What I’ve Been Learning About “Father Wounds”

Married mom and dad best for children

I’ve been mildly obsessing over this topic for the past few months.

Recently I went to an intense and unusual men’s conference. There was almost no verbal teaching there. Instead it was very hands-on and experiential. That weekend I saw man after man experience emotional release around the issue of his relationship with his father. Some of these were mature Christian men who had been stuffing their feelings down for decades. Since then I feel I’ve been noticing the father wound issue everywhere, in friends, family, and strangers, and in seemingly every movie I see.

On the ride home from the conference, our carload of guys debriefed each other and compared our experiences for 12 hours. When I got home I wanted to learn more. I began meeting with all of my adult children to be sure I hadn’t wounded them as I had seen so many others wounded. I thought I’d share with you some encouraging thoughts that have come out of all of this.

First, it would be more correct to speak of “parent wounds,” because it’s not only dads that mark their children with unmet relational needs. But it is true that it is more often dads who are absent, whether physically or emotionally, from the lives of their children. However, I want to hasten to add here that the point of this post is to encourage you! Whether you are a parent, or whether you aspire to be one, I would like to hold up the following vision before you:

It is not unusual in Christian circles to think of children as a gift from God. In fact, the scriptures explicitly say this (Psalm 127:3-5.) I don’t know that Mollie and I would’ve had 5 children if not for believing this. However, I think it is also true to say that we as loving parents are a gift to our children. If this was too obvious to point out in earlier generations, I would suggest that is no longer the case. As a parent I hope that you can see yourself this way. If you fulfill your parenting role well, your children will certainly grow up to see you as among the greatest of their earthly gifts. More importantly, they will have a much better chance of entering adult life without the emotional baggage that weighs so many people down.

What a parent wound is and is not
As I’ve talked with other dads about this, I’ve sometimes sensed some uneasiness around the topic. Perhaps this is because we are all aware that none of us are perfect parents. We all know it is inevitable that we will let down or hurt our children. But when I speak of parent wounds I am not referring to the occasional mistakes that we all make. Parenting well is not about being flawless. Furthermore, sometimes we’ll intentionally need to make decisions that will disappoint our children. But our children can understand and forgive these hurts if they occur within an overall context of love and affirmation in our family culture.

Rather, when I speak of parent wounds I’m referring to wounds that occur as a result of a regular pattern of deprivation; the withholding of good, healthy, emotionally rich relational expression from parents. If parents do not give their children a secure sense of being loved, accepted, and valued, those children will very likely seek these things elsewhere in a variety of unhealthy ways.

Since we all do make mistakes, humility is an essential part of loving, in both marriage and parenting. A parent who will admit a wrong to a child, and ask forgiveness from that child, is an amazing role model! Apparently there are a lot of people in the world who have never heard the words, “I was wrong” from a parent.

What was your “normal” as you were growing up?
To a great extent, much of family culture seems to be passed down, for better or for worse. For obvious reasons, we tend to repeat what was normal in the home in which we were raised. Think of your own upbringing. If you had a parent who rarely or never verbally expressed his or her love to you, it is likely that parent grew up in a home where love was never verbally expressed. For such a parent, verbally expressing love may feel awkward, forced, or perhaps unnecessary.

Realizing this can help us break the cycle of deprivation with our own children. We can learn from our own parents either way – whether their example was great or poor. Rather than conforming to a poor example, we can commit to be conformed to the image of God in our parenting. I would like to think that parents who are followers of Jesus would naturally excel at creating a family culture of love and acceptance, but unfortunately, dysfunctional patterns from our upbringings can easily assert themselves if we don’t keep our heads in the game.

