Feature 10.07.2022 5 minutes

The Prodigal Father

A young man is opening a door using a room key

America’s men must come back to the home, and they must never walk away again.

Editors’ Note

The following is a transcript of remarks originally given in Miami at the National Conservatism Conference in September 2022.

The story of the Prodigal Son is one of the most well-known parables in the Bible.

You all know the details–a rich father had two sons. The younger asked his father for his share of the inheritance, left his father’s house, wasted his money living recklessly, and became so destitute that he found himself hungry for pig food.

This son eventually humbled himself and returned home. He knew he had sinned and hoped that his father would at least treat him like one of his hired servants.

His father did no such thing. When he saw his son in the distance, he ran to embrace him. The father ordered his servants to bring fresh clothes and shoes and prepare a meal of celebration.

Why? Because his lost son had returned home.

Much like the Parables of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus used the Parable of the Prodigal Son to teach an important lesson about the grace of God and the mercy He demonstrates to all who turn from their sin and trust in Him.

It is such a powerful story about repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation that the term “prodigal son” is commonly used whenever someone leaves an organization on bad terms and later returns after mending fences. Think of Lebron James, son of Akron, Ohio, unceremoniously leaving Cleveland for Miami and then returning to help his hometown team win its first and only NBA championship.

It warms the heart to see a child reconcile with his parents after straying from values and principles they instilled in him. But what do we do when the prodigal in question is a father? What happens to a culture when large numbers of men have exited the workforce and spend their days high on drugs and hooked on porn?

What happens to a country when men trade the nuclear family and multi-generational legacy for intentional co-parenting and multiple-partner fertility? What happens to women and children when men discharge their God-given responsibility to provide for their offspring onto an ever-expanding Au Pair State that is more than willing to take up residence–and exercise authority–in their home?

We know what happens, because we see the results all around us.

At worst, a wasteful son will cause his parents heartache. Proverbs 10:1 says, “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.” Prodigal fathers, on the other hand, leave children and their mothers vulnerable, both to poverty and the predations of other men.

Put simply: absent men make women and children less safe and secure. This is why you see multiple references to God’s care and concern for widows and orphans throughout scripture.

On average, men are larger, stronger, and more aggressive than our female counterparts. This is why we build structures and fight wars. It is also why we have carried the weight of providing for our wives and children on our shoulders–both figuratively and literally–since the beginning of time.

Our prodigal father problem goes far beyond physical abandonment. As was the case in the garden, too many men have stood silent as serpents engage in dialogue with their wives about God’s created order.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for the women who run groups like Moms for Liberty, but it should not be up to women and children to man the front lines of the culture war. Teenage girls shouldn’t have to have their faces blacked out and voices distorted in order to criticize Lia Thomas, the male UPenn swimmer who won an NCAA women’s championship earlier this year.

If Richard Levine (aka Admiral Rachel Levine) wants to believe he is a woman, that’s his right. But when he–and the activists powering the trans lobby–want to make hysterectomies, double mastectomies, and penile inversions for confused teens federal policy, there should be an army of fathers willing to stand up to his delusions.

Characterizing castration and mutilation as “gender-affirming care” is the “Big Lie” conservative politicians and pundits should be fighting to stop. If not, we will have a generation of Franken-kids with mangled bodies and scarred minds who will HATE the adults who allowed this madness to happen.

Why They Walked

So: how did we get so many prodigal fathers?

One factor has been the decades-long demonization of men by politicians, academics, activists, and corporations who believe men have an innate desire to oppress women. These people see the decline of men’s educational attainment, workforce participation, wages, cultural influence, and political power as net benefits for the sisterhood.

The net effect has been mass demoralization and emasculation of the American male. College students in 2016 needed coloring books and puppy cuddling sessions to deal with an election outcome they didn’t like. And grown men now speak in the language of personal therapy. References to “trauma” caused by minor disputes abound in our political discourse.

The irony is that prodigal fathers seeking their own safety and security have made the world more dangerous for women and children. Look no further than the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas to see this reality in action. The shooter was a disconnected and disaffected young man who spent too much time online and not enough in a loving, stable environment with parents committed to his future. He cared so little about his own life that he was willing to take the lives of innocent children and teachers.

But there is a lesson to be learned from the indecisiveness and cowardice of the police officers who stood in a hallway for far too long while a crazed killer executed women and children. One officer had the presence of mind to get some hand sanitizer. I guarantee that no amount of Purell can cleanse a guilty conscience.

This is the vision of manhood C.S. Lewis described in The Abolition of Man: “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

We need to completely do away with “gelded conservatism,” the type of ideology in which right-leaning organizations and leaders complain about the Left’s imposition of cultural orthodoxy then capitulate to its demands. What does that look like? It is Fox News running a puff piece during Pride Month celebrating a teenage girl who “transitioned” to a boy at five years old.

The segment had all the requisite euphemisms that you’ve come to expect from the Left, including the standard, “I’d rather a living son than a dead daughter” line that is strategically deployed to manipulate your emotions. The only difference was the pro-America packaging you’re accustomed to seeing in conservative media.

So…I know you are all thinking the same thing at this point: How do we move forward? Well, the most logical question to ask when someone is not where they’re supposed to be is: “where is he?” We should get used to asking the question “where is his father?” out loud and often.

We should ask it every time we read a news story about a teenager committing a serious violent crime, from carjacking to murder.

We should ask it every time we see a video of a blue-haired mother on Tik Tok declaring that her son has always known he is actually a girl.

We should have asked it the moment we realized that BLM’s “Black Families” and “Black Villages” guiding principles failed to use the words “man,” “father,” or “husband,” proposing instead to “disrupt” the nuclear family.

We shouldn’t just ask important questions. We should also promote important principles to the next generation of men. One is the “Success Sequence” that shows young adults who finish school, get a job, and wait to have kids until after they get married have a poverty rate in the single digits by the time they reach their mid-30s. We need to give young men a sense that they have some agency over their future and provide a clear sense of their duties, responsibilities, and obligations as men.

Conservatives need to stop talking and thinking like the Left when it comes to matters of the family. We need to reconnect marriage and the natural family and make it crystal clear that men are responsible for the children they create, not the federal government. This needs to be a core guiding principle of conservative family policy moving forward—reiterated and reinforced at every turn in our politics and culture through the pen, the purse, and the pulpit.

All of these things need to be grounded in an acknowledgement that men and women were created by God–equal in dignity in worth but different in form and function. God’s design for male and female is a blessing of divine providence. Our bodies literally fit together like a hand in glove to propagate the human species.

God designed men to worship Him, love and lead their wives, raise and train their children, and leave something of value to their descendants. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The Overton Window has been moved right in front of our children’s bedrooms. Prodigal fathers need to come back home to keep the destroyers at bay.

And for the fathers themselves: My hope is that the woman who lost a mate, the daughter who lost a model, and the son who lost a mentor when you left will all welcome you back with open arms in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. I also pray for your good and their security that you never walk away again.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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