A lot of these thoughts aren’t original. Much of this stems from a conversation I had with my brother-in-law, Joe Deegan, over Christmas. The effects of a generation of husbands and fathers lost to war weighed on me, especially after the latest school shooting. A lot also comes from conversations I’ve had with my friend Adam Hambrick. Something has to change.
Men are broken and we have been for a long time.
WW1 – and shortly after WW2 – wiped out a large chunk of a generation of fathers. Not just in America, but across Europe as well. Boys grew up without dads and in turn had no idea how to be dads. They had no one to show them the way. Society was broken before the wars, but not the way it is today. The wars only sped up the fracturing of our world and the splintering of our society.
An entire generation grew up without fathers. This didn’t just show up in the way those sons fit into society, it showed up in the way they practiced Christianity. There was a huge lack of spiritual leadership for men in the 20’s, 30’s & 40’s. Every decade since then snowballed.
Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were survivors of WW1, and we see what kind of influence they had on the world. There could’ve been hundreds – maybe thousands – more like them if not for the war. There’s a very clear divide between what Christian faith looked like on the outside – and how it was practiced – before and after the World Wars.
The World Wars fostered the Charismatic Church movement in the early 20th century which at it’s core emphasizes individualism in faith instead of community and family driven faith. Faith became much more about feeling instead of authenticity. Faith that’s about the self versus the whole has transformed in a lot of ways to what we see today. “What can God do for me?” instead of “What can I do for God?”
We’ve always been selfish. It’s in our nature. The depravity of man is something that’s in our DNA. But we have to recognize it and we must actively fight against it or it will eat us alive.
We’re still picking up the pieces of the World Wars nearly a century later. I think if you can recognize the what’s and how’s it helps with the why’s. And when you know the why’s maybe it can get better.
And this isn’t simply a Christian issue. We see it in the mass violence that’s become commonplace across countries that participated in the World Wars. We’re vulnerable because we were raised vulnerably. And we (society) are raising our sons the same way. A lot of boys grew up without a picture of what a father was supposed to be, or what a husband was supposed to be. Divorce rates skyrocketed in the 1970’s as a result. Men had to fake masculinity because actual masculinity was lost for a large swath of the population.
Even now, this is hard to talk about because vulnerability is seen as a weakness. Nothing makes a man feel less valuable or validated than weakness. It’s a hard conversation to have, but it’s also a necessary one.
I don’t know the solution to the gun control debate. Ultimately It isn’t something any of us can solve solely as individuals. I do know everyone wants to see the number of mass shootings tick down to zero, or at least as close to zero as possible. Change on a large scale starts at home.
So what do we do? Where does the secular world & Christianity intersect? What we can do, as individuals, is to raise our sons to be better than us. And we have to give them the tools to do the same when they become men. Part of this is stepping in and being a father to the fatherless. It’s on us to break the cycle.
– bc –