Fatherhood the ‘Courageous’ Way

Absent fathers are prime contributors to the failure of the family. The new film ‘Courageous’ challenges men to step up and be the fathers God intended.

TO SERVE AND PROTECT: The officers of 'Courageous' (from left) Ben Davies, Ken Bevel, Alex Kendrick, and Kevin Downes. Each man faces a different struggle related to fatherhood.

A disturbing trend has subtly crept into the American family, and its onslaught was so insidious that it went unnoticed for 40 years. It’s called the absent father. Fatherlessness affects more than 25 million children in America. Emotional fatherlessness affects millions more. Absent fathers are the root cause of children who are oftentimes abused, live in poverty, and suffer psychological distress, which produces: 63 percent of youth suicides, 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children, 85 percent of all children with behavioral problems, and 85 percent of all youth in prisons. Children without a father become the statistics of every negative report and they most often live with a mother burdened by the stress of a lack of support for her children.

Alex and Stephen Kendricks (creators of Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Flywheel), realizing that fatherlessness has grown to epidemic proportions, prayerfully went about crafting a movie that would rivet our focus to the urgency of this problem. The brothers have written their fourth movie called Courageous, which addresses the issue of absent fathers. A Provident Films and Affirm Films production, Courageous depicts the lives of five men — four urban cops, and their newly found working-class friend, who through a series of tragic events are forced to look to God for guidance as fathers and husbands, as well as keepers of the law. Not since Will Smith’s portrayal of Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness has a film made a more vigorous plea for fathers to take their parenting role seriously. The intended purpose of this film is to challenge all men to have the courage to step outside their comfort zones or bad histories, and to have enough integrity to put away their excuses and be the fathers they’ve been called to be.

The actors in Courageous aren’t your dime a dozen, glitzed and spritzed glory seekers — but they are ordinary Christian men and women called out by God through the Sherwood Movie Ministry of Albany, Georgia. They have nurtured wounded spirits, jumped from moving cars, run for causes, and have sounded the trumpet call to all fathers who are out of their children’s lives in any sense, to come home and step up their game as the leaders, lovers, providers, and protectors of their families.

UrbanFaith spoke to two actors from the Courageous movie, Robert Amaya and Ken Bevel. Amaya, a Latino, plays Javier Martinez, a family man who was laid off from his blue collar job and is facing the challenge of providing for his wife and children with very few resources. Bevel, an African American who’s also an ex-Marine, plays the role of Nathan Hayes, an urban cop struggling to forgive his deceased father for not being there for him and his mother. His greatest ambition is to be a better husband and father than his father was.

QUALITY TIME: Actor Robert Amaya portrays Javier Martinez, a devoted family man who was laid off from his job.

Addressing the absent father issue in the Latino culture Amaya said, “The second most violent area in the world is Latin America and this violence usually comes from men or women raised without a father.” He offered that, violence due to absent fathers is not only a problem for Latinos, but it’s a blanket problem in America and in the world across the board, because every father leaves a mark on his child. What Amaya along with the makers of the movie are hoping to accomplish through Courageous is, “To let all fathers, Latinos included, know their responsibility under God, and reconnect them to the Lord so that they can be at home with and engaged in, their children’s lives, because it’s the father’s responsibility to call out the men in their sons. In other words, to teach them how to be men, and to show daughters what they should be looking for in the men of their future.”

Amaya, the father of a 2-year-old daughter, says, “Since working on this film, I have found that it is not enough to just listen to my daughter say her prayers at night. I must live before her and teach her the principles of the Bible that we are to live by through Scripture memory, stories, and family time that stresses the values of the Bible.”

Though Amaya’s character Javier shows a gentle, lovable man who doesn’t overtly embody machismo (a Latino concept of masculinity and power), Amaya says of Javier, “Under the light of machismo, he shows that he’s not a weak guy. His strength lies in the fact that he loves the Lord, he loves his family. He shows that men can be gentle and loving to their families, gaining the loyalty and love of their wives and children. When men are great leaders they are also loving leaders. God calls us to be the men in our families but to also be family men who don’t have to be domineering and harsh.”

Statistics show that 28 percent of white children are in single-parent homes, while 35 percent of Hispanic children are in single-parent homes, and the figure is equal to the combined totals of white and Hispanics for African American children, at 63 percent.

Phillip Jackson, the executive director of Chicago’s Black Star Project, told Reuters, “Father absence in African American communities has hit those communities with the force of 100 Hurricane Katrinas. It is literally decimating our communities and we have no adequate response to it.”