It IS possible to do this well!
I recently finished a book by PhD psychologist, John Trent, and Gary Smalley entitled, The Blessing. It’s not a new book but I think the message is timeless. The authors contend that children naturally look to their parents to confer a blessing on their lives. If this blessing is withheld for whatever reason, those children will almost certainly feel a deficit in their being, and may spend a lifetime seeking to compensate for what they feel they never received from their parents. Trent and Smalley describe the parental blessing as consisting of 5 parts:

  • Meaningful and appropriate touch
  • A spoken message (because silence creates uncertainty)
  • Attaching high value to the one being blessed
  • Picturing a special future for him or her
  • An active commitment to fulfill the blessing

Do these things resonate with you as they did for me? If not, imagine withholding one of these things from your child. Think of your own upbringing. Can you think of ways that your parents expressed these things to you? My parents were better at some of these than others, but I can clearly remember feeling, for example, their “active commitment,” not only to me but also to my three siblings. One of the ways they did this was by attending our events and involving themselves in the things we enjoyed.

My daily reminder
Over the years when our kids were still young, Mollie and I attended several parenting conference with our church. During one of them in particular, I consciously chose to take home a practical suggestion from one of the speakers. He said,

“Every day, give each of your children a loving look, a loving touch, and a loving word.”

I figured even if I only managed to do this once a week for each kid, the cumulative effect would be very great. So I wrote out a small reminder in abbreviated form and kept it on my nightstand where I would see it. It’s been there now for years. I felt a little sheepish that I needed a written reminder to express love to my kids, but I know I am prone to getting busy and forgetting things. I wrote it in abbreviated form because I was afraid one of them might wander into our bedroom someday and see my reminder, and feel like my expressions of love were items on a “to do” list and not from my heart. I still have my note, now a bit worn:

reminder to love every day

Do whatever it takes to remember. I wish you all the best in creating a rich culture of life and love for your kids! You can do this as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or caregiver as well.

I can testify to the power of parental blessing. My dad was an “uneducated” construction worker, while I was a skinny, weird, sensitive little artist kid. My mom was only schooled as far as the eighth grade and never even learned how to drive. I doubt if my parents ever read a parenting book. Nonetheless, they created a home environment that met my and my siblings’ relational needs as small human beings created in God’s Image. That truly is a profound gift.

Soon I’ll share some research on how wounded people have shaped our culture.

If may offer a postscript that might appear to be just a wee bit self-serving, reading storybooks to your kids every day is an enjoyable way to cover at least 3 of the 5 aspects of blessing our kids.
(They don’t even have to be my books!)

How and Why to Not Be Postmodern

Throwing the

Recently I had coffee with one of my adult sons. I wanted to hear his insights about his spiritual development growing up. One unexpected comment came to light as he compared our family’s culture to that of a close friend’s. He observed that Mollie and I had modeled a faith that permeated all of life, and that our values reflected this. By contrast, for some people, faith is something added on, like an extra-curricular activity.

He said, “For you guys, a biblical worldview was like a pair of glasses through which you viewed everything. For my friend’s family it was more like a pair of binoculars that they would pick up now and then.”

This got me to thinking about postmodernism – the cultural state of society that distrusts the very idea of objective truth.

What is Postmodernity?
Philosopher and author Paul Copan describes postmodernity this way:

“French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard said that, simplifying to the extreme, postmodernism is suspension toward a metanarrative, which is a ‘world story’ that’s taken to be true for all people in all cultures and ends up oppressing people…”

So, postmodernity is a perfect example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Because there are many horrific examples in history of people oppressing others over strongly held beliefs – both religious and secular – postmodernity seeks to solve the problem by getting rid of the notion of truth altogether. It’s like John Lennon’s song, Imagine. Copan continues:

“…When people are so certain that they’ve got the truth and believe their system explains everything, then people who disagree with them are on the outside. They end up in Auschwitz or the Soviet gulags. So instead of metanarratives, postmodernism emphasizes mini-narratives. In other words, each person has his or her own viewpoint or story.”

Postmodernity attempts to address a very real problem in the world. It’s true that there are many metanarratives, ideologies, worldviews, and religions in the world that are coercive. But in making all truth relative, postmodernity does the world the ultimate disservice if there is, in fact, an objective Authority who has communicated a true story that includes all of us. Followers of Jesus should confidently and joyfully ignore postmodernism and instead, prove the life giving nature of the story and message of Jesus in our own lives and families.

“All Truth Claims are Wrong!”
Copan points out that the relativism that stems from a postmodern worldview is self-refuting. It simply doesn’t work as a worldview.

