Healthy Cultures Rest on Dads’ Shoulders

A little over a hundred years after the mining disaster that birthed Father’s Day, the United States is now suffering a crisis of fatherlessness.


John Stonestreet

Maria Baer

On December 6, 1907, a massive explosion decimated a coal mine in Monongah, West Virginia. Three hundred and sixty-two miners were killed, making this the worst mining disaster in U.S. history. The tragedy devastated the small town and led eventually to the establishment of the U.S. Bureau of Mines.  

The Monongah mine disaster also marked another beginning. Several months after the explosion, a local church held a special service in honor of the 362 miners, most of whom had left behind wives and children. This is the first event on record in the United States set aside specifically to honor dads. 

Two years later, a woman from Spokane who, along with her five siblings, was raised by her widowed father, began a public campaign to establish a national Father’s Day. A day for mothers was already in the works and, according to historical accounts, was a much easier sell to the public. By 1916, President Woodrow Wilson had officially recognized Father’s Day, though it would not be recognized as a national holiday until 1972. 

A little over a hundred years after the mining disaster that birthed Father’s Day, the United States is now suffering a crisis of fatherlessness. One in four American kids are, like so many in that West Virginia town, growing up without their father at home. That amounts to 18.5 million kids. 

If statistics hold, this means that 18.5 million children are three times more likely to engage in criminal activity than those who have dads at home. Those 18.5 million kids are more likely to engage in sexual activity earlier, are less likely to go to college, more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems, more likely to struggle academically, are twice as likely to commit suicide, and much more likely to commit violence. The vast majority of mass shooters in the past 20 years were young men who were, in some way, estranged from their fathers. 

Almost any social good that can be named is dependent on dads who commit to their families and is at risk when they don’t. This does not mean that every child who grows up without dad in the home will not succeed. Thank God for the millions of grandparents, relatives, friends, neighbors, and especially single moms who heroically raise children in difficult circumstances. Nor does it mean that a faithful dad at home guarantees success for children. Many people squander the amazing inheritance with which they are blessed. Put differently, statistics do not determine the destiny of individuals.  

At the same time, statistics predict the future of societies. Though fatherlessness is correlated with almost every major cultural crisis of the 21st century, the importance of dads remains consistently underestimated and is even undermined. So-called “same-sex marriage” and adoption by same-sex couples suggest that either moms or dads really aren’t that important when it comes to raising children. Legalized abortion has effectively catechized generations of men into believing they are not obligated to take responsibility for children that result from their sexual activity and catechized generations of women into believing they’ve no right to expect that commitment from men. According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of all women who seek abortions do so because they’ve been abandoned by their baby’s father. 

I’m especially grateful for the Institute for Family Studies, which continues to research and report the statistical importance of dads. Just as God designed procreation to require one man and one woman, He meant for that man and that woman to raise their child. Fathers love, teach, provide for, and nurture both sons and daughters in ways moms can’t. The same goes for moms.  

We also know the importance of fathers because God has revealed Himself as a Father. This striking designation should cause every earthly father to tremble. We have an awesome responsibility, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. 

Finally, every person ever created knows in their bones the irreplaceable importance of fathers, either because of the comfort, steadiness, and love we received from an attentive dad, or because of the pain of his absence. Committed dads are essential ingredients for healthy kids, healthy families, and healthy societies (and specifically for more healthy men).  

Showing up, sticking around, and discipling kids as only a father can is a powerful witness to the beautiful design and the steadfast love of our own heavenly Father. Every kid needs and deserves one. 

This Breakpoint was co-authored by Maria Baer. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to 


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