The Peril of American Manhood

Below is an excerpt from the book I’m reading this week- Darrin Patrick’s Church Planter. (from my read a book a week plan) One of the things I have serious passion about is restoring what it means to be a man. I don’t mean restoring it to be defined by outdoor recreation, sports, cars, the woman on your arm, or your ability to mask your emotions. Manhood should be defined by one’s ability to live out the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7) By how well one serves, loves, gives, responds in humility, meekness, and peace. While being able to bless and not retaliate on our enemies. 

The current status of men in our culture is in desperate need of revival. Manhood is in need of the power of God to turn the hearts of our nations’ men to be the Fathers, Husbands, and contributor’s to the glory of God that they were called to be. We need men who have a revelation of Jesus. We need men who have passion like the disciples, leadership like David, the work ethic of Noah, and the faithfulness of Daniel. I can only pray that God gives me the grace for biblical manhood to be alive and restore in my own life.

The excerpt below should break your heart.

Ladies pray for the men in our nation, we need you. Men let us embraces the freedom and power granted us at the cross and rise up with a cry for our creator that provokes a generation of men still trying to be boys. 

“We live in a world full of males who have prolonged their adolescence. They are neither boys nor men. They live, suspended as it were, between childhood and adulthood, between growing up and being grown-ups. Let’s call this kind of male Ban, a hybrid of both boy and man. Ban is juvenile because there has been an entire niche created for him to live in the lusts of youth. The accompanying culture not only tolerates this behavior but encourages it and endorses it. (Consider magazines like Maxim or movies like Wedding Crashers.) This kind of male is everywhere, including the church and even, frighteningly, vocational ministry. Ban may be a frightening reality in the church, but he is the best thing that ever happened to the video game industry. Almost half (about 48 percent) of American males between the ages of eighteen to thirty-four play video games every day—for almost three hours. The average video game buyer is thirty-seven years old. In 2005, 95 percent of computer game buyers and 84 percent of console game buyers were over the age of eighteen. Halo 3 grossed over three hundred million dollars in the U.S. in its first week, and more than one million people played Halo 3 on Xbox Live in the first twenty hours. Astonishingly, 75 percent of American heads-of-households play computer and video games.

It may be troubling to look at how Ban spends his money, but it is appalling to see how he relates to women. One needs only to follow Ban to “da club” to see what he thinks of and wants from the opposite sex. Again the stats tell the story. There are 9.7 million Americans living with an unmarried different sex partner and 1.2 million Americans living with a same-sex partner. Every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography, 28,258 Internet users view pornography, and 372 Internet users type adult search terms into search engines. Every thirty-nine minutes a new pornographic video is created in the United States. In the United States, 1.3 women are raped every minute. That results in seventy-eight rapes each hour, 1,872 rapes each day, 56,160 rapes each month, and 683,280 rapes each year. One out of every three American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. The United States has the world’s highest rape rate of the countries that publish such statistics. It’s four times higher than Germany, thirteen times higher than England, and twenty times higher than Japan.

Unfortunately, many young women today have given up trying to find Mr. Right. They are coming to the stark reality that they are probably going to have to settle for Mr. So-So. Ban is good at selling himself as a man, but the reality is that he is just a “man wannabe.” Ban typically doesn’t like absolute truth, but he proves its existence through his continual devolution into junior-high behavior and its accompanying consequences. It is a transcultural reality that assuming the responsibilities of husband and father makes a boy into a man, but Ban doesn’t like responsibility, so he extends his adolescence as long as humanly possible. And by delaying having a family, which is the rite of many cultures’ progress into manhood, Ban is able to set his focus squarely and supremely on himself. As Ban puts off adulthood, he also puts off marriage. Why bother with a wife and a mortgage when you can live in your parents’ basement, play video games all day, participate in adult sports leagues at night, and barhop every weekend? Hymowitz notes that in 1970, 69 percent of twenty-five-year-old and 85 percent of thirty-year-old white men were married; in 2000 only 33 percent and 58 percent were, respectively. And the data suggests this trend is not slowing. I think this is one of the reasons young men love watching mixed martial arts. They project themselves onto these “superheroes,” men who are everything they are not: incredibly disciplined, courageous risk-takers who have the genuine respect of their peers. It’s as if watching real men in danger taps into the brain chemistry responsible for what we call masculinity. Curiously, the testosterone and adrenaline that encourage men to seek danger and risk are rarely tapped into for honorable purposes like lifelong marriage and parenting. Instead Ban settles for virtual reality and virtual relationships.

