According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Maya Angelou. Poet, Activist, Storyteller.


Maya Angelou's Inaugural Poem (1993)
President Bill Clinton Inauguration



On the Pulse of Morning
by Maya Angelou

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.

I will give you no more hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.

Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.

Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,

Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the stone were one.

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.

The River sings and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.

Today, the first and last of every Tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River.

Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.

Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers- desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot...
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am the Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours- your Passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.


* * * * * * * * * *


Maya Angelou, Poet, Activist and
Singular Storyteller, Dies At 86
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/05/28/147369802/maya-angelou-poet-activist-and-singular-storyteller-dies-at-86

May 28, 2014


Poet, performer and political activist Maya Angelou has died after a long illness at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 86. Born in St. Louis in 1928, Angelou grew up in a segregated society that she worked to change during the civil rights era. Angelou, who refused to speak for much of her childhood, revealed the scars of her past in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of a series of memoirs.

Growing up in St. Louis, Mo., and Stamps, Ark., she was Marguerite Johnson. It was her brother who first called her Maya, and the name stuck. Later she added the Angelou, a version of her first husband's name.

Angelou left a troubled childhood and the segregated world of Arkansas behind and began a career as a dancer and singer. She toured Europe in the1950s with a production of Porgy and Bess, studied dance with Martha Graham and performed with Alvin Ailey on television. In 1957 she recorded an album called "Calypso Lady."

"I was known as Miss Calypso, and when I'd forget the lyric, I would tell the audience, 'I seem to have forgotten the lyric. Now I will dance.' And I would move around a bit," she recalled with a laugh during a 2008 interview with NPR.

"She really believed that life was a banquet," says Patrik Henry Bass, an editor at Essence Magazine. When he read Angelou's memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, he saw parallels in his own life in a small town in North Carolina. He says everyone in the African-American community looked up to her; she was a celebrity but she was one of them. He remembers seeing her on television and hearing her speak.

"When we think of her, we often think about her books, of course, and her poems," he says. "But in the African-American community, certainly, we heard so much of her work recited, so I think about her voice. You would hear that voice, and that voice would capture a humanity, and that voice would calm you in so many ways through some of the most significant challenges."

Film director John Singleton grew up in a very different part of the country. But he remembers the effect Angelou's poem "Still I Rise" had on him as a kid. It begins:

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

"I come from South Central Los Angeles," he says. It's "a place where we learn to puff up our chests to make ourselves bigger than we are because we have so many forces knocking us down — including some of our own. And so that poem ... it pumps me up, you know. ... It makes me feel better about myself, or at least made me feel better about myself when I was young."

Singleton used Angelou's poems in his 1993 film Poetic Justice. Angelou also had a small part in the movie. Singleton says he thinks of Angelou as a griot — a traditional African storyteller.

"We all have that one or two people in our families that just can spin a yarn, that has a whole lot to say, and holds a lot of wisdom from walking through the world and experiencing different things," he says. "And that's the way I see Dr. Maya Angelou. She was a contemporary of Martin Luther King, a contemporary of Malcolm X and Oprah Winfrey. She transcends so many different generations of African-American culture that have affected all of us."

Joanne Braxton, a professor at the College of William and Mary, says Angelou's willingness to reveal the sexual abuse she suffered as a child in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was unprecedented at the time. The critical acclaim and popularity of the book opened doors for both African-American and female writers.

"Maya Angelou brought about a paradigm shift in American literature and culture," Braxton says, "so that the works, the gifts, the talents of women writers, including women writers of color, could be brought to the foreground and appreciated. She created an audience by her stunning example."

For Braxton, the world will never be quite the same without Angelou.

"I love her," she says. "She's beloved by many, including many, many people who have never met her in person, and who will never meet her in person — but she has extended herself that way, so that her touch extends beyond her physical embrace. That is truly a gift, and we are truly blessed to have known her through her presence and her work."

Angelou once said she believed that "life loves the liver of it," and she did live it, to the fullest.


More On Maya Angelou:



* * * * * * * * * *


Biography of Maya Angelou
http://www.poemhunter.com/maya-angelou/biography/

Maya Angelou (born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928) was an American author and poet who has been called "America's most visible black female autobiographer" by scholar Joanne M. Braxton. She is best known for her series of six autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first and most highly acclaimed, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her first seventeen years. It brought her international recognition, and was nominated for a National Book Award. She has been awarded over 30 honorary degrees and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her 1971 volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie.

