, I strongly disagree with that viewpoint.
At the other edge are those evanjellybeanicals who are working hard to turn men into women. Men are, pretty much, always wrong, stupid, contemptible — we're told. They'd do so much better if they'd just be more like their wives. I'm not kidding. I remember years ago listening to one of those Family Issues Experts, a man with a national ministry, books, seminars, radio — talking about a trip he took with his wife. Among other things, he'd planned that they spend time together in the Word and praying on their time away.
Well, boy oh boy. He hadn't secured her permission for that activity. And she punished him for it, bad boy that he was. And boy, was he sorry. And he told us all how bad he'd been, so we could all be good boys.
Now you all know by now that I'm not the sort who charts out extremes then picks a place in the middle, but that's where I find myself on this... to some degree. That is, being a man means taking responsibility. But it also means having a certain degree of — boy, is this going to set some people off — delegated and limited authority. God holds him to account, and he tells those for whom the man is to care that they should respect him and subordinate themselves to his leadership (Ephesians 5:22, 24, 33b; 6:1-3).
I think the phrase "servant leadership" has become almost useless. As commonly employed, the first word is used to obliterate the second. But we should remember that the premier example over all possible examples is Jesus Christ (Matthew 20:26-28) — and specifically in Him doing what nobody wanted Him to do! He crossed their wills (no pun), because they needed Him to.
So it's not all about taking a vote and going with the majority, any more than it's all about pounding your chest, doing a Tarzan-yell, and barking out overbearing orders.
So there's Dadhood Today for you. Steady hail of gunfire from both directions. You're too feminized, you need to get your testosterone on and TAKE CHARGE FOR GOD; and you're too brutish and domineering, and you need to become more like... well, more like your wife!
On the subject, I think there are only two kinds: people who recognize it's complicated, and idi... hm, what's the nice word? "The unthoughtful."
HSAT, I of course think it's best to err on the side of taking responsibility.
Illustration: once upon an undatable-by-you time, an unidentifiable-by-you pair of my four kids showed my dear wife a degree of disrespect that appalled me. I learned of this while at work.
On the way home, I bought some food for a meal such as my wife loves. I got home, set Valerie's place with care, called us all to dinner. Made my children stand with me as I seated Valerie with particular honor, and served her. We prayed.
Then I talked with them and explained what was about to happen. I reminded them of what I'd taught them since the cradle about respecting their mother. I told them how appalled and shamed I was by what they'd done (don't let your imagination go nuts; you'd probably think it a small thing — I think it related to homeschooling), and that I would never tolerate such treatment of their mother — ever.
And so, I told them that we would all keep Mom good company as she enjoyed her dinner. I told them they could have water — and that was it.*
And I told them I'd do the same.
Why? I told them that I must somehow have failed to communicate how deadly serious I was in what I'd taught them. So we'd all just let it growl a bit, together.
Did it "take," deeply? God knows. I can say that there was no replay. I did my best to get it across, I prayed it did, and that's about the limit of a mere mortal's abilities (the Dad-as-ominipotent-king group to the contrary notwithstanding).
All that to take a 180-degree turn, and say this:
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,I dearly hope you men regularly shower appreciation on your wives. I hope you used Mother's Day to do it even more. If not, better late than never, while you still can.
but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones
I also hope you ladies make your husbands feel like kings regularly, and use Father's Day to do it even more. Because it is also your responsibility to teach (yourself and) your children to honor your husband, their father.
Gentlemen, it is your responsibility to take the lead in showing your children how to honor your wife, their mother (Proverbs 31:28-31). Set the mark high.
Ladies, it is your responsibility to take the lead in showing your children how to honor your husband, their father (Ephesians 5:33b). It starts in your heart. Set the mark high.
*NOTE: No Phillips children were starved (or ever have been) in the teaching of this (or any) lesson. Trust me on this.