THIS is not about THIS
As we begin our search for ways to address the problems of boys in crisis, we need to start with a disclaimer; an explanation might be a better word. We believe “THIS” is not about “THIS”. That’s a phrase I regularly use when talking about spiritual things. It means that there’s always something going on in the spiritual world that frames the physical reality that we experience around us. So, what you see happening is not always what is really happening.
One of the classic examples of this is the story of Elijah and his servant in 2 Kings 6. It’s a story about the prophet, Elisha and his servant. One morning, they are surrounded by the army of the King of Aram. Elisha’s servant panics and tells his master. Elisha’s response is “those who are with US are more than those who are with THEM.” Then he prays that his servant’s eyes would be open and the servant sees they are actually surrounded by a host of angels who are ready to attack their enemy.
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We have a Judeo-Christian worldview which means that we believe the Bible is God’s inspired Word and it is inerrant. It presents absolute truth and is given as a gift to mankind so we will know how to live our lives while on this earth. We understand that you may not share that worldview. But we can offer you no hope or plan for raising your boys in an intentional way apart from God’s Word and the help of the Holy Spirit. If you’re skeptical of our ideas because of that, I might ask you to try them anyway.
We assume that if you’re reading this newsletter, you're interested in becoming more intentional in your parenting. What have you got to lose?
Our initial newsletter communicated the following problem statement that we aim to solve:
“Boys are failing as indicated through a variety of noted trends and statistics leading to a state of perpetual boyhood and failure to mature into responsible biblical manhood.“
The purpose of the next few newsletters will be to begin to break down this problem statement and provide supporting evidence for these claims. It is known that great companies spend 2/3rds of their time focusing on ensuring the problem statement they have is accurate and we want to follow suit.
This newsletter will focus on the first part of the problem statement: “Boys are failing”. In regard to boys, we’re mostly addressing males ages 5-18. Because we are focused on spiritual formation the primary grade ages of 5-12 are critical.
In his book, “Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions”, George Barna states,
“Research regarding all facets of moral and spiritual development-whether related to worldview, beliefs or behavior – shows that such development (moral and spiritual character) starts as early as age two. The process then progresses rather quickly. Social scientists have known for years that the moral foundations of children are generally determined by the time the individual reaches age nine. Our research confirms a parallel outcome in the spiritual dimension: By age nine: most children have their spiritual moorings in place.”
So, there’s no time to lose and we have get started now if we’re trying to impact the future generation of men.
“As indicated through a variety of noted trends and statistics…”
Oh boy(s)! Right now, I’m surrounded by about 14 books all on this topic. They refer to the ‘problem’ as “male distress’, ‘boy crisis’, ‘perpetual boyhood’, ‘lost boys’, and a variety of other terms. They have a variety of different angles and specialized backgrounds, but they all have statistics galore to back up the problem! Now, most of these statistics are in comparison to girls. I don’t know what other group you could make comparisons with, right? I mean, the issue is clearly a gender issue. At no point are we insinuating that young girls are the problem — we WANT girls to do well. We want them to do very well. But, as Jordan Peterson said in a recent message to the churches, “Anything that devastates young men will eventually devastate young women.”
Education: Boys get worse grades and graduate less than girls in both high school and college.
Lifestyle: Boys over 12 are twice as likely to have substance abuse problems or addictions, and 90% of federal inmates are men.
Church: Only 39% of churchgoers are male
Health: Men are 3.88x more likely to commit suicide and four times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
Categories of Root Causes
To be clear, we know that this is a very complex problem. Our goal is to do our best to identify the correct problem statements and root causes to identify an appropriate solution.
PLEASE PROVIDE FEEDBACK, QUESTIONS, CONCERNS, OR ADDITIONAL STATISTICS TO HELP PUT US ON A BETTER PATH.
At this point in time, we believe that the root causes of all or (most) of these failings nicely fit into 3 divisions of categories:
(70%) Deprivation of intentional fathers in the home
(20%) Disengagement of our boys from the current cultural education structures
(10%) Distortion and denial around biblical manhood; leading to the demonization of masculinity
The culmination of these three things leads to one other D - the DEMORALIZATION of boys. Let’s start with the hottest and most important category on the list: deprivation of intentional fathers in the home.
Deprivation of Dads
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.4 million children, 1 in 4, live without a biological, step, or adoptive father in the home.
In James Dobson’s seminal work on raising boys, “Bringing Up Boys”, he indicates that the weakening of the family and the absence of fathers are the primary reasons boys are in trouble today. In the more recent work, “The Boy Crisis”, Farrell and Gray state, “The boy crisis’ primary cause is dad-deprived boys. Dad deprivation stems primarily from the lack of father involvement, and secondarily from devaluing what a father contributes when he IS involved.”
Jon Tyson recently wrote a book called “The Intentional Father”. In it, he lays out the following five types of fathers:
Irresponsible fathers: The ones who do not take the responsibility for providing and protecting the human life they brought into the world
Ignorant fathers: The ones that do not know what they are doing and are present but are doing damage.
Inconsistent fathers: The ones torn by ambition who love their kids but continue getting pulled away; leading to emotional instability in their children.
Informed fathers: The ones who try to get it right but apply general principles that many times miss the mark on the specific heart needs of each individual.
Intentional fathers: The ones who understand their children's hearts and needs.
We felt like this was a great model to move forward with and is why we used “intentional father” in the root cause category.
So, the two big questions are:
Do fathers in the home matter?
Why are boys deprived of intentional fathers?
