Lack of Manliness Is Real Culprit Behind Mass Shootings

Cultural Reinforcement

While these young men are responsible for their own actions, their radicalization does not come out of a vacuum. As Nichols argues, “when society breeds too many narcissistic males determined to get even with a world that denies them their due -- the fame, recognition, or sexual mate they think they deserve -- we’re all in danger.”

Louisiana governor and presidential candidate Bobby Jindal called mass shootings “a symptom of deep and serious cultural decay in our society.” He listed many ways in which our culture fosters violence and disregard for human life, from video games and rap music to abortion and euthanasia.

Most importantly, however, Jindal hit on the moral gap in the lives of young men. “Our families are a complete mess, and we have raised tens of millions of young boys who will never become real men because they have no values whatsoever, they have no truth in their lives, and they have no regard for common decency.”

Jindal has a way of overstating his case -- most men are not radicalized “lost boys” and still come by values, truth and common decency by one way or another. Nevertheless, he hits on an important point -- from broken families to schools which purposefully teach that there is no right and wrong, men are growing up without a strong moral foundation, and that is the real culprit behind such violence.

Rediscovering True Manhood

Today’s “lost boys” lack the virtues of “manliness” as described by Harvard University professor Harvey Mansfield. Responsibility, restraint and self-discipline still define what it means to be a real man -- even if much in our culture prizes instant gratification in terms of money, sex and fame.

A real man works hard and fights for his home, family, God and country. As Hector (Eric Bana) in the movie Troy declares, “honor the gods, love your woman, and protect your country!”

This older and more firm moral foundation has an impressive pedigree. The classical Greco-Roman virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance mixed well with the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity. This bedrock of character formation was the centerpiece of the medieval university, and even the modern colleges and universities throughout early America and past the Civil War.

The moral foundation behind such men as George Washington and William Wilberforce taught young frustrated men to direct their passions toward positive pursuits, and helped create a culture of freedom and virtue.

While some argue that restraining sexual energy and focusing it on marriage and on fulfilling one's duty is "repressive," this alternative lifestyle actually cuts down on sexual frustration for less successful men. If even the most impressive hunk has to limit his sexuality to one wife -- or at least make a show of doing so -- that leaves more available women, and makes other men less jealous. Monogamy may seem repressive, but it actually promotes social cohesion and sexual equality.

The path toward restoring this view does not require draconian laws which restrict movies, television or video games. This is a spiritual and cultural struggle -- not necessarily a political one. While reintroducing the Bible in schools and teaching Judeo-Christian history and heritage without an anti-religious bias would make a huge difference, legislating these moves is the wrong approach.

Rather, Christians need to speak up, and historians need to re-examine where our values come from. The virtues of the Enlightenment -- science, limited government and free markets -- can also be found in the writings of the Spanish scholastics, and to some extent in the medieval university. The heritage of rights and learning we so prize today does not come from a rejection of faith -- but from the very bedrocks of the great cathedrals, and from the words of a certain Galilean.

Do not allow the media to twist a moral and spiritual battle into a political one -- especially when doing so requires a confiscation of our last line of defense against these evil men who target the innocent for mass slaughter. Character formation, not gun control, is the proper response to mass shootings.