Rememebering the Art of Fatherhood

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Upon attending the forum called “The Forgotten Art of Fatherhood”, hosted by Dr. Karin Heller, Kim Heidinger, and Dr. Eric Strandness, I received a great many eye-opening accounts of the effects of fatherhood on the individual lives of the main speakers and also of some students in the audience who were courageous enough to share their stories. Never before now have I been so aware of the substantial role that a father plays in a child’s upbringing, nor the considerable effect this role can have on their psychological development. This paper will respond to that forum by delving deeper into the key topics of the role of a father, the influence that this role has on the identities of male offspring, and how this can be exemplified in a critical feminist reading of the Bible particularly in David and his sons.

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An ongoing problem in society that has been largely overlooked for a long time is best summed up by the title of the forum: “The Forgotten Art of Fatherhood”. So obsessed have we been with trying to support females in society that we have left males a bit in the lurch. I’m not saying I think that men have been oppressed, and I certainly don’t find that to be the case, but I do think that the role of men in society has become a bit of an enigma where it used to be a clear and straightforward position. As society has evolved, the old gender roles have become outdated and irrelevant, and the continuation of them served only as a means of oppressing women unnecessarily. As women united and rose up to reclaim a fair and equal place in society, they also denounced the patriarchal role of males as exploitative, domineering, and aggressive. While a tipping of the scales was necessary for a more progressive and just social system, the roles which had been in place for centuries have now been overturned and there has yet to be a system formed in its place.

To add complications, although the meanings and roles of “man” have become ambiguous, there are still roles which exist for that gender; the key examples of this forum have been “father” and “husband”. Society is no longer sure what it means to be a man, but the man still has roles automatically assigned to him. These men get a job for which there is no longer a description, and then society says “Okay, here’s your job. It’s very important that you do your job right, because how you perform strongly affects other people’s lives. Oh, and we’re also not really sure what that job is, so… Good luck! Don’t screw it up.” This is hardly a recipe for success. Sometimes it works out fine, the man figures it out or has help figuring it out, and there’s another well-adjusted kid sent out into the world. However, in many cases, it doesn’t work out in quite such an ideal way.

There have been a plethora of cases of absentee fathers, abusive fathers, distant fathers, or other variations of negative paternal roles to support the fact that there is a knowledge gap as to how to be a positive masculine entity. This is a huge problem, because it’s becoming more and more clear how much of an effect a “bad dad” can have on someone’s individual development. There were many examples of this illustrated during the forum, such as Dr. Eric Strandness’s recollection of his slightly cold father, who didn’t like to display his affection in front of the children so that Strandness didn’t really see his father being romantic with his mother. He went on to say, “When I started dating girls, I really had trouble displaying affection with them.” With this shocking idea, he elaborated that he hadn’t had a role model showing him how to behave in a romantic relationship, so when the time came he wasn’t confident in how he ought to act. He concluded with his resolution “make sure to display affection in front of my kids, so they can know how.” This revelation really struck me, because I had been wondering previously how I ought to handle PDA in front of my own children one day. I had arrived at the conclusion that I would only show minimal affection to my significant other in their presence because I didn’t want them to be thinking about other people in a non-platonic way until they knew how to interact with others in completely platonic way. However it had not occurred to me, before Dr. Strandness brought it to my attention, that people also need a strong role model to show them the right way to behave when they are in a romantic relationship.

Fatherhood means providing a strong male role model for one’s children, so that they learn how a man should behave and how one should be treated by men. Let’s look at an example of how the behavior of a father could have an effect on the future behavior of his son. In the Bible, David had a great many wives. He was never satisfied with what he had– as soon as he saw a new pretty lady, he had to have her and waiting was not an option. He would stop at nothing to get what he wanted, which usually didn’t take much effort because of his kingly status, and he had little to no regard for anyone else’s feelings. When he wanted Bathsheba, he took her immediately (despite the fact that she was married). When he realized that people would find out, no problem! All he had to do was arrange the death of her husband.

This type of behavior is predictably mirrored by David’s firstborn son, Amnon. Amnon desires to have his sister Tamar, and once he decides this, he allows nothing to stand in his way and schemes a way to get her alone so he can have sex with her– her wishes are the least of his concern. He rapes her, and then abruptly casts her aside. Once he has shown his power over her and she is no longer something unattainable, she becomes despicable to him and he can’t bear to have her in his sight. He forces her to leave, once again having not a single care for her wishes. This is similar to the way that David abandons Michal without a thought after she helps him escape her father. He has plenty of opportunities to come see her, but he simply doesn’t care to. Like his son, he took her as a way of having power and not because he cared for her at all. He leaves her without a thought, but after Saul gives her to another man to marry, he demands her back. This once again proves that he is acting only to assert his male dominance.These are the values regularly expressed by David, and likely observed by his son who sees him as a mentor and role model. Amnon never sees his father behave out of consideration for others, only securing what he wants and making sure everyone sees how impressive and powerful he is. Thus, Amnon thinks that a man’s job is to be supremely dominant and have sex with whoever he wants. He does terrible things to his own sister, for which eventually his brother Absalom kills him as punishment.

At first, the reader may ask, “If David is to blame for being a terrible father and role model to his son, then why is Absalom so noble to stand up for his sister and severely punish his brother for this heinous crime?” Well, one must first stop and read the text more closely. Amnon has committed a terrible deed to Absalom’s sister. Absalom likely thinks, “How dare he commit such a crime to my sister?” and also “How will this reflect on our family’s reputation?” and perhaps even “This man is a threat.” Reading the text this way, we see that rather than protecting Tamar for Tamar’s sake, Absalom is most likely acting on behalf of his manhood (to protect his women), his status (to protect his family’s name), and his power (to destroy all threats). And in fact, he responds the this necessity in the same way as David: kill the threat! Just as David has Joab put Uriah on the front line and ensure his death, Absalom has his men kill Amnon in cold blood. Neither wants to do the dirty work, but each coldly decides that the rival must die. This strongly supports an assertion made by Kim Heidinger early on in the forum which I attended, that “…fatherhood has an astounding impact on identity.” The reason why the behavior between David and his two sons is so shockingly similar is because, like Heidinger said, a father plays a profound role in the development of his children, lasting all the way up into adulthood.

The forum “The Forgotten Art of Fatherhood” has given me a great deal to think about in terms of a man’s role in the family and in a relationship. I had been spending so much time thinking about my own potential role as a mother and how I might best fulfill it, that I never really stopped to think about the other half of the equation. The fact is, if I have children, I will likely have to share my jurisdiction with a male counterpart. Because of the clear and profound effect that my children’s father will have on the development of their identities, it is essential that I decide what that role is to entail and what criteria any potential mate will have to satisfy in order for me to accept him to fulfill it. Therefore, my final takeaway from this forum is that in a father for my children, it is critical that I look for a strong, wise, reliable, and loving role model; if he does not meet this criteria, I will decisively allow him to leave the picture rather than force a bad parent to stay for the sake of avoiding the stigma of a “broken” family. If I have learned anything from this forum, from the main speakers and also from the eye-opening stories shared by students, it is that it would be better to have no father at all than to have one who might have a negative influence on the psychological development of the children. The best family is not a “whole” one, but one wherein every present member provides a loving, nurturing, supportive presence.

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Rememebering the Art of Fatherhood. (2019, Feb 15). Retrieved October 5, 2022 , from
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