As you know, today is Father’s Day in the U.S. and in many other countries around the world, so Happy Father’s Day to all of you fathers who read this.
Today I feel sad that I no longer can express thanks to my father. I was especially sad in 2008, when for the first time in my life I could not wish him a happy birthday on March 21 or give him a card or token of appreciation on Father’s Day. But I remain grateful to him for the gift of life and the material and spiritual nurture he gave me.
I am happy today to be the father of four adult children as well as the grandfather of seven. They are a joy to me, and I appreciate the way they live from day to day and year to year far more than any words or tokens of appreciation I may (or may not) receive today.
I am also happy that both of my sons are good fathers; my oldest son the father of two grown daughters, my youngest son the father of two small daughters, the younger of whom was born in February of this year. The picture on the right makes me think Ken is a proud father, which he has a right to be.
It is not easy being a father. In many cases it is much too easy to become a father; but being a father is quite difficult. That is especially true when the father is expected to be the head of the home and the main “breadwinner” for the family. That is the traditional position of fathers in this country, but one that has changed considerably during my lifetime. It is also a very common idea in Asia and in other parts of the world.
Earlier this month, June and I watched “Tokyo Sonata” (2008), an intriguing movie about a Japanese “salaryman,” a husband and father, who loses his job because of downsizing but tries to carry on without telling his wife and children. His attempt to maintain his position of authority in the home leads to near disaster for both him and his wife as well as for their two sons.
As those of you who are familiar with my ideas or who have read my book Fed Up with Fundamentalism know, I do not accept the “chain of command” idea, which has been forwarded by Bill Gothard, among many others, and widely accepted by many conservative Christians. That idea is as much Confucian as it is Christian, and among other things, it leads to inordinate pressure on husbands and fathers, such as is so graphically portrayed in “Tokyo Sonata.”
So, I write this in honor and praise of fathers today, but also in gratitude that many fathers now don’t have to carry the same heavy load so many in the past had to bear. It's still not easy to be a father, but, thankfully, the increasing emphasis on gender equality makes it easier for many than it used to be.