“…the relativist believes that relativism is true not just for him but for every person. He believes that relativism applies to the nonrelativist (‘true for you’), not just to himself (‘true for me’). The relativist finds himself in a bind if we ask him, ‘Is relativism absolutely true for everyone?’…There’s no reason to take seriously the claim that every belief is as good as every other belief, since this belief itself would be no better than any other.”

But having noted the self-contradictory nature of postmodernity, what about the problem of metanarratives being necessarily oppressive? Specifically, does the big picture presented in the Judeo-Christian scriptures necessarily marginalize those “on the outside”?

Self Righteous and Holier-Than-Thou?
I don’t buy that. The Bible specifically teaches that self-righteousness is not even possible (Ps 14; Ro 3:10-18.) Salvation is a gift from God and something none of us can claim to have earned (Ro 3:23,24; 6:23; Gal 2:15,16; 3:2-5; Eph 2:8,9; 3:7-9.)

From a biblical worldview Jesus is the only human being who could rightfully claim to be without sin, claim to be righteous in-and-of-Himself, and claim to be unerring in His knowledge of truth. Yet He was the perfect picture of love and inclusivity. His life was characterized by loving, healing , and reaching out to the marginalized: those on the fringe of respectable Jewish culture, women, lepers, the sexually unchaste, traitors, servants, children, Romans and other non-Jews, and so on. He typically did this even though it was inconvenient for Him and often got Him into trouble with His critics.

Not only His actions but also His teachings explicitly taught that following Him must mean reaching out to and welcoming the marginalized in a broken world. Several parables come to mind:
The parable of the Samaritan
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector
The parable of the prodigal son
The parable of the wedding feast and the uninvited guests
The parable of the widow’s offering
The story of the rich man and Lazarus

Rather than oppressing the marginalized, a biblical worldview acknowledges our common humanity. It roots human worth in the idea that all people bear the image of God, and yet it humbles human standing in the idea that all people “fall short of the glory of God’s ideal.” It is notable that two of the most combative personalities in the New Testament repeat the quote, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5.) Humility invalidates oppression and marginalization. A quote attributed to D T Niles rings true to me:

“A Christian witness is not like a rich man who has a lot of bread which he hands out to the poor beggars who have nothing. He is rather like one beggar who tells another beggar where he has found bread.”

A Bedtime Story
Accordingly, this all affects what we say to our children. As a young father it was my job and privilege to tuck my children in at bedtime. I would sing and pray with them each night. I remember a brief period of time when one of my boys was very troubled. He would tearfully express that he was a “bad boy.” Those are the words he used. He was probably 7 or 8 years old at the time. I was a bit taken aback by this because Mollie and I made a point of never telling our children that they were “bad,” even when correcting them.

He didn’t seem to be trying to confess a specific hidden offense that was troubling his conscience. Instead, he seemed to be expressing a recognition that there was something generally wrong within himself. I remember thinking carefully and prayerfully before answering him, because he expected an answer. Should I assure him that he wasn’t all that bad? Should I point out how favorably he compared to serial killers and drug dealers? This was my first impulse – to minimize his feelings and build up his self-esteem by pointing out all the things on the “good” side of his scale.

But a biblical worldview compelled me to say something different. Instead, I essentially agreed with him. And, holding him close in the dark, I sympathetically let him know that I was also “bad,” and so was every one else in the world; that what he was feeling was accurate. I explained that this is why God sent Jesus to us, because we all need a Savior. My son’s recognition of his own brokenness was simply the first step toward the spiritual rebirth that Jesus offers to us all. Jesus promised to give us His Spirit to live inside of us, and after that we help each other to live a new life in that Spirit.

I’m certainly not recommending that we as parents teach our children that they are pure evil. The truth is more nuanced than that. I think the Bible’s description of the fallen human heart as “inclined” toward evil is helpful (Gen 8:21.) When I think of an incline, I notice it’s possible to roll a ball up an incline, but it takes deliberate effort. A ball naturally will roll down an incline. So it is with our hearts.

There is a world of difference between telling a child that he or she is a “bad person,” and teaching a child that all human beings struggle with corrupted hearts.

