“When you grow up a fatherless son, in many ways, you have to raise yourself. No one tells you what looks good on you, how to carry yourself, or provides the approval. Without a father, you grow up never knowing what you didn’t have. There is no intimate model of who you want to become, so it’s as if you’re always guessing.”
If my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will take me up.
Psalm 27:10 NRSV
REVOLUTIONS THAT IMPACTED THE HUMAN IDENTITY
At the turn of the 19th century, humanity witnessed the Industrial Revolution. Innovations in the factories and mass production brought in new ways of being for society and the person. The sexual and technological revolutions that followed also created significant internal changes in the sense of personhood.24
The Industrial Revolution
In the early 1800s, wagons steered toward the frontier, looking for land to settle in. More than a century afterward, there was no need to make a return trip. In mere moments, you can see the person on the West Coast from the East coast through a bit of screen in the living room. During the first journey, the threats came from outlaws who rode horses, but in the second development — which took seconds, the outlaws rode the airwaves, and in a way attacked families through the television media. Through advertisements, people join the race to acquire material things and status.
Consumerism is a product of the 19th century way of life. Consumerism increases profits, and this changes the way people view themselves and each other. At the end of the 19th century, the US had shifted from being a mercantile society into an industrial society rapidly. From this change we see the following advancements: “The assembly line led to the factory, factories replaced workshops, trains supplanted the stage coach, mass production superseded handmade goods, and regional replaced local.”
The cost of progress
While all this progress seemed exciting, new ideas about the human person and the family emerged. The family in the industrial society has also changed its form. Men felt the most impact. The Industrial Revolution meant fathers worked in offices and factories, instead of the family farm, workshops, or business. It pulled fathers away from their sons, and placed sons in compulsory schools where the teachers were mostly women.
In 1935, the average working man had 40 hours a week free, including Saturday and Sunday. But, by 1990, it was down to 17 hours. The 23-hour loss of free time a week since 1935 are the very hours the father could have used to be nurturing. The very hours in which the mother could also feel she actually has a husband.
This industrial way of life became more visible in the latter half of the 20th century. Business maneuvers to substitute themselves for the parents has worked. When fathers left the home, they were less likely to find fulfillment in the workplace. They simply became victims of a state of materialist violence.
Cultural importance lost
While one part of the world is in the midst of prosperity, the cultural importance of family is important. Fatherlessness has been a silent, steady killer in marriage, family, home, and workplace. About 140 years since factory work began in the West, there has been poor bonding in each generation between father and son. In the mid-nineties, about 40% of American children go to sleep in homes which their fathers do not live in. It has been the most harmful demographic trend of this generation. Fatherlessness does not end with tears. Fatherlessness contributes to a decline in character and competence of children. The most socially acute manifestation of parental disinvestment is juvenile violence. For girls, it is juvenile and out-of-wedlock pregnancies. The profits rolled from the assembly line, but the profound costs of fatherlessness led to unimaginable losses in the American family.
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