Back to school is in full swing, but even the best teacher will never replace a father in the home. As George Herbert rightly said, “One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.”

During the first GOP Presidential debate, only one candidate acknowledged this fact and highlighted the rising crisis of fatherlessness in the home. On a stage filled with Christians, the sole candidate was Vivek Ramaswamy, a Hindu.

“There is a part of education policy that also rests with the family,” Ramaswamy said during the August 23 debate. “I didn’t grow up in money. But you know the word privilege gets used a lot. Well, you know what? I did have the ultimate privilege of two parents in the house with a focus on educational achievement. And I want every kid to enjoy that.”

We as Christians must be on the vanguard for defending America’s fathers and America’s families. I wish at the next GOP debate on Sept. 27, there will be more candidates — especially the Christians — talking about this issue.

“So part of the problem is we also have a federal government that pays single women more not to have a man in the house than to have a man in the house contributing to an epidemic of fatherlessness,” Ramaswamy continued, targeting an inconvenient truth about our welfare programs-one identified by experts like Thomas Sowell and Jason Riley. “And I think that goes hand-in-glove with the education crisis as well because we have to remember education starts with the family. And the nuclear family is the greatest form of governance known to mankind.”

Ramaswamy understands how vital family values are to social mobility. Research by Harvard Economist Raj Chetty, for example, found that having a father in the home is the strongest variable for social mobility. A two-parent home is a top factor correlated with whether a child drops out of high school, enters gangs, takes illicit drugs, or has a teenage pregnancy.

USA Today ran an article saying single parents feel stigmatized by comments like this from Ramaswamy, however, there’s a difference between shame and honest statistical analysis. We can tell the truth without cruelty. We can advocate for the best scenario for children, even while realizing in this broken human existence, nothing is perfect and we must act vigorously to help single mothers. And we must structure social policies that do not decimate families by pushing fathers out of the home.

Ramaswamy also tapped into deeper underlying cultural issues surrounding the destruction of the family, trends accelerating since the 1960s hippie drug culture and “Sexual Revolution” swept America. Spiritual health is mental health. As our spiritual health eroded, so has our mental health. In this time of rising depression and suicidal despair, we need to treat underlying problems, not simply symptoms. 

“But it’s not just drugging up people in those psychiatric institutions with Zoloft and Seroquel,” Ramaswamy, age 38, said on the debate stage. “It’s a deeper issue. I think faith-based approaches can play a role here, too. We’re in the middle of a national identity crisis. And I say this as a member of my generation. The problem in our country right now, the reason we have that mental health epidemic is that people are so hungry for purpose and meaning, at a time when family, faith, patriotism, hard work have all disappeared. What we really need is a tonal reset from the top saying that this is what it means to be an American.”

Ramaswamy is profoundly right. And we Christians must work together ecumenically for a national spiritual revival.

Scientific research illustrates the public health benefits of faith. Women who attend religious services at least once a week are 68% less likely to die from “deaths of despair,” including suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol poisoning. And men are 33% less likely, according to 2020 research led by Harvard University’s School of Public Health.

Economists released a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper in January finding states with declines in religious attendance saw sharper upticks in deaths of despair and vice versa.

It’s no wonder the 12-step program, one of the most effective methods for breaking drug and alcohol addiction, centers its approach on belief in a Higher Power.

This back-to-school season, let’s get back to the basics of family and faith.