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE: Ken Bevel portrays Nathan Hayes, a dedicated police officer trying to avoid the mistakes his absentee father made.

However, Bevel feels that Courageous will offer a message of motivation and hope to African American men on the importance of fatherhood and throw a lifeline to those men who are ready to change. Like the character he plays in the movie, Bevel says, “I grew up without a father — loving and yet resenting him, because I didn’t have him to give me leadership and wisdom at those critical times in my life, so I kind of fumbled my way through being a youth into being an adult — not really knowing how to treat my wife, not really knowing how to treat my family.But I determined to depend totally on God to put some strong men in my life to show me how to be a man, and He did.”

Some of the same issues affecting fathers and children today were highlighted in the film, such as physical and emotional absence. Bevel believes Courageous will show men that they can return and not only be good fathers, but great fathers, if they follow the plan God made for them as found in the Bible.

“There’s something about this movie that will cause men to see that it’s the responsibility of the fathers to guide and raise their kids. Nobody wants to have children and be a bad father. Nobody wants to go into a marriage and say, ‘Okay, I’m going to divorce my wife five years from now.’ What’s lacking among African American men who grew up without fathers is guidance, and this movie provides a model that shows them: this is how to love the Lord, this is how to follow his Word, this is how to love your wife, and this is how to love your kids.”

Bevel, the father of a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son said, “When I saw the last scene in Courageous, the man in me stood up. It caused me to want to do greater things for God, and to lead my kids and my wife in every aspect of our lives. I wanted to lead my family in Bible study, to be intentional about what we watched on TV and how we spent our time together — to be careful with what I said in their presence. I wanted my children to hear me praying for them and see me studying the Scriptures, so that they would imitate their father.”

Both Bevel and Amaya, with help from their wives, worked out an intentional plan of leadership, guidance, and love for their children with amazing results.

If you are a father who is out of touch with your children, just pause and reflect: Where will your son learn how to treat women? Who will teach your little girl her true worth? Where will they learn to stand up for what’s right? Who will instruct them on the value of an education? Where will their work ethic come from? Where will your child learn about the importance of abstaining from substance abuse and illicit sexual activities? Where will they learn to obey authority? How will your children learn to love and respect God, others, and themselves, if you don’t teach them?

Dads — please don’t turn away. The bravest thing you could ever do as a man is to be present. Your children need you. Now.

Courageous opens Friday, September 30th, in theaters across the nation. Watch the trailer here.

Fatherlessness stats taken from the Courageous website and Fathers.com, a website of the National Fatherhood Initiative.

About the author, Wanda Thomas Littles

Wanda Thomas Littles is an author, speaker, and freelance writer. Her work has appeared in A Time of Singing magazine and Clubhouse Jr. She has just completed her latest books of poetry, Like a Thief in the Night and A New Fire, as well as a novel called Preacha! Wanda and her husband reside in San Antonio, where she's also a radio announcer on KDRY. Find out more at WandaLittles.com.
  1. Well written. Thank you for addressing this issue. Men everywhere are changing course, investing in their children and families and coming back to the principles that are life sustaining and founded upon their faith.

    • Thanks for your insight Ed..coming back is a very good thing.

      • Ed, I’ve been mulling over what you said. I’m sure there will be those who, like me, want to know what you base the assertion that fathers are coming back to their sons, daughters, and wives on…could you elaborate?

  2. You expressed very well in your article an issue that affets all of us, and that needs to be addressed by society. We as a society needs to understand the need and value of prayer and use it asking and trusting God to draw fathers to Him, and to give them the wisdom, and desire to be the leaders and examples in their childrens lives that He created them to be.

  3. I just saw this movie with my family, and I was simply “blown away!” As a single mother for 12-years, I saw firsthand how an absent father can have a major impact in a young girl’s life. I love your commentary about the movie, but I felt there was one important element missing that was a huge message in the movie: That “all men” need to step-up and be the Godly men God has called them to be. There are so many children out there that need positive male role models in their lives and many men are not fathers. Think of the impact that these men can have on these young lives either through adoption, foster care, church groups, community agencies such as Boys & Girls Clubs and coaching in various sports organizations. To all the men out there, it’s time to “step up!”

