The Family and the Male Problematic

Browning, Don S. “The Family and the Male Problematic.” Dialog 34(2):123-130. Spring 1995.

“The Family and the Male Problematic,” by Don Browning, explores the meaning and evolution of the “male problematic” against the backdrop of today’s decline in the family, showing how Thomas Aquinas, the early church (in Ephesians) and Martin Luther responded to the problem and challenging the church to address it by teaching families mutuality and sacrifice. The Clinton Administration’s family values initiatives place a heightened emphasis on family formation and preservation in light of worldwide trends pointing to increased poverty among women and children, the creation of a new white “underclass,” the rise of teenage pregnancies, the absence of fathers, and the feminization of kinship. <p> Greatly contributing to these trends is what Browning calls “the male problematic,” which is the tendency for males to procreate but not care for their children. Lessons from Aquinas, Ephesians and Luther teach identification with Christ’s sacrifice for the church, paternal involvement with children, and mutual love to counteract not only the male problematic but also a “female problematic” or the tendency among women to raise children without the help of fathers. Long ambivalent to the plight of today’s families, the church must gain a new commitment to marriage and parenting since this has always been one of the central arenas where people work out and live the Christian life.