Tuesday, October 16, 2007

God the Absent Father

Marco Mazzoleni, God the Father?
Not exactly absent...
(Image from Wikipedia)

In an article somewhat flawed by what I consider its partial misapplication of Robert Bellah's findings in Habits of the Heart, the prison chaplain Charles Colson remarks:
When I walk through the nation's cellblocks, I speak to kids about God the Father. They look at me as if I'd said a dirty word. Most don't know who their father is. They're like feral children, devoid of any kind of moral instruction. (Charles Colson, "Community of Memory," Christianity Today, October 2007)
I don't think that this reaction is due so much to "radical individualism" -- which is what Colson takes from Bellah and uses to explain criminality -- as it is to absent fathers.

Now, these absent fathers might be radical individualists, yet they might not be, so I'd be careful about drawing too direct a connection on that point.

But I can understand the kids who react to the word "father" as though it were a "dirty word," for this word "father" lacks the resonance for me that it has for those who grew up with present, caring, reliable fathers.

"God the Grandfather" sounds better to my ears. I can't vouch for the kids in prison...

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At 9:29 PM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

But Jeffery....you are a father.

And most people know what kind of father he/she would like to have.

Most people understand the importance of a father's influence...guidance...whether they have experienced it or not.

At 9:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

True, I had my grandfather as a 'father.'

But I can understand those young men in prison. Still, I know what you mean. Those men are terribly disappointed, deeply injured and bitter at their absent fathers, and the depth of their feelings is a measure of their knowledge concerning what a father should be.

But they might not recognize this themselves.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:37 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

I think they know and may think that a father should have helped them to manhood. I not exactly guessing, this is what I understand my son to know and he feels rage that there should have been some effort to guide him. It would not have mattered if his father was strict or aloof. Just some expectations or vision of life. Even though his father was there, he was not present.

At 6:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That's exactly it, Hathor. A mature father is needed to help sons to manhood.

A lot of boys with problems back where I grew up lacked a father ... or at least a mature one.

A father can be absent even if he's around.

Jeffery Hodges

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