The next startling ingredient in my mental stew came from Sarah Mesle, an English professor at UCLA. Recently she wrote an article in the Los Angeles Review of Books that had to do with role models in Young Adult fiction. While she sees many strong female role models there she doesn’t find the same for boys. She says the boys in the current literature of this genre typically are “careless, corrupt, incompetent, sometimes even cruel, and only rarely kind.” She asks, “Are these barely contained monsters really the best we can imagine?” She went on to say that current books raise the question, “Are there any good men? And how can a boy become a good man if he doesn’t know what that would mean?”
All of this has caused me to wonder, “what’s happening to men in our society?” Are these merely anecdotal anomalies or is there, in fact, a troubling trend occurring? Indications are strong that there is a serious and unsettling shift under way in our culture. Psychologist and author Dr. Leonard Sax has written a book entitled Boys Adrift in which he argues that “a combination of social and biological factors is creating an environment that is literally toxic to boys.” Guy Garcia, in his book, The Decline of Men: How The American Male Is Tuning Out, Giving Up and Flipping Off His Future, says he is concerned that guys in this country “are falling behind” and that as a group “men are losing their way.”
There are many who see the change in our society as a good thing. They decry the mistreatment of women in the largely male dominated societies of the past and cheer the liberation and elevation of women in our society. I agree that more opportunity and freedom for women is a good thing. But I have concerns about where this is all going. My guess is this will turn out to have a significant “be careful what you wish for” element for women. I think it likely they will end up glad for new opportunities but deeply distressed about the state of men around them and the effect that has on relationships, on marriages and on families. The Bible tells us that in order for marriage and family to be healthy strong men are needed, men who lead, men who initiate love and know what it means to give up self to serve, men who become an example for wives and children. Our current cultural milieu is not encouraging the development of such men and the result will be considerable heartache and deep frustration for everyone, but especially for women. The New American Standard translation of 1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith; act like men, be strong.” Act like men. In this culture how is anyone going to know what it means to “act like men” if those men are self-absorbed and immature? Why is this happening and what is to be done about it? Those questions are not simple, but stay tuned, for I will shortly take a stab at them, at least to some extent.