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 disciplining 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.
The story of the fatherless generation is unfolding all around us. Some parts of the story are being told by the children growing up in fatherless homes, while other parts of the story are being told by the once fatherless children who are now adults. You can hear the cry of the fatherless in their songs, see it in their movies, and read about it on their blogs. "Pop culture captures the dying voice of this generation. In it, we hear poets and prophets crying out for hope in the midst of ruin. Pop culture is a warped mirror of our lives. And if we can just pause to listen, we hear a song of despair rising from the ashes." (p. 20). While no two stories are exactly alike, there is a common thread of abandonment and pain that comes through in each of them. Although the absence of the father has become commonplace in our culture, it should not be accepted as a normal part of family life. Just because society deems it as normal, does not take away the rejection and debilitating pain felt by the fatherless children. The cry of the fatherless generation needs to be heard and needs to be taken seriously. This new book is giving them a voice.
John Sowers' new book Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story is a book that has been several years in the making. The main catalyst for this book was set in motion back in January 2008. John posted on his MySpace blog asking people to share their stories and experiences of growing up without a father. He was surprised to receive thousands of responses from all over the world. As the number of responses continued to grow, he realized that he had touched on something that has deeply affected an entire generation. This book is his response to their stories.
Fatherless Generation is broken up into two parts. The first part of the book connects the reader with the stories of the fatherless. Over the course of the first six chapters John shares parts of his own story as well as other stories he has learned from his friends and acquaintances and also many of the stories that were shared in response to his original blog post. Through these stories, John illustrates the vast array of emotions experienced by the fatherless as well as the many personal and social problems (i.e. anger, depression, promiscuity, drug abuse, low self-esteem, etc.) they experience as well. With no intervention these same fragile and troubled children will often turn into fragile and troubled adults. Is there any hope? John Sowers believes there is and that is what he presents in the second half of the book.
The remaining eight chapters of the book are a call to action on behalf of the fatherless, a call to mentorship. John Sowers is the president of The Mentoring Project. Their vision as an organization "is to equip and support one thousand churches, which will mobilize ten thousand men and inspire them to become mentors to this fatherless generation of boys." (p. 96). Using a three part process of loving, modeling, and coaching, these mentors are greatly impacting the lives of fatherless children. God is calling potential mentors to take seriously the plight of the orphan and to help Him rewrite "the broken story of a generation." (p. 88). A generation that "is an Esau generation-a generation that has lost its birthright and is longing for the father's blessing, but the fathers of this generation can no longer bless them because they are gone . While this is a tragic reality, it is also a great opportunity to bring healing and reconciliation." (p. 118). Will you answer the call?
As an adult who grew up as a part of the fatherless generation, I am sincerely grateful to John Sowers' work at The Mentoring Project and the awareness he is raising about the dire need of the fatherless children in this book. This problem is reaching critical mass in the culture around us and without the church rising up and answering this call, the results will continue to be more and more disastrous. Should this book ever go into a second edition, I would encourage the addition of a chapter addressing some of the challenges faced by the fatherless children who have grown up to become fathers themselves. If this sounds like you, my strong caution is that you need to put your own house in order, ensuring that the mentoring and discipling of your own children is well underway before venturing off to help mentor the fatherless children. It would be a shame to lose your own kids in the process.
Let me close by saying that Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story is a timely book that is much needed for this specific time in history. I highly recommend this book for anybody who wants to learn more about the plight of the fatherless. Christian men and women who have a heart for this younger generation should prayerfully read through this book and see if God would call them to be a part of His plan for reconciling this great tragedy.
Dr. John Sowers is president of The Mentoring Project, a movement that exists to inspire and equip the faith community to provide mentors for the fatherless. He has also been part of the White House Task Force conversation on Fatherhood and Healthy Families. John received his Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he wrote his doctoral thesis on the crisis of fatherlessness. John and his wife, Kari, reside in Portland, Oregon.
This book was provided by Zondervan for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.