Being a father myself, I can appreciate Father’s Day. Yet, it occurs to me that the celebration of fathers is often phrased in terms of provision and protection – that is, in the gender roles of fatherhood. I myself do try to be both a good provider and protector, and such efforts are worthy and admirable without a doubt.
But they are insufficient for raising a child, insufficient for virtue, and fall far short of what it means to be a man of good works.
To be a good father, one must go far beyond the social definitions of masculinity just as our planet, our prophets and saints, and our heavenly Father has.
To be a good father, you must be able to give love and time. You must be able to have compassion for at least the little ones. And, it is to be hoped, being a good father means being a source of forgiveness, guidance, and wisdom. Bare sustenance and shelter – only provision and protection – are tragic if there is nothing more.
I’ve read of studies done with youngsters- not with children, but with chimps- that have profound implications for our species and our life on this planet. The scientists behind this research know what it takes to raise a healthy baby chimp with a real mother- all the nutrition and the calories and so on. So they create a wire mother with maybe a bit of fur, a perch like an arm across the chest, and nipples that project through the wicker-and-wire mannequin. The nipples, attached to a sort of baby bottle, supply all the nutrients a chimp is known to need- the same nutrients that would come from a real mother’s milk, maybe even more. But despite the fact that baby chimps can climb up on their “Wire Mothers” and be safe and get all the same nutrients, the same protein, the same basic protection from the elements they’d get from their real mothers, the chimps with the wire mothers wither and die.
My fear is this: I fear that as we cover more of our planet with concrete and steel, as we wire our homes with more and more fiber-optic cables that take the place of more intimate interactions, as we give our children more and more stuff and less and less time, as we go further and further away from the kind of simplicity I knew as a child on Cat Island, our Earth- Gaia or not- will become for us the Wire Mother, and our souls will wither and die as a result.
Sidney Poitier, The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography
Just as Jesus was more noble, more human and divine, because of His embodiment of attributes traditionally associated with the divine feminine, so too all fathers are called to be nurturers. Failing that, then as with the horrific “wire mothers” of the chimps and the frightening vision of a global city, there can be only withering and death in their wake.
The Earth is both our father and mother. Deeper, God Himself is both our Father and Mother. Every soul is both male and female. For your deathbed will also be the birthing bed of your soul in a different and new space, just as the cross of Jesus was the birthing bed of both Him and us. Let us celebrate holy Fatherhood rather than gender roles, discarding aggression and domination for peacefulness and kindness.
May you have a wonderful Father’s day in the way of the sacred heart, my friends.