Friday, October 15, 2010
An Alarming Trend
On Mother’s Day, the sermon most pastors preach is like this:He is not entirely exaggerating here - I heard all about "dead beat dads" on father's day. Much has been written and said about the feminization of the church, much of it over wrought - but this is pretty much an undeniable fact - Mother's day is about saintliness and Father's day is admonition.
“Moms are amazing. They are like human unicorns, special, beautiful, smelling of lavender and night jasmine, deserving of our gratitude and our complete affection and pedicures. Mothers, please stand up so that we can shower you with applause and have the ushers give you roses commemorating this moment when we, the body of Christ, were able to bask in your combined loveliness.”
On Father’s Day however, the sermon most pastors preach is like this:
“Dads, what are you doing? Seriously, get your act together! It’s time to be leaders of your households. It’s time to put away jobs that consume you. It’s time to put down your Blackberrys and serve your family with your heart and your soul. Cowboy up already! Your role is critical to the family and it’s time for you to get motivated and active in your family, your community and your world.”
Some of this is due to the prevalence of divorce today, which when children are involved, tends to create way too much distance between the father and the children. Very few divorces that I know of have resulted in good relationships between fathers and their children. Some of it is custody and some of it is that as the custodial parent, an often bitter mother makes sure the kids are leery of their fathers. That, frankly, is not too saintly in my book. Not to mention the mother usually gets "custody" of the family church, which I think helps explain the preponderance of women in church.
This is of course only part of the reasons behind this trend, but the trend is real and there are two important points to make out of it.
One - there is nothing wrong with admonishment on Mother's or Father's Day, but a little equal time would be in order. Mothers are not by definition saintly and fathers are not by definition jerks, regardless of your own personal experience. In fact, I wonder how much of this trend is born of the fact that men will take the admonition quietly while women would throw a bit of a tantrum and the pastor does not want to deal with it, and what precisely does that fact say about who needs admonishing?
Two - the church has an obligation to build up men to be good fathers. The apparent dichotomy in these sermon approaches will do anything but. Men generally do not desire the kind of sappy do over themselves that women do, so the tone of father's day should be very different than mother's day but it should be equally celebratory. "Atta boy" is a good thing. Encouragement builds up as much sometimes more than admonishment.