Almost all research points to question number 1 being yes. Research by the National Fatherhood Initiative shows that when a child is raised in a father-absent home they are:
4X greater risk of poverty
More likely to go to prison
Twice as likely to suffer from obesity
Twice as likely to drop out of school
More likely to commit crime
More likely to face abuse and neglect.
And much more!
What is more interesting to us is question #2.
We currently have the following three reasons for causing the lack of intentional fathers:
The Disintegration of The Nuclear Family
Ultimately, each of the types of fathers from Jon Tyson falls into certain categories because of what I would call Disordered Desires. Tim Keller says that “what you love most in the moment is what controls your actions at that moment.” Disordered Desires are what some might call your “hierarchy of values”. All sin ultimately stems from a deception, usually from the Devil, world, or flesh that does not have our God at the top of our desires. When our priorities of the heart are not straight, destruction usually lies in wait.
A good example of this is the inconsistent father who has become a workaholic. There is nothing wrong with loving work. The problem comes when you love it more than your family or God. If this is out of order, it can be destructive to you and your family.
Our argument is that anyone that is not an intentional or informed father, is that way due to a disorder of their desires.
The Disintegration of the Nuclear Family
These disordered desires on a larger scale quickly begin to affect the culture. The general reproach of God and his truth has been devastating to the father’s role in the home.
The nuclear family is “a household consisting of marriage between a man and a woman and their children all in one household dwelling.
”When I say disintegration, I mean that this kind of household has become less prevalent in western society and in some instances, actively fought against as a “good or necessary thing”.
Here are some of the primary reasons we attribute to the demise of the nuclear family:
Post-Christian Culture and the deviation from absolute truth
The sexual revolution of the 60s and the feminist movement that ensued
The rise of divorce and bias in the justice system
Role reversals between genders- in the workplace.
The rise of the Anti-Family narrative from Critical Theorists
One of my favorite movies is “Mrs. Doubtfire”. It’s about a struggling dad trying to stay connected to his children through divorce. The portrayal of the man by Robin Williams is enough to recommend it if you’ve never seen it. But the movie’s theme of a father’s importance in the life of a child is very relevant. In 1993 it was a message seldom heard, much like women sexually assaulting men in the workplace as told in the movie “Disclosure” the following year. The problem here is primarily divorce although there can be other reasons that the father figure is not present in the home. And then, there’s the whole issue of a father being just emotionally absent even though he is present. All of these problems lead to dad-depravation.
This final category wraps many issues together in one. These are:
Lack of education
Others exist as well but these are some of the primary elements in the stories of men who have abandoned their families.
Nothing New Under the Sun
As we discussed the problem statement and considered the path we would take to bring resources and ideas to help solve it, we were stopped by the idea that these problems are not new to our times. They have existed throughout the 6,000 years of humankind and our history on this planet.
In a book text called Family and Civilization, Dr. Carl Zimmerman identified eleven “symptoms of final decay” observable in the fall of Greek and Roman civilizations 1
No fault divorces.
“Birth dirth”; increased disrespect for parenthood and parents
Meaningless marriage rites/ceremonies
Defamation of past national heroes
Acceptance of alternate marriage forms
Widespread attitudes of feminism, narcissism, hedonism
Propagation of antifamily sentiment
Acceptance of most forms of adultery
Increased juvenile delinquency
Common acceptance of all forms of sexual perversion.
Ironically, this text was published in 1947! We are there, folks!
All these things are contrary to the will of God. It’s sin. The Bible says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”(Ephesians 6:12) The battle is spiritual and it has been going on since the beginning of time. That’s the battle we have to fight. That’s one of the reasons we need our boys to understand biblical manhood. We need them to fight a spiritual battle.
Not only are we fighting a spiritual battle, we are nearing the end of that battle and our enemy (the devil, Satan, Lucifer) is in final assault mode. That means that before we WILL have the victory, there will be a final assault on the things of God in these days. The Bible calls them ‘latter days’ and they also frame the fight we are in:
I’m a student of eschatology, which is the study of the end times from a biblical perspective. And although we are told that we do not know the date and time of the rapture, which is the removal of the church from the face of the planet, we are given plenty of indicators about the season and timing of that event. Let’s take Timothy 3: 1-5 as an example:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
Matthew 23: 4-14 is another selected passage. Here Jesus himself speaks of the signs of the end of the church age:
And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away [a] and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Of specific note in my estimation is the rise of lawlessness in the world. 2 Thessalonians 2:9 refers to the Anti-Christ, the mastermind of all things contrary to God in those days, as “the lawless one.” Verse 3 of the same reference calls him “the man of lawlessness”. The other point is that there will be a great deception in those days. References made to end times by Jesus commonly begins with “do not be deceived…”
Since the beginning of time, Satan has been a master at the art of deception and that will still be his primary strategy in latter days. And so we see these two forces at work in the world, deception and lawlessness, breaking down the institutions of marriage and the nuclear family. In Matthew 24: 37 Jesus describes the days of his return like the days of Noah. The Bible tells us exactly what those days were like. The total depravity of mankind was so vile that God decided to destroy them! Once again, these will be the signs that the time of Christ’s return is at hand.
My point is saying of all this is that we are also caught up in a spirit of the age, which is clearly working against the nuclear family and infecting it with moral decay. That is closely connected to the issue of dad deprivation.
But that doesn’t mean we should throw our hands up in surrender. Quite the contrary. For those who are paying attention, we need to fight this fight with an eye towards our greatest chance of survival: Our future men. Raising boys to become godly men is our goal. It is our best strategy to win this battle and we must win it for the sake of future generations.