You need to look no further than the family to understand why our culture is falling apart, or why identity politics has reached a fever pitch.
“The root of the problem that we have in our culture right now is we have so many people that have been unfathered, boys and girls that have grown up now and are politicians that’ve been unfathered, and that wound of not having a father in their story is causing them to see the world through these glasses that they have—and we have over 24 million kids who went to bed last night, in our country, without their birth father in their story,” said Ed McGlasson, whose own father died before he was born.
McGlasson has written two books on the impact of fatherhood and has just published a third that aims to be a more practical guide, “How to Become the Husband and Father Your Family Needs.” He has corresponded with thousands of men and women who share life-changing stories of what happened once they repaired their relationships with their fathers. The former NFL player left professional football to answer his calling to become a pastor, and years later left the church he built to focus now full-time on his ministry to help men become the husbands and fathers their families need.
The reason fathers are so important, he said, is that they have the unique power to use their words to expand their children’s horizons—or to wound them.
“Or worse, disappearing from the story of that boy or that girl, so that their identity is a question mark,” he said.
Decades of statistics back McGlasson up; countless studies show that children who grow up without both biological parents fare worse than children who grow up with both of their biological, married parents, and not insignificantly, as his book lists in length: youth suicides are five times higher, high school dropout rates are nine times higher, behavior disorders are 20 times higher than the average. About 85 percent of youth in prison are from fatherless homes, and McGlasson adds that often a father’s abandonment puts the child in a metaphorical prison. (A friend of his tells his eye-opening story about how this is sometimes literal: men in prisons work on the construction of new prisons, sometimes the very ones their sons end up in.)
Despite the severity of statistics we’ve known for years, the culture does little to encourage good fatherhood, and as a result, McGlasson says he’s spoken to hundreds of thousands of people who have no idea where to start.
“We live in a day where men need hope so they can become the husband and father the family needs. They need tools. They get shouted down almost everywhere they go,” he said. “People who drink the Kool-Aid think that the only way to heal a culture is to do it politically. And there is a place for political stuff, but the root of the problem that we have in our culture right now is that we have so many people who have been unfathered.”
“If our core identity is going to be in our political party, we demonize the other side,” he said. “It’s like we have this fatherless culture that’s shaped the way people think about themselves, that if you don’t agree with me, you’re saying I should cease to exist. It‘s no wonder the political vitriol, the anger back and forth on both sides of the aisle is affecting people even [to the point of saying] ‘If you don’t agree with me, you can’t be part of my family.’ The question is, well, why is this happening?
“It’s an issue of lost identity, when you don’t have fathers. The answer isn’t beating men up, the answer is giving men tools, and that’s why I wrote this book so they can become the husband or father, or ex-husband or stepfather, that that family needs. Because when a dad is restored, and I’ve seen this thousands of times, it changes the family. It changed my family.”
McGlasson’s father was a test pilot for the Navy, and on the night of May 28, 1966, he circled something in his Bible and his wife just looked at him and asked, was she going to lose him? He was startled, said no, and asked why she would say that.
“You just had this really strange look on your face,” McGlasson said his mother replied. The next day, his father left his dog tags and went out to test a jet on Memorial Day. And right off the coast, in front of a beach full of people, the engine failed and his pilot father had to decide whether to eject and let the aircraft crash onto the crowded strip, or down it into the water.
“He hit the water at a few hundred miles an hour and was killed instantly,” he said.
His mother didn’t want him to grow up without a father, so she remarried, and McGlasson said his stepfather was the drill sergeant type.
“He did what most dads do, which is father the way they were fathered. His dad was a strong, authoritarian-type guy, and was all about football, and all about performance, and so he pushed me, and I sort of learned as a kid that my identity, my true identity, was about being a winner,” he said. He went to college on a football scholarship and took that dream all the way through to the NFL.
“I wasn’t a Christian at the time; my religion was playing football and performance,” he said. That meant that the possibility of not being able to play shattered his identity—and he’s seen so many other pro-athletes behave the same way. In the NFL, NBA, and MLB, a large percentage of athletes don’t have a relationship with their biological fathers. “They were raised by heroic single mothers, and didn’t know their fathers.
“I watched guys who went from peewee football to high school to college to the pros, and it’s like this should be the moment of great arrival and they find out who they really are—and yet it ends in real tragedy and brokenness.”
The moment comes and they realize it’s just that—one moment. Their search for identity hits a wall, and most don’t know where to go from there. “I would watch guys who would arrive at success, at the pinnacle of their careers, and completely sabotage themselves because of that boy who never got a blessing from his father,” he said.
“Being successful is not an identity.” It can even have the negative effect of encouraging the man to be more self-focused, and it becomes all about what more they can obtain.
When McGlasson became a father himself, he fell into the same pattern. He remembers catching his first son in the delivery room, and the “Circle of Life” playing in his head as he held him for the first time.
“When I held him, two things happened: this unbelievable joy, and this sheer terror, because I didn’t know how to be a father,” he said. He has three sons and two daughters, all adults now, and he said he made several blunders in their childhood.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t love my kids, I’d never been shown by my stepdad how to be loving and present and speak life into my kids,” he said.
Then one day, at a speaking event, McGlasson was asked to take off the dog tags—the ones from his father—from around his neck because they were hitting the microphone, and he felt God speak to him.
