The Basement Boys

     I just read an article in Newsweek Magazine by columnist George F. Will entitled "The Basement Boys." It's a sad commentary on the state of American men. Consider some of his observations. Currently, women significantly outnumber men in colleges and universities across the nation. Women now make up a majority of law students, medical students, and doctoral candidates in most academic institutions. More than women, men are increasingly living at home with their parents. Better than half (55%) of men ages 18-24 reside with mom and dad. More than 1/6 of men reach the age of 40 unmarried. Though we lag women in academic achievement, we certainly excel in making trouble. Men are far more likely to drop out of school, become homeless, and commit serious crimes.

     What's going on? What has happened to our men? What accounts for this colossal shift in societal attitude and masculine accomplishment? Well, obviously there are several factors bulldozing the gender landscape. The rise of feminism, the death of industry and manually-oriented jobs, affirmative action, sensitivity training, the storm of sexual harassment lawsuits, feminized public education, pornography, homosexuality, unchecked immigration, and the all-out assault on dear-old dad have played an enormous role in emasculating male initiative and achievement in our nation. The white middle-aged father is the stupidest, laziest, most unethical, befuddled fool on television, and has been since the 1970s. And though these factors have all played their part in dismantling the place of the American man, there is no greater culprit than weak leadership.

     If this attitude and behavior were inherent in the secular culture alone, then the church could point to their folly, the world's foolishness of ignoring clear biblical mandates. We could present our Judeo-Christian model of male leadership as the obvious and superior choice, where men lead with a servant's heart and where their wives and children are the clear beneficiaries of a self-sacrificing paternalism. But we can't. The same problems plaguing the greater American culture have thoroughly infected the church as well. Strong Godly leadership is just as much an endangered species in church pews as it is on main street.

     When George F. Will says "basement boys," he's referring to grown men living at home and playing video games in the basement with their equally adolescent-minded peers, or perhaps watching reruns of "Seinfeld" and "Friends"; a life of perpetual adolescence. Sadly, these "basement boys" get into the church as well, and pitifully, they don't ever accomplish anything noteworthy for the Lord. The Kingdom of God is fighting a raging war against the kingdom of this world for the hearts and minds of people. Souls are being won and lost on this battle field. It takes warriors willing to capture new ground, to risk everything for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. Yes, there will be injuries and suffering may occur. Soldiers get shot. But living in the safety of extended irresponsibility or behind the cover of continual boyhood isn't going to penetrate this world for Christ.

     Weak leaders in the church have allowed our young men to spoil on the vine. The fruit of their potential is never realized because they have not been nurtured or pruned to arrive at masculine maturity. Sadly, many of these young men have never been told in clear terms that they are different from women and that God has specific commands and expectations for them simply because they are men.

     I remember seeing several young men shuffle into church a few years back, sporting tight girl's jeans, running their fingers through shoulder-length hair, and one of them wearing a girly V-neck sweater with a waist belt. Now I realize that I'm a Calvary Chapel Pastor and that we are known for our casual dress and liberty in personal appearance, which is wonderful. But there's a big difference between casual wear and feminine wear. Young Christian men intentionally trying to look like their sisters should set off some alarms.

     Weak leadership says nothing. Weak leadership allows our boys to wallow in a lifestyle of gender confusion and obligation dereliction. Weak leadership pats them on the head and says, "Good boys, at least you're in church on a Sunday." Weak leadership has nothing else to offer in its place.

     As Christian leaders, we need to step up and guide our young men into the role that God intends for them. We are called to raise spiritual warriors, men like Paul and Stephen and Peter, who could look at the brutal cost of serving the Lord and say, "We ought to obey God rather than men." If you're reading this blog and you have any influence over men, I would plead with you to set these young men aside and train them up in the way of the Lord. Show them what God intends and what he has commanded. Teach them the story of David and his mighty men, and all that they did for the Lord. And then translate that physical fight into spiritual fight, teaching them that we wrestle against principalities and powers.

     The world is destroying the God given role of a man, and the American male is in full retreat. He's hiding behind the couch in his parent's basement. Let's not allow that to happen in the church. Jesus has commanded us to be strong leaders for him, so that we can teach the next generation of men to be equally strong. It is no mistake that the Lord told Joshua, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).