Speaking the Truth in Love
I assume there are those who would say it is appalling to say such things to a child. I imagine that a time may come when a secularist government will see fit to intervene in cases where parents teach such things. But truth is that which corresponds to the way things really are. What if a child is taught that he or she is naturally good and perfect? Where does that leave the child when he or she sees within himself or herself a tendency to lie, cheat, and hurt others? I contend that it leaves the child in a truly hopeless place.

The fact of human brokenness should never be used to shame or manipulate others. But neither does a biblical worldview indulge secularist, utopian, wishful thinking about the natural goodness and perfectibility of humanity. In fact, ironically, this kind of thinking is actually dangerous when it comes to granting human beings governmental power over others. This is why we have a dystopian genre in film and literature.

I would like to hear about your experience as a child or a parent. How did you understand the state of the human heart? How was it communicated to you, and what effect did it have on you?

Preview: New Christmas Storybook in Progress

Does the world need another Christmas storybook for children? I think so!

The book I’m currently at work on is called, “The True Story of Christmas.” If that title sounds presumptuous to you, I’ll only say that I believe the Bible gives us the true story of the birth of God’s Messiah – an event that we have come to call Christmas. The book I’m working on seeks to recount the story for kids, with as much fidelity to the Judeo-Christian scriptures as possible.

For example, I don’t recall having seen a kids’ Christmas storybook where the Magi show up in Bethlehem at Jesus’s house when he is a toddler, as the scriptures tell it.

I’ll explain more about why I think this matters when the book is released. I’m not at all sure I’ll be able to get it done in time for ordering for this Christmas but I’m sure trying!

Survey Update:
A couple of weeks ago I did an informal survey on Facebook around the styling of the characters in the book. I was just about to start painting the first illustration when a thumbnail I had done caught my attention, and I suddenly had second thoughts about the styling I had developed for the characters. So I roughed out a couple of samples in a more elongated styling, posted them side by side, and asked people to vote on their favorites. I asked parents to get their kids’ input as well. There were lots of interesting comments.

Here are the roughs I posted:

illustrated Christmas storybooksSurprisingly, the votes were fairly evenly split, but a significant majority of adults voted for the squattier figures. However, many did so because they felt this styling would appeal more to kids. Interestingly, slightly more kids voted for the elongated figures. However, the very youngest kids did seem to favor the squattier characters.

I promised to post my final decision and the finished version, so, here it is. Thank you all for your input!:

Christian holiday kids books scott freemanOne of the other distinctive aspects about this Christmas book is that it puts the Christmas story in context, and explains the reason why there is a Christmas – the Big Picture. It tells of the nation of Israel and introduces children to Israel’s prophets, and their foretelling of a child who would be born to bring peace to the world. I like the way the illustration of the prophets came out. You might recognize the surrounding symbols from various prophetic biblical passages:

prophets watercolor storybooks bibleAnd now, I need to get back to work if I’m going to get this done in time for Christmas! I’ll keep you posted…

(If you haven’t already done so, please join my email list so that I can notify you of new book releases, and send you an occasional deep thought! You can sign up HERE.)

Guaranteeing Time for Family in the Midst of Busyness

Sabbath Keeping-Big Picture PublishingI admit that I might be a work-a-holic, just a wee bit.

Perhaps this is partly because my work tends to be enjoyable and meaningful, and partly because I’ve rarely made enough income for our large family. Or maybe it’s just the way I am wired. I don’t really know.

At any rate, my wife once had a come-to-Jesus talk with me about this that proved to be a turning point for our marriage and family. Had she not called me out, I think I would’ve been too oblivious to make needed changes. After all, my time-sucking pursuits were good, and so were my intentions. I wouldn’t have guessed how important an intentional “work-free” day would turn out to be for all of us.

What started out as an experiment turned out to be a practice on which we have never looked back. In fact all five of our kids came to think of our practice of Sabbath-keeping as an expectation. My wife and I now consider it to be a weekly blessing that we wouldn’t want to do without.

Since it’s the beginning of a busy new school year for many of us, I thought it might be helpful for me to share my story, and hear from others on what works for them.

