'Man of Steel': What We Can Learn About Fathers

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By Doug Birdsall , Op-Ed Contributor
June 15, 2013|7:16 am

Just in time for Father's Day comes the newest film depiction of the ultimate comic-book hero: Superman. In "Man of Steel," audiences will get a look at the backstory of how a seemingly average middle-class American became the iconic hero. Early reviews have noted the film's emphasis on the two most important men in Clark/Kal-El's life; the sacrificial love of birth father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and the supportive, guiding love of adopted father Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) shape the young Clark (Henry Cavill) into the principled hero he becomes.

The entertainment world isn't always a father-friendly milieu. Whether it is the archetypes of the bumbling dad of sitcoms, the clueless dad of television commercials or the absent dad of film dramas, Hollywood's typical depictions of fathers are underwhelming at best and shameful at worst.

The world of Hollywood isn't the only place where fatherhood has taken a beating. Here in America, we are in the midst of a fatherhood crisis.

  • Superman: Man of Steel
    Credit: Kellogg's
    New picture from Man of Steel ft. Henry Cavill as Superman

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one out of three children in America live in a home without a biological father. While some of these children are in the loving care of a Jonathan Kent-type adoptive father, far too many are in homes entirely free of a father's presence.

The emotional implications of father-free families may be difficult to quantify, but the financial implications are not.

Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. The 2011 U.S. Census Bureau Report of Children's Living Arrangements and Characteristics noted that, while 12 percent of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, a whopping 44 percent of children in mother-only households live below the poverty line. America desperately needs a resurgence of fathering.

That's why the arrival of a pro-father film like "Man of Steel" is so welcome.

While there may never be a film called Jor-El, the story of Superman's biological father is particularly compelling. It is an unfathomable choice: to keep the son you love with you amidst certain danger or send him completely alone to live and save others. What could be more challenging and compelling?

Well, actually, I can think of something.

What if the Father sends his son away not to save his life but rather to give his live for the sake of humanity? This is the story of the New Testament.

God the Father sent His Son Jesus to the Earth – knowing the rejection, betrayal and ultimate crucifixion that would await Him – because of His love for mankind. That's an unfathomable love.

There is a lot about fathering that can been learned from a film like "Man of Steel." But the best lessons about Fathering can be found in the pages of the Bible. The need for strong, loving fathers is great. I hope dads across America will use Father's Day as an impetus to consider how they can be the father they were created to be.

Your child won't likely save the world, but you may be raising the next superhero of his or her own family, company, community or country. The world needs you to make your fathering story, well, super.

Resources for pastors created by American Bible Society around the new film Man of Steel are available at manofsteelresources.com.

Doug Birdsall became president and CEO of American Bible Society in March 2013. With more than 30 years spent pointing people to the message of the Bible, he is taking the rein of one of America's oldest charities.
 

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