No Room for Daddy

Last month, more than a million men gathered on the national mall to recommit themselves to God and their families. But as they prayed and sang, a very different kind of meeting was taking place at the Washington home of PBS journalist Ellen Hume. And the difference perfectly displays the yawning gap between our cultural elites and ordinary Americans. The occasion was a book party, and according to the Washington Post, the guests—including First Lady Hillary Clinton—were "celebrating unwed motherhood." They were feting the publication of a new book by Melissa Ludtke called On Our Own: Unmarried Motherhood in America. Ludtke, a former correspondent for Time magazine, argues that society should encourage well-paid, middle-aged women to become mothers. Ludtke did it herself: She recently adopted a child out-of-wedlock. What about poor, teenage mothers? Well, Ludtke says that in many cases, they’re better off single, too. Marriage is no "silver bullet," she argues, to solve the problems of teen mothers and their children. Shades of Murphy Brown! Haven’t the last 20 years taught these folks anything? Over the past decade, a consensus has formed regarding the importance of fathers in the lives of their children. Liberals and conservatives alike agree that fatherlessness lies at the root of many of our most intractable social pathologies: crime, poverty, drug abuse, and low test scores. This cultural backdrop is what gave the Promise Keepers rally its cultural significance. These men were acknowledging—on their knees—that male flight from responsibility has devastated America’s children. This cultural landscape is also what made the book party so incredible. While Promise Keepers was calling fathers back to their God-given duties, the women at the book party were essentially shrugging off fathers as irrelevant. One of the handful of men invited to the party says the subject of fathers never even came up. When will these folks have enough evidence to agree that children need fathers? The answer is: Never. For these women, their own desire to have a child outweighs the need of the child to have a father. For example, Ludtke’s book quotes one single mom who says, "I could imagine going through life without a man… but I could not imagine going through my life without a child." Maybe this woman ought to try imagining how her child will feel growing up without a father. Beryl Benderly, who reviewed Ludtke’s book for the Washington Post, said that the longings of single women are "a poor foundation" for bringing a fatherless child into the world. Two committed adults, she says, "can do much better than one at making a living and a home; providing the support, encouragement, help, and respite needed to persevere." Society, Benderly adds, "has the duty to encourage what children need, not what adults want—and that is two parents for each child." Benderly is absolutely right. And her review helps us understand why so many feminists are offended by Promise Keepers. It’s because these men want to do what Benderly recommends: Commit themselves to being good husbands and fathers. Feminist anger at Promise Keepers is in part a rejection of the holy role God gave men in the lives of their children. We need to remember that—elitist books to the contrary—fathers do matter.


Chuck Colson


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