I usually don’t take book recommendations from radio talk show hosts, but when Dave Ramsey recommended Dr. Meg Meeker’s book – Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters – I thought, “Hey, I’m a father. I want to be a better father and I want my daughter to be ‘strong’” so I gave it a shot.
Overall I am glad that I did. Meeker lays out substantial evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, that the love, presence, wisdom, and discipline of fathers (or lack thereof) has an immense influence on their daughters. She carefully and scientifically looks at many of the widespread problems that today’s girls face – anorexia, sexualization, STDs, depression, abusive relationships…etc – and encourages dads that they, and only they, have a unique position and power to protect their daughters from these threats to their health and happiness. She then offers some practical tips for fathers to help them make the most of their position of influence.
I do have a few criticisms however. While it was nice to see that medical and social science affirms the truth of what the Word of God has been proclaiming for millennia – namely that fathers have a unique responsibility and privilege of protecting, leading, and loving their family - I fear that such a pragmatic approach robs fathers of their greatest ally and weapon in the fight for their daughters wellbeing…the Gospel. This fear is illustrated by the fact that Meeker, a professing Christian, writes an entire chapter in which she illustrates the importance teaching your daughter to have a strong faith, but fails to take a stand on whether it matters or not what faith you are committed to and if that faith corresponds to Truth. She portrays faith, including her own, as merely a means of meeting our felt needs. She goes as far as to say when referring to the importance of teaching your daughter about God, ” Forgiveness, mercy, and a fresh start are things every one of us deserves. So, please, give them to your daughter. These will give her hope for the future. If you have a better way to give your daughter hope, go for it. But I don’t know any other way. And I have yet to come across anyone who does.” (190) This kind of human-centered pragmatism neither brings glory to God or ultimate joy and salvation to sinners. At best this philosophy is a placebo for sick souls.
I am glad I read this book. There were many helpful practical portions that I will return to. Often my thinking and praying were stimulated by Dr. Meeker’s thoughtful research and passionate advice. But perhaps the greatest conviction that I will carry away from reading this book is the reaffirmation that the Word of God is exceedingly sufficient when it comes to answering the most basic questions about the nature of the human heart, our most basic and pressing need, how to live a fruitful, joyful, and wise life, our purpose for existing and in Whom we find ultimate freedom and fulfillment. A Christ-centered life will produce truly strong fathers and strong daughters for our strength will not come from a moral code, healthy choices, or a good education, but from the risen Lord of all creation Himself.