    • I definitely like and appreciate this article, and more specificly your comment Helen. I’m a Mexican single male who lives in a municipality surrounding Mexico City. I have been a Christ follower for 5 years and a half now, and am praying for that Special Companion I know God has for me. As long as I can remember from my childhood, I experienced my father’s emotional absence because he was too busy “working hard to be a good provider”, under the “macho”stereotype. Eventually, he became a very good provider, but with the deep cost in my heart that such an absence implied (at age 12 I was in coma due to epilepsy). On the other hand, when it comes to evaluating the real, both quality and quantity, family time spent together in the past, I am convinced that there are a lot of things I still long would have happened in our father-son relationship. Nowadays, as a young adult going under a soul-and-heart healing process at church, I ask God to teach me how to REALLY be there for the wife and children He blesses my life with. Your comment has inspired a nice deep reflection about my commitment as the man of God I wantt to become. Moreover, your comment has also strengthened a wish to serve God with orphaned children. May God extend His loving care and multuiply His blessings in your life..

  4. This is a very powerful article . I myself am a product of a single parent home but I am more than determined to break the cycle . I have seen the damage caused by a child not having their father around and it is only by the grace of God that I have turned out the way I have . I have 3 girls and 3 boys and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them . I always say it takes real men to raise real men and I think that if more women would be looking for a good man rather than a good time this would help alot . I am and have been a mentor to many young men for years and all of them have one thing in common . They just want your time and attention. I never met my dad and my life suffered greatly for it but I have chosen to be here for my kids until the day I die.

  5. Written by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, and directed by Alex Kendrick, Courageous shows us that courage comes in all shapes and sizes. http://bit.ly/pM0xDJ

  6. Why have fathers abandoned their families? In the past forty years we have created a society that has devalued the male role model and father in the home. Holly wood and media depictions of the “stupid’ and bumbling dad abound in television and commercial adds. Traditional Bible based values of marriage have been viewed as “outdated” and more emphasis paced on what “submission” does NOT mean in order not to offend women rather than its importance to sound FAMILY structure. Essentially, the role of father has become one of “blame” rather than the one of great responsibility, support and accountability needed for the survival and health of the entire family. The father has become a disposable character in the family or someone to point the finger at for the family breakdown. His absence up until now was accepted and almost welcomed in the era of “divorce’ court shows and TV themes throughout popular culture through the late 70′s and 80′s. The result is a devastating cycle of children male and female that see hopelessness in self worth and any potential for a stable relationship as an adult. Hopefully efforts like this movie will turn our hearts back to God’s Word in that we work together to recognize the importance of a father’s leadership and role to his wife and children. We do not only need fathers to step up, but we also need to recognize AND acknowledge what fatherhood means beyond personal convenience as “unpopular” as that may seem these days.

  7. Great article that addresses a critical problem in our communities today. Fathers are missing with their leadership, love, and strength in the home. Boys do need a strong male role model in their lives. What are we going to do about it? Let’s get them mentors and big brothers enough to cover all that need that missing fatherly presence. Also we need to work with single mothers and equip them with tools that will help them to be stronger in their family and their handling their sons. To get to this solution we need prayer and a word from the Lord.

  8. This is very interesting because I’m a single mother of two boys who longs for my children father to be in their life. I know this movie will be great to watch. There are so many children who’s fatherless and it’s because their father isn’t in their life by choice. This is very heartbreaking to see my boys as well as other children experience this when they deserve better. It takes a God fearing, strong & compassionate man to be in their child’s life to support them & teach them all the things God didn’t equip a woman to do. God intended for men to be head for a reason & for a lifetime. I will watch this movie & encourage others to do as well. God has his way of getting the message to people & this movie just may be one of the ways to connect, speak to & redirect fathers on the right path to be a vital part of their children’s lives.

  9. Thank you for your article. If Courageous is anything like Fireproof, it will be a good movie. Thanks for the focus on the presence of fathers. I hope that it will encourage those who have not been to do so. I’d encourage all to read Dr. Kevin Leman’s “What a Difference a Daddy Makes,” which focuses primarily on the importance of the father-daughter relationship.

  10. I believe a lot of men leave there childern because they believe that they are not ready for a farthership role. As men in america we should take our responsibilty and raise a child. Another reason why a lot men leave there childern, is because there farther may have left them, and they feel like its to much pressure on them to take care of a child.

