When I was a small boy I swore I would never forget how it feels to be a boy. I remember aspects of that moment with great clarity. I was angry. I was frustrated. I don’t remember why. I just remember the feeling, and the moment. And I declared to myself that I would never forget. I promised myself. And now, so many long years later, I struggle to remember. Although my memories fade through the intervening years, I still have access to those who know: boys. So, I listen to them. I play with them. I observe them. I pastor them. I respect them.
I believe that American society is profoundly confused about boys. There is a pendulum of myths which swing from one erroneous extreme to the other. It pertains to what it means to be masculine. It touches on hyperactivity vs plain masculine traits of aggression and competitiveness, and the issue of overmedication with the likes of ritalin and other drugs.
I am not a psychologist or therapist or even a parent. But I am a male, once a boy; now a man. And I am concerned by the societal wave of angst to tame our boys into (no offense ladies and girls) feminine shadows of their masculine selves. It happens in the public education system, in some expressions of home schooling, in the church, in counseling, and so on. It seems to be pervasive. We want tame, passive boys, and if they do not comply we will drug them into submission. We look at Columbine and Thurston high schools and assume all boys have it in them to do those things.
In the church we attempt to tame our boys by disciplining them into abject silence. Is it any wonder they are bored to tears? Where are the adventures? Where are the battles? Where are they allowed to use their imaginations and exercise their growing muscles? Shame on us for deliberately and uncritically borrowing from the public education playbook by attempting to tame boys (and girls, in their own right), rather than unleashing them to God’s purposes in an adventurous environment.
It just occurred to me. I have long been privately concerned about the attraction strategies which prompt churches to build elaborate themed environments for their children. Maybe it is more missional than I have realized? Maybe they are tapping into the sense of wonder and adventure which boys (and all children) need to harness learning opportunities? With John Elderidge, whose book “Wild at Heart” I am enjoying currently, I agree that it is time to teach our boys and our men to be wild at heart.