Fatherlessness is reaching pandemic proportions.  In Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story John Sowers gives us an account of the devastating effects of fatherlessness and how we can stop it.  Through personal experience, the experience of others, statistics and years of experience, Sowers shows us how the life changing effects that losing a father can have on a child both at young and old ages.

Sowers argues that “rejection is the defining characteristic of the fatherless generation (pg. 19).” While we all experience rejection on our lives whether it be at work or school, rejection in the home from our fathers has far reaching and deep consequences.  A father provides stability, leadership, identity formation, relationship formation and helps to shape our view of God our heavenly Father.  When the father is absent all of these things and more are lost.  Sowers continues, “Perhaps the worst thing about rejection is living with the knowledge that someone has chosen to turn his back on you (pg. 19).”  Sowers shows how this idea of rejection is played out in the music of each generation.  Much of the rage and edgy behavior that many music artists display is their way of dealing with the loss of their father.  So why do so many of these record sell, asks Sowers,

This is more than loud music. More than mosh pits and star worship. More than flashing lights and smoke machines.  Something deeper is going on here. A soulful identification is taking place, even if most of the listeners cannot articulate it (pg. 22).

One of the effects of fatherlessness is the constant running from the shadow of your absent father.  Many children, boys in particular, try so hard not to be like their runaway father.  Yet, there is something magnetic about their lost fathers such that many kids will follow in the same destructive lifestyle.  Sowers notes,

In our anger, we convince ourselves that we will never live for his ghost. Yet, in spite of our best efforts, we are driven by our rejection, just as those who are driven to please him.  The ghost reminds us who not to be, which defines the framework of who we are to be. Our identity is shaped by our defiance (pg. 26).

This mindset in turn results in the development of shame.  A fatherless child feels shame because they believe the lie that there is something wrong with them which caused their dad to leave – to reject them.  These thoughts of shame and inadequacy follow us into every area of our lives. We take them to work, to church, to school and to play with our friends.  This shame is not only a mindset but it is a physical demeanor.   The roots of shame truly run deep.

Not only do children work out their issues of fatherlessness through music, they do it through movies as well.  Sowers points to the movies Elf and Fight Club as classic examples of how boys whose fathers have left deal with the rejection.  Many movies portray gangs which are predominately formed by fatherless boys looking for acceptance, leadership and identity.  In relation to gangs and authority Sowers notes,

A fatherless child often rebels against authority, for it represents the sacred position his father once held.  Authority is something to be avoided, mocked, or scorned (pg 47).”

This rejection of authority follows a child to school as they sit in a classroom and are attempted to be taught by a teacher.  It follows them to the job place and results in joblessness time and time again.  Once distrust for ones father is developed, distrust for all authority is soon to follow. When fatherless children reject authority they in then turn to sex, drugs and violence as means dealing with their hurt and shame.  Sowers gives a wealth of statistical information that links many of the ills of society to fatherless children.

Amidst all the devastation that fatherlessness produces there is hope.  Sowers is president of The Mentoring Project which seeks to link mentors with fatherless children in hopes of redeeming their lives and changing the course of their lives and thus the course of their communities.  Sowers gives great theological and practical advice on how mentoring can be effective in reshaping the identity of a fatherless child.  Theologically, we are to turn fatherless children to the perfect Father God is.  Practically, the church must take upon itself the task of coming along side fatherless children and discipling them.

I commend this book to anyone who has kids with friends who are fatherless, youth workers, pastors, teachers and of course mentors.  Your eyes will be opened and hopefully your heart as well.

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