Fathers Determine Faith

In the most recent issue of Touchstone magazine (Vol. 16: No. 5 [June] 2003, pp. 24-27), not yet online, is an article by Robbie Low entitled, “The Truth About Men and the Church.” The article utilizes sociological data from Switzerland appearing as “The demographic characteristics of the linguistic and religious groups in Switzerland”, by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner, in the second volume of Population Studies No. 31 entitled The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, ed. by Werner Haug, et. al., and published in January 2000. (Whew!)

These are the highlights:

*If a father regularly attends church, then sixty-six to seventy-five percent of his children will either regularly or irregularly attend church, regardless of whether the mother regularly attends or not.

*If a father irregularly attends church, then fifty to sixty-six percent of his children will either regularly or irregularly attend church, again, regardless of whether the mother regularly attends or not.

*And if the father doesn’t attend church, then sixty to eighty percent of his children will not attend either, whether the mother herself regularly attends church or not.

In short, the mother’s affect on her children’s church attendence, without fatherly support, will keep children who might otherwise be non-attending churchgoers as irregular church goers. In the sociological data, this was the most positive outcome of the mother’s influence, considered by itself.

Thus, Low concludes, “It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children” (24).

This, to say the least, does not sit well with mainstream social thinking. But given that Americans and Europeans take sociological studies as more authoritative than the Christian Scriptures, it would seem that popular or no, these are facts that must be faced. Low admits that “The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know” (25).

Low points out that the primary role of the mother is one of intimacy, care and nuture. It is from the example of the father that the children (male and female) learn to engage the world outside the home, and which engagements are important. Where fathers are “indifferent, inadequate or absent,” Low notes, this task is much harder.

So it is surprising that churches in the West are so keen to follow feminism’s denigration of the male. From Murphy Brown to our own families, our society preaches fatherlessness as the norm. Men are expendable; at best, mere sperm donors. Nearly all the media examples of men and fathers show them to be ignorant, inattentive, and helpless.

And this teaching is having its impact. Low states that “we are ministering in churches that accepted fatherlessness as a norm, and even an ideal. Emasculated Liturgy, gender-free Bibles, and a fatherless flock are increasingly on offer. In response, these churches’ decline has, unsurprisingly, accelerated” (25-26). It is among the conservative and evangelical churches, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims, which generally hold to traditional, partriarchal norms of family structure, where numerical growth is occurring. Given the data, this is to be expected. And Low continues, “The figures are in and will continue to come in. The churches are losing men, and, if the Swiss figures are correct, are therefore, losing children. You cannot feminize the church and keep the men, and you cannot keep the children if you do not keep the men” (27).

I say again, this will not sit well with the readers of my blog who resist the clear biblical teaching. But what do they have to offer? Anecdotal stories of chauvinism and purported violence. Where these incidences occur even once, they are to be deplored. But the fact of the matter is, the evidence contradicts these anecdotal stories. Partriarchal understandings of family are, in short, better for the religious faith of the children.

Low concludes, “A church that is conspiring against the blessings of patriarchy not only disfigures the icon of the First Person of the Trinity, effects disobedience to the example and teaching of the Second Person of the Trinity, and rejects the Pentecostal action of the Third Person of the Trinity, but more significantly for our society, flies in the face of the sociological evidence! No father–no family–no faith. Winning and keeping men is essential to the community of faith and vital to the work of all mothers and the future salvation of our children” (27).