A Father’s Day message

See, I am sending you Elijah the prophet before the day of the Lord comes, that great day, greatly to be feared. And by him the hearts of fathers will be turned to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers; for fear that I may come and put the earth under a curse. Malachi 4:5-6 (BBE)

Modern societal trends teach that religion is only for those who are superstitious, weak-minded, and/or closed-minded and old-fashioned. These purveyors of the secularization of modern culture are doing everything possible to remove ’religion’ from the public discourse. There is intolerance for anything biblical or religion based by those who are in positions of authority to effect societal and cultural revision. Secular humanists disparage Bible reading probably because any serious study of the Bible often leads us to see the limitations of a humanist approach to problem solving. In the pages of scripture we find the futilities of human nature and its pages are filled with the tragic examples of societies which had rejected the wisdom found in those very pages.

An example of such failed policies is: Welfare reform. The last major revisions, those of 1996, were successful, despite liberal predictions of disaster. Work requirements pushed parents without young children to change attitudes and improve employability. But single moms with kids make up the largest part of our national poverty problem, and it’s exceptionally hard for one person without backup to grow a career and grow children at the same time.

In 1995 Kenosha Wisconsin was the shiny face of state-level welfare reform: Twelve state delegations, dozens of reporters, and welfare bureaucrats from all over, including Tanzania, came and marveled at the advancements Kenosha made to its welfare program; however, on the walls of two large training rooms were signs proclaiming, “A family doesn’t need a man to be whole,” and “Stop waiting for Prince Charming, his horse broke down.”

In 1996 the Kenosha job center director won praise for saying that he told welfare recipients “straight-out that marriage is not the answer.” They didn’t realize that work requirements are necessary but not enough. From 1996 to 2001 Wisconsin-style welfare reform did move hundreds of thousands of people toward economic independence. But others stayed stuck, and in 2003 the Manhattan Institute organized a conference that asked, “Whither Welfare Reform? Lessons from the Wisconsin Experience.”

At the conference NYU professor Lawrence Mead argued that “we must find a way to get the fathers involved.” New York Times welfare specialist Jason DeParle said the “biggest surprise” to him as he wrote about poor communities was “just how much yearning there was among the kids and their mothers for the fathers.”

There is reason for hope. Since God, through the prophet Malachi said that God would send Elijah the prophet before the day of the Lord comes, that great day, greatly to be feared. And by him the hearts of fathers will be turned to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers; for fear that I may come and put the earth under a curse. None of this then is a surprise to those with a biblical worldview. This yearning of children for fathers is a sign that God still cares for the fatherless. The second part of this equation however is the turning of father’s hearts back to caring for their children.

With over 40 percent of children born out-of-wedlock, we seem on the path to destruction. Can government (our modern god) do something to help? Not according to Jason Turner, who led the welfare reform campaign in Wisconsin and then took it to New York City, who stated sadly, “There is no solution that I can think of that will fundamentally affect men at the moment.” Government is not the solution to the problem, government programs are the problem. In fact most of the policies affecting those trapped in poverty are designed to penalize those who choose marriage.

Research has clearly shown that marriage and an intact family structure are associated with better financial prospects and a significant decrease in the likelihood of living in poverty. In fact, single-parent households are nearly six times as likely to be poor as married-parent families.

The federal government operates over 70 means-tested welfare programs that give cash, food, housing, medical care, and targeted social services to poor and low-income persons. In fiscal year 2010, federal and state governments spent over $400 billion on means-tested welfare for low-income families with children. Roughly three-quarters of this welfare help, or $300 billion, went to single-parent families. Most non-marital births are now paid for by the taxpayers through the Medicaid system, and a variety of assistance will continue to be given to the mother and child for nearly two decades after the child is born.

Yet, the positive ramifications of an intact family extend beyond today’s circumstances to benefits in the future as well, given that the behavior of children tends to mimic that of their parents, increasing the likelihood of successful marriages among generations to come. Conversely, children who experience parental divorce are themselves more likely to divorce or experience greater discord in their own marriages.

In addition, the intact family can serve as a buffer against youth risk behavior such as substance abuse and sexual activity at an early age, improving children’s prospects for the future and promoting a healthy civil society. Youths living with both parents are also more likely to enjoy a higher quality of psychological and emotional health and are less likely to develop problem behavior. And children in intact families trend toward  higher levels of academic achievement and educational attainment, enhancing both their own chances of success and their potential for contributing to the common welfare.

Fathers remain America’s strongest anti-poverty weapon, yet marriage continues to decline. As husbands disappear from the home, poverty and welfare dependence will increase, and children and parents will suffer as a result. Marriage is highly beneficial to children, adults, and society; it needs to be encouraged and strengthened. Under current government policies, however, marriage is either ignored or undermined. This needs to change or the prophecy declared in Malachi will come to pass and the earth will be placed under a curse.

Still, I know from reading the Bible Jesus changes lives and God still cares for the fatherless and is sending forth the Spirit of Elijah to rekindle the father child relationship. Social science notwithstanding, the Bible still holds the answer to lives problems if we are wise enough and brave enough to heed its advice.

Just another view from the nest.

But those who are waiting for the Lord will have new strength; they will get wings like eagles: running, they will not be tired, and walking, they will have no weariness. Isaiah 40:31 Open Link in New Window (BBE)

Along for the journey

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