rev-dr-walter-t-richardson_web.jpgI anxiously read the birth narratives in the Bible every year during the Advent season. And I always read these narratives, which are found in books of Matthew and Luke, against the backdrop of what’s contemporary in the news. So, I read with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. And there are some interesting and illuminating parallels in this year’s reading of the birth narratives and today’s news, especially about men and boys.

At the time of Jesus’ birth more than 2000 years ago, the men of the community were struggling socially, politically, psychologically and economically. And those struggles are very much present in 2011. Black and brown boys are

struggling and are at risk disproportionately. The Rev. Eugene Rivers, an activist, commented a few years ago that a black boy has a 1 in 3,700 chance of getting a Ph.D in mathematics, engineering or the physical sciences, 1 in 766 chance of becoming a lawyer and a 1 in 395 chance of becoming a physician.

A black boy has a 1 in 195 chance of becoming a teacher but his chance is 1 in two of never attending college. Even if he graduates from high school, he has a 1 in nine chance of using cocaine, a 1 in 12 chance of contracting gonorrhea and a 1 in 20 chance of being in prison while in his 20s.

And there is a character in the Biblical birth narrative that was a troubled and treacherous man. His name is Herod. He was so concerned with possessions, power, prestige and popularity that he became paranoid and committed crimes to protect his position of prominence. He exercised no faith in God but exalted himself as the king of his day. He even attempted to wipe out a future generation of males so as to guarantee his continued perceived power.

It isn’t a surprise, then, that, according to Dr. Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, nearly 70 percent of juveniles in state reform institutions come from fatherless homes, as do 43 percent of prison inmates. Research indicates a direct correlation between crime rates and the number of single-parent families in a neighborhood.

Dr. Whitehead indicates further that the relationship (between single-parent families and crime) is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime.

That conclusion shows up time and again in the literature. The nation's mayors, as well as police officers, social workers, probation officers and court officials consistently point to family breakup and the absence of male role models as the most important source of rising rates of crime.

The good news is that, in the Biblical birth narratives, the good men outnumber the evil men. There are the wise men thoughtful enough to visit and influence a town.  With high expectations, they made it their goal to establish a healthy association and holy relation with a family. They were thoughtful enough to invoke worship and thoughtful enough to share their available resources, both human and physical.

Then, there is Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus, a trusted man. Joseph showed in Scripture four qualities that each person should strive to develop: moral, ethical, logical and spiritual qualities. He was moral in that he waited until he was married before he became intimate with Mary, his fiancée.

He was ethical in his dealings with the townspeople about how he should and would handle the sticky situation of being engaged to a woman who was already pregnant. He was logical and thought on all of the complex implications of his actions and his love was so great for her and God, and the anxiety of the moment was so overwhelming, that he spent time with God in contemplation. He was spiritual enough to listen to God and, as a result, he received a miracle from God.

There is hope, and our men would be wise to still seek Him, spend time with Him and develop the moral, ethical, logical and spiritual qualities that will benefit our families, our future as a nation and our faith in the Lord.

Let’s pray for everyone, but especially the men of our generation, at Christmas time.


***Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church located in South Miami-Dade. He is also the current chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at