“Boys will be Boys.” This is the title of a 1935 comedy but it has become a convenient way to comment on boys and men who disappoint those around them by their immature responses to life. Today should it be revised to say, “boys will be men,” because manhood ought to be the goal of every lad younger than 20 — but too often is not?
I’ve been pondering this for some time. With too many developing males, something is diminishing the forward surge. In 1970, men earned 60% of all college degrees. The figure had fallen to 50% by 1980 and by 2006 it was 43%. Women now surpass men in college degrees by almost three to one. (USA stats)
These facts are produced in William J. Bennett’s new book, The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood. For sure, not all men need to go to college. Nevertheless, it can be argued that these few facts alone point to a growing crisis in manhood in western civilization. In a summary sentence Bennett says, “For the first time in history, women are better educated, more ambitious and arguably more successful than men.”
In no way do I set this information out to diminish the laudable accomplishments of women during the 20th century and into the 21st. It is rather a cry of alarm over the shrinking of something we can call healthful manhood in our society. If boys are to be men, growing boys and young men need more help, more prompting, more encouragement than they are getting to “man up.”
Some argue that this critical state of affairs started with the Industrial Revolution of the 17th century when men’s work began to separate boys from their fathers. If so, it is too deep to be fixed by a lecture here or there or even a college course on masculinity. It will require some big and interacting shifts in the notion of true manhood itself.
Whenever it began, it appears to me that local churches — stations of the one universal church of Jesus Christ — have a foremost opportunity to contribute to the needed repair but they must catch the vision for it. They have resources — worshiping communities where all ages can intermingle, teachers of church school (both men and women) to point the way, and opportunities for mature, trustworthy men to share personally in the lives of growing boys and young men. In the Bible, they also have a large stable of heroes to be tapped into — Joseph, Caleb, Joshua, Jeremiah, Daniel, The Apostle Paul, Luke, and many others.
Above all else, they have Jesus, the Messiah, the perfect example of manhood. That fact deserves exploring. I will continue the development of this thought next week.
(FAITHFUL READER: IF YOU HAVE RELEVANT QUESTIONS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST FOR FUTURE BLOGS PLEASE LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW, OR BY E-MAIL. THOUGH I MAY NOT BE ABLE TO RESPOND TO ALL OF THEM, I WOULD BE GLAD TO KNOW WHAT IS ON YOUR MIND)
N.B. Due to a slight technical hitch the wrong version of this post was published earlier. A revised version of that post will now be appearing in instalments. My apologies for any confusion! DNB