March 1, 2010

Everybody Needs a Dad

Justin Katz

In a recent column, Julia Steiny ran through various ways in which fathers are, in general, distinguishable from mothers. Here's a sample:

... dads bring other huge contributions. For one thing, they play. That fatherly roughhousing that most kids love actually aids brain development. Play has been proven to enhance learning, and dads usually play with their kids more than moms. This play "promotes confidence in motor skills, courage, risk-taking and autonomy. It puts the kid on the path of healthy development and gives the child strong self-esteem," Glantz said. Even as they're wrestling with one another, the child can feel the love. And, "Dad's love is valuable like nothing else."

What all of the differences come down to, it seems to me, is that a father has unconditional love, like a mother, but without the sense of unity. As Steiny quotes from researcher Tonya Glantz:

"... think of how dads talk. It feels like: 'You are here with me' as opposed to 'You are a part of me.'"

That somewhat different relationship is not only something learned by the experience of being an actual parent, but also something that has been woven into our personalities and culture, in conformance with out biological natures. Whether you want to believe it's purely evolutionary or admit a Maker, fatherhood is expansive in the subtlety of its inherent effects on our society. (Which, of course, ties into the theological discussions that we've had around here, from time to time.)

What I've written above will have broad currency, in our culture, when the topic is education, parental responsibility, social work, and so on. However, much as fatherhood is broader than, say, an economic relationship, the concept of fatherhood and its importance ought to have implications for how we conceive of such things as marriage.

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What theological discussions? Most of the theological screed that you write goes unanswered. I take you to task occasionally on it, and you never reply. So I repeat, What discussions?

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at March 1, 2010 8:51 PM

It's Justin's blog and he can do as he wishes with it, but put me down as another person who finds the religious stuff insufferable and alienating. I get a lot out of the political posts on this blog, but I just skip over the "Catholic" ones.

The anti-gay stuff is what it is... it's just a part of the modern conservative movement unfortunately and for whatever reason. I don't particularly care about it one way or the other, since homosexuals already basically enjoy equal rights to heterosexuals if we're being honest with ourselves and take an objective view. This is all just a debate about preference and ideals and standards of civility now.

Posted by: Dan at March 1, 2010 9:42 PM


The "religious stuff" is a minor aside in this post. Even so, I'd suggest that it's part of a seamless whole in the broader picture and attempts to build a worldview without some guiding philosophy (or theology) will ultimately fall apart.

Be that as it may, I'll add that I've never understood comments like yours. Skip the posts that don't interest you. That's my intent and expectation. But the urge to express disinterest in something that's so easy to skip over has always seems peculiar to me.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 1, 2010 9:47 PM

Usually I do just that, Justin. I do, however, think it is valuable to distinguish the libertarian and conservative movements once in a while, since they are often equated by progressives and liberals as one homogeneous whole. You already know that we agree on most things economic and political, but on certain social topics the differences become more pronounced. I don't believe in popular rule or watering down messages, but I also cannot believe that you have no interest in learning what your readers respond well to and what they do not. Sometimes the religious or sexual-orientation posts can be alienating, for libertarians in particular, that's all. You don't have to change, I'll keep reading either way, but it would be a welcome one.

Posted by: Dan at March 1, 2010 10:01 PM


I'm aware that many of our readers are more libertarian than I. Others are "moderate" or "centrist." And yet there are others who do appreciate the social conservative posts.

I'd note, above all, that your distorted and spun characterization of my positions as "anti-gay" illustrate precisely why I consider it important to present my views across the spectrum, from the minutia of governance to the broadest of theological claims. If I stop at the border of the political, you'll have an excuse to assume that my positions originate with animus toward homosexuals. If I'm open about the foundations of my beliefs, then your only excuse is that you're not interested in understanding.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 1, 2010 10:13 PM

That's a good point. I admit that I hadn't thought about it from that perspective. I never considered you an irrational bigot or anything of the sort, but I guess there are many people who would do so, unfairly. I've always taken it for granted that liberals/progressives and libertarians agree on those kinds of social issues (although certainly not on others, like affirmative action) so there's not much to say there to each other. If you think those kind of posts are having a positive impact on those who might misconstrue, maybe they are a good thing. Just be aware that there are atheists and probably homosexuals (I am the former, not the latter) who could be good allies in the fight against economic oppression, who may feel a bit alienated on the social/religious front.

Posted by: Dan at March 1, 2010 10:56 PM

Settle down, you poor persecuted fundies. Your lives won't change a whit if gays marry. You are just itching for an excuse for more self-righteous whimpering. Why don't we call the gay marriage "debate" what it really is: a plea for attention by thin-skinned superstitious right-wingnut, morons.

Posted by: Jeff at March 2, 2010 2:29 PM
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