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June 13, 2013

Question:  What does your faith teach about the values and expectations of fatherhood?

 From the Bahá’í point of view, parenthood is a shared responsibility. The Bahá’í conception is that the governance of family life is neither patriarchal nor matriarchal.

While parenthood is a shared responsibility, the Bahá’í sacred writings indicate that the mother, who has the earliest nurturing contacts with the child, has the preponderating moral and spiritual influence on the child in the long run.

However, Bahá’u’lláh (the Glory of God) (1817-1892), the prophet-founder of this youngest of the world’s great religions, has assigned specific tasks to fathers who are followers of his religion. In the Kitáb-í-Aqdas, his most sacred book, which contains his laws and ordinances, he revealed: “Unto every father hath been enjoined the instruction of his son and daughter in the art of reading and writing and in all that hath been laid down in the Holy Tablet.”

This passage should not be read as confining the acquisition of literacy exclusively to the father; mothers naturally share in this task.

The concept of fatherhood in Bahá’u’lláh’s Book of Laws extends beyond biological paternity. He greatly praises the act of adoption, of raising another’s child as if he or she were his own.

Above all, if a father is to create a loving and lasting bond with his children, he must be a credible role model. He must show proof of moral rectitude and transmit to his children the ability to distinguish clearly right from wrong, according to the standards that he has attempted to inculcate.

Although he should not neglect to educate them in the ways of his faith, he should do so without inflicting the injurious pathology that is bred of religious intolerance and fanaticism. He should, to the extent possible, expose his children to the salutary teachings found at the core of all the world’s great religions.

Fathers could do their offspring a great service in teaching them to think creatively and to investigate the truth independently. This practice will free our youth from blindly imitating inherited harmful prejudices of race, religion, colour and class.  
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen June 13, 2013
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