This documentary means well but steers too much into evangelism rather than offering a portrayal of fatherhood that welcomes viewers of all faiths. Show Me the Father is supposed to be about exploring people's relationships with their fathers, good or bad. And it initially seems like it will predominately discuss what makes someone a good father -- or how fathers impact their children's lives into adulthood. To be fair, the film does present the amazing and surprising story of NFL coach Sherman Smith discovering that one of the players he mentored, Deland McCullough, is actually his biological son, further strengthening their bond. But the film's interesting, heartwarming, and moving stories about experiences with fatherhood are drowned out by its real goal, which is to evangelize to viewers about Jesus Christ. For Christians who are looking for entertainment that aligns with their beliefs, Show Me the Father will be fine to watch with their teens. But for people who either don't ascribe to religious dogma or don't ascribe to religious/spiritual beliefs, the film might be grating, since the stories shared often intersect with an "altar call" of sorts to viewers to accept Jesus as their lord and savior.
This brand of Christianity may also not seem very inviting in a racial context. Although several of the interview subjects are Black NFL players, the film was made by and with White conservative leaders and organizations, including the Kendrick Brothers and Jim Daly and his organization Focus on the Family. The Rev. Billy Graham is also name-dropped, further aligning the film with conservative ideology. The statistics shared about fatherhood's importance in the family are those used by many conservative outlets as a way to solidify the paternalistic idea of men being a dominant force in the household. Data points mentioned in the film, such as one stating that fatherless children are 14 times more likely to commit rape, are supposedly taken from the Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, which was completed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 1996, based on data gathered between 1993 and 1995. Show Me the Father is being released in 2021: It's disingenuous to use data that's over 20 years old, much less present it without any real analysis. Even worse is using the data without addressing the roles that race and racism, class, and education play in children's home lives. For instance, during the development of the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, published in 2010, HHS for the first time included racial differences in maltreatment rates of children and found that maltreatment rates of White children decreased as maltreatment rates of Black children increased. Which is not to say that Black families are inherently more violent -- rather that racial, economic, and cultural differences may exacerbate the public health stressors that face non-White families more than White families. And White families might have more access to help than non-White families. The film could connect with more people if it focused solely on humanistic beliefs about what makes a good father (and a good person, in general). Instead, its goal seems to be to convert, rather than inspire, which makes it a tough watch for some.