Before our experiment, here is how my life went: I worked full-time at as a Hallmark artist, and also did free-lance illustration work on the side. I also created a monthly comic strip for an alternative, free newspaper. Nights and weekends were a chance for me to work on my on-the-side stuff. So, on weekends, I would look around the house, and if everyone seemed to be occupied, and no kids were crying or poopy, I would tend to sneak off to my drawing board and get some work done.

Eventually my exasperated wife would come looking for me, usually holding a kid or two. She felt abandoned. We searched for a solution. We had already been toying with the idea of observing a formal Sabbath, but I had pretty much balked at the idea because I was too busy. (What a waste of time. A whole day – shot!) But I remember Mollie telling me, “If I knew I would get you for a full day on Sunday, I think I could live with you working the other six days.”

We decided to try it for one month. Sundays would be solely dedicated to church and family, and I wouldn’t do any paid work at all. Even if no one was poopy, I would be fully present and focused on Mollie and the kids. That was something like 20 years ago. Looking back, I shudder to think of what I almost missed.

Our Sabbath has taken various forms over the years. Mollie and I are interested in the Hebrew Roots of our faith, so for a time we observed a traditional, Saturday Jewish Sabbath as best we could, complete with the lighting of candles at sunset, challah bread, and citing a blessing over each child over dinner, (which my kids thought was weird.) At other times we tried formal family devotions on our Sabbath. But mostly, our Sabbaths have been very unstructured, with the focus being on taking a rest from work, eating together, and, at some point, doing something together as a whole family, usually playing games.

We have tried to not be religious and legalistic about this. As our kids grew older, sometimes they would have homework that had to be done, or there would be a birthday party or a meeting that had to be attended. But for the most part, our kids’ friends knew not to ask our kids to get together on Sunday because that was our family day. Eventually, our kids didn’t even mind that their friends thought our family was weird because they were having too much fun with us.

At times we had fight to keep our Sabbath set apart. We’d make an occasional exception, but we had to say “no” even to some good things. Once, our church’s youth group leadership was considering moving youth group meeting day to Sunday. We felt we had no choice but to decline participation should that change be made. Our Sabbath had become a non-negotiable priority. One parent argued that Sunday youth group could count as our family time, but I knew the dynamic would be different. Fortunately the change was never made.

Today all but one of our five children have left home, but they are closer now to each other, and to Mollie and I, than ever. We attribute this partly to regular, face-to-face time every week. Now that two of our kids are married, some of them decided that we should all get together every other Sunday; whoever can make it. On the off Sundays Mollie and I still observe a Sabbath, and we sometimes use this time to get together with people that we want to “get together with sometime.”

We believe that life is about relationships, and our Sabbath observance has become a practical application of this. (Though honestly, sometimes we’re too exhausted to entertain people!)

For those who may be wondering about my loss in productivity, I believe that observing a Sabbath has actually made me more productive, because I’m never burnt out, and I hit the ground running on Mondays. But even if it hasn’t made me more productive, if I could have all the money I lost because of keeping a Sabbath, I wouldn’t trade it for the wealth of relationship I have today with my family.

If you find yourself frazzled and frustrated by an overfull schedule, why not try keeping a weekly Sabbath for one month, just to see what good might come of it? I’d also love to hear your stories of how you ensure regular family time.

My latest book, Bear Island, reinforces family-time and our need for loving relationship. CLICK HERE for easy ordering!

A New Option for Low Income Families Who Want My Storybooks

Would you like to receive my storybooks for free?

Okay then! I’m going to give this a try and see how it goes.

During most of the time that Mollie and I were raising our family, we struggled financially on our artist income. Over the years I have appreciated ministries that made their resources available to us free of charge. Now I’d like to do the same for other low income families who can’t justify spending the money for a book, but who understand the importance of instilling a biblical worldview in their kids.

The plan:

  • Sign up 3 people to my subscriber list, and I’ll send you one paperback version of your choice for free.
  • Sign up 5 people to my subscriber list, and I’ll send you one hardcover version of your choice for free. (The hardcover version works best if you are building a set.)

