Father’s Day is almost here and it is time that many around the nation pay homage to those whom we often forget played a part in the creation process.
In many religions, God is the epitome of the father. In fact, he is the first father, according to many traditions. But many religions present an interesting twist on the father.
John Miller, author of “Calling God ‘Father’” compares and contrasts the characteristics of the father in Christianity, Eastern and African traditions.
He questions whether in some traditions there was/is some sort of “fathering crisis.”
In his research, he finds that the father in many instances is a divine being, who is a powerful and loving, yet is not perfect.
“In many of their myths, in any case, fathers present problems,” Miller writes. “Their marginality, cruelty, incompetence, and powerlessness, more often than not, pose dilemmas to which mother, son or daughter deities must respond either by defending themselves or by taking action to uphold the universe in their stead.”
It seems, he notes, that only in the Christian biblical doctrine is God is a major force “for good in the life of the world.”
However, one could argue that Jesus, according to some biblical passages, in fact performed some act of sacrifice or heroism in order to redeem the sinful world to prevent his father, God, from destroying mankind. Some critics debate that the Christian God, in fact, mirrored the actions and characteristics of flawed mankind, demonstrating wrath, jealousy, sadness, and love.
Regardless, the image of the father in many religions has similarities. Unlike the Christian doctrine that depicts God in a loving, merciful, yet patriarchal attitude, other traditions see God, the father, as a part of a relationship between mother and child.
Looking at the ancient Egyptian myth of Ausar, Auset and Heru (Osiris, Isis, and Horus in the Greek), Ausar (the God-king) was very much like the Christian God, who ruled over the land with love and mercy. Under his leadership, the land prospered and thrived in peace. He is regarded as the foundation of the Egyptian civilization.
He left the land for a time and his wife, Goddess-queen Auset ruled in his place. Upon the king’s return, his evil brother, Set, carried out a plot to kill him and scattered his body parts all over Egypt.
The couple had not conceived a child before Ausar was killed. Auset brought back her husband’s dismembered body and immaculately conceived their savior son, Heru, who later avenged his father’s death.
The father figure in this ancient story, though he was a powerful man who was loving and loyal toward his people, was a flawed individual. He was outwitted by his brother and unrest fell upon the land. His son, who cherished his father, redeemed the land and his father’s people.
Miller writes, “In Egyptian imagination Osiris was the ultimate power who ruled the universe from his home in eternity.” It was through Auset’s incantations that her husband continued to live and rule in eternity. “But the stories declared that his very existence there was due to the saving action of his wife, and it was his son who finally had to rule on earth and vindicate his name.”
Ultimately, the Egyptian mythos demonstrated that the father was just one part of the equation. It was through the trinitarian effort that the father could continue ruling and maintain fatherhood on a celestial plane.
On the west side of Africa, the Yoruba tradition resembles a mixture of both the Christian and Egyptian perspectives of the father.
Olodumare, who is credited as the creator of the universe and all things, is God-Almighty. But Olodumare is neither male nor female. The Creator is a spiritual being beyond the comprehension of mankind’s categorical understanding.
Unlike the Christian and Egyptian God-father images, Olodumare co-exists with other deities and created the universe as a joint effort.
According to traditions, Olodumare created the earth in conjunction with Obatala and Oduduwa and other deities. However, it was through the Supreme Being that life began.
As a parental figure, Olodumare is enhanced by his God-children or Orisa.
According to Kola Abimbola, writer of “Yoruba Culture: A Philosophical Account,” Olodumare is not the Supreme Being due to the fact that three other gods co-exist with the spiritual being.
However, it is through the Creator that all life and knowledge stems. Richard J. Gehman demonstrates in “African Traditional Religion in Biblical Perspective” that Olodumare loved (his) children and worked with them. Instead of ruling creation, (he) commissions Orisa to perform certain tasks and fulfill godhood over all creation.
To put it in perspective, Olodumare’s parenthood is much like a typical household in which parents assign their children chores and tasks to complete the operation of everyday living.
And like many parents, Olodumare leans toward the Orisa for wisdom and support when (he) is perplexed or is need of a resolution at times.
Fathers come in all shapes, sizes, creeds and traditions. God the father is no different in that regard. If creation reflects its creator, it may be debated that it is inevitable that human fathers reflect the God-father in their own lives. Depending on your beliefs, fathers, like their creators are not perfect, but in some way, somehow, their children and spouses help provide balance, as in the aforementioned stories.