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The hidden manhood crisis

Ministering to directionless and confused young men as part of our pro-life witness

The hidden manhood crisis
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In 2015, Care Net, a non-profit Christian ministry that equips and empowers pregnancy resource centers across the country, commissioned a study that found that the father is the most significant influence in a woman’s decision on an unplanned pregnancy. This year, the organization partnered with Lifeway Research and released a study that specifically measured the attitudes of men whose wives or girlfriends had an abortion. The results reveal a crisis and an opportunity for the pro-life movement and the church.

How do men feel when they first discover their partner is pregnant? Fifty-three percent report being nervous and 42 percent report being scared. The source of their fear? Forty-six percent admit that financial considerations are a significant barrier, while 39 percent admit to not being ready for the responsibilities of fatherhood. This explains, of course, the advice that too many young men give women in distress. Forty-two percent report that they advised their partner to abort, with 12 percent confessing that they strongly urged the decision. Another 31 percent admit to giving no advice, with 63 percent of those silent young men feeling it was not their place to weigh in. This is significant, given that, according to the men surveyed for this study, 74 percent of women talk to their male partners before deciding to abort their baby.

Much of the abortion conversation centers (rightly) on the dignity of the mother and her child. Thankfully the pro-life movement has mobilized enormous resources across the country to serve young women in crisis. Many churches partner with pregnancy resources centers to assist them and provide a vision for a flourishing life for these women and children. And yet hidden in the numbers is a hole in our pro-life witness: directionless and confused young men.

Too many young men have an impoverished vision of masculinity, shaped by either a locker room ethic or the culture’s war on manhood itself. It’s no wonder that when they discover they have conceived a child, they have no vision of what it might look like to be a father. The abortion industrial complex, so heavily saturated throughout popular culture, offers the easy way out, a pathway away from responsibility and growth. Abortion, sold as empowering to women, empowers the worst vices in young men, promising consequence-free sex, undermining marriage, and marginalizing fatherhood.

The abortion industrial complex, so heavily saturated throughout popular culture, offers the easy way out, a pathway away from responsibility and growth.

The manhood crisis in America hurts everyone. It hurts women pressured by their scared husbands and boyfriends to abort. It hurts unborn babies, victims of the cult of convenience. And it hurts men themselves, who can’t easily shake the guilt of abandoning their God-given responsibilities.

But the church can offer hope if only we’d look around to see the problem in our midst. Fifty-one percent of post-abortive men say they attend church regularly and 64 percent believe a pastor or church leader is a trusted leader worth approaching about an abortion decision. A reported 62 percent believe the church is prepared to help a young couple bring a baby into the world.

What this data tells us is that young men are crying out for guidance and for models of faithful, countercultural manhood. Where will they find it? Who will help shape boys into men? It won’t just happen in a society where manhood is either mocked or presented as endless hedonism. We need communities of faith, where fathers and surrogate fathers intentionally form men who see marriage and commitment to their wives as a delight, not a drudgery, whose sense of bravery is defined by ordinary faithfulness. The gospel of Jesus offers boys, trapped in the default cycles of the first Adam, transformation empowered by the second Adam.

While we pray and work for abortion to be outlawed, for laws that recognize the dignity of the unborn, God’s people must mobilize around a sustained effort to revive Biblical masculinity. Upstream from these fateful abortion decisions are smaller choices made by young men trapped in the bondage of their fleshly impulses, without healthy maps for manhood. Their actions affect women, children, and communities. It’s our job to befriend young men and point them to a better way.

Daniel Darling

Daniel Darling is director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His forthcoming book is Agents of Grace. He is also a bestselling author of several other books, including The Original Jesus, The Dignity Revolution, The Characters of Christmas, The Characters of Easter, and A Way With Words and the host of a popular weekly podcast, The Way Home. Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College, has studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Angela have four children.

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