[fatherless generation] chapter 4: the fatherless gang

Written by Julia Swodeck

Blogger at Tither of Innovation, on Twitter at @juliakate.

March 28, 2011

[serialposts]As I read through this chapter, I couldn’t help but to revisit my adolescence. Growing up, most gang members I knew and befriended were cool, quite funny, and often even sentimental. Definitely different than the picture you see painted in music videos, on the news, or in violent “street” movies. My friends were hustlers by night and students by day. Most were fatherless, all were extremely protective of me, and some considered themselves religious. I suppose the choice to befriend them came from both my curiosity and my own “daddy issues”.

His heart is a mixed bag of rage and rejection, desiring both belonging and rebellion.

It has always been my deepest pleasure to discover and bring out the softness from within a harsh male. This created some unhealthy relationships and even deeper issues in how I relate to Christ. When I finally saw Him as strong, somewhat argumentative, and a rebel to be reckoned with, then I began to find Him attractive and beneficial to my life. The God of the Old Testament seemed more up my alley. Shot caller, fiery, all powerful, with moments of softness and compassion after being pleaded with… that was my kind of God.  I wanted a God played by Bobby De Niro. I wanted to be the wife of a mobster. I wanted to be respected and protected, served and known wherever I went. like I said, “daddy issues”.

A fatherless boy looks to anyone who will accept him and be proud of him. The boy continually seeks validation as a man.

But these boys, endeavoring to prove themselves as men, weren’t so different from me. They desired the tightness and security of family. They wanted to be known and respected.  In Chazz Palminteri’s A Bronx Tale,  the neighborhood boss, Sonny was asked “Would you rather be feared or loved?” His answer echos the heart of the fatherless gang … “I’d rather be feared, because fear lasts longer than love.” The complexity of this particular gangster story is definitely different than most. A good father is present. A good father is fighting for the attention, love and respect of his son. The neighborhood is shouting “the working man is a sucker!” The neighborhood is telling him that his father is a sucker.

I had a father, an imperfect but good God-fearing father. Throughout my life, I’ve felt the fight of my heavenly father for my attention, my love, and my respect. He’s fought with His goodness, His patience, His compassion, and His unmatchable strength. There was a season in my life when I wondered if Jesus was a sucker. Many of my friends also wondered the same thing and having not known Him, most concluded that He was.

“…Our intense resentment of fathers is less a result of his presence than of his absence. We abhor him in part because we do not know him.” David Blankenhorn



  1. Prudence

    Great post Julia. There is a lie that fathers don’t matter in the development of children.Whether that’s boys or girls. It’s heart breaking to see that so many young men are wandering about in the dark because they didn’t have a good father (or father figure) in their lives.

    • Juliakate

      so true. and it’s also heartbreaking that a culture so downgrades the need for fathers that they strip the fathers who are actually trying to do right of their “manhood” and respect. it’s a vicious cycle that must be broken. I appreciate you coming by and sharing your thoughts friend:)

    • Brent Kelly

      SO TRUE! The fact of the matter is our society has made it so easy for fathers to just walk away. I know I would feel so ashamed in front of my Lord and Savior if I had just walked out on my children. I would have missed so much of their lives.

  2. @bibledude

    i love how this post reflects the personal side of this issue of fatherlessness. it really brings home the idea of how this drives so many other aspects of our relationships… including our relationship with God.

    you rock julia! thanks for the great reflection!

  3. Brent Kelly

    Thanks Julia!
    I too have revisited my childhood after readings this chapter. I was the leader in my gang. I did not grow up in the inner city, but in a rural suburb. I was the oldest of the generation that was in the neighborhood. And no we didn’t go around beating up other gangs, we were just kids being kids, who’s fathers were not around.
    I was always looking for someone to fill the void. Though I was raised in the church, I knew of God and Jesus, but I didn’t KNOW them. I am thankful to say that I have a relationship with Him today, some twenty years later.
    I see some remnants of that fatherlessness effecting my life today still. I am always looking for validation from supervisors and co-workers. I want to know if I am doing what they expect or want from me. When I catch my self doing this a try to stop and ask God to forgive me for not trusting in is word.

  4. Joshua Swodeck

    As a father of a 5 year old daughter, big brother to a fabulous sister (JuliaKate) and husband to a beautiful wife for almost 9 years, I sometimes look get confused on which side of street seems most important at the time. The “Sonny” side, being feared and seemingly in control or the “Lorenzo” bus driver side, hard working and sentimentally soft at times. I seem to jump back and forth between the two. I seem to whole-heartedly desire true love and respect, but sometimes fear they aren’t present enough and compensate with a fist in the air.

    To my sister, daughter & my wife, I pray my role in your lives as a male, sides more with Lorenzo and less with Sonny. I pray that I remain true to integrity and consistant love. I pray we always value rides on the bus listening to the game and stopping for a quick break at Yankee Stadium and never write off the Mickey Mantles of our day.

    *Excuse all the “A Bronx Tale” references…it’s one of our favorite movies.


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[fatherless generation] chapter 4: the fatherless gang

by Julia Swodeck time to read: 2 min