Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Rehabilitation of Patriarchy

I do not pay attention to many television shows nor do I really see many movies, especially since the birth of my daughter Cecilia. But ever since I became a father, I have noticed more and more that it is hard to find a positive father figure in these media, not that I look for one to follow in the media. But it seems most men in these shows reflect a Homer Simpson-esque disposition and maybe Homer Simpson is the epitomy of modern "fatherhood." I mean, how many movies or television shows have you seen that show a postive father role for a man? These "fathers" seem inept, lazy, indulgent, selfish, etc ad nausem. No doubt this stereotype is perpetrated to get back at patriarchy and its misuse throughout the centuries.

Understood and lived out correctly, patriarchy need not be an ugly word. In our day and age, the concept of patriarchy needs rehabilitation. It seemed unthinkable sixty years ago for someone to say it is better for a child to live without a father. But that thought seemed acceptable and even commendable just twenty years ago. What seemed unthinkable at either of those times was that a child could live without a mother too! Yet with the perpetuation of homosexual "marriages," technological advances such as in vitro fertilization, and the adoption of children by homosexual couples, it seems children can do without a father or mother as long as they are "loved." The "best interest" of children has become a fluid concept. When will it become true when a company or an organization can adopt a child? Just think of the movie the Truman Show. We are not very far from the exploitation of children in this way.

Indeed it appears that our current situation of fatherhood and motherhood has been building over the years. Just think of all the changes in the family over this time. Not in any particular order but I find the following thoughts to stand out as representative of the culture waves during the past fifty years: 1) sex doesn't mean anything but pleasure; 2) women, as homemakers, you have no lives and you need to have a career to be successful and fulfilled; 3) if you don't want to be pregnant anymore or if you have enough children, have an abortion; 4) children are burdensome and expensive; 5) children don't need fathers or mothers! 6) patriarchy is evil.

Please don't think I am against adoption of children by a loving couple of a man and woman who are married together and seek to offer a home for those in need. But it would be adoption under those circumstances alone which merit recommendation.

It seems that our culture has presented a two-fold attack against what it means to be a man/husband/father and woman/wife/mother. All of this has great repercussions for family and societal life. I don't mean to represent the pre-1960s era as being wonderful and perfect. It had its share of problems but atleast certain elements were respected and even admired. Motherhood and Fatherhood had defined roles and expectations, for better or worse. Now these roles have become reversed, confused, and obliterated.

John Paul II took great effort to rehabilitate the concept of woman and elevate the dignity of women. You can see it from his first encyclical in Redemptor Hominis, in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, in his Theology of the Body audiences, and in the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, just to name a few writings. You may ask why begin with motherhood. I believe it was for the simple and important reason that women are the bedrock of society, the great deposit and foundation of moral wisdom, and it is upon such firm and fertile ground that a new culture can begin. If women said no to abortion, no to contraception, no to promiscuous sex, no to adultery, no to pornography, no to immodest clothing, etc, then men have to take notice and shape up or face a lonely bachelor existence of sin and worthless hardships. Women, together, united for the cause of holiness and the good can rectify many things through God's graces. The fruit of all this labor of John Paul II slowly has worked its way and the full effects will not be felt for sometime. But you can begin to see fruits of it in the many women who find joy and love in their motherhood and family and in the women who find a love in the religious life.

Now, I think it is time that the Church begin to rehabilitate man/husband/father because it is now needed more than ever. For those of you intrigued about this topic, I suggest you pick up the book Calling God "Father": Essays on the Bible, Fatherhood & Culture by John W. Miller. It speaks of the crisis of fatherhood in the breakdown of the family and society. He urges a recovery of the understanding of God as Father in order to rehabilitate an authentic patriarchy. With an authentic patriarchy, more men will come to understand their roles as fathers, after the mold of God the Father. Our culture desperately needs
strong and loving men in the homes and in the parishes because has Pope Paul VI noted, in an address to members of Consilium de Laicis in 1974, "contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he listens to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."

No comments: