As many on the left are seeking to replace the natural distinctions between fathers and mothers with unintelligible terms like “birthing people,” and the pages of publications like the New York Times and The Atlantic have recently downplayed or outright rejected the importance of growing up with a father, the common sense of the American People overwhelmingly disagrees. Today, 70 percent of Americans say they believe fatherlessness is the most urgent social problem facing our country. And the data supports their case: The Census Bureau estimates that one in four American children live without a father in the home. Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, fatherless children account for 63 percent of youth suicides, 90 percent of homeless or runaway youths, and 71 percent of high school dropouts.
Children who grow up with involved fathers are twice as likely to go to college and find stable employment after graduating high school, 75 percent less likely to have a teen birth, and 80 percent less likely to go to jail.
These arresting figures indicate that the left’s attacks on the institution of fatherhood have a devastating effect on the lives of millions of Americans.
Into this crisis comes a powerful new movie: the just-released film The Streets Were My Father, produced by Our American Stories and available to watch on SalemNOW. The film follows the lives of three Chicago men—each of whom speaks movingly of having grown up without fathers in broken homes—and their journeys from fatherlessness to faith, from prison to prayer, and from brokenness to redemption.
With fathers who were either abusive or absent from their lives altogether, Carlos Colon, Louis Dooley, and Leslie Williams turned to gangs, violence, and drugs to fill the gap left by their lack of a strong father figure. “I clung to the streets because it was all I had,” Colon shared. “The streets were my father.”
Exhilarated by the deceptive “high” of acceptance from their gangs, each man confesses that in his youth, he came to rely on the thrill of inflicting damage and pain onto others—starting with acts of vandalism and theft and eventually escalating to knifings, shootings, and murders.
“We were miserable, we had no fathers in our lives, it was like we were a pack of dogs,” said Colon. “We hung and clung together.”
Each man ended up being arrested, convicted and sent to prison. They describe how they initially felt forced to assimilate into the toxic—and often lethal—prison culture that surrounded them. Dooley recalls an immediate pressure to kill the biggest, most intimidating man in prison to earn the respect—and therefore the assurance of his safety—from his fellow inmates. Colon, Dooley, and Williams, like countless others in prison, found themselves resorting to fear and aggression to ensure their status and survival were maintained.
Yet what ultimately stopped each man in the film from continuing down the path of violence came not from gang pressure or prison guards, but from something they least expected: an invitation to pray. Though none of the three men had been religious at the time of their imprisonment and they reacted with skepticism to the idea of reading the Bible or attending a church service, it was ultimately through faith that they found their redemption. Williams, after proclaiming his belief in Christ and receiving baptism at his first church service, recollects the feeling of being “finally free.”
What their earthly fathers failed to provide, their Heavenly Father finally did. The battles each man had fought on his own seemed insignificant in the light of God’s grace, opening the way to futures for each of them that previously seemed unimaginable.
“Finally, I said to myself, ‘Enough is enough,’” Colon said. “I just wanted something different. I always talked about the void in my life, and I went to prison with a void, and I wasn’t bettering myself in prison, I was getting worse, and I remember thinking that I was tired. And I finally figured it out, what that void in my life was: it was Jesus. It was God. I needed him as my father, and he was always there. He was the one.”
The Streets Were My Father succeeds not only in highlighting the crisis of fatherlessness, but also in inspiring viewers to step in as a father figure for those who need it. Each of the three men in the film had their lives transformed all because someone cared enough to include them in their Bible study or their church service—to make them feel welcome and safe when no one else would.
As the lines between male and female and father and mother continue to blur in the national discourse, it is more vital than ever for Americans to recommit ourselves to ensuring that all children have a strong father figure in their lives—whether it be their biological father, a surrogate father, or someone else who can fill this irreplaceable role.
This Father’s Day, those of us who are fortunate enough to still have our fathers with us will take time to love and appreciate them. Those of us who have lost our fathers will no doubt take time to remember them. But let us also take a moment to pray for, support, and extend a loving arm to the countless men like Colon, Dooley, and Williams who have lived their lives without loving fathers of their own.
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