Whether one is on board or not, our world is shifting around gender issues at an astounding rate. Often missing from these controversial debates is consideration of the burn marks they are leaving in their wake. One thing being lost in the gender battles is the need for young men to be taught how to be young men.
It can sometimes feel like gender is being erased in our culture and that the idea of gender at all must be an evil and oppressive one. In response, articles about what the Bible says about gender certainly have their place. But we can also look at gender from a pragmatic perspective, focusing on facts that even the most politically correct or combatant voices in this conversation must acknowledge.
Dr. Tony Evans points out in his book Kingdom Man that 70 percent of all prisoners come from fatherless homes, as do approximately 80 percent of all rapists with anger problems. 71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes and 63 percent of all teen suicides occur in homes where the father was either abusive or absent. These are statistics of pandemic proportions.
I see the results played out every day on a neighborhood level. On my podcast, “Behind the Curtain,” pastor Tyler St. Clair talks about growing up in inner-city Detroit: “Out of all of the kids in my neighborhood, my school, and my family, I did not know of one child with a father growing up. That is not an exaggeration.” In another episode, eighteen-year-old Dennis Hammond describes growing up fatherless in inner-city Lansing. All his friends also have no relationship with their dads. We aren’t talking about divorced parents, we are talking about entire communities of people who have zero father presence in their lives whatsoever.
This pandemic of fatherlessness, especially in urban communities, did not happen overnight. For decades the church and well-to-do society have, for the most part, avoided, ignored, and neglected inner-city communities. Our nation systemically enslaved and then oppressed blacks, legally containing them to decaying urban ghettos in the 1960s while whites with resources fled to suburban neighborhoods where blacks weren’t allowed (look up “redlining” if this is new to you). I don’t mention these facts to shame whites today, but so we know the ingredients we are working with and can respond effectively, with grace and without judgment.
When you combine Dr. Evans’s statistics and these anecdotal experiences and multiply nationwide, the result is mind-boggling. Even the federal government and mainstream institutions have noticed and are doing something about it. These secular organizations, most notably the government itself, are simply acknowledging sociological truth and statistical fact – with no one pointing a “politically incorrect” finger at them.
A Fatherhood.gov ad says, “There’s no other type of love like a dad’s love.” This means a mother’s love is not like a father’s love. The same can be said the other way around, that there’s also nothing like a mother’s love. This too is true, of course, but only amplifies the point: masculinity and femininity are both good, unique, and essential. The absence of masculine love has had disastrous consequences, and the current gender wars are taking us to a place where it will be marginalized even further.
The masculinity our young men need to be taught – and see modeled – has nothing to do with football, being able to win a fight, or having prowess with the ladies. These things are machismo, a cheap imitation for masculine strength. The true substance of masculine strength is about fighting with the heart, not the fists. It’s about integrity, sexual fidelity, and promise keeping. It’s about being there as a faithful father and husband – or even as a trustworthy employee. These traits are the fabric a society is built on; without them you have the deviant and destructive behavior we see so often today.
None of these traits will come naturally to a young man – they must be modeled. When they aren’t modeled, that cycle simply repeats itself. The great news is that when they are modeled, a new cycle of masculine strength is born. And let’s not forget how desperately our young women need strong masculine presence in their lives as well. How will they know to value these things in a man if they’ve never seen them in action?
Despite the many attempts to erase or blur gender, efforts are underway at many public schools and secular organizations to teach and model masculinity to young men and women. One agency leading the charge on this is the National Center for Fathering’s WATCH D.O.G.S. program (Dads of Great Students). WATCH D.O.G.S. are fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and other father figures who volunteer for at least one day each year at a participating school. Today more than 5,148 schools in forty-seven states and Washington, DC, participate in WATCH D.O.G.S., and there are similar programs in China, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Barbados. WATCH D.O.G.S.’s goal is to provide positive male role models for the students, demonstrating by their presence that education is important. The program has been celebrated on the Today Show and NPR, and in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and many other media outlets. Point being: popular, mainstream, politically-correct mass media are celebrating the need for men to be men and to model this masculinity to the next generation so that they too can embrace true masculinity as it’s meant to be.
In a watershed time when masculinity has been cheapened by many and erased by others, we must not ignore, neglect, or judge the fatherless but go out to them, modeling as best as we can the perfect masculine love of our Heavenly Father.
Photograph: unsplash / Martin Wessely.