Before Promise Keepers brought God and masculinity to the public forum, the Rev. Gordon Dalbey had published his landmark book, Healing the Masculine Soul.
The author and lecturer, who will lead conferences in Toledo next weekend, said his 1988 book that pioneered the modern Christian men s movement was inspired by personal discovery.
But before that, he had to realize just how lost he felt.
I found myself coming to a place in life where I was scared to be with other men. I didn t feel comfortable with women. I was unsure of my destiny in life. I was unsure what to do. And my buddies were in the same place, Mr. Dalbey said in an interview this week.
He was the keynote speaker at the first Promise Keepers gathering in 1992 and has been interviewed on numerous Christian radio and television programs including two appearances on James Dobson s Focus on the Family.
A graduate of Duke University who earned a master s degree in journalism from Stanford University and a master of divinity from Harvard University, Mr. Dalbey, 61, said he didn t find fulfillment or direction through his education or intellect.
We weren t dumb. We were well-educated. But we were lost, he said.
He discovered a common element among him and his friends: the lack of a relationship with their fathers.
Our fathers had not come alongside us and had a relationship with us, Mr. Dalbey said. Hippies were the sons of World War II warriors. They came home from the war, the greatest generation as Tom Brokaw calls them, and they did marvelous things. However, war does not prepare a man for fatherhood at all.
When the WWII veterans, who had grown up during the Depression, returned to civilian life, they worked hard, accomplished great deeds, and provided well for their wives and children. But they were shut off emotionally from their children, according to Mr. Dalbey.
Here we were, a generation starved for fathers. Not physically, but emotionally. We rose up in anger and we didn t we couldn t articulate what it was we really wanted. What we wanted was daddy. And we started to trash everything our dads held dear.
His father was in the military, so he joined peace marches. His father drove a Chevy, so he drove a foreign car. His father ate Wheaties, the son ate granola.
He said the Bible commands sons to honor their fathers, and the rebellious children of the Sixties were causing spiritual destruction.
Mr. Dalbey said young men in the 1960s wore long hair and earrings because they rebelled against their father s masculinity and were signs of feminist imbalance.
He tells fathers they need to speak into the lives of their sons.
Touch his bicep and say, Hey, that looks good. Or if he sees his son checking out girls, he needs to say, That s fine but I need to talk to you about that.
In his conferences, he asks participants how many received positive advice and encouragement from their fathers about sex and love. On average, about one in 75 will raise his hand, Mr. Dalbey said.
And I m talking about white, middle-class guys. At least our fathers were home, he said. The masculine wound is even worse now.
He said a priest once told him a story that illustrates how severe the problem of fatherless is today. A nun provided a Mother s Day card to a prison inmate and when the other inmates saw it, they asked if she could get them cards, too. She called a major card company which agreed to send 1,000 cards for the inmates. The warden made arrangements to distribute the cards and the inmates lined up and used every card.
The nun then thought she would do the same for Father s Day. The card company again provided 1,000 cards, the warden arranged for distribution, but none of the inmates wanted a card, Mr. Dalbey said.
There are so many fatherless children. Our problems were with fathers who were right there in the home but they were harsh and legalistic. There s a whole generation of boys today who don t even have a dad to rebel against, he said.
The Rev. Gordon Dalbey s Sons of the Father: Men s Conference runs from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday and 9 to 5 p.m. April 22 at St. Paul s Lutheran Church, 112 East Wayne St., Maumee, and he will preach at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. April 23 at Vineyard Church of Toledo, which meets at Springfield High School. The cost of the conference is $55. Information: 419-893-0202.
Contact David Yonke at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154