Angelou was a member of the Harlem Writers Guild in the late 1950s, was active in the Civil Rights movement, and served as Northern Coordinator of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Since 1991, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. Since the 1990s she has made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. In 1995, she was recognized for having the longest-running record (two years) on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List.

With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was heralded as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women who was able to publicly discuss her personal life. She is highly respected as a spokesperson for Black people and women. Angelou's work is often characterized as autobiographical fiction. She has, however, made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books, centered on themes such as identity, family, and racism, are often used as set texts in schools and universities internationally. Some of her more controversial work has been challenged or banned in US schools and libraries.

This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia Maya Angelou; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.


* * * * * * * * * *
More Links
* * * * * * * * * *


Poetry Foundationhttp://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/maya-angelou

Poem Hunter Poetry Resources http://www.poemhunter.com/maya-angelou/poems/



Angelou reciting her poem "On the Pulse of Morning",
at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, January 1993




* * * * * * * * * *
POEMS
* * * * * * * * * *


I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
by Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.


Alone
by Maya Angelou

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can't use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They've got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.


Awaking in New York
by Maya Angelou

Curtains forcing their will
against the wind,
children sleep,
exchanging dreams with
seraphim. The city
drags itself awake on
subway straps; and
I, an alarm, awake as a
rumor of war,
lie stretching into dawn,
unasked and unheeded.


A Brave and Startling Truth

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth.

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms.

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil.

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze.

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse.

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets.

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world.

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe.

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines.

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear.

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.


A Plagued Journey
by Maya Angelou

There is no warning rattle at the door
nor heavy feet to stomp the foyer boards.
Safe in the dark prison, I know that
light slides over
the fingered work of a toothless
woman in Pakistan.
Happy prints of
an invisible time are illumined.
My mouth agape
rejects the solid air and
lungs hold. The invader takes
direction and
seeps through the plaster walls.
It is at my chamber, entering
the keyhole, pushing
through the padding of the door.
I cannot scream. A bone
of fear clogs my throat.
It is upon me. It is
sunrise, with Hope
its arrogant rider.
My mind, formerly quiescent
in its snug encasement, is strained
to look upon their rapturous visages,
to let them enter even into me.
I am forced
outside myself to
mount the light and ride joined with Hope.

Through all the bright hours
I cling to expectation, until
darkness comes to reclaim me
as its own. Hope fades, day is gone
into its irredeemable place
and I am thrown back into the familiar
bonds of disconsolation.
Gloom crawls around
lapping lasciviously
between my toes, at my ankles,
and it sucks the strands of my
hair. It forgives my heady
fling with Hope. I am
joined again into its
greedy arms.


* * * * * * * * * *


What Maya Angelou Did on the First Day of Class
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/06/02/what-maya-angelou-did-on-the-first-day-of-class/

by Scott McKnight
Jun 2, 2014

by Margaret Feinberg, who had Maya Angelou as a professor:

I wish I could to tell you that the first class I sat in on with Maya Angelou was filled with an unforgettable poetry reading and rich stories about her textured life, but for the next hour, each of the students circled the room introducing themselves, stating and spelling their names. In this class, I was no longer Margaret, I was Ms. Feinberg, and everyone else would recognize me as such.

At the end of hour, Ms. Angelou explained that what we were learning was very important. This formed the basis of our first test. Our first test. I should have been paying more attention. Sketching a seating chart, I recorded as many people’s names as I could from memory….

Why did we just spend the last three weeks getting to know each other’s names?

She pressed it further:

Why did I just spend nearly 20% of our very valuable class time together making sure you knew each other’s names?

The room stewed in a kind of deafening, molasses-thick stillness that only the presence of Maya Angelou could command. She explained:

Because your name is a sign of your dignity.

When you recognize someone’s name, you recognize them not just as human but as a person. One of the greatest ways you bestow human dignity on someone is by calling them by name.

