Fathers’ Day 2012

Today we celebrate Father’s Day.  The Revista Envío (‘30 Años de Información y Compromiso’), claims that in Central America, the archetypical family is a MYTH, and that single mothers are the NORM.  Envío cites studies that claim that in Central America, men and women do not function as an economic unit living under one roof, and that women and children are abandoned by men who are subjected by poverty and the culture of ‘machismo’.  In fully one third of the homes with children in Central America, there is no formal ‘marriage’, there is no stability, and the mother’s children, often the progeny of more than one father, are ‘fatherless’… and the bad news is… the numbers are rising.

Do you remember last December 8th?  Do you remember the frantic traffic, the buzzing malls and the jammed stores the whole week before Mother’s Day? Did you see that last week?  Do you notice that Father’s Day is not as universal as Mother’s Day ?  Fathers Day is NOT for everybody. It seems to be mainly for a socio-economic class that is stable and comfortable, although there’s no one-size-fit-all answer to make a man machismo-proof.  Machismo is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives.

I wonder what Father’s Day means to ‘fatherless’ people.  I don’t mean people who have LOST a father, I mean people who have never HAD a father.  You’ve seen people waiting in long lines at municipal and charity feeding services… how many of those people are women?  Not many.  When he was alive, Felipe Motta began his Sabbath celebration by giving EVERY beggar and indigent person a 50 cent coin. (That was back when 50 cents could buy a meal!)  The line was VERY long, and I NEVER remember seeing a woman in the line.  The lines of the indigent and homeless are overwhelmingly lines of MEN.  When they were able, they did not create and care for families; instead, they squandered their gifts of youth and strength ‘sowing their wild oats’.

When we say that God is our father in heaven, what does that mean to people who don’t have loving fathers on earth?  EVERYBODY needs a mother.  I certainly can appreciate the wisdom of the Catholic church in revering Mary… as the mother of our brother, Jesus, she is available to be OUR mother as well. .. but where’s ABBA? How do we get to know Heavenly Daddy?

How can the ‘fatherless’ children, abandoned by their biological fathers, relate to G-d the Father?  Does it matter?  Look at the wretched mess in the community in Chilibre… you’ll see that it DOES matter.  Without a model to follow… how can boys grow into being ‘REAL’ MEN?  Is it any wonder that we’ve put school shoes on the feet of three rapidly generated generations of the SAME FAMILIES in Chilibre?  Has the Salvation Army been giving fathering, mothering, or parenting lessons for the past thirty years?  Have they taught abstinence, birth control, or the concept of fidelity?  It doesn’t look like it to me.

REAL MEN live REAL LIVES.  REAL MEN and their partners provide for loving stable families, not the cartoon sham ‘family’ that machismo creates.  Revista Envío claims that the culture of machismo measures femininity in terms of sexuality and measures masculinity in terms of reproduction. HEAR THAT AGAIN AND LET ITS MEANING SINK IN:  The culture of machismo measures femininity in terms of sexuality and measures masculinity in terms of reproduction.

To reduce human relationships to mere biological functions is not only shallow, it’s DEBASING.  It denies the complexity of humanity.  Machismo NOT ONLY ruptures what could be committed male-female bonds, it also denies the value of honorable gay men and women who want to live stable lives in loving, faithful relationships.

Machismo ALSO denies women a position of social and economic equality, including protection from rape, familial abuse and violence.   Remember the BUC Mission Statement… as a church, we are committed to BE A BRIDGE.  There is no room for machismo on our bridge.

Many years ago, shortly after the infamous case of  the “Texas-Cheerleader-Murdering-Mom”,  I made the flippant observation that the difference between fathers and mothers is that a father will die for his children, and a mother will KILL for them.   The reality is that it’s not quite that simple… parenting is a whole bunch trickier than that.

Mother’s Day is the biggest celebration of the year in Panama, even bigger than Carnavales!  Where does this leave the country’s fathers? Are they an afterthought? Are they EVEN an afterthought?  Are they as important as mothers? The adulation given to mothers on their day is in  stark contrast to the importance given to men EVERY DAY by the culture of machismo, but machismo just doesn’t cut it when we’re talking about being a ‘REAL’ MAN, or  rearing children, or being an integral part of a family.  “REAL” MEN are responsible. ‘REAL’ MEN are an integral part of their families from boyhood.  They’re not afraid of commitment or work.  For ‘REAL’ MEN, there is no such thing as “women’s work”.

Machismo doesn’t create ‘REAL’ MEN, it creates  machista toads, spoiled and treated like little princes by the entire gamut of females of every generation in their families… coddled and free from familial duties and responsibilities.  The little princes grow up with an attitude of entitlement, expecting every circumstance and every situation to be a one way street, beneficial to them alone.

Does everybody need a father?  The short answer is, “YES”.    Ezekiel tells us how G-d views fatherhood… listen to this:

Ezekiel 17:22-24
“17:22 Thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain.”

This is G-d planting a “chip off the old block”… planting a new life in a high and lofty mountain… a good and virtuous woman IS a high and lofty mountain.

“17:23 On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar. Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind.”

This is G-d planning how to cultivate the new life, and planning for it’s fruitful and successful future.  The Father sees His offspring as noble  and projects the vision of their future success.  The projection includes the plan for the offspring to be a leader, to be integrated with its environment, and to provide protection for all of the creatures within its sphere of influence.

“17:24 All the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD. I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the LORD have spoken; I will accomplish it.”  This is G-d the father declaring himself the LORD of his creation and his offspring, planning to do whatever it takes to make the newly planted tree grow and flourish, including going back to recoup a dried up tree and make it flourish.

In our own homes, as well as in our missions, we need to teach values and  parenting skills… so that children can shake off the crippling yoke of machismo, realize their human potential and rear healthy, stable, children who in turn, will realize their own potential.

Our Missions Committee knows that it is not enough to just feed kids.  We need to feed their souls and their minds.  The Missions committee is investigating how to amplify the scope of our outreach.  In teaching responsibility, we need to overcome our shyness and include teaching  reproductive responsibility.  In teaching hygiene, we also need to teach sexual hygiene.  In teaching fathers to be strong examples for their children, we need to teach them gentleness and tenderness.

Human fathers who choose a good woman and who invest themselves in family life can expect to see their children grow to be strong and righteous.  However, what happens when a father is absent or not involved?   What happens when a father doesn’t dream and plan for his children’s future, or doesn’t participate in their development?  It’s not pretty, and it is HARD.  More and more, the fractured families of marginalized neighborhoods lose their children to the only male role models that are available to them… GUESS what that is…  GANGS.  Do you know that gangs use young kids to commit murders because their record is expunged when they reach their majority?  Whoa.

Wise mothers know that children NEED a male presence, a male perspective, a male guide… in short, kids need FATHERS.  Wise mothers require fidelity from their mates.  Humans need REAL fathers, not just machista toads who sprinkle their sperm over the eggs and hop away.

I really think it falls to us as women to be strong, to set the standards and boundaries for our relationships and to be clear about what we find acceptable.

As children, we are like the tiny mustard seed In Jesus’ parable given to us in Mark 4: 31 and 32.   Society needs its boys to be taught how to grow up to become great fathers, how to be the strength of the ‘family tree’; how to put forth their large protective ‘branches’, and shelter their babies so that they can grow up to be strong and straight and tenderhearted.

Happy Father’s Day to all of you ‘REAL FATHERS’, and Happy Father’s Day to all of you good and virtuous women who made them REAL FATHERS!

June 17 year B Common 11, Proper 6, 2012