Young People Ask . . .
Fathering Children—Does It Make One a Man?
“I know quite a few [guys] who say, ‘I got a daughter who lives over here and a son who lives over there,’ and the way they say it, it seems like they don’t care.”—Harold.
EVERY year nearly a million teenage girls in the United States become pregnant. The vast majority of children born to such mothers are born out of wedlock. Of these teenage mothers, 1 out of 4 will end up having a second child within the next two years. Says the Atlantic Monthly magazine: “If current trends continue, less than half of all children born today will live continuously with their own mother and father throughout childhood. Most American children will spend several years in a single-mother family.”
Although the United States has a far higher teen pregnancy rate than other developed nations, the problem of out-of-wedlock births is global. In some European lands, such as England and France, the rates of such births are comparable to those in the United States. In some African and South American countries, the birthrate among teenage girls is nearly double that of the United States. What is fueling this epidemic?
Behind the Epidemic
To a great extent, this situation reflects the moral degradation of the “critical times” in which we live. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) In recent decades divorce rates have skyrocketed. Homosexual and other alternative life-styles have entered the mainstream. Young ones have been the target of a barrage of media propaganda—suggestive music and music videos, lurid magazine articles and ads, TV shows and movies that glorify casual sex. The easy availability of abortion services and birth control has also contributed to the prevalent belief among young ones that sex has no consequences. One unwed father says: “I want sex without responsibility.” “Sex is fun and games,” says another.
Such attitudes may be particularly widespread among poor youths. Researcher Elijah Anderson conducted extensive interviews with inner-city youths and observed: “To many boys, sex is an important symbol of local social status; sexual conquests become so many notches on one’s belt.” Indeed, one unwed father told Awake! that sexual conquests are widely viewed as “trophies that you can put on the mantle.” What accounts for such a callous attitude? Anderson explains that in many cases the most important people in the life of an inner-city youth “are members of his peer group. They set the standards for his conduct, and it is important for him to live up to those standards.”
Anderson thus observes that to many young men, sexual conquest is nothing more than a game, “the object of which is to make a fool of the other person, particularly the young woman.” He adds that “the game consists of the boy’s full presentation of self, including his dress, grooming, looks, dancing ability, and conversation.” Many a young boy is quite skilled at winning this “game.” But Anderson notes: “When the girl becomes pregnant, the boy tends to retreat from her.”—Young Unwed Fathers—Changing Roles and Emerging Policies, edited by Robert Lerman and Theodora Ooms.
But does fathering a child really make one a man? Is sex merely a game? Not according to our Creator, Jehovah God. In his Word, the Bible, God makes it clear that sex has a lofty purpose. After telling about the creation of the first man and woman, the Bible says: “God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.’” (Genesis 1:27, 28) It was never God’s intention that children be abandoned by their fathers. He brought the first man and woman together in the permanent bond of marriage. (Genesis 2:24) It was therefore his will that every child have both a mother and a father.
Before long, though, men began taking on multiple wives. (Genesis 4:19) Genesis 6:2 tells us that even some angelic creatures “began to notice the daughters of men, that they were good-looking.” After materializing as humans, these angels “went taking wives for themselves,” greedily taking “all whom they chose.” The Noachian Flood forced these demons to return to the spirit realm. However, the Bible indicates that they are now confined to the vicinity of the earth. (Revelation 12:9-12) Satan and his demons thus exert a very powerful influence on people today. (Ephesians 2:2) Young men are unwittingly yielding to such wicked influence when they father unwanted and unloved children.
With good reason, then, the Scriptures say: “This is what God wills, the sanctifying of you, that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in covetous sexual appetite such as also those nations have which do not know God; that no one go to the point of harming and encroach upon the rights of his brother in this matter, because Jehovah is one who exacts punishment for all these things.”—1 Thessalonians 4:3-6.
“Abstain from fornication”? Many young men might scoff at this idea. After all, they are young, and their desires are strong! But notice that fornication involves ‘harming and encroaching upon the rights’ of others. Does it not harm a girl to leave her with a baby but without the support of a husband? And what about the risks of infecting her with a sexually transmitted disease, such as genital herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, or AIDS? True, it is sometimes possible to avoid such consequences. Even so, premarital sex still encroaches upon a girl’s right to preserve a good reputation and enter marriage as a virgin. Abstaining from fornication, then, makes sense and displays maturity. True, it takes self-control and determination to ‘get possession of one’s own vessel’ and abstain from premarital sex. But as Isaiah 48:17, 18 tells us, by means of his laws, God is ‘teaching us to benefit ourselves.’
“Carry On as Men”
How, though, can a young man prove himself to be a real man? Certainly not by fathering illegitimate children. The Bible exhorts: “Stay awake, stand firm in the faith, carry on as men, grow mighty. Let all your affairs take place with love.”—1 Corinthians 16:13, 14.
Notice that ‘carrying on as men’ involves being alert, firm in the faith, courageous, and loving. Of course, these principles apply to men and women with equal force. But if you develop spiritual qualities like these, people will have good reason to respect and admire you as a true man! Take a lesson from the greatest man who ever lived—Jesus Christ. Just think of his manly, courageous demeanor in the face of torture and even death. But how did Jesus conduct himself with the opposite sex?
Certainly Jesus had opportunity to enjoy the company of women. He had many female followers, some of whom “were ministering to [him and his apostles] from their belongings.” (Luke 8:3) He was particularly close to the two sisters of Lazarus. In fact, the Bible says that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister.” (John 11:5) Did Jesus use his wit, charm, or attractive physical appearance, with which he was no doubt endowed as a perfect man, to lure these women into immoral acts? On the contrary, the Bible says of Jesus that he “committed no sin.” (1 Peter 2:22) He did not behave improperly even when a woman who was widely known as a sinner, perhaps a prostitute, “wept and started to wet his feet with her tears and she would wipe them off with the hair of her head.” (Luke 7:37, 38) Jesus did not even think of taking advantage of this vulnerable woman! He demonstrated the ability to control his feelings—the mark of a true man. He treated women, not as sex objects, but as individuals worthy of love and respect.
If you are a young Christian man, following the example of Christ—and not that of some of your peers—will prevent you from ‘harming and encroaching upon the rights’ of someone. It will also protect you from experiencing the sad tragedy of fathering an illegitimate child. True, others may tease you for abstaining from fornication. But in the long run, gaining God’s favor will benefit you more than gaining the temporary favor of your peers.—Proverbs 27:11.
What, though, if a youth has lived an immoral life in the past but has already turned away from his immoral course and truly repented? If so, like repentant King David, who also engaged in sexual misconduct, he can be assured of God’s forgiveness. (2 Samuel 11:2-5; 12:13; Psalm 51:1, 2) But if an out-of-wedlock pregnancy has resulted, a young man may still have some serious decisions to make. Should he marry the girl? Does he have any responsibilities toward his child? A future article will deal with these questions.
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Many youths wrongly believe that sex has no consequences