And they haven’t been for some time. A few years ago, I brought in The National Center for the Development of Boys (which is headquartered at The McCallie School for Boys in Chattanooga, TN) to speak to us at St. Thomas’. The audience almost filled the church — and they were mostly moms of boys. That night, I marveled at the women who came. The presenters marveled at the women who came. The moms know their boys need help. They see it. They are on the front lines and they are looking for any coaching, knowledge, training, or insight — anything to help the boys they love.
According to The National Center for the Development of Boys, boys in traditional education make up 85% of discipline problems, 75% of students with learning difficulties, 67% of D’s and F’s given, 55% of high school dropouts, and only 40% of college undergraduates. The criminal justice statistics boggle the mind, they are so weighted toward men and boys. Casual observation sees boys and young men disconnected and disengaged.
This past weekend, we all saw the news of two horrible, tragic mass shootings. Both of them were committed by disengaged, young, white men who had, somewhere along the line, been radicalized to a murderous degree. We have seen some of them radicalized by radical Islam, some by radical white supremacy, some by radical leftist thought, and some by one of many other frightening ideologies. The atrocities they have committed have been stunning, sickening, and horrifying. Somewhere beneath the din of political tribes at war with one another over one issue or another are real families like yours and mine whose scars will never heal in this lifetime. As a father, I couldn’t even imagine. I don’t want to even try and imagine.
What Not to Do
Of course, we could do what most folks are doing — unsheathe our digital swords and go to war for whatever political tribe we favor on social media. To be honest, that has over time, proven to be a colossal waste of time and energy. Don’t we do that every time something like this happens? Where has it landed us? Increased political hatred, less discourse, more dehumanization, and lower odds that we will all find some common ground and act on it. We play ourselves right into the hands of the people who benefit by political manipulation. It feeds the very destruction we see.
What to Do
But we can do something else — something much more productive, healing, fructifying, and reflective of the Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We, as a church and a school — together and unified — can renew our energy toward mission. We can seek out young, disaffected, disengaged boys and young men and give them something to be a part of. We can bring them in and show them a better way- a truer way.
We can learn of their struggles, alienation, temptations, and difficulties. We can help them — we can help them as clergy, dads, moms, teachers, administrators, staff, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We don’t need to wait for another mass shooting to do this. The disengagement, disenchantment with life, disconnection with others, depression, and anxiety of boys are important problems on their own. Both what we saw last week and the epidemic of self-harm we see among boys today are the extreme ends of these problems.
Darkness… Or Light?
Presidential candidate (and Houston native) Marianne Williamson is an odd duck. No doubt about it. She’s right about one thing, though. There is a darkness over the land — today’s political rhetoric is a symptom of that darkness but it transcends politics. Sometimes it takes an odd duck to show us the truth. As Christianity recedes in importance in the West (or becomes just another option in our overly crowded lives), it’s not simply church attendance that is affected. The light recedes as well, showing us what is underneath.
Where is the light? It’s right here — right here at St. Thomas’- just as it is in churches all over this country. Have we lost the courage and confidence to shine that light? I fear we have; but my hope is that that loss is temporary. Our sons are looking to us. The mission of God in Our Lord Jesus Christ compels us. That is the light that shines in the darkness — and the darkness cannot overcome it. That light must capture and compel us once more.
— David Browder