The story of the prodigal son is one of the most well-known parables in the Bible. In it, Jesus tells a crowd of people about a rich father with two sons. The younger asked his father for his share of the inheritance, left his father’s house, wasted his money living recklessly, and became so destitute that he found himself hungry for pig food.
This son eventually humbled himself and returned home. He knew he had sinned and hoped that his father would at least treat him like one of his hired servants.
His father did no such thing. When he saw his son in the distance, he ran to embrace him. The father ordered his servants to bring fresh clothes and shoes and prepare a meal of celebration because his lost son had returned home.
Much like the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus used the parable of the prodigal son to teach an important lesson about the grace of God and the mercy He demonstrates to all who turn from their sin and trust in Him.
It warms the heart to see a child reconcile with his parents after straying from values and principles they instilled in him.
But what do we do when the prodigal in question is a father?
What happens to a culture when large numbers of men have exited the workforce and spend their days high on drugs and hooked on porn?
What happens to a country when men trade the nuclear family and a multi-generational legacy for intentional co-parenting and multiple-partner fertility?
What happens to women and children when men drop their God-given responsibility to provide for their offspring onto an ever-expanding government that is more than willing to take up residence – and exercise authority – in their home?
Prodigal fathers leave children and their mothers vulnerable to poverty and predators. This is why you see multiple references to God’s care and concern for widows and orphans throughout scripture.
On average, men are larger, stronger, and more aggressive than our female counterparts. This is why we build structures and fight wars. It is also why we have carried the weight of providing for our wives and children on our shoulders – both figuratively and literally – since the beginning of time.
Our prodigal father problem goes far beyond physical abandonment. As was the case in the garden, too many men have stood silent as serpents engage in dialogue with their wives about God’s created order.
I respect the women who run groups like Moms for Liberty, but it should not be up to women and children to man the front lines of the culture war.
Teenage girls shouldn’t have to have their faces blacked out and voices distorted in order to criticize Lia Thomas, the male UPenn swimmer who won an NCAA women’s championship earlier this year.
If Rachel Levine wants to believe he is a woman, that’s his right. But when he – and the activists powering the trans lobby – want to make hysterectomies, double mastectomies, and penile inversions for confused teens federal policy, there should be an army of fathers willing to stand up to his delusions.
Characterizing castration and mutilation as “gender-affirming care” is the “Big Lie” conservative politicians and pundits should be fighting to stop.
If not, we will have a generation of Franken-kids with mangled bodies and scarred minds who will hate the adults who allowed this madness to happen.
One reason we have so many prodigal fathers today is the decades-long demonization of men from politicians, academics, activists, and corporations who believe men have an innate desire to oppress women.
These people see the decline of men’s educational attainment, workforce participation, wages, cultural influence, and political power as net benefits for the sisterhood. The net effect has been mass demoralization and emasculation of the American male.
College students in 2016 were given coloring books and puppy cuddling sessions to deal with an election outcome they didn’t like. Grown men now speak in the language of personal therapy. References to “trauma” caused by minor disputes abound in our political discourse.
Prodigal fathers seeking their own safety and security have made the world more dangerous for women and children. Look no farther than the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, to see this reality.
The shooter was a disconnected and disaffected young man who spent too much time online and not enough in a loving, stable environment with parents committed to his future. He cared so little about his own life that he was willing to take the lives of innocent children and teachers.
But there is a lesson to be learned from the indecisiveness and cowardice of the police officers who stood in a hallway for far too long while a crazed killer executed women and children.
One officer had the presence of mind to get some hand sanitizer. I guarantee that no amount of Purell can cleanse a guilty conscience.
Addressing our prodigal father problem won’t be easy. One step is to get used to asking the question, “Where is his father?” out loud and often.
We should ask it every time we read a news story about a teenager committing a serious violent crime, from carjacking to murder.
We should ask it every time we see a video of a blue-haired mother on TikTok declaring that her son has always known he is actually a girl.
We should have asked it the moment we realized that BLM’s “Black Families” and “Black Villages” guiding principles failed to use the words “man,” “father,” or “husband,” but highlighted the need to “disrupt” the nuclear family.
We shouldn’t just ask important questions. We should also promote important principles to the next generation of men.
One is the “Success Sequence” that shows young adults who finish high school, get a job, and have kids after they get married have a poverty rate in the single digits by the time they reach their mid-30s.
We need to give young men a sense that they have some agency over their future and provide a clear sense of their duties, responsibilities and obligations as men.
This needs to be a core guiding principle of conservative family policy moving forward – reiterated and reinforced at every turn in our politics and culture through the pen, the purse, and the pulpit.
Any ideas to address our prodigal father problem need to be grounded in an acknowledgement that men and women were created by God – equal in dignity and worth but different in form and function. God designed men to worship Him, love and lead their wives, raise and train their children, and leave something of value to their descendants.
My hope is that the woman who lost a mate, the daughter who lost a model, and the son who lost a mentor when a father left his family will all welcome him back with open arms in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.
I also pray for his good and their security that he never walks away again.