The Problem with Fathers

I just read something by Fr. Richard Rohr about the sad fact that way too many people are not reconciled with their fathers.

Part of the reason many people find it hard to relate to God as “father,” he said, is because so many people have bad to non-existent relationships with their fathers.  Wrote Rohr: “Many people have had bad experiences with their fathers, and until that’s redeemed and freed, until they experience reconciliation with their fathers, or healing from the wounds of that father relationship, it is very hard, if not impossible, for such people to experience the loving, reconciling fatherhood of God.” (Richard Rohr,The Good News According to Luke, p. 61)

Rohr’s observation made me think about the problem with fathers. Although we in America hear a lot about African-American children not having fathers at home, being raised by single mothers, as I read and observe, it seems that many children, no matter their race or ethnicity, find themselves looking for a real father, a loving, consistent and powerful presence in their lives. It seems that well-to-do children have fathers who are away a lot for “business,” leaving them, effectively, to be raised by a single mother or worse, some caretaker or hired help. It seems that for many, a father in the home has meant seeing mothers being physically and emotionally abused, or the children themselves being physically, emotionally …and too often, sexually abused.  So often, we hear that “daddy was an alcoholic,” and because of that, life was hard and painful. Too often, the story is that “daddy” made promises he did not keep, causing little children to grow up into insecure adults, always wanting good things to happen to them but inherently doubting any promise of “good” for them to become reality. There has been no reconciliation with “daddy.” In many cases, there is a deep desire to pretend that the father didn’t exist. To expect better of a father who has treated, mistreated or ignored his children during their formative years is often too hard for the child, now grown up.

And God is presented, by and large, as a father.

If Rohr is correct, then it means that because so many people are not reconciled with their own fathers, they are not and worse, cannot, be reconciled to God, and to the “good news” that God offers.

I am stretching here, but perhaps the lack of good relationships with fathers is part of the reason America is filled with Christians who are not reconciled with God, and are therefore not reconciled with each other? Could racism and sexism and homophobia exist as entities if we were a nation reconciled with God? Could there be such a history of racial and gender discrimination, of great economic disparity, making an ever-widening chasm between the “haves” and “have-nots” if we were a nation reconciled with God?  Wouldn’t a nation filled with people who are reconciled with God …look different, have different policies, be more characterized by great compassion and forgiveness than is America?

Is the part of the world which says it is Christian, likewise, reconciled with God? I do not know much about what is really going on in the Middle East, but something feels wrong. Yes, Israel has a right to exist, but doesn’t Palestine have that right, too? Are the Palestinian people (not Hamas or any political group, but the people) being treated like human beings who belong to and are precious to God?  People who are reconciled with God, I would presume, see with God’s eyes and see with God’s heart; the child takes on the personality of the father, right? Is the fact that so many of us cannot take on the personality of God mean that our lack of reconciliation with our own fathers is really running our lives and the way we live our lives?

Fr. Rohr quotes the prophet Malachi, who wrote that when children are not reconciled with their fathers, “the land is struck with a curse.” (Mal. 3:24) He says, “When the eldering system breaks down, the male is no longer able to trust or entrust himself to anybody and the female is no longer able to trust the male or entrust herself to the male. At that point, people have a distorted and restricted view of the nature of themselves, one another, and God…This is a sibling society, needing but rejecting all mentoring.” (p. 62)

Is there a “father problem” in America, and in the world? Are there far too many people with bleeding spirits because they did not have a good relationship with their fathers, and are therefore not reconciled with God? If that’s the case, does it matter?

I think so.

A candid observation…


2 thoughts on “The Problem with Fathers

  1. It makes sense to draw a parallel between the two. If you don’t have a relationship with an earthly father who is a tangible being, then it might make it that much harder to have one with the father who you can’t touch or feel. I struggle with whether Christians truly have a relationship with God. I don’t know if I would say it’s because of them not having relationships with their fathers, but I do know that they all claim to be “right” but so often are filled with hate, discrimination, indignation, and righteousness that makes them feel better than others. Who knows, maybe some of them really are missing that fatherly guidance.

  2. Rev. Jeremiah Wright said (quoting someone else, I think), that your theology (how you see God) determines your anthropology (how you see people), which in turn determines your sociology (how you treat people.)\
    Food for thought …

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