Some men cease fondling themselves, the game controller, or the TV remote and actually participate in adult sports leagues, including the child playground game kickball. Perhaps one major catalyst for young men’s love for recreational sports is that it replicates the kind of challenge and competitiveness sorely lacking from their own personal, professional, and spiritual lives. One author called team sports a “civilized substitute for war,” which would explain why so many men only seem to come alive emotionally on the inside and feel connected socially on the outside to their fellow “weekend warriors.” It has become mainstream to be an adult boy. The masculine journey from boyhood to manhood lies largely in the transition from engaging physically by inflicting pain to engaging emotionally by absorbing emotional pain and persevering through it. Boys must learn how to use their physical strength more passively than actively as they progress to manhood and become what David Gilmore calls “real men.” Real men “give more than they take . . . are generous, even to the point of sacrifice.” Being a man is about being tough and tender. I have three beautiful daughters who have not only stolen my heart but seem to walk around with it and toss it back and forth between them like a plaything, all the while taunting me with the fact that I’ll never be able to get it back from them! But I also have a son, Drew, and because of my keen awareness of and pastoral interaction with the cultural influence of Bans, I know that my work is cut out for me when it comes to raising a godly man. As with all of us dads with similar aspirations, my only hope is the Holy Spirit. So I recently wrote a little prayer that reflects the kind of men we need. Drew and I pray this prayer together almost every night. It is a prayer for him and for me: God, make me a man with thick skin and a soft heart. Make me a man who is tough and tender. Make me tough so I can handle life. Make me tender so I can love people. God, make me a man. All of this is to say that we have a couple of generations of males who were not raised by men, and the result is a prolonged male adolescence. In a culture where the influence of godly men is desperately needed, this void results in a legitimate cultural crisis.”

Patrick, Darrin (2010-08-12). Church Planter (Kindle Locations 193-213). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

The Courage of Sticks and Pots

“Trust the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” A proverb often heard during times of indecision, stress and or fear. Growing up as a teenager and on into my adult years, this verse became less a Biblical proverb and more a sentimental adage to make me feel better. It would often be during times of existential crisis when the robotic response would come. I would have an idea where I felt like God wanted me to go, or what I felt like God wanted me to do, but had no plan of execution. Deflated by lack of inspiration I’d go to a pastor, leader, or friend and vent my angst. At times I could time their sage like response, “Well Zack you got to trust the Lord. In fact there is a verse: Trust the Lord with all your heart…” Finally I got fed up with the lack of application, threw my hands up and said, “What does that even mean! Great verse, but it doesn’t help me decide or even hint at what choice to make!”

As life has progressed I have learned to love the wisdom of that verse. Wisdom I learned only through actually trusting the Lord, versus trying to find the wisdom in His direction. It was never easy, and never is. In fact it always seems that just when I think I’m about to do what I feel God has called me to do, He stops me and rearranges my life so that it seems harder than the plan I previously had. Yet somehow it always ends up better than anything I could have ever done. It’s a lesson I learned most from one of Christendom’s favorite Sunday school characters: Gideon. I will now digress to telling his tale.

Israel had become a nation occupied by a vicious people from Midian. These Midianites had brought the nation of Israel to its knees by nearly over taking the country. Near where the Midianites occupied in a town near Ophrah was a coward hiding in a ditch trying to do his chores out of plain sight for fear of the people from Midian. Sobbing at the terror of being outside of his house at all, he quickly beat the wheat against the stones trying to salvage just enough to eat. As he did this an angel appeared above him. Smiling and confident the angel called out to this man, “Gideon! The Lord is with you. O mighty man of valor!!” Gideon looked up and saw the angel standing above him. He paused for a minute or two in both awe and bewilderment. “Excuse me; did you just call me a mighty man of valor?” Gideon wiped his face with his fear soaked shirt, and climbed out of the ditch. “Please, if the Lord is with us, why have these barbarians from Midian over run us? And where are all the wonderful promises God promised? I mean you brought us up from Egypt, but now we are ruined again. The Lord you say is with me, though He seems to have forsaken me!”

Gideon then paused. That statement “mighty man of valor” had emboldened him in such a way that shocked even him. Ten seconds ago he was an anxious mess in a ditch and now he’s standing up to the angel of the Lord. He gathered himself together. “Is there hope for us to be free from the Medians’?” The angel’s eyes turned familiar. They went from angelic brightness, to the blazing fire he had heard about when Moses looked into the bush years ago. “Go Gideon in the might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” Gideon’s stomach dropped into a knot. “Wait wait wait! My clan is the weakest of the clan’s. I am the least in all of my father’s house. I was just hiding in a ditch, sobbing with fear of the Midianites. You want me to face them? And defeat them?” The Lord starred him directly in the eyes and said, “I will be with you. You will strike them as one man.”

