Today there are double celebrations of Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day, and I believe they are both closely related. For often times they are clouded in myths while we simultaneously grope to live with reality. How can God be Three in one? How does one sustain a belief in an Old testament God with all it’s troubling revelations? How does that God relate to Jesus Christ’s teachings founded upon profound love? How does the Holy Spirit empower us to activate that love? How can men who were not fathered aspire to fatherhood?
So, I begin by boldly declaring Happy Father’s Day! I know Father’s Day gets less attention than Mother’s Day, but it is certainly as important. Ever since I became a father, it has been my goal to be the dad who does what is necessary to care for my children; to make sure they are in good schools, they are feed, they are safe, and they are loved. This seems to be a natural way to think about my role as a father. My father was in my life, my brother is in the lives of his children, my friends always make it a point to tell me about their college-age children and how they are making out on their school’s campus. And, as a priest, I believe deeply in God’s love and want my children to know this love as I do. I want my children to believe and trust in me as they are taught to believe and trust our God.
1 John 3:2-3
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
I love my children and want to have them grow up with love and the understanding of God’s love. I am with them and so is God. There is no myth is this love and I have been determined not to be part of anything that is bad or ruin their love.
My friends, on arrival as an immigrant I was led to believe that black fathers are “less than” what we have all have grown up to believe are good fathers. Black fathers are absent from their children’s homes, abandoning those who need their love and support. We all see how our communities are devastated by crime, drugs, poverty and poor schools. The lack of stores selling healthy foods and limited heath care facilities in our neighborhood lead to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and mental health problems that are in every way devastating our lives. Even President Obama, as a candidate in a 2008 speech delivered on Father’s Day at a church on Chicago’s South Side, chastised black fathers. “Too many black fathers are missing from too many lives and too many homes. …They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison… They are more likely to have behavioral problems or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”
The absent black father is just another one of the many ills that prevent our children from growing up clear-minded and strong-bodied. When we listen to what is said and read what is written about black men, we have come to believe, to believe in our hearts there is something wrong with black fathers; something insidious, fundamentally and intrinsically flawed. We have come to believe that black fathers are pathologically prone to desert their children and are largely responsible for the dysfunction of the black community. This lack of black male leadership and positive role models make our children the prey of a racist system. But is this totally true? I have been reading and have come to believe this myth is just that, a myth that echoes a history of efforts to rob black masculinity of the horror and fidelity our men deserve.
According to 2013 data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, more black fathers live with their children than do not: “There are about 2.5 million black fathers living with their children and about 1.7 million living apart from them.” Yet those who do not live with their children are still play a prominent role in their lives. This 2013 study included 10,000 (black, white and Hispanic) fathers. More than seventy-eight percent (78.2%) of the black fathers in the study fed or ate with their children on a daily basis; 70.4% helped to bathe, diapered or dressed their children; 82.2% played with their children on a daily basis and 34% read to their children daily. The percentages of fathers not living with their children were also higher than white and Hispanic fathers included in the study.
What is true and what is false?
The same can be related to The God of the Old Testament who is clouded by myths and unable to relate to humanity in spite the outpouring of His teachings and mystical presence. Is the God of Leviticus the God of the Psalms?
If every black father were in the home, would his presence remedy the crime in which his children live, would it make health care and better schools more available to his children and his community? Would his presence end the school-to-prison pipe line or would his children be safe from the tyranny of our criminal justice system? What I have come to better understand is that we are under siege, and we are the only ones who can lift ourselves from the historical negative stereo types and myths that pit us against one another and against a society in which we must live and uses these myths to keep us in our place. We have to understand the power of this myth and live in a reality that must dispel it. This work is communal is the bold message of the Trinity God. Through the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit which inspires us to perform the work of salvation. The church has sustained many myths of God’s love. Yet its reality is vastly different. It is my work and hopefully yours as well to do the work of navigating through the myths and declare a new reality; that of sacrificial love. I give because I received from my father.
So, it is my job and my privilege to honor the fathers here today, to acknowledge the sacrifices made to guarantee our children grow up in faith and in love. Your children have faith in you as Jesus has faith in His Father. It is our responsibility to break the myth in our minds and hearts and take on the responsibility that truth and love gives us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can create new realities for our children!