“It just kind of stops me in my tracks and answers the question that I’ve had for so much of my life, which is ‘Why did you take my dad early?'” he said. “And the Father just spoke right into my heart, right in that moment: ‘I let your dad come home early so that I could be your Father.’ And I was just undone.”
The fatherless wound isn’t a permanent one, as McGlasson learned how God could not only begin that healing but teach us how to raise children and break that cycle of fatherlessness.
McGlasson is a Christian; a college football knee injury led to a miracle and an encounter with the word of God; he talks about Jesus, and quotes from scripture. But he says this cultural problem is truly a universal one.
“Not too long ago, I met an Egyptian Muslim doctor on a plane ride and I tell him what I’m doing and he says, ‘Would you help me?’” he said. “I asked him what’s the matter and he said ‘My daughter, it’s just a battle, I never lived these things, I don’t know how to be a father. My dad raised me, he’s a harsh man who said if I’m successful in business then I’m somebody.’”
They spoke for two hours and after the plane landed, the doctor reached over to shake McGlasson’s hand and said he was the wisest man he’d ever met.
“As a matter of fact, I had an atheistic scientist show up at one of my events,” he said. “He showed up and he’s sitting in the back and he’s crying the whole time and at the end he grabs my hand and pulls me to the corner of the room and he tells me ‘I’ve been an atheist all my life and it’s because, I realize now, because I hate my father; all I did was prove myself to him and he never turned my way.'”
He kept in touch with the man, who not only healed and found God, but helped his brother as well, and subsequently his entire family.
Never too Late
Several years ago, McGlasson got a call from a man who was completely distraught because he had read McGlasson’s book about how important it is to have a father, and he felt he had abandoned his daughter. The man went through a bitter divorce 20 years prior, and early on when he tried to reconnect, his ex-wife sent his letters back unopened and said he was dead to them.
They spoke and prayed at length, and finally McGlasson told him to pick up a pen and write these words to his daughter, “Help me understand how I hurt you when your mom and I got divorced.” He sent the letter not knowing whether he would get a reply.
A week later, he got a call from a woman who asked to meet. It was the daughter he hadn’t seen in 20 years. They met at a small restaurant in town, both of them tense as she approached the booth where he’d arrived early. He was shocked when she asked, “Dad, was I that ugly?” thinking he’d left the family because she couldn’t be loved. Even after decades, reconciliation was not just possible, but necessary.
It was a tearful reunion, and when they finished at the restaurant, she asked him to take a drive with her. When the car stopped, the man told McGlasson he heard voices yell, “He’s here, he’s here!”
When he looked out of his car he saw two grandchildren run out of the house, coming to embrace him and call him Grandpa.
Daughters and Sons
Girls and boys are born with different questions for their fathers, McGlasson said. Daughters wonder: Do you see me? Sons ask: Do I have what it takes? Self-worth is built into these identity-forming questions, and opening himself to being able to receive God allowed him to speak these answers to his children.
“I meet men all the time that were never named by the dad or blessed by their dad so their future is all about trying to make a name for themselves,” he said.
“God made us all, no matter where we come from, we’re like word-activated human beings. What I mean by that is that the words spoken about us help form how we see ourselves.”
McGlasson has three sons and two daughters, and he says he really blundered at the beginning.
“One of the things that I kind of adopted from the NFL and sports was this passive-aggressive joking thing, so we would make fun of one another, and you know what when you do that it really hurts people,” he said. “And so our family didn’t know how to ask for forgiveness—and the reason it didn’t know how to do that was because the number one leader of the family, the dad, never went to them and asked for forgiveness.”
He treated his daughters like boys for a while, and he treated his boys the way his stepfather treated him, like a drill sergeant. Then when he became a preacher, he would preach to them. But once he heard the core questions his children had, the whole family dynamic changed.
“I saw my kids, who were really hurting, I went to them privately and said, ‘Could you help me understand the things that have hurt you that I haven’t asked forgiveness for?'” he said. He’s candid in his book about where he fell short, and includes a touching letter from his daughter. He also asked them how he could support them through the next season of their lives. “Those were weepy, powerful times.”
Come March, McGlasson will have nine grandchildren. Last Christmas, he and his family sat around the tree and as he watched his sons and daughters be great fathers and mothers to their children, his grandchildren, right from the beginning, he had the thought, “I want every man to have this experience.”
“I’ve never met a man that puts into practice the things we teach in our books that, first, doesn’t have a radical encounter with God himself, but also gets his family back,” he said. “It’s just incredible how many stepdads are now present loving fathers to children they didn’t sire, and how many lost kids have come home because their dad wasn’t a stumbling block anymore.
“We already see what the culture looks like without fathers, and it’s ugly. If we help and empower and give hope to men, and quit demonizing them—a lot of guys were blowing it, but teaching them how to ask for forgiveness, teaching them how to raise themselves up for their wife and their kids, giving men hope they can become the husband and father their family needs, will change our country; we can change our world.”
Readers can get a free copy of McGlasson’s first book “The Difference a Father Makes” at BlessingOfTheFather.com/freebook and use the code “epochtimes” for a discount on his new book “How to Become the Husband and Father Your Family Needs.”