I was born and raised in an old sharecropping community, in a house without plumbing — but I was made for the inner city.
I didn’t ask to be born. I didn’t ask to be born poor or fatherless, for that matter. Nobody who’s born poor or fatherless asks to be those things. Nobody who’s born at all ever asks for it.
But being born isn’t really the point, is it? It’s being made. It’s knowing that being born means someone made you, knowing that you were intended for something.
I was just a shy kid with a rough past and a stutter who God made to preach and witness to His word. And in my 35 years of observing and ministering to urban kids, I know one thing for certain: If we really want to celebrate black history, we need to protect black futures — specifically, black families.
I’ve seen enough black lives in ruins to know that protecting black futures starts with getting more people married. These kids just need dads around. I’ve seen fatherlessness drive so many mad with pain. After all, I’ve been there. I’ve lived it. I was one of 12 kids my mother raised by herself.
Kids are supposed to grow up in a house where they can wake up and see dad around. They’re supposed to know they smell like him, talk like him, look like him. They’re supposed to grow up with a mom and a dad, raising their kids together.
It’s proven that this produces kids who have a healthy sense of identity, who are more stable and happier, and have better adult outcomes.
It’s also God’s blueprint for us. He gave us clear directions on how to live our lives and raise our children. It’s all there in the user’s manual! We just need to pick up a Bible and listen to what it is telling us.
Take the story of Abraham and Hagar in Genesis, for instance. Abraham had a son with a slave woman, Hagar — at his wife Sarah’s request, even — but Sarah asked him to send them away once they’d had Isaac.
God had promised Sarah a son with Abraham. He had a plan for their family. But God didn’t have a plan for Abraham’s son with Hagar. Abraham couldn’t make that right. The Bible tells us Abraham was distressed.
Abraham had a baby mama. If you’ve got a baby mama, you’ll have mama drama. Even the Bible tells us that.
God just didn’t design us to have or be baby mama’s or baby daddy’s – he designed us for marriage. He designed us for the family.
But it’s easy to take the family for granted. If you’re middle or upper-middle class, you probably got raised with two parents around in some form, even if there’s a divorce at some point. That’s just not true for urban communities anymore.
The blueprint God gave us for the family has been completely erased in these areas, and poverty makes the situation even worse.
Babies raised in homes without two parents go on to live troubled, broken lives — and raise more troubled, broken babies. It drives cycles of crime and poverty.
Marriage is the greatest tool we have to fight these cycles of despair and sin, but nobody thinks about that. Nobody’s telling urban kids about God anymore. Nobody’s talking to them about what God wants for them, what He made them to do.
But if men in inner cities married the mothers of their children, we could nearly end the struggle against poverty. We’ve got to lead these men and women into marriage, into the hope and truth of the Bible.
That mission — witness to the goodness and truth of Biblical families — is part of what drew me to Lifeline Children’s Services, for instance, where I now serve on the national board of directors. They know God’s blueprint, and they fight for it too.
After all, we all were made to do great things. We were made to bear witness to God’s glory. We were made to be loved and to love. There’s a whole lot more to us than just being born, living, and dying.
The family is the greatest tool we have to improve our lives and the lives of our children.
God gave it to us, and He gave it to us for a reason. He also gave us clear rules to follow: One man, one woman, raising their children together for His glory.
Alton Hardy serves as the pastor and founder of Urban Hope Community Church and an ordained teaching elder of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). He is also the Cofounder of Urban Hope Development in Fairfield, AL. Alton is a native of Selma, AL. He serves on the Board of Directors for Lifeline Children’s Services. Alton is happily married to Sandra and they have five children. In his free time, he enjoys reading and watching sports. Alton is passionate about addressing the conditions facing urban communities.