The newly formed Anscombe Society is making a noticeable impact on campus. Last week, they held an event simply titled “Do We Needs Dads?” which filled Gorman A. Before the event, I thought I knew what the answer was going to be and assumed that I would not leave with much more knowledge than what I came in knowing.
In typical University of Dallas style, the forum — consisting of theology professor Dr. Kerri Lenartowick, dean of Constantin College Dr. Jonathan Sanford, assistant professor of politics Dr. Daniel Burns and associate professor of politics Dr. David Upham — dove straight into the philosophical and historical aspects of fatherhood.
Lenartowick began the forum by emphasizing the fact that fatherhood is a state of being, a relationship that cannot be reversed. Every child exists not because of his own actions but the actions of his parents. Our existence is in the context of relationships. Lenartowick uses this reasoning to critique the idea of individualism because we are formed not by our own will, but, by God’s and our parents’.
Lenartowick complemented the philosophical importance of relationships with some cold, hard facts supporting the advantages of the father’s mere presence. A study done by the University of South Florida shows that the absence of a father during a pregnancy often leads to a lower birthweight of the baby and a greater chance of being born prematurely.
Now, this statistic may just mean that the presence of a father guarantees a higher income and standard of living, so if a mother had the same standard of living, the baby would be born just as healthy. Nonetheless, it demonstrates some benefits of children having fathers.
The most consequential statistic Lenartowick mentioned was that the religious practice of the father is the determining factor as to whether or not his children will engage in religious practices, no matter how religious or non-religious the mother is.
Being a spiritual leader is the most important role of a father. It is important for the father to aid in his children’s physical and mental health, but the real job of the father is to provide for his children’s spiritual well-being. The reason for this responsibility comes from a father’s role as the leader and role model of the family.
Sanford called leadership, especially spiritual leadership, the essence of fatherhood.
The children of a family look up to the father and imitate him. So, if they do not see their role model taking his faith seriously, they will naturally assume that faith is not an essential part of a virtuous life.
One would hope the physical and spiritual benefits of a father are obvious, but what may not be so obvious is why a man would want to go through all the sweat and toil of fatherhood in the first place.
Burns responded to this question by citing some political philosophers’ claims that fathers need an incentive to commit to the long and arduous journey of parenthood. These incentives might include fidelity and immortality: Immortality in heaven, but humans also seek it while on earth through their offspring and the physical continuity that the offspring provide.
Upham later emphasized the importance of the government enforcing the contract of marriage and providing a free society with property rights and a society free from foreign invasion so that marriage can flourish.
These professors opened my mind to new insights regarding fatherhood and gave me a renewed sense of awe and respect for fathers and the idea of fatherhood. I hope the Anscombe Society continues to put on more enlightening and thought provoking events such as this one because these kinds of discussions are much needed in our society today.