“Where have all the good men gone?” – It’s a question we ask so much it’s become a cliche. The lack of mature men to step into leadership roles in their families, churches, and communities has long been a concern in evangelical Christian circles. And, if Kay S. Hymowitz’s piece in the Wall Street Journal is any indication, the secular world at large is starting to catch on.
In her article, Hymowitz opines that modern society has created a third stage through which guys must pass through on their way to manhood: pre-adulthood (the first two being boyhood and adolescence – another topic for another day).
In her book I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters and Other Guys I’ve Dated (which I don’t recommend for a number of reasons, but Hymowitz quotes in her article – I include the quote here because I think it’s helpful), Julie Klausner describes males who are in this stage as “guys” – too old to be a boy, too immature to be a man.
Here’s how Klausner describes the typical American guy:
“Guys talk about ‘Star Wars’ like it’s not a movie made for people half their age; a guy’s idea of a perfect night is a hang around the PlayStation with his bandmates, or a trip to Vegas with his college friends…. They are more like the kids we babysat than the dads who drove us home.”
Hymowitz goes on to (and I think, correctly) identify popular culture as the driving force behind the normalization of “pre-adulthood”:
For most of us, the cultural habitat of pre-adulthood no longer seems noteworthy. After all, popular culture has been crowded with pre-adults for almost two decades. Hollywood started the affair in the early 1990s with movies like “Singles,” “Reality Bites,” “Single White Female” and “Swingers.” Television soon deepened the relationship, giving us the agreeable company of Monica, Joey, Rachel and Ross; Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer; Carrie, Miranda, et al.
I give you the secular perspective to make a point: Even the unsaved world now acknowledges that real men are all but extinct as a species. They’re tired and fed-up with weak, self-gratifying “guys” – and rightly so. But while it’s apparent to everybody that we have a problem, the secular world can’t offer a workable solution.
Hymowitz goes on to (incorrectly) identify what happened to American manhood as being essentially an economic and sociological problem: Pre-adults are career-focused, with the career being not only a means of earning a living, but an identity by which you are known. In essence, what you do is the same as who you are. For most young men (and pre-adults in general), the career has replaced the family as a means of identity and fulfillment.
And that, of course, is what it does and has always boiled down to – from where do we get our identity, and from what do we derive our fulfillment? But Hymowitz is wrong – it’s not just an economic and sociological problem. It’s a heart issue.
As we have already said, the problem isn’t a new one, and fortunately for us, the Word of God has some solutions.
Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. (Psa 12:1-2)
Here, David is essentially bemoaning the same problem: there are no good men left. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, we are reminded that the problems we face today are really the same problems that mankind has faced since our First Father made the choice not to be the spiritual leader and protector of his family. That’s significant, because sometimes Christians like to engage in a sort of reverse Chronological Snobbery that supposes that things were better “back in the day” (and sometimes, for some things they were). But in reality, things could be pretty horrible back in the day too. It’s in our genes as men to be spineless weasels. It’s one of the reasons we need Jesus.
Secondly, it’s important because the Word of God never gives us a problem without giving us a solution. And David does, in verses 6-7:
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. (Psa 12:6-7)
So the solution is the Word of God. The Word of God is where our focus should be. It’s what should give us our purpose for living. David reiterates this elsewhere in Psalm 119:
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psa 119:9-11)
And then finally, David cuts at the heart of the problem, in the final verse of Psalm 12:
The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted. (Psa 12:8)
So when we exalt vile men – and vile ideas of manhood – in pop culture and public venues, wickedness will abound. This is because society places a premium on conformity. When we glorify such “manly” qualities as insensitivity, over-sensitivity, laziness, workaholism, crudeness, cowardice, anger, and bullying, we should expect a culture of manhood that embraces these attitudes. And I think the opposite is true: if we exalt godly manhood in the cultures of our homes, we will by and large raise godly men.
Finally, here are a few questions that we all need to ask ourselves, whether we are striving to grow more Christlike ourselves, or are seeking to raise the godly men of future generations:
- What’s the “value system” currently in place in your home? Is a high value put on godly character and loving the Lord, or is success determined based on a career, financial goals, athletic excellence, etc.? The set of values that drive your home life will be the set of values that become important to your children as they grow into adults.
- Who gets more input into your home life? Pop culture, or the Word of God? Your web browser or your Bible? Your Facebook/Twitter feed, or your Bible app?
- What kind of role models get exalted in your home? This can be anyone from the star of a sitcom to a godly grandparent. Remember, you get what you ask for, and you ask for what you exalt.