The progressive reformer, Jane Addams, in 1911 wrote, "Poor Father has been left out in the cold. He doesn't get much recognition. It would be a good thing if he had a day that would mean recognition of him."
Sixty-one years later, President Richard Nixon signed a bill into law making Father's Day a national holiday.
Although this is not part of the liturgical calendar, I am happy that we recognize this day. The first four of the Ten Commandments deal with our relationship with God. The remaining six instruct us about our relationship with our fellow human beings. The first of these human-relationship commands reads, "'Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you'" (Exodus 20:12
It is a command with promise. Give honor to your parents, and you will be a person whose life will be a quality existence. Although the person who lives respectful of parents has a much better chance for long life, the primary theme is quality living. So it is fitting that we celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day.
The reason God includes this in his commands is that it runs against our human nature. Our tendency is to fight authority, whether it be the authority of God or the authority of our parents. We want to be free. We want to do our thing. Someone this week gave me this piece titled "Father."
4 Years: My daddy can do anything.
7 Years: My dad knows a lot, a whole lot.
8 Years: My father doesn't quite know everything.
12 Years: Oh well, naturally Father doesn't know everything.
14 Years: Father? Hopelessly old-fashioned.
21 Years: Oh that man is out of date. What did you expect?
25 Years: He knows a little bit about it, but not much.
30 Years: Must find out what Dad thinks about it.
35 Years: A little patience, let's get Dad's meaning first.
50 Years: What would Dad have thought about it?
60 Years: My dad knew literally everything.
65 Years: I wish I could talk it over with Dad once more.
We are a society searching for a model father.
Sociologist Michael S. Kimmel, writing in the June, 1986, issue of Psychology Today, states:
"America is suddenly having a love affair with fathers. Bathing, perhaps in the afterglow of Kramer vs. Kramer, we see fathers as safe and nurturing, exactly the emotionally expressive men that feminists suggested they should become. No longer the 'forgotten parent' of earlier psychological studies, father now shares center stage with mother in a flood of books about the joys of co-parenting and joint custody, or the political correctness of becoming a househusband. In fact, mother had better be careful or she'll be pushed to the wings."
The Bill Cosby show at one time was the hottest item on television, marking a major change in public taste. He has written a best-selling book, Fatherhood
, in which Cosby casts a jaundiced eye at the trials and tribulations of fatherhood, while winking impishly with the other. Even Cosby is somewhat ambivalent about what is involved.