Guidelines:
Your participation will help to make more people aware of what I’m doing, and that’s a big help to me! If you approach your friends or family members, and ask them to help you acquire a great storybook for your kids, for free, I think they’ll be happy to help you. Especially if they’re on board with my vision, and knowing it won’t cost them anything to sign up. I’m especially looking for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and any others who are in a position to influence children to love God and the things that God loves. (So don’t sign up your grumpy, cigar chomping neighbor who hates little kids.)

Procedure:
My email list is permission based, which means, once people sign up, they must click on my confirmation email in order to be fully subscribed. I need you to take them through this process. This can be done very simply on their phone, pad, or computer in most cases:

How to Get MY Books for Free

That’s it!

When you have done this with your 3 or 5 people, simply email me and give me a list of their email addresses. In your message, include the title of the book you want, and your mailing address. When I see your people show up on my list, I will place your order for your book!

You may do this as many times as you want!
This could also be a great way for you to give a meaningful gift to a loved one at no financial cost.

Thanks again for your support!

Scott

My newest book, BEAR ISLAND, is now ready to order! It’s themed around the idea that we were created for loving relationship with God and with each other, and features a special emphasis on the nuclear family.
Click on the BOOK STORE tab for easy ordering!

Christian worldview for kids-Bear Island

A favorite watercolor illustration from Bear Island – written & illustrated by Scott Freeman

New Storybook Release: Bear Island

Christian books for kids-Bear IslandI’m excited about this one!

Over the past few years, thanks to some great teaching by a couple of pastor friends, I’ve come to appreciate that one of God’s primary attributes is that He is relational in nature. As human beings created in His image, we are relational as well; created to live in loving relationship with Him, and with each other. Since our triune God exists in relationship within Himself, we can say that our need for loving relationship is not a shortcoming or flaw, but is rather an essential part of our Creator’s design for us.

The idea of a personal God who is loving and relational is not as inevitable as it might seem. This is unique to a biblical worldview. For example, the Allah of the Quran has always existed as a solitary being, and there is no indication that he desires relationship with man. Furthermore, Allah’s eternal aloneness suggests that love could have only existed in theory until man was created. In contrast, Jesus describes being in perfect loving relationship with the Father from before creation. Thus the scriptures can truthfully say that God is love, and always has been.

Marriage is one picture of the relational unity-in-diversity that God designed us for. The creation story explicitly states that “oneness” is God’s intent for marriage. Family is another picture. The church is meant to be yet another manifestation of loving, relational unity. The greatest commandments of Jesus reflect all of this. Even on a worldly level, everyone on the planet seeks community and unity in some form. This is all from God, and Jesus claims that His salvation is what makes relational unity – first with God, and then with our neighbor – truly possible. In this way we can say that our deepest desires are met in Jesus.

Bear Island is a simple story that was designed to capture these truths at the simplest level. It’s a story about love, friendship, and family.

Bear Island tells the story of an island that should be a wonderful place for bears to live. Unfortunately, all of the bears are lonely because they mistakenly believe that the way to be happy is to be selfish. The strongest bears push the smaller bears around, and there’s generally lots of fighting and grumpiness. Bear Island is not a very nice place to live.

Books for kids-Bear Island

One day an enormous, new bear visits the island and the other bears are immediately afraid of him. However, rather than behaving selfishly, as they expect him to, he brings love and friendship to the island, eventually transforming the whole island.

Christian storybooks-Bear Island

Christian picturebooks for kids“…Every day Burly Brown Bear made a new friend by being kind to another bear. Soon there was a whole party of brown furry bears sharing their berries and sharing their days together. Bear Island was becoming a more heavenly place!…”

Biblical worldview for kids-Bear Island

As a side note, the idea for this story came to me after my wife and I had completed a marriage class through my church that deeply affected us. This was also during the Ferguson riots, (near where I grew up.) At the time, I was struck with how seldom fatherlessness and the decline of marriage were a part of the ensuing discussions on race relations in America. I think the story of Bear Island came out a little differently because of all of this than it otherwise would have. I mentioned in a previous post that the characters in the story were designed so that children of any ethnic makeup would be able to identify with them. My hope is that this book can make inroads into the Black and Hispanic communities. Eventually I hope to offer a Spanish version as well.
Bear Island-Big Picture Publishing

Those are my thoughts and hopes for this little book!

