Pastors, Don't Use Mother's Day to Bash Dads
- Friday, May 11, 2007
A learning season is upon us, and it's worth our time to heed its teaching.
This lesson is the difference between how we handle Mother's Day compared with Father's Day in church. If it's like in years past, it won't be pretty.
This Sunday we will extol the value and benefit of motherhood, which is great. But in some churches, this will be done by degrading Christian husbands, which is not great. "Our pastor makes us husbands get on our knees on Mother's Day and beg for forgiveness. I don't want to do it again this year," one reader tells me. Another writes, "Our minister makes husbands write on paper all the things we've done wrong. Then we're suppose to give it to our wives and pledge that we won't do them anymore."
Most preachers will not be this heavy-handed. They will wait till Father's Day to tell men how to be better fathers. Of course there's nothing wrong with this message when taken as an isolated event. But when compared with Mother's Day, we'll discover that for some reason many ministers believe that fathers need correction on Father's Day (and Mother's Day) but women don't. Why this double-standard?
Because much of the church sees men as a problem to be fixed when compared to women, not a gender to be appreciated. There's prejudice and bigotry against a man's nature in too many churches, Christian publishing, and on Christian radio (I was a program director of a Christian radio station--I was part of the problem too), all of which have been beating men up for decades.
For example, if there is a problem with their marriage, Christian men have been told by these sources that it is automatically their fault. Dr. James Dobson is one of a few authors brave enough to confront this false message. He writes in Love Must Be Tough that men are saddled with the unrealistic expectation that "any sadness or depression that a woman might encounter is her husband's fault. At least he has the power to eradicate it if he cares enough. In other words, many American women come into marriage with unrealistically romantic expectations which are certain to be dashed. Not only does this orientation set up a bride for disappointment and agitation in the future, it also places enormous pressure on her husband to deliver the impossible...Marital conflict always involves an interaction between two imperfect human beings who share the responsibility to one degree or another." Sadly, Dobson's common sense is drowned out by other and more shrill voices.
I was told as an impressionable and young Christian man in church that I was "irresponsible, thoughtless, and selfish," when compared to women, who are innately more moral and spiritual. I don't know everything about the Bible. But I do know two profound truths: It says a lot about morality and spirituality. Nowhere does it state that women have a corner on both when compared to men. Instead, it tells us that both genders are uniquely and equally made in the image of God. It tells us that both are equally sinful and in need of redemption. There is no privileged gender in God's eyes.
Still, this rose-scented inequality will spread across our country this weekend, creating unintended consequences. Many will hear about the dark side of fatherhood in America, but few if any will hear about motherhood's dark side. How a child is more likely to be physically abused and killed by his mother, not his father. The statistics vary from 65% to more than 80%, which includes adjustments for single mothers. How wives over 40 and with children file for divorce more than husbands (around 66%), and their reason has little if anything to do with abuse or infidelity. How wives are more prone to begin a conversation more harshly than husbands. These aren't exactly family values. Listing these problematic facts of life will likely cause more shock than the facts themselves.
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