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Young men and the search for genuine masculinity

Christianity offers a vision of self-sacrifice in a world of self-promotion


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Young men and the search for genuine masculinity
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A recent poll by the Survey Center on American Life shows that, to the surprise of many, high school boys are trending conservative. Scholar Jean Twenge, author of the new book Generations, which examines the various instincts and trends among America’s generational cohorts, remarks, “Among liberals, the future is female and among conservatives, the future is male.” 

For conservative Christians, the data about our young men seems encouraging. And it’s not surprising that high school boys, having surveyed the confusing messages about gender and sexuality they hear from pop culture and other influences, cast about for an alternative. At a time when over 18 million children, one out of every four, live in a fatherless home, too many boys lack for male role models.

This has resulted in a crisis of masculinity. Christine Emba writes about her own observations:

They struggled to relate to women. They didn’t have enough friends. They lacked long-term goals. Some guys—including ones I once knew—just quietly disappeared, subsumed into video games and porn.

As a result, more and more young men are lost, lacking sufficient guidance and purpose. On the one hand, there is the dismissal or hatred of men offered by the extreme left. On the other hand, there is the reaction to this cultural emasculation, the perverted YouTube machismo of shameless online provocateurs like Andrew Tate. In this world, strength is measured by sexual license and shameless mockery of the vulnerable.

We must steer our sons away from the malformed prescriptions for masculinity on offer online or elsewhere and guide them toward their purpose in this generation.

Our young boys need the clear vision of masculinity that Christianity offers. In God’s economy, men are neither disposable accessories nor bronze-age perverts. Instead, it calls me up from foolishness into a rich life of hard work, faithfulness, and self-sacrifice. The bravest men in the community are not the insecure dude-bros on YouTube, but the dads pulling up to church in the minivan on Sunday, the dads who refuse to leave when life gets hard, the dads courageous enough to sublimate their fleshly desires to the Lordship of Christ.

I think of my father, who started working at 14 to support his single mom. He married my mom and was faithful in sickness and health, for richer for poorer—until my mother passed away earlier this year. Dad ensured we never missed a Sunday service at the Baptist church where he is still a faithful layman. Dad has never once tweeted his hot takes about masculinity nor will you ever find him flexing in front of a mirror. But he modeled for me what Christian manhood looks like through his long obedience in the same direction.

Pastors and parents must be intentional about the formation of the young men in our homes and congregations. We must steer our sons away from the malformed prescriptions for masculinity on offer online or elsewhere and guide them toward their purpose in this generation. This will require courage to resist the pressure from the culture to see manhood as inherently bad, and it will require the power of the Holy Spirit to resist the addictions, such as pornography, that prey on them from their smartphones. But it’s not enough to shepherd our own sons through the thicket of worldly temptation. We should also look out for the many lost young boys in our communities who live a few clicks away from radicalization or a few bad choices away from prison. Young men need mentors, faithful wise fathers (or father figures) who will step into their lives.

Lost boys don’t have to stay lost. They can be found, ultimately, by a Heavenly Father who loves them and can redeem their lives for His glory.


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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