Reinforcing a biblical worldview in the kids you love has never been more important. Storytelling is still one of the very best ways to do that. Thank you for letting me play a part!

To order Bear Island right now, CLICK HERE!

Shipping is FREE inside the U.S.

Putting It All Together: Evangelicals, Gays, Blacks, & GMOs

Boromir meme-one does not simply We need each other in order to reach an understanding of viewpoints that differ from our own. Why should we bother to do this? Because no one person or group is right all of the time, and it is a natural human tendency to tend toward arrogance, self-righteousness, prejudice, and the demonizing of those with whom we disagree.

As a guy who traverses the (mostly) conservative world of Evangelical subculture, and the (mostly) liberal world of the secular arts culture, I often feel like a fish out of water.

I’m pretty sure everyone gets the case for “marriage equality”: fairness, equal treatment, non-discrimination. But based on news and commentary that I see, it strikes me that supporters of “marriage equality” almost universally misunderstand the motives of Evangelicals in the debate. The word schadenfreude has entered the mainstream, as the Left gloats over how fun it is to watch “anti-gay” people “lose” the battle. (Schadenfreude means to feel pleasure at another’s misfortune.) I’m curious as to what “marriage equality” supporters think that Evangelicals have to lose in this debate.

There seems to be an assumption that Evangelicals somehow need to hate, in order for their “religion” to work. Or that Evangelicals hope to forcibly impose their “religious beliefs” on everyone else (as if that has ever worked for anyone.) Or that Evangelicals don’t know any gay people that they personally love.

I certainly can’t speak for all Evangelicals, but I’ve had one foot in theologically conservative Evangelical subculture all of my life, and none of the above points are true for most of us. Of course you can find jerks and buttheads on the Left, Right, and Middle of every group. Finding one, giving him press, and making him the poster boy doesn’t promote understanding.

So what do Evangelicals stand to lose in the gay marriage debate?

Nothing. We’re not in this for ourselves.

We believe we’re standing for a public policy that will be the most beneficial for future generations; one that will guarantee the most freedom for the most people, and that will be safest and healthiest for the most vulnerable members of society, namely dependent children, who have zero political power.

There is nothing in our worldview that somehow needs to keep gays, (or anyone else,) down in order to thrive.

It is mainstream Evangelical belief that, in the new covenant of Jesus, we do not have human enemies. The apostle Paul clearly states that our enemies, our weapons, and the battle itself are spiritual in nature (Eph 6:11-17.)

There are many gay Evangelicals who struggle with same sex attraction, but choose to live according to their biblical beliefs. This is their choice. They are not second-class citizens.

Evangelical marriages will be just fine if gay marriage is recognized by the state. This is true because we have an ethic that doesn’t depend upon public policy. But public policy does affect the culture in general. As the institution of marriage is redefined into oblivion, as the incest taboo falls, as monogamy in marriage ceases to be the ideal, as gender in marriage and parenting comes to be seen as irrelevant, the consequences for society at large will be grim. If traditional marriage goes down, it’s going to cost everybody. Government will increasingly need to step in to preserve order and safety, and there will necessarily be a loss of freedom for everyone.

You may be thinking, “Slow down there, cowboy – we don’t really know what will happen if the government redefines marriage to include gay couples.”

Well, technically you would be correct, since, until recently, this has never been done before in the history of the world. But that’s kind of like saying we don’t really know what will happen if we redefine food. We do know. ‘Take GMOs. Genetically modified organisms look like food. They smell like food. But they don’t do what food was designed to do.

SImilarly, we do know what will happen if marriage is arbitrarily redefined.

Changing marriage isn’t like adding another color of socks to the sock drawer. Marriage and the nuclear family is the universal and fundamental organizing societal unit in virtually every culture in the world. The reason it is universal and fundamental is that heterosexual sex universally results in offspring. Gay sex fundamentally doesn’t. When offspring results, it is in every society’s and every government’s interest that the two parents who produced that offspring take care of it. If they don’t, it often costs everybody else in some way.

