Well, it’s that traditional time of the year again when the president goes on vacation and the rest of the conservative world ridicules him for taking off time with his family because of the disarray of our country or the enormity of expenditures in doing so. But is there really nothing redeemable or commendable in a father and husband spending extended time with his family away from home and office, even in the Oval Office?
Don’t misunderstand me. I have very, very little in common or agreement with our current president, and I think it’s ludicrous how much is spent for the first family to go on a single week’s vacation. There must be an easier and better way – if not many of them. But all of that doesn’t discount or discard the incredible value of a father and husband pulling away from the rat race –especially in Washington – for a breather and some family time.
When we conservatives are decrying deadbeat dads and our culture’s demise because of absentee fathers, maybe it’s time we commend even our most ardent opponent whey they get it right with their kids. When people all around us are stressed out and suffering burnout from over-commitment and overtime on the job, maybe it’s time we commend those who fight to balance their personal lives and win a single battle over the tyranny of the urgent. When even Sunday mornings have been dominated by children’s sports – squelching American religious commitments and church attendance, maybe it’s time to renew our value in a Sabbath rest.
One of my favorite chapters in my New York Times bestseller and cultural manifesto, “Black Belt Patriotism,” is the chapter on “Honor and care for the family.” In it, I not only vindicate many of America’s founders’ views on marriage and family – without condoning their wrongdoing – but also discuss what I believe we can do to restore and strengthen the traditional family unit today.
Our founders were not faultless politicians, patriots, fathers or husbands. How often is it echoed that they had mistresses or infidelity misgivings rather than pointing to their commitments to preserve the role of family in America, including their own? (But if I can find value in our president’s private time with his family, the least that my liberal friends can do is rediscover the value that our founders had in their families, too.)
The fact is, most of America’s founders were passionately concerned and committed to honor and esteem the role of the traditional family in our culture. Though they weathered their own particular familial storms, the founders treasured marriage and family as institutions created by God that were indelible contributors to common decency and community civility.
For example, William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, once said, “A husband and wife that love and value one another, show their children and servants, that they should do so, too. Others visibly lose their authority in their families, by their contempt of one another; and teach their children to be unnatural by their own example.”
In 1799, two years before his two terms as president, Thomas Jefferson wrote to his wife, Mary, and compared the political climate to his home by saying, “Environed here in scenes of constant torment, malice, and obloquy, worn down in a station where no effort to render service can avail anything, I feel not that existence is a blessing, but when something recalls my mind to my family or farm.”
Jefferson also wrote to the renowned explorer William Clarke (of Lewis and Clarke), “By a law of our nature, we cannot be happy without the endearing connections of a family.”
Benjamin Rush, a physician, educator and signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote to his wife, Julia, saying, “I shall be better satisfied if the same can be said of me as was said of the prophet of old, ‘That I walked in the fear of the Lord, and begat sons and daughters,’ [Genesis 5:22] than if it were inscribed upon my tombstone that I governed the councils or commanded the arms of the whole continent of America.”
Being a spouse or parent is the tallest of orders and often the toughest of jobs – especially in today’s world, but God has endowed us with all we need to get the job done. We must show our children, our grandchildren and the people we meet every day that our conduct conforms with our beliefs, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Our family needs to see us reading our Bible. We need to read it with them. And we should keep framed copies of the Ten Commandments and the Declaration of Independence in our homes, as reminders and statements of the creeds we live by.
As Richard Stockton, a lawyer and signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote, “I think it proper here not only to subscribe to the entire belief of the great and leading doctrines of the Christian religion … but also, in the bowels of a father’s affection, to exhort and charge them [his children] that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, that the way of life held up in the Christian system is calculated for the most complete happiness that can be enjoyed in this mortal state.”
I believe in the power of parents and equally value the roles of mother and father. But more than ever before, we need men who are spiritual leaders at home and servant leaders in the world. I believe too many men in particular have fallen into a trap of low expectations based upon their own past failures, and I want to help them raise the bar (again). It’s time to quit blaming the past and look forward to new future – a clean slate that we can fashion and improve.
You know the statistics today. You see the problems. Too many families are in complete disarray.
To achieve a better country will require a cultural and spiritual reformation. But we don’t need to wait for some mass movement to start. We can initiate one with ourselves and our families. God has given every one of us the capacity to make a difference in this world for the better, and it starts at home, today.
Gentlemen, I don’t mean to preach, and I’m speaking to myself as much as anyone. But it’s time to move beyond the guilt and mistakes of the past and press on to be the fathers and husbands God has created us to be. Though I’ve been far from perfect, I refuse to allow my mistakes to hinder me from being a better husband and father in the future, and I encourage you to do the same. It’s time for us to re-enlist in rather than retire from our family.
And we don’t need to fight for family alone, just lead the way. As David Ramsay, physician and member of the Continental Congress (1782-86), explained: “Had I a voice that could be heard from New Hampshire to Georgia, it should be exerted in urging the necessity of disseminating virtue and knowledge among our citizens. On this subject, the policy of the eastern States is well worthy of imitation. The wise people of that extremity of the union never form a new township without making arrangements that secure to its inhabitants the instruction of youth and the public preaching of the gospel. Hence their children are early taught to know their rights and to respect themselves. They grow up good members of society and staunch defenders of their country’s cause.”
There’s no debate over what we need to do. The story is as old as the Bible, as basic as love and respect, and pragmatic as Benjamin Franklin’s advice when he said, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half shut afterwards.” (I hope he eventually took his own advice!)
Let’s get on with it! We can’t wait for Washington to rebuild our country. It starts and ends with us: We, the people.
It’s August – still summer. And maybe time (again) to get our focus off of the president’s time with his family and back on our time with ours.
(For far more thoughts and encouragements here, I highly recommend reading the chapter titled, “Honor and Care for the Family” in my book, “Black Belt Patriotism.” You can get it at any bookstore or on my official website, ChuckNorris.com.)