For the remaining weeks of class, we read a wide range of African American literature—including works by Maya Angelou. We listened in reverent awe as she read and recited poems that shook the soul. We laughed when she shared colorful stories from her childhood, personal adventures, and movies. We held back tears when she told of her painful past. We dug deep to create a final project that answered the granddaddy of all questions:

Why does the caged bird sing?


* * * * * * * * * *


Glurge: [Did] Maya Angelou wrote an inspirational religious poem entitled "I Am a Christian"?

False Attribution: "I Am a Christian"
Actual Author: Carol Wimmer, 1988
http://www.snopes.com/glurge/christian.asp

Last updated: 28 May 2014

FALSE

Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2006]


When I say I am a Christian
falsely attributed to Maya Angelou

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean livin'."
I'm whispering "I was lost,
Now I'm found and forgiven."

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
and need Christ to be my guide.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
And need His strength to carry on.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner
Who received God's good grace, somehow


Origins

Dr. Maya Angelou, who passed away in May 2014, became one of those figures (à la Mark Twain or Abraham Lincoln) who ended up withmore of other people's words attributed to her than words of her own. (As we note in another article dealing with an apocryphal poem erroneously attributed to her, many Internet-circulated bits of verse lacking authorship identification eventually become credited to Dr. Angelou, especially light-hearted inspirational pieces and/or poems written from an African-American point of view.) In this case, we not only know that Maya Angelou did not write I Am a Christian (she disclaimed it on her web site), we know exactly who did write it.

"When I Say, 'I Am a Christian'" (the correct, full title) was penned in 1988 by Carol Wimmer, was first published in the Assemblies of God periodical Hi-Call Gospel Magazine, and has subsequently been anthologized in several books (including Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul.) Unfortunately, over the years the work has been reprinted on the Internet with either missing or incorrect attributions (most often being ascribed to "author unknown" or the aforementioned Maya Angelou), and with verses that have been rearranged or altered by others.


The original version of
the poem read as follows:

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not shouting, "I've been saved!"
I'm whispering, "I get lost! That's why I chose this way"

When I say, "I am a Christian," I don't speak with human pride
I'm confessing that I stumble — needing God to be my guide

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not trying to be strong
I'm professing that I'm weak and pray for strength to carry on

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not bragging of success
I'm admitting that I've failed and cannot ever pay the debt

When I say, "I am a Christian," I don't think I know it all
I submit to my confusion asking humbly to be taught

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not claiming to be perfect
My flaws are far too visible but God believes I'm worth it

When I say, "I am a Christian," I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartache which is why I seek His name

When I say, "I am a Christian," I do not wish to judge
I have no authority — I only know I'm loved


Additional information

History of the Poem
(carolwimmer.com)



Do Father's Matter? by Paul Raeburn


Photo: Shutterstock

Do Fathers Matter? A connection that's deeper than we realize
http://nypost.com/2014/05/31/do-fathers-matter-a-connection-thats-deeper-than-we-realize/

May 31, 2014

When Jay Sullivan was 5 years old, his father had a “bipolar breakdown” and was sent to a psychiatric hospital. What Sullivan remembers from the days and years that followed are violent outbursts, putting his father to bed drunk, late-night calls when his father had nowhere to stay and bailing him out of jail.

“When he died in 1992, I put his ashes in my closet and put him behind me,” Sullivan wrote on his website.

But it wasn’t that simple. Three years ago, Sullivan, a professional photographer in Red Bank, NJ, began producing a series of images he calls “Glove” to try to reconnect with his father.

Sullivan photographed articles that had linked or divided the two of them — a baseball glove, his father’s shaver and black wingtip shoes and a prescription bottle containing lithium.

As Sullivan continued the project, the dark images of his father’s illness were gradually replaced by more positive ones — of his father’s successful business career, of the two of them going fishing together, and of trips to Yankee Stadium.

“Three years into this process and 20 years after his death, I have found the father I always wanted and in many ways always had,” Sullivan wrote.

---

Paul Raeburn is the author of “Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked.”

Many of us understand the deep emotional connection Sullivan has with his father, even decades after his father’s death. But now a new body of research is explaining why we have that connection. Fathers, it turns out, contribute far more to their children than many of us realize.

