20 February 2014

Fatherhood: an 'alternative lifestyle'?

My parents were in their early to mid 20s when I came into this world. By contrast, I was 43 when my daughter was born, having married late, like so many in my own boomer generation. However, even when I was single, I never thought of marriage as just one more lifestyle choice. To be sure, many people decide to pursue the vocation of singleness for which there is an ancient and honourable tradition within the Christian church. Yet marriage and childbearing are so central to the ongoing human prospect that they cannot be reduced to one more option in the vast smorgasbord of choices that our postmodern world has laid before us.

This stubborn reality appears to be lost on the writer of this report: David Wise’s alternative lifestyle leads to Olympic gold.

At only twenty-three years old, he has a wife, [Alexandra], who was waiting patiently in the crowd, and together they have a two-year-old daughter waiting for them to return to their home in Reno, Nevada. At such a young age, Wise has the lifestyle of an adult. He wears a Baby Bjorn baby carrier around the house. He also attends church regularly and says he could see himself becoming a pastor a little later down the road. Not exactly the picture you had in mind while watching him nail two double corks wearing baggy pants.

At the risk of sounding cantankerous, I will take the occasion to point out that a twenty-three-year-old is an adult, although I freely admit that not everyone who has reached the legal age of majority is ready to assume every adult responsibility. Many young people delay marriage to pursue career, travel, sport or education. The quest to develop oneself and one’s skills as a person is a legitimate one that I have encouraged in my own students over the decades.

But the fully-lived life is one that sees us assuming a variety of offices each of which bears God-given authority. Keeping them in balance is not always easy, but we are called to do so all the same. For most of us this means that, in addition to our work-related responsibilities, we will also be wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, and daughters and sons to our ageing parents. None of these can be considered mere lifestyles, much less alternative ones, the very word alternative implying that they depart in some fashion from the norm.

If David Wise is able to keep his home, work and sporting responsibilities in balance, then more power to him. But let us not suggest that, in so doing, he is embracing an “alternative lifestyle.”

David T. Koyzis teaches political science at Redeemer University College in Canada and is the author of the forthcoming book, We Answer to Another: Authority, Office, and the Image of God (Pickwick Publications).

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