Saturday, June 14, 2008

Giving Props to Pops

A proud father and his little ones, Ghana 2006

Tomorrow will be the first Father's Day where I will "qualify" to receive a card as well as give them out. It will be a sweet day indeed for a guy who has been wanting to be a dad since his teens. I've recently been able to feel my son's "kicking" antics inside my wife, a pretty weird and fun sensation. It makes me smile just thinking about it. Right on time I got a little something in my in-box from the Institute for American Values about religion and fatherhood. It included a recently published column from Brad Wilcox in the Wall Street Journal and a link to a research brief. Here's a bit from the Wall Street Journal piece:

"Religion continues to have a significant influence, even in today's culture, as I explain in a report on faith, fatherhood and marriage published by the Institute for American Values earlier this week. Religious faith is linked to happier marriages, fewer divorces and births outside of marriage, and a more involved style of fatherhood.

Take marital happiness. About 65% of married Americans who attend church regularly are "very happy" in their marriages, compared with 58% of married Americans who rarely or never attend. Note that the marital happiness premium is larger for couples who attend church together. Indeed, wives get a boost in marital happiness from attendance only when they worship with their husbands.

Religious Americans are also less likely to divorce. Specifically, Americans who attend religious services regularly are about 35% less likely to divorce than are their married peers who rarely or never attend services. Once again, couples who attend together are especially unlikely to split.

Religion is also linked to lower rates of nonmarital childbearing. Only 25% of mothers who attended church weekly had a child outside of wedlock, compared with 34% of mothers who attended monthly or less. Moreover, unmarried couples who attend religious services together are significantly less likely to have a child outside of marriage than are couples who don't attend together or don't attend at all.

The report also reveals that religious fathers are more likely to devote time, attention and affection to their children than their secular peers. For example, compared with dads who indicate no religious affiliation, fathers who attend religious services regularly devote at least two more hours per week to youth-related activities, such as coaching soccer or leading a Boy Scout troop. Churchgoing fathers are also significantly more likely to keep tabs on their children, monitoring their activities and friends. Finally, religious fathers are about 65% more likely than unaffiliated fathers to report praising and hugging their school-age children "very often."" (Read the whole piece here) You can also read more about the research this column is based on here.

I've recently rediscovered my passion for the social science of religion and am playing around with the idea of doing my dissertation regarding religion and interracial marriages. We'll see what happens with that. In any case it's nice to see religion as a positive social force receiving validation in a mainstream newspaper. This column underscores for me the spiritual significance of marriage and family life and how religion can serve to empower this vital activity. I want to wish a happy Father's Day to all those dads out there who are demonstrating their love for God through loving and serving their families. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to do so myself.

"I beg Thy forgiveness, O my God, and implore pardon after the manner Thou wishest Thy servants to direct themselves to Thee. I beg of Thee to wash away our sins as befitteth Thy Lordship, and to forgive me, my parents, and those who in Thy estimation have entered the abode of Thy love in a manner which is worthy of Thy transcendent sovereignty and well beseemeth the glory of Thy celestial power.

O my God! Thou hast inspired my soul to offer its supplication to Thee, and but for Thee, I would not call upon Thee. Lauded and glorified art Thou; I yield Thee praise inasmuch as Thou didst reveal Thyself unto me, and I beg Thee to forgive me, since I have fallen short in my duty to know Thee and have failed to walk in the path of Thy love."
- The Bab

(Compilations, Baha'i Prayers, p. 62)