The brothers who have helped me parent a son

September 14, 2015

When my wife and I reconciled after our separation, I told her that I wasn’t sure I wanted to have kids.  

It wasn’t that I didn’t like kids. It was more about not being sure I could be a good dad. My long-time struggle with same-sex attraction, which was the cause of our marital separation, had drawn me to a place of wondering where I fit in the world of men.  I knew too much about myself, and I was so uncomfortable in my masculinity that I feared my ability to lead my future kids well.

My wife, although she deeply desired children, told me, “I didn’t marry you for kids. I married you for you. I trust that God will change one of our hearts.” God did indeed change mine. As I grew in understanding of what it really meant to be a man, God began stirring in my own heart a desire to be a parent.  

While God showed me that He would equip and enable me to be the dad he was calling me to be, I still feared having a boy.  Fathering my a boy’s heart didn’t cause me fear, but I was concerned that I knew nothing about more “typical” boy things. If I had a boy who liked design and art and architecture, who organized his closet by type and color, and who kept a record of what he wore to school so that he didn’t wear the same thing too frequently, then I could relate.  

But if I had a rambunctious or a sports-oriented boy, I felt I’d be completely ill equipped. I was mild-mannered and had never even played a basketball, football or baseball game (except one time in junior high when I was forced to play an end-of-year softball game, and I sat in right field praying the ball would not come to me). Team sports petrified me.

A community of brothers steps in

In the three years following our reconciliation, my wife and I had been part of a church plant and publicly shared our testimony of my struggle with same-sex attraction and our marital journey. Our church had also hired me away from my law practice and into full-time ministry. My rag-tag group of fellow pastors became brothers to me, along with many men in our church. Our mutually honest relationships allowed me to express struggles, fears and doubts about all aspects of being a Christian, pastor,  husband, friend and a future parent.  

As we prepared for our first child (we ended up with three kids and did not find out the gender of any before they were born), I expressed my fear of having a boy and my complete lack of knowledge about sports.  My friends agreed that should I have a boy who was interested in sports, they would step in and help me help him.  Two girls came within two years. Then, just over a year after our second daughter was born, Peter was born.

My buddies showed up at the hospital with a sack of athletic equipment, much of which has ended up being well used over the years.  Today, Peter is a fun, easy-going kid. He hates clothes and is no fan of the arts. He once leaned over halfway through The Nutcracker and said “Dad. Where are the words?” For the most part, Peter has not a lick of interest in most everything that interests me.

Peter does, however, love sports and being a part of a team. His initial forays into soccer and basketball were easy — there was a coach who ran practices and taught him the games.  I tried to do my part to engage in those sports with him. I once went to a professional basketball game with a friend and had him explain all the chaos to me just so I could at least know what the positions were supposed to do.  But with soccer and basketball, I didn’t really have to do anything.  

Learning t-ball from my best friend at 44

T-ball, however, was different. At the pre-season parent meeting, the coach explained that he expected the dads to help run drills at practice and to actually be on the field during the games, helping coach and guide the kids.  On the way home, Peter asked me “Dad, why do some boys get to have their dad as their coach?” I felt a lump in my throat and a healthy wave of “I stink as a father” fill my gut.  

The following day, I stepped into the office of my best friend (who was also my boss and the lead pastor of our church), Patrick, and shared about the practice and Peter’s question.  I told him that I had never even played catch before and had no idea what to do. That night, Patrick called me and told me to bring my glove (which he had given me for my birthday a couple of months earlier and which I had never even put on) and meet him in the youth room the next morning.  I felt the same nervousness I had felt every recess of elementary school.  

I showed up, and Patrick began to teach me, just like he taught his own sons, the basic mechanics of throwing and catching a ball. I was 44 years old.  

He taught me how to rotate my arm and how to start and stop a throw.  He taught me how to step and how to aim, and he taught me how to do “the alligator” to field a grounder. He was kind and gentle but didn’t hesitate to poke fun at me when my wild throws warranted it. I felt like a little kid myself when he told me, “Bro, you are good!”

I ran back to my office and filled a note card with all the tips and instruction he had given me.  That night, I took Peter out to our backyard and, while stealing glances at my notecard, I showed him how to throw and taught him “the alligator,” too.

Peter — for that moment at least —had a coach in his dad.

The next day, I got to his first practice a little late.  As I had been forewarned, several dads were on the field running drills with little groups of boys.  Peter was with a dad and a couple of boys near the fence, fielding grounders and doing “the alligator” perfectly.  I was facing a wave of fear at the thought of walking out on that field to help, lingering at the fence and watching Peter, when I heard the dad helping his group say, “Everybody, do it like Peter.”  I was so proud . . . of myself! I walked out on that field, found a place to help and enjoyed a great season of T-ball with Peter.

I am forever grateful to Patrick and men like him who have accepted me as I am and have been faithful parts of my ongoing journey of manhood.  I’m grateful that they, too, have seen my strengths and asked me for help in areas where they were weak. I have never felt like a ‘project,’ but simply know they are my friends.

Those mutual relationships — full of fun, laughter, challenge and, at times, conflict — have showed me the real power of community and what it means to have brothers who love at all times, who are there in times of joy and adversity, and who sharpen each other and call each other to never settle but to always be better men.  

Mike Goeke

Mike Goeke is the associate pastor of counseling at Stonegate Fellowship Church in Midland, Texas. He is married to Stephanie and they have three children. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24