I’ve been writing about deaths of despair since evidence of the phenomenon emerged on the national stage. Going back to college, I’ve been involved in ministries targeting exactly the young men most at-risk for alcoholism, drug overdoses, and suicide. And I’m convinced that the more we politicize the crisis rather than personalize it and spiritualize it, the more we’ll miss the mark.

No, I don’t mean to say that policy doesn’t matter. Economic opportunity matters. Prison reform matters. Quality health care matters. But I’ve also seen well-intentioned policies backfire, and I’ve seen governments spend vast sums to no effect.

When it comes to young men who not only never had a father, they never had a single positive male role model in their entire life—or spent any time with a functioning family—how do they possibly know how to sustain a healthy, loving relationship with a young woman?

When it comes to young men without male role models, you’re speaking of young men who not only don’t know how to build a family, they don’t know how to build a career. I’ve written about this before, but many years ago my wife and I were involved in a young adult ministry that—by God’s grace—enjoyed great success in reaching the unchurched kids from the trailer parks in our rural Kentucky community.