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Peter Gabriel’s Song About His Father

Posted in: General by Tom Beaudoin on October 15, 2013

Fathers or father-figures are overwhelmingly significant in the foreground and in the background of religious tradition and experience. (The only more important personages are mothers or mother-figures.)

Out of the truly mountainous heap of things that can be said about how fatherhood as experience and metaphor shapes religion/spirituality/faith/etc, one is of particularly rich importance: the way that fathers — when their children are lucky or fortunate — can model male love, which in its innumerable forms of generosity and warmth can and does help fashion images of compelling centrality in people’s lives, whether that ends up generating a commitment to “God”, “no God,” or “indifference”.

It is surely too facile to say that images of, or lived presuppositions about, ultimate reality/significance are correlated directly to effects or defects in the love of significant men in one’s early life. Yet no account of how people wind up making their way to their sense for ultimate reality can say that fathers or father-figures are anything less than important, even monumental, in many people’s “spiritual” lives. The fact that contemporary theology often has trouble accounting for this does not make it any less important. (I have learned much from psychoanalytic accounts of the formation (and rejection) of God-images, for example Ana-Maria Rizzuto’s Birth of the Living God (University of Chicago, 1981).)

All these thoughts came to me as I watched and listened to Peter Gabriel’s song about his father, called “Father, Son.” See what it brings to mind for you.

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Tommy Beaudoin, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York