05: Fatherhood cont’d

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Rick Johnson, author of Better Dads, Stronger Sons: How Fathers Can Guide Boys to Become Men of Character treads similar ground to James and Thomas, but employs a slightly different language, the like of which is found in numerous conspiracy texts. For example, the first two chapters are called “Authentic Manhood” and “Authentic Fatherhood”: the term “authentic” signposts a clear and definitive path for men to follow. While Johnson suggests that the primary point of (to him, divinely-ordained) authentic manhood and fatherhood is “living for a cause bigger than yourself,” his more functional definition is one who leads, specifically via the term “servant leadership.”

Servant leadership is a term popularized back in the early 1990s by Promise Keepers, a form of Christian men’s movement. At the time it was felt that, for a variety of reasons, men had abandoned their role as leaders of their families. However, at the same time there was an awareness that leading families in a domineering fashion was ethically suspect. The term “servant leadership” is therefore supposed to be about leading with compassion. Servant leadership is about guiding the family through values, faith, discipline and finances. And while it is primarily a term used within Christian contexts, the general idea resonates throughout many conspiracy texts. For example, David Deida, who we read about in the earlier sexuality chapter (and who one might think is far removed from Promise Keepers) essentially calls for servant leadership when he make statements such as, “If you want your woman to be able to relax into her feminine and shine her natural radiance, then you must relieve her of the necessity to be in charge. This doesn’t mean you need to boss her around. It means you need to know where you are heading and how you are going to get there, in every way, including financially and spiritually.”

For Johnson, “fathering is at the heart of masculinity, of what it means to be a man.” It is about protection: Johnson says that, “families are like flocks of sheep … fathers are like sheepdogs, guarding the flock from marauding wolves.”  Indeed, the very presence of threats is often down to the absence of fathering on others: “young men, such as gang members, who are raised without the influence of older men often become marauding wolves themselves—predators preying on women and children for their own gratification.” Effective fathering is described by Johnson as “father power” which, in a similar fashion to James and Thomas is capable of mitigating a whole range of issues that can descend upon a family, the like of which can have ramifications for generations to come. For Johnson, it is God who has given men this power. And only men are in the position to hand this power over to other men, or as he puts it, “masculinity bestows masculinity. Femininity can never bestow masculinity.”

Johnson also reiterates the point about fathers being drawn away from their families by contemporary forms of work and living, and of the importance of fathers bonding with their sons, for which he recommends “camping, hunting, fishing, sports, scouting, rafting, hiking, biking, climbing, church camps, and other outdoor activities.” Indoor types might like sharing hobbies such as “collecting (stamps, coins, baseball cards, etc.), working on cars or small engines, wood or metal shop, attending sporting events, household maintenance,” and so on. Greatest detail about father–son bonding is left to a story about hunting deer, concluding with them gutting the animal: “blood up to our elbows, we basked in the glory.” Keen also to encourage reading, Johnson recommends books about founding fathers, pioneers, frontiersmen, cowboys, soldiers, and athletes.

In sum, there are very clear messages to be had about masculinity and fatherhood from James, Thomas and Johnson:

  • Fathers must nurture specific sets of behaviors at different times of a boy’s life.
  • Those behaviors are hardwired and are focused largely on outdoor activities and what might be described as stereotypical ways of doing masculinity.
  • Fathers should bond with their boys over such activities, perhaps even via some form of difficult initiation in order to turn boys into men.
  • Fathering is about leading and protecting the whole family, wives and children alike.
  • Boys without fathers suffer a father wound and are more likely to perform poorly in society.



Written by Joseph Gelfer

June 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm

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