  11. This is an excellent article that speaks to some very pertinent issues regarding fatherhood. It is so imperative that young men have a role model to look up to in the home. The statistics in the article are disheartening; especially the findings about behavioral problems in schools. These problems are particularly troubling for African American young men where they not only lack male role models in the home, but in schools settings. Currently there are only 2 % Black male teachers in our nation’s schools.

    I appreciated Bevel’s comments on being a good father. He mentioned being a leader, which in my opinion is one of the key roles of a father. He must be able to lead his family by the Word of God. It is so important because children are so impressionable and that leadership will make a difference. Now more than ever, we need men that are going to support children and bring them up in a Godly manner. I think this will take mentoring as well as transparency among men. The church is the place where men should be able to go and say, “hey I’ve blown it as a father” and not be scorned, but be guided in Biblical love by other men. This will only take place when there is true accountability and mentoring occurring. No one is perfect, and perhaps these absent fathers are mimicking what they saw as a child. However, it is never too late to step up and take responsibility.

    Also, there is an awesome movement by Christian rap artist, Lecrae called ManUp. This is great example of how men are stepping up to mentor and guide young men on how to be a strong man of God. Check it out at Reachrecords.com!

    Great article; I am definitely going to see the movie after reading this piece!

  12. I wholeheartedly agree with the entiret of this article. The need for fathers to BE the fathers God created them to be is real. And it isn’t that children cannot grow up well without that but WHAT a blessing and much simpler road they travel with that covering. It takes courage and strength to on God for all your needs but this is the kind of REAL strength that children need to see. I can only imagine a world where THIS kind of parenting is the norm…there would be no room for the enemy to attack! Praising God that He is faithful when we are not and thankking Him for the obedience of those who do!

  13. The sobering statistics presented in this article are another manifestation of the enemy’s attack on God’s plan for the family according to Scripture. John 10:10 comes to mind, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…”. But thank God for Jesus, and may movies like Courageous heighten the public awareness of right and wrong and convict us all to step up to the plate and do what is right. It’s movies like this and the articles that follow that help to bring attention to societal ills and invoke meaningful discussion about solutions needed to improve social health. God bless you (Wanda) for your work, which is a refreshing contrast to a callous display of indifference for a very real and destructive problem!

  14. I’d certainly like to recognize and appreciate the enormous contribution that movies such as this, and certainly FIREPROOF, can make to all societies around the world. It’s a problem that reached all social classes in my country A LONG TIME AGO. Nevertheless, I praise our Lord Jesus for your work. My concern is that a huge amount of middle and high class fathers are letting themselves be deceived by the idea of “the more I work, the better I will provide for the needs of my family”. Mostly beacuse one would expect these fathers to understand the implications of their role, considering their education level. However, once again it has been proved that only the work of Christ in these fathers’ lives can make a difference. It’s a pitty that it was shown only in a few movie theaters and in the morning. I thank the Lord for your lives and encourage you all to keep on these project that, by all means, I can say was born in the heart of God. May He keep blessing you abundantly!!!

  15. What about all the Single Mothers in this world who have raised well adjusted, respectful, high functioning children without the aid of a Deadbeat Father?

    • That’s so true, and right here on Urban Faith that very issue has been addressed. We did not leave those incredible women out.

  16. This article definitely covered a major array of statistics, which allowed us to have a handle on the major topics covered in the movie. We know brotherhood was big, faith was bigger, and of course that dreadful topic of being fatherless. There were many facets of lack of faith, which tied in to those who were absent fathers, or those who had issues because of their fathers not being the man they wanted or needed them to be. Those who are the absent father in their childrens life are definitely lacking faith and love for the Lord. The movie definitely displayed that, and because of the men who knew the Lord, and the one who chose to share that love and faith the producer was able to show how doing what the Lord would have you do, makes life a bit easier in some respects. If more christian men would display their faith and their heart about trusting in God, they too can get past some hurt and pain caused by being abandoned, or not being who one thought they should be. One could also learn to be the proivder, the role model and be the man God wants them to be, statistics about absent fathers would not be so staggering. We as women need to step up our game and ensure we allow our children to be around good mentors who will help them to see that even though their father isn’t around or in the picture, they can still be successful and acheive what ever their hearts desire. Be responsible, encourage your child, as well as someone elses today, no matter who is not in the picture, make the picture brighter for them. Pass on the faith God has given so they can be better people than those who abandoned them.
    Judy

  17. Great article. Dialogue should continue.

    • Jackie, I wholeheartedly agree. Let’s challenge fathers, children, and mothers to share what this life changing film has done for them!