We happen to have an example of what happens when heterosexual, monogamous, lifelong marriage ceases to be the ideal standard in contemporary culture. We need only look at black subculture in America. I have some personal familiarity with this example as I raised my family in the racially mixed inner city of Kansas City for a couple of decades. I chose to send my two oldest boys to a charter junior high school that was 3% white. The family problem in black America is a widespread failure to form marriages in the first place, and a high divorce rate when marriages do form. The out-of-wedlock birth rate for blacks is now over 70%. Think about that. And that’s with black babies being aborted at five times the rate of white babies.

I was struck by the irony that, while the Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments about “marriage equality” in DC, blacks were rioting in Baltimore. What’s the connection? I wonder how many of the young men rioting and looting grew up with a loving father raising them and teaching them how to actually be men? I wonder how many of the looters were married men with children at home? I don’t know the answer, but we do know that generally speaking, it’s not gangs of happily married family-men hanging out on the streets at night and raising hell. It’s generally not women committing most crimes and engaging in destructive behavior. It’s mostly single men.

Single men are every society’s concern because of the way men are wired. Marriage is one, pitifully insufficient tool in society’s toolbox to induce single men to commit to one woman, and to any children they may produce together. This is why the government has an interest in monogamous, lifelong, heterosexual marriage. It makes perfect sense for the state to create strong incentives to increase the likelihood that kids will grow up with their biological mother and father if at all possible. Yet “marriage equality” says biology is irrelevant and biological parents are dispensable.

The problem of racism pales in importance compared to the problem of the disintegration of marriage and the nuclear family within black culture. You can’t have a 70% out-of-wedlock birthrate without deep consequences. Through no fault of their own, these kids will grow up disadvantaged compared to kids raised by a mom and dad who love them and who love each other. Thus the cycle will tend to repeat. Single moms, extended families, and black churches are struggling heroically to hold it together, but it’s an overwhelming problem now. Some have argued that black culture is where it is largely because of well-meaning (usually white) people trying to help. Consequently the state has replaced fathers in many black single-parent families. This is the reason journalist Jason Riley has written a book called, “Please Stop Helping Us – How Liberal Policies Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.”

So what does the plight of black America have to do with gay marriage?

It highlights the importance of heterosexual, lifelong, monogamous marriage for society. It shows that good intentions don’t necessarily produce good results. Crime and poverty are not racial problems, they’re fatherlessness problems.

Critics counter that “marriage equality” will result in more marriage, not less. Isn’t that what we want? How will allowing other groups to join the legal institution of marriage hurt anyone?

During recent oral arguments, Chief Justice Roberts nailed it with his statement, “You are not seeking to join the institution. You are seeking to change what the institution is…”

The disintegration of marriage has been devastating for black America, and thus for the rest of the nation. Similarly, the redefining of marriage at the federal level will change marriage not just for gays, but for the general population as well. If one aspect of traditional marriage can be changed, then so can the other aspects. For example, gay spokesdude, Dan Savage openly argues that gay marriage will help hetero marriage by normalizing the idea of consensual sexual infidelity. He calls this “monogamish” marriage. He feels this will help heterosexual marriage because “monogamy is impossible.” Savage wants to change what marriage is.

There are prominent leftist authors, such as Masha Gessen and Shulamith Firestone, who have openly advocated for the elimination of marriage and the nuclear family for the sake of equality. Whether or not this is the intention of the “marriage equality” movement doesn’t matter. It will certainly be the result. The term “marriage” will eventually be rendered meaningless for society in general, as there is no logic that will limit “equal treatment” to gay couples only.

If this were a religious issue only, I would keep my opinion inside the walls of the church. But the dynamics of marriage and family touch every person on the planet. It’s not the fault of Evangelicals that the welfare of children is inseparably linked to hetero sex and marriage. It remains compassionate, just, and rational to support sexual complementarity in monogamous, lifelong marriage. The legitimate concerns of the “marriage equality” movement can be addressed without redefining an already weak, but indispensable, institution.