One need look no further than the latest sitcom or celebrity pronouncement to witness the strained state of fatherhood in American culture. As men have become expendable in the eyes of pop culture, fewer adults see the necessity of ensuring their children are raised in intact, married families, where they can experience the unique benefits of both a mother and a father.
More Americans are cohabitating; fewer are marrying; and if they do wed, it is at a much later age than previous generations. Although divorce rates have declined slightly over the past 20 years, no-fault divorce laws allow marital dissolution to continue separating children from their parents—especially their fathers. With four out of 10 children now born outside of marriage, thousands more children are growing up without the social and economic stability of married households.
One church is doing something to reverse the trend by engaging the culture with the truth about the importance of fathers. On September 30, Sherwood Pictures, the movie production arm of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, will release its fourth major motion picture. The movie Courageous follows the work and lives of four police officers who struggle with the idea that their strength and valor on the job pales in comparison to the courage needed to build strong relationships with their children. The men experience unique family situations—some emotionally or physically absent from their children’s lives, others having experienced a fatherless home themselves.
The movie highlights the personal pain of absent fathers and the tragic societal consequences that so often correlate with fatherlessness. As police officers on the front lines of Albany’s streets, the men are daily witnesses to the delinquency and crime that tends to plague communities bereft of fathers. On the job, the officers are determined, focused, and wholly self-sacrificing to protect their community from senseless violence. At home, however, the task of building intentional relationships with their children proves to be a battle. But when tragedy strikes one of the officer’s own families, the men are forced to confront their misplaced priorities and rise to the challenge of becoming better fathers.
Recognizing that changing culture’s opinion of men and fathers will take more than a trip to movie theaters, Sherwood Baptist has also developed individual and small group resources to accompany the release of the film. The curriculum and books are meant to encourage men in their roles as fathers and promote the benefits of stable families.
Both government and civil society have a role to play in restoring a culture of family and marriage. Federal, state, and local policymakers should take steps to promote the importance of intact, married families to the well-being of children and communities. Civil society institutions like Sherwood Baptist Church, however, must shoulder the hard work of helping to personally rebuild marriages and teach men about the integral role they play in stable families. Such cultural engagement is necessary to remind fathers that one of the greatest achievements and most important contributions they can make to society begins around the kitchen table. As Courageous reminds viewers: “Honor begins at home.”
Click here to watch the Courageous trailer and find showings at a theater near you.