“Our culture’s decision-making created the mythology of the superfluous father.” -Jonetta Rose Barras
It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review, but when you have a new baby you have to spend a lot of your time doing things that only require only one hand, and reading is one of those things. And so, in relative short order I was able to work through Mark Strong’s book, Church for the Fatherless.
Strong focuses on three general topics. First he describes the “epidemic of father absenteeism” in our society. Our culture, he says, has perpetuated the myth of the superfluous father. He also notes how, partially as a result of slavery and the Great Migration of African Americans, the problem is exacerbated in the African American community (the primary context from which he writes). He then lists the problems that accompany father absenteeism, especially what he calls “voluntary absenteeism” where fathers choose to be uninvolved in their children’s lives. These problems include emotional pain, poverty, teen pregnancy, crime, and lower education. While not everyone who lacks a present and loving father experiences these problems, they are statistically elevated among the fatherless.
Second, Strong sketches some ways the church can minister to the fatherless. This ministry includes embedding the value of care for the fatherless within the life of the church, supporting marriages, equipping men to be godly fathers, and providing mentoring for the fatherless in the community.
Finally, Strong looks at the theology of God as Father. The Church needs to teach this, he says, because those who have no fathers, or abusive fathers, will have a skewed picture of fatherhood. They need to know what it means for God to be a loving and faithful Father which will allow them to lean on God as their true Father while they work through the pain associated with fatherlessness.
Strong writes this book from a pastoral perspective and it is filled with testimonies of people with whom he has personally worked with. I read this book from a dad’s perspective, mostly because I was reading in the hours immediately before Benjamin’s birth and in the days the followed. I’m thankful that I had such a loving father and I’m thankful I can be a dad to my kids. My heart breaks, though, for those who deal with the pain of having an absent or abusive father. Our church recognizes that many of the kids who we encounter through our outreach activities are dealing with pain. I pray we’ll be able to be a “church for the fatherless.”