The Devaluation of Fatherhood
I watched a TV programme during the week. It was about David Beckham and his pals visiting the rain forest in the Amazon basin of Brazil. Before he set out he had a 'father – son' talk with Brooklyn asking him to be the man of the house in his absence and look after his little sister and brothers and his mum and be good. It was surprising because it was so traditional and it was so normal. Marriage and family life have been devalued in our society and this was almost a throwback to an earlier time when family relationships were more straightforward and wholesome and better and safer for children. On his journey David Beckham carried photographs of his wife and children with him and took them out of his rucksack and placed them at his bedside before he slept. One of his pals asked 'Do you always do that?' and he replied 'Yes, I do'. Later in the programme he said that the most important thing in his life was to be a good father and the programme ended with his happy return home. David Beckham has a curious gift for getting under people's skin and for setting agendas. He is a skilful and successful businessman and has a flair for publicity and marketing. He is a role model for many boys and men throughout the world. Here he is saying to boys and men - being a good Dad is the most important thing you will ever do. You might think that it is easy for him – he is very rich and very famous. But – in fact – we know that many rich and famous men are rotten fathers. David Beckham's own father was a hard working local gas engineer and he encouraged David in his football throughout his childhood and youth until Sir Alex Ferguson took over the adoptive footballing fatherhood role in David's young life.
Fatherhood has been much devalued over recent decades. The extreme feminist agenda has demonised men identifying us all as crude and violent women haters and potential rapists. TV advertising inevitably shows women as being smarter than men; many make fun of men; women get the upper hand. There are a few exceptions such as the Australian Foster's beer adverts. Mother and child issues dominate all sorts of news agendas. Father issues are scarcely mentioned. The Fathers4Justice organisation makes the following astonishing claims.
'By the end of today, another 200 children will have been cruelly separated from their fathers in secret family courts. Fatherlessness is an obscenity. No child should be denied their human right to a father yet nearly 1 in 3 children now lives without a father in the UK – that’s nearly 4 million fatherless children. Help us end the cruel & degrading treatment of families by the government'.
Here is an example of what is happening. Tim Haries, a Fathers4Justice campaigner was given a six month prison sentence for spraying the word HELP on a portrait of the Queen. Both the Howard League for Penal Reform and the anti-monarchy group Republic condemned the severity of Haries’ sentence. Why had he done this? He had been battling for four years for access to his two little daughters, Katie and Scarlett, separated from him by a secret court. Earlier this year, newspapers refused to carry a Valentine message from him in jail to his children telling them he loved and missed them.
Here is Richard Castle’s Story. 'I have a daughter, Jennifer, whom I have not seen for 12 years now. Jennifer turned 18 on the 4th of July this year, 2012. I split from her mother in May 1998, and for the first year there were no real issues regarding contact. But then I had to obtain a court order to see her. This meant asking a judge permission to see the little girl I’d just spent the past 4 years being a father to. Our relationship was a loving, fun father-daughter relationship and then suddenly I found myself having to ask some old overpaid lawyer permission to be her dad. How wrong is that!!!!'
'Shortly after I got the Contact Order, I was informed my daughter was going to be taken by her mother to Nairn in Scotland to live with her mother’s new boyfriend. Of course I objected, but I was told that her mother would get a Court Order to remove her to Scotland. I did not have the money to fight the case and all case law is against the dad (the mothers well-being is considered paramount in leave to remove cases) plus I was ‘advised’ by lawyers, Families Need Fathers and even someone from the Citizens Advice Bureau that any attempts to block such a move were at best futile.
Jennifer’s last known address was in the small Scottish town of Forres, near Elgin, Morayshire. Over the past 12 years Jennifer’s mother has gone from being enthusiastic about my relationship with Jennifer to being obstructive, downright awkward and uncooperative. I have tried everything from negotiation, mediation to the threats of court action. In 2008 I was diagnosed with Leukaemia. Through Fathers 4 Justice a letter was sent to Jennifer’s mother and I requested a picture of Jennifer to put by my hospital bed in the Royal Marsden whilst I was fighting for my life. The request was declined.
After my daughter was taken to Scotland, she went from loving me to showing an unnatural hatred towards me in the space of just over a year. Any requests to her mother for co-operation were simply met by the statement that 'she doesn’t want to see you'. Then her mother started ignored my attempts at communicating with them. I don’t know if Jennifer gets any of the cards and presents I’ve sent over the last 12 years, but I have proof of them being received at the address and being signed for by her mother and step-dad.
When Jennifer comes and finds me, and I have to believe that she will, then I am going to show her all the documents I have kept, the proof of all the items I posted her and I will tell her 'that’s what I did to stay in touch with you'. To date I have paid in excess of £70,000 in child support to my daughters mother and not seen my daughter. I was removed from her life and replaced with a cash point.
Every year on Fathers Day I watch the post box in wait for a Fathers Day card that of course never materialises. My Fathers Day is spent either at work, on a Fathers 4 Justice March or locked in my room crying over her. It’s heart breaking, knowing that your child is out there somewhere and you can’t see them is like a living bereavement and I thank my lucky stars that I have the most amazing support from my family, and in particular from my loving partner Lynda to help me through these hard times. All I want to do is to be a Dad to my daughter Jennifer. To laugh and enjoy life as father and daughter. After all, does she not deserve that? We have lost out on 12 years simply because her mother wanted 'to move on' and considered me an inconvenience to that. Because her mother did not have the ability to put Jennifer’s best interests over her own needs. We will never get back those 12 years, 12 years of heartbreak and hurt. I just hope and pray that we will be reunited soon and Jennifer will realise for herself that I’m not the big bad wolf that she has been lead to believe I am. I’m just a loving Dad who has tried his hardest to be there for her. I long for that day to come. When it will come is anyone’s guess'.
Men are taken for granted a great deal. Husbands often as well and fathers too. Men carry burdens in family life silently. They give their strength away over the years. They die earlier than women. Respect for men is much lacking today. There are terrible things done by some men to women and to some children. There is a great deal of desertion. Appalling things are happening to women in other places and cultures and within Islam especially. But many men do their best or at least try to be decent parents. And more suffer than is ever accounted for.
The Bible tells us that God is our Father. God is not Santa Claus and God is no pushover. God is the father and originator of our life as humans on this planet. The Bible tells us that God wants to be in a one to one personal relationship with us and to that end he sent his son Jesus to make that introduction for us. Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son but it is really a story about fatherhood. God waits for us to get back to him, each day, week, month, year. God loves each of us more than we think or realise or know or understand. Through the risen Jesus Christ he gives us his own energy and power to live by and to make us better people. That is the Christian message and that is what the Church teaches for and stands for. That is why we are here today.
If a man knows that God is his father who loves him he will be a better person and a better husband and father. That love is offered to all in Jesus Christ today. You can receive God's love in your heart and mind and life.