Democratic Dad

I think Tyranny has gotten a bad rap. The truth is that a dictatorship is a very efficient and effective form of government. Much more than a sloppy democracy could ever be. The short run results of a tyranny will always trump that of a democracy.

Unfortunately such temporary efficiencies get lost in the long run. The means of control in a dictatorship start to rub the subjects the wrong way (especially after a good “reeducation”). As we saw in the Middle East this past spring, people will eventually rise up and cast off the bounds of bondage. And in the resulting revolutions all the good that tyrants accomplished will be forgotten as their very name, image and lives (Qaddafi anyone?) are desecrated and demonized.

What does this have to do with being a parent?

I’m curious what people really think of me. Not that I really want to know, but I’ve gotten enough of a hint with the recent turmoil that my wife has raised up on her Facebook and blog postings. Tamara (my wife) has been homeschooling our kids for the past five years. In this time she has made many friends in the local homeschool scene. In addition to these we’ve made many friends at our previous and current churches. After all of this exposure I can honestly say I’m not as conservative as I thought. I’ve been put to shame by the uber-conservatives. They probably think of me as a skirt wearing, spineless, shell of a man.

The proof? I can’t keep my wife under control. Under submission. My wife works outside the home (part time as a nurse). My children aren’t properly muzzled and subservient. The fact that I’m a public school teacher probably elicits even more derision amongst those who see public schools as the devil’s playground.

The truth is that some of their concerns are legit. My children can be obnoxious at times. My wife is juggling so much with homeschool, work, the home and the dozen other things she accomplishes every week that she doesn’t have the time or energy for pretenses. I would like nothing more than to be able to provide completely for the needs of my family. Maybe it’s a lack of faith or poor money management or both that is forcing us to live on two incomes.

But that isn’t what concerns me. For the truth is every family, even the holiest rollers, has struggles similar to ours. What concerns so many of our friends (and frankly people that know us only superficially but are free to judge our inner character) is our rebellion. More specifically my wife’s rebellion to God’s authority. And my inability to “control” my wife. And my kids.

Democracy, as Winston Churchill observed, is the worst form of government that has ever been tried. Except for all of the rest.

Since so many are concerned about us I feel it is only right that I reciprocate the love. I’m concerned about many of my conservative Christian friends who feel outward conformity is the goal.

I grew up in a very open family. My dad is a great man, but he couldn’t control his wife either. And his kids? I’m sure we were obnoxious. I won’t even go there when it comes to the troubles that we had in school. Fights. Thievery. Sedition. Vandalism. Cheating.  Shop lifting.  And that’s just my rap sheet.

The worst thing is that my siblings and myself questioned many of the things we were taught. We’d argue about many things. It wasn’t a family reunion until there was a family shattering argument. Voices being raised was customary while growing up.

My father failed when it came to running an effective and efficient tyranny. He married this woman who kept him on his toes. Following my father’s lead I too married a woman that is smarter than I am. My father and I keep up with our spouses but it is clear to all that we both married up.

Democracy is messy. And that is how I see my dad. A great democratic man. He valued each of us and that included our opinions. He loves his wife so much that he allows her to be the woman that God has gifted her to be. He didn’t have to control every aspect of our micro-society. Maybe if he had been more controlling my upbringing would have been more pleasing to those who judged our family.

But I’m glad he wasn’t. And history has vindicated his approach. For democracies trump every dictatorship in the long run. Every one of his six children has successful marriages, children (21 grandkids at last count), and careers (we all graduated from college and all have advanced degrees). What is even more important to him is that we are all walking with the Lord and have a close relationship with each other and our parents.

When Jesus said “you’ll know them by their fruits” I can’t help but be thankful for how my dad led his family. He and my mom did a great job. It wasn’t the most efficient at the time but in the long run it was way more effective.

I am very concerned for the people I see in the homeschool and conservative wings of the Church who demand submission from wives and children and outward conformity to man-made rules. They may appear more appealing in the short run, but the evidence that is coming back is that their subjects eventually rebel. And not only do these tyrants lose relationship with their children but often times the children rebel against Jesus and the whole gospel.

My wife and I decided a long time ago that the most important things we could accomplish as parents was that we had our children’s heart and that they had a real and organic relationship with Christ. In truth I often struggle with the external. I would love to be able to dictate every area of my children’s lives. I would love it if my wife hung on my every word, wish and command.

And while I’m at it I’d also like it if the heavenly host all bowed down and worshipped me.

Too much? Probably, but it’s always good to remind ourselves where such pride and power leads in the long run.

Servant leadership is hardly the ego boost. I think Jesus proved that at Golgatha.

Interesting to note that in the long run forced praise is fleeting, while voluntary praise will raise up forever from joyful hearts.

Just don’t remind me of this article the next time my wife questions my papal proclamations or my children ignore my divine directions.

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