A year had passed, Gideon returned to making sacrifices and rallying people in His area by telling them about his encounter. The Lord gave him signs from heaven to embolden him all the more. He sent messages to all the other clans and tribes in the region. Thousands came. He labored for months, and grew in courage. The day came when Gideon stood before 32,000 soldiers that he had rallied because of his encounter. He went to the Lord and said; “you promised us victory at my hand, bless us as we go to war” Then God did something shocking. “I’ll help you Gideon, but this is too many men. They may be foolish enough to think it was their own might. Tell them that if they are afraid that they can leave.”

Gideon, puzzled by the command, quieted everyone down. He stood on top of a hill, cupped his hands over his mouth and yelled, “Anyone who is afraid or trembling at the thought of war can leave now!” As he dropped his hands to his side, he witnessed a dust cloud as 22,000 men turning and fleeing the area. Frustrated he looked up to the sky at a loss. Once the dust had settled 10,000 men remained. Feeling like quitting, Gideon thought back to that day when the Lord called him out of that ditch. He remembered the promises the Lord made Him. Every bit of logic and reason told him going to war when you are outnumbered 5 to 1 is a bad idea. Still he chooses to trust and obey.

The next day Gideon gathered his 10,000 men to discuss strategy, and break them up into companies. He went to the Lord and asked for His blessing. The Lord responded,” Gideon there are still too many.” The Lord then gave Gideon the strangest of instructions. He told him to send the 10,000 down to the river to drink. Then he told him to send home anyone that drank lying on their belly. Well apparently drinking while lying on your belly was en vogue because 9,700 men drank their water as such. At the sight of so many Gideon threw himself to the ground in disgust. “We are ruined!!” He began to sobbing into his hands the way he had a year ago in the ditch. “Why God did you lead me this far, only to drop me back into despair!?” Still Gideon decided to trust and obey.

Gideon ordered the belly drinkers wearily to go home. He wiped his eyes, took a deep breath and sighed as he looked at the 300 remaining men standing at the bottom of the hill. The men looked at each other baffled. Many thinking maybe Gideon was more crazy than inspired; most sticking around out of morbid curiosity. Walking down the hill Gideon tried to remember back to the day the Lord called him out of the ditch. He tried to regain some semblance of the courage he had that day. Looking at the 300 men, knowing they are about to face nearly 50,000, courage was hard to muster. He began to pray and remind God of His promises to deliver Israel from the Midianites at his hand. He cries out in front of the men; “God there is no way this can work, give us wisdom, and show us what to do!” The Lord answers.

“You and your men drop your armor, swords, and weapons. Get some sticks, pots, and a few trumpets instead.” Gideon is at his wits end. “WHAAAT?! The God of Moses must be cruel. He must think of our lives as a joke, and us His play things. Why does He command such madness!?” He looks at the 300 curious faces in front of him and sighs. “Look guys, God has given me a strategy. I know it’s His a plan from the One who delivered us from Egypt, but I can’t for the life of me understand it’s wisdom. But you agreed to be here, and I am your commander, so here is what we are going to do…” He instructs the men, deciding to trust and obey.

Night came, and they grabbed their sticks as torches, clay pots, and trumpets. They waited until the Midianites went to sleep. They crept up the hill just outside their camp. Gideon met them there. He had been standing there all night replaying the encounter he had with the angel. Over and over he recited what the Lord had told him. He looked out over the sea of sleeping Midianites and looked back to his 300 faithful slowly climbing up the hill. He pondered calling it all off citing the pure absurdity of what the Lord had commanded. Still Gideon decided to trust and obey.

He lifted his arms to the sky and signaled to them to take heart. They crowded into a big huddle a top the hill. He looked them all into the eyes with surging confidence. “Guys, tonight Israel is free from Midian oppression. Tonight we break the pots, light the sticks, and blow the trumpets and victory will be His! Tonight we obey the Lord’s instructions, and trust Him.” They broke up into three companies and went to different parts of the surrounding hills to surround the camp. Then all at once they did as the Lord commanded. They broke the pots, lit the sticks, and blew the trumpets.

The strangest thing followed. The Midian soldiers woke up in terror at the sounds of being surrounded. So terrified that they ran out of their tents and killed everyone they saw, until they were dead. The Midianites committed suicidal war on itself and was thus defeated. Gideon stood agape along with his men. What was originally going to be a bloody battle of 32,000 on 50,000 turned out to be a complete victory without a single Israelite lifting a sword. God fulfilled His promise, in such an unusual yet effective way. Gideon and his men could do nothing but fall down in worship.

The story of Gideon is not one of valor, strength, or even emotional stability. It’s one of simply doing two things: trust and obey. It’s a story of putting our trust into the plans of a sovereign God. It never seems to make sense or be easy in the process.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Selah