Those contributions begin during pregnancy, before fathers and their children have even met. Studies show that the death rate of infants whose fathers were not around during pregnancy is nearly four times that of those with engaged dads. And depression in fathers during their partners’ pregnancies — which is more common than most people realize — can increase the child’s lifelong risk of depression.

After birth, children whose fathers play with them, read to them, take them on outings, and care for them have fewer behavioral problems during their early school years. And they have a lower risk of delinquency or criminal behavior as adolescents.

Some of fathers’ contributions are surprising. One might guess, for example, that mothers have more influence than fathers on their children’s language development. Despite the growing number of women in the workforce, mothers still spend more time with children in many families than fathers do.

But that turns out not to be the case. Lynne Vernon-Feagans of the University of North Carolina, who studies language development, has found that when it comes to vocabulary, fathers matter more than mothers.

In middle-class families, she found that parents’ overall level of education — and the quality of child care — were both related to children’s language development. But fathers made unique contributions to children’s language development that went beyond the contributions of education and child care.

When fathers used more words with their children during play, children had more advanced language skills a year later. And that is likely also linked with later success in school.

And when Vernon-Feagans looked at poor families, she found much the same thing. She visited families when a child was 6 months old, 15 months old and 3 years old. She found that fathers’ education and their use of vocabulary when reading picture books to their children at 6 months of age were significantly related to the children’s expressiveness at 15 months and use of advanced language at age 3.

This held true no matter what the mother’s educational level was or how she spoke to the children.

“I do think our children see it as very special when they do book reading with their fathers,” Vernon-Feagans says. “They may listen more and acquire language in a special way.”

---

Several studies suggest that fathers also have a powerful influence on their daughters’ sexual behavior during adolescence.

This became clear in 2011 when Frayser High School in Memphis, Tenn., attracted national attention for its high pregnancy rate: About one in five of its female students was either pregnant or had recently given birth.

One local official blamed the high pregnancy rate on television shows such as MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom.” The official worried that these shows were encouraging Frayser’s female students to have unprotected sex earlier and more often.

That explanation seemed to make sense. But when psychologist Sarah E. Hill of Texas Christian University examined the situation, she noticed another striking fact: One in four households was headed by a single mother. Studies have revealed “a robust association between father absence — both physical and psychological — and accelerated reproductive development and sexual risk-taking in daughters,” she wrote.

The fathers’ absence in so many families was likely more important than what their daughters watched on television.

These are just a few of the many, many studies in recent years that have demonstrated a powerful link between fathers and their children.

They underscore what many of us experience — that our fathers are important in our lives, as photographer Sullivan discovered after his father’s death. And it underscores the hope that many fathers have — that they, in turn, will be important in their children’s lives.

Paul Raeburn is the author of “Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked” (Scientific American), out this week.


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Amazon link
Product Details

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (June 3, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0374141045
ISBN-13: 978-0374141042

Amazon Book Review

For too long, we’ve thought of fathers as little more than sources of authority and economic stability in the lives of their children. Yet cutting-edge studies drawing unexpected links between fathers and children are forcing us to reconsider our assumptions and ask new questions:

  • What changes occur in men when they are “expecting”?
  • Do fathers affect their children’s language development?
  • What are the risks and rewards of being an older-than-average father at the time the child is born?
  • What happens to a father’s hormone levels at every stage of his child’s development?
  • Can a child influence the father’s health?
  • Just how much do fathers matter?

In Do Fathers Matter? the award-winning journalist and father of five Paul Raeburn overturns the many myths and stereotypes of fatherhood as he examines the latest scientific findings on the parent we’ve often overlooked. Drawing on research from neuroscientists, animal behaviorists, geneticists, and developmental psychologists, among others, Raeburn takes us through the various stages of fatherhood, revealing the profound physiological connections between children and fathers, from conception through adolescence and into adulthood—and the importance of the relationship between mothers and fathers. In the process, he challenges the legacy of Freud and mainstream views of parental attachment, and also explains how we can become better parents ourselves.

Ultimately, Raeburn shows how the role of the father is distinctly different from that of the mother, and that embracing fathers’ significance in the lives of young people is something we can all benefit from. An engrossing, eye-opening, and deeply personal book that makes a case for a new perspective on the importance of fathers in our lives no matter what our family structure, Do Fathers Matter? will change the way we view fatherhood today.