Monday, April 20, 2015

The Flash and Fatherhood

In case I haven’t mentioned it already, I absolutely love The Flash. I was only nine years old when the original television series aired but I made sure never to miss an episode. A remarkable and unforgettable series, The Flash left a lasting impression on my imagination. The new Flash series, currently airing on CW, had some big shoes to fill in my mind. It doesn’t disappoint.

In addition to lightning-fast, swashbuckling action, the Flash brings something to television that most TV shows lack—a positive portrayal of fatherhood. Throughout the first season, the Scarlet Speedster enjoys not just one, but two strong, supportive father-figures. Framed for murder, Barry’s biological father, Henry, spends the first season in prison. In his absence, police officer and neighbor, Joe West, adopts and raises Barry as his own son.  Despite one of them being in prison, both fathers play a powerful and important role in Barry’s life. In an episode titled Crazy for You, Barry visits his father in the prison’s infirmary. Suspecting that his son is, in fact, the Scarlet Speedster, Henry tells him, “If The Flash were my son, I'd tell him a few things. First off, I'd tell him it's a dangerous world, so be careful. Then I'd tell him he's a hero. And he's saving a lot of lives. But the most important thing for him to know, I feel, is that his father's proud of him.” As a dad myself, father-son scenes like these really speak to me.

This weekend I happened to meet John Wesley Shipp at Cape Comic-Con. Mr. Shipp not only played Barry Allen in the original series, but now plays Henry Allen in the current series. When I asked him what he enjoys most about having played the Flash and now playing the Flash’s father, he spoke of the “passing of the baton” and the many connections that he shares with Grant Gustin (the actor currently playing the Flash).

When the crowds died down, I stopped by John’s table again to tell him how much I enjoyed his role in Hell and Mr. Fudge, a faith based film about the life of Edward Fudge. In the film, John plays Edward’s father, Bennie Lee Fudge—a staunchly conservative Alabama preacher. Mr. Shipp immediately lit up when I mentioned the movie and went on to tell me how much the role reminded him of his own upbringing. John is likewise the son of a preacher. His father faithfully served as a Baptist pastor until finally retiring in 2009. We chatted briefly about Edward, his relationship with his father, and some of the similarities in his and John’s life. Before heading back to our table, I gave him a copy of the Amazing Gospel and one of our Costumers for Christ pamphlets.

A short time later, Mr. Shipp saw me passing by in the lobby, left his table, and flagged me down to show me an article from his early career as an actor on the daytime television show, Guiding Light. The article featured a photo of his mother and father and spoke of them and their faith as the real “guiding light” in Shipp’s life. John beamed with pride as he spoke of his father and seemed genuinely excited to show me the article and picture of his dad. I didn’t ask if John still practiced the faith of his parents, but his father’s faith clearly left an indelible mark on John’s life.

The Bible has much to say about fatherhood. For instance, it tells us, “Reverence for God gives a man deep strength; his children have a place of refuge and security” (Proverbs 14:26 TLB). In other words, when a father relies on God for strength and security, his children will be able to do likewise. Every father leaves a legacy, an “indelible mark” on their sons and daughters. Although I frequently fall short, I strive to be a good and godly father. And I pray that my children will same day speak about me with the same pride and excitement that John Wesley Shipp spoke of his dad. The question is—what kind of legacy will you leave? How will your children remember you?

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