Christians can challenge the growing public safety crisis that is fatherlessness, and we must start in the Church. We must affirm, in word and in action, that there are men and there are women and that both matter in parenting. We have to de-normalize absent dads, challenge men to take responsibility for their sexual choices and for their children, and fill in the gaps whenever and however necessary.
In 2016, psychologist Dr. Peter Langman compiled biographical data on 56 American school shooters. He found that 82% had grown up in dysfunctional family situations, usually without two biological parents at home. The trend has sadly continued. The shooter in Uvalde, Texas, hadn’t lived with his father in years. The Sandy Hook shooter hadn’t seen his father in the two years leading up to that massacre.
Last month, new research from the Institute for Family Studies demonstrated, once again, how important fathers are, especially for boys. For example, boys growing up without their dads are only half as likely to graduate from college as their peers who live with dad at home. Strikingly, those numbers remain steady even after controlling for other factors such as race, income, and general IQ. Boys without a dad at home are also almost twice as likely to be “idle” in their late twenties, defined as neither working nor in school, and are significantly more likely to have been arrested or incarcerated by the time they turn 35.
These are only a few of the data points which demonstrate that fatherlessness is one of the most pressing crises our culture is facing. Why doesn’t our culture talk more about this?
One reason is that this crisis intersects other “third rails.” Our culture got to this point via the sexual revolution, which encouraged promiscuity by redefining freedom and prioritizing autonomy over responsibility. When sex outside of marriage becomes normal, it is mostly women who are left on their own to raise the resulting children.
There are other contributing factors as well, many of which were made possible by legislation. Divorce has been largely destigmatized, not in small part by making it legally easier.