Deadly Harvest

Patriarchy & the Violence of Fatherless Men

Along with several dozen other prospective jurors, I recently was ushered into an Illinois state criminal courtroom. On our left sat the defendant, a young man, with his defense attorney. Seated directly in front of us, facing the judge, were two men and one woman from the state's attorney's office. Three state prosecutors? It looked like trouble to me.

Sure enough. The judge instructed us that we were to judge the guilt or innocence of the defendant on one count of first-degree murder and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

It was grim. This was not television. One victim was dead, three injured (one paralyzed, one blinded). The life of the accused man might be over. I did feel pity for him; if found guilty, his could be a wasted young life, in a far country, estranged from our heavenly Father.

In reply to the judge's interview questions, I affirmed that a family member is a policeman, that I know other policemen, and that I have been a victim of armed robbery. While the judge accepted me as a juror, the defense objected, so I was sent home.

As soon as I turned on my car radio in the courthouse parking lot, I heard about the killing of Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer, which had occurred about an hour earlier.

In a government building downtown, Bauer had been attending a seminar on responding to mass shootings. Afterwards, on his police radio, he heard a description of an armed suspect nearby. He saw the suspect and confronted him in a stairwell, where the two struggled and fell; the suspect then shot Bauer six times, killing him.

The next day, Valentine's Day, there was a mass shooting of high-school students in Florida. The killer escaped the school campus, but a clear description of him went out to the police. Officer Michael Leonard spotted and arrested the suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. Leonard said, "He looked like a typical high school student."

Robert P. George commented on Facebook:

These crimes are almost always committed by men, frequently young men (and sometimes even boys). So the very first question I want to know the answer to is this: What do we know about the perpetrator's father and the young man's relationship with him? . . . [T]ime after time the answer has been that the father is (and was) absent (for one reason or another) from the boy's life or had virtually no relationship [with] the son or effective authority over him.

I would be surprised if fatherlessness were not the number one predictor of criminality. I recall hearing a veteran Texas prison chaplain say he often asked prisoners if they were raised by their biological fathers. The vast majority—well over 90 percent—said no.

Fathers Needed

This is one reason why patriarchy is important for the health of a society. Read that carefully. I did not say male chauvinism or male dominance or male privilege or misogyny, which some assume is meant by the "code word" patriarchy.

Patriarchy is based on the Latin word pater, father, and I am particularly thinking of fatherhood and not mere maleness: young men are supposed to be shaped not by a flood of male hormones or dangerous masculine bravado or the oppression or sexual use of women, but by the prospect of fatherhood.

Patriarchy is about fatherhood. It is about fathers raising boys and young men to become fathers themselves. A whole generation, or neighborhood, of boys without fathers will succumb to the chaos and violence of Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies. Wherever you find many fatherless young men not being trained for fatherhood, you will find most of today's violent crime.

Family in Greek, patria, based on pater, is often translated as nation and is thus the root of patriotism. But where there are fewer and fewer fathers, there can be no enduring patria, no homeland, no security.

is the executive editor of Salvo and the  Director of Publications for the Fellowship of St. James.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #44, Spring 2018 Copyright © 2024 Salvo |


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