In one breakfast of scanning the newspaper this week I came across these stories:
1. The Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker wrote a moving editorial regarding Charleston church murderer Dylann Roof. He’s the self-professed white supremacist who slaughtered 9 African Americans while attending a Bible study at their church. (Just typing those words makes me both sick and angry.)
Roof may want the public to believe his insistence that he wanted to start a race war, or that he has justified grievances against blacks he supposes are the cause of his life of misery and social rejection.
Parker eloquently lifts the veil to the real truth of what drove him to this awful act:
“…even a cursory review of his short resume suggests that what Roof really wanted was attention. He wanted to be the somebody he never was. Despite our insistence that there must be some explanation—a “broken brain,” as a forensic psychiatrist proposed— there may be little more to Roof’s story than a sad young man who marinated in one existential crisis after another until deciding that killing people was a certain route to self possession.”
Like all lives, Roof’s matters; he just doesn’t think so. That doubt drove him to indescribable violence.
2. Just a few pages away I read the awful story of six Colorado Springs males, ages 16-19, who sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl. The girl was led to believe she was going to play video games at the apartment one of the men. She used the bathroom, and when she came out, the room was full of guys twice her age ready to prove their “manhood.”
What drives guys like this to go after defenseless girls? A culture that convinces them that they are the center of the universe—It’s All About Me. The way they demonstrate their manliness is to control, intimidate, assault and demean anyone who is “less” than them. A young girl-on-her-own will do. She’s a safe target.
The real truth is the complete opposite! Men who are truly convinced of their significance have no need to flaunt it. Men who are genuinely assured of their own value elevate and celebrate the value of others—especially women who are at risk at the hands of predators.
As awful as their behavior is, these guys do matter. They do have the potential for bringing security and blessing into the lives of others. They just don’t think so. In fact, chances are they’ve never met an adult male who does. So they bring destruction instead.
3. On the same page as Parker’s editorial, Cal Thomas proposed faith-based solutions to the enormous surge in gun violence and murders in Chicago in the past year; Chicago’s total being more than in New York and Los Angeles combined.
“Most of the violence is gang-related,” Thomas writes. “ Fatherless kids seeking a sense of belonging and family are attracted to gangs they believe will give them both.”
He poetically quotes Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics from the musical “West Side Story” to describe the thrill for lost boys to be accepted as a gang member:
“You got brothers around, You’re a family man!
You’re never alone, You’re never disconnected!
You’re home with your own; When company’s expected,
You’re well protected!”
Man, those words sound so enticing to teen boys who just want some older guy to say, “You matter.”
One former LA rapper named The Game, part of a coalition of religious groups working to resolve his city’s gang struggles, has this to say, “Because the sad truth that no one wants to face is, before we can get our lives to matter to anyone else…We have to show that our lives matter to us!!!!”
The melt-down of families stuck in poverty has a terrible impact; the proliferation and ease of access to guns in the hands of not-yet-men is inexplicable; the ravages of a drug-addicted culture have a predictably deadly result.
But the core hunger of these young males is that while they matter enormously (to the God who created them) they just don’t think so. So they’ll do anything for the acceptance of a legendary god-like gang leader who gives them the slightest attention.
Like women, men have the option of bringing primarily good or evil, blessing or destruction, to the world. And of course, there are examples of both men and women who choose either. But the clear distinction is this—men bring a disproportionate level of violence to the world than women do.
Just like the stories above from my paper, almost every local, national or global news story of violence you and I read will confirm the same. Compared to women, men cause out-sized pain and suffering in our world. It’s undeniable and it’s awful. It’s one reason men matter. Because many of them are killing us!!
But I am utterly convinced those same men have the opposite potential for an equally significant impact for blessing, provision and protection. As a Christian minister my conviction is that nothing provides a foundation of significance for men (or women) more than knowing these two truths:
- The God of the universe made you on purpose and for a purpose
- Jesus, the Son of God, died for you even though you may not believe it
These two truths can change everything in a man’s life when he finally believes them.
Men matter; they just don’t think so. Today’s news confirms it. Tomorrow’s will, too.
Our violent world desperately needs men who are convinced they matter for reasons far deeper than power, control, or destruction. When they do they will be freed to use their strength, not for harm, but for the benefit of others.
My greatest joy in life is my family. I know, that sounds like the comment you’re supposed to make as a man and father. All I can say is I literally shake my head in wonder at the family I have: my wife Beryl; my daughter Barclay and son-in-law Vince, their four daughters, Bella, Brynn, Brooke and Blake; my son Alec, my son Conor and daughter-in-law Bonnie, their daughter Gemma and son Calvin. Every one of them is a genuine gift. Beyond that, I have a calling that I live out through Peregrine Ministries. It is to help men: Understand their identity in Christ, Embrace their role as men, and Live out their God-given calling in life. Bottom line is I’m convinced men matter and I want to help them live life on purpose.