The recent observance of Father’s Day in America revealed the deepening fault lines about that vocation. The usual cards and commercials were endearing, social media genuflected to the occasion with cute hashtags and clever graphics, and men were cheerfully greeted and feted by their neighbors. This happened while rainbow flags dipped in acknowledgement of the suffering in Orlando, amidst raging confusion over what actually motivates those who reject the gay agenda, and after Congress furthered the notion of drafting our young women into combat. Take a moment to wrap your head around the schizophrenia: diaper ads rejoice in the hands-on father while our legislators want to send the mothers into the trenches.
Even that last sentence will soon prove anachronistic, because those same legislators are also en route to retiring the words “mother” and “father,” to be replaced by the androgynous “parent.” What is proving most frightening is the rush to judgement over the afore-mentioned “motivation” of those who believe men and women are different. Those who will not comply with the newspeak will be labelled as “haters,” and punished accordingly.
How did we get here and how do we find our way out of this morass? Sin and stereotypes were the way here, and the acknowledgement of both will begin the healing. First, the sin. Genesis explains that original sin affected men and women in different ways. The deadly sins of pride, sloth, avarice, etc. are shared by men and women, but beyond that there are sins that undermine each in unique ways. Men are prone to abusing their authority and can be either tyrannical or irresponsible; women can resent their particular vulnerabilities and overcompensate by resorting to manipulation to reassert control. Through these sins, we arrive at the stereotypical “toxic masculinity” blamed for the Orlando shooting and the rejection of motherhood in favor of career or caprice — any choice for women but what they see as the oppressing gift of self!
While such sins lead to broad brushstrokes about how men and women are different, stereotypes are knee-jerk explanations that fail to take into account the deeper call — to fatherhood and motherhood. Those vocations, which include spiritual as well as material care for others, are at the core of our being, and cannot be papered over in favor of androgyny. Just because some men behave badly doesn’t mean we turn them into women; nor does women’s behavior that often belies their fears mean that we have to protect them from the suffering attached to motherhood. Ours is a fallen world, but the very pain related to our own regeneration is ordered to our healing, and is best compensated for by healthy conjugal collaboration.
Children thrive best with mother and father united to care for their mutual well-being. Divorce is not fatal, nor are cohabitation, single-parenthood and blended families. Those settings can certainly compensate for much when the ideal is missing, but we cannot ignore the ideal. Moreover, when rejection of the ideal leads us to reject the very language of mother and father, we are actually impeding the outcomes we want for our children.
If we ponder the difference between God’s design and our propensity to sin, we can begin to grasp the ideal for which we strive and the stereotypes that trip us up. Only in that way can we discover the different ways to protect the lives entrusted to our care without blurring the differences between men and women. It makes for challenging conversations, but they are essential if we’re not to throw out the last wobbly underpinnings of family left in our confused society.
Mrs. Kineke is a parishioner of Our Lady of Mercy in East Greenwich, and can be found online at feminine-genius.com.