Of Thugs and Men
In his book Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole pastor Eric Mason describes a downward spiral with horrendous repercussions for our culture. He writes:
In inner-city communities, fatherlessness is heighted for a number of reasons including crime, cultural socialization, economic depression, the ratio of men to women, and imprisonment. Philadelphia, for example, is estimated to consist of 90 percent single-parent homes.
Mothers in Section 8 projects and rental properties fight to raise their children to live beyond the context of their community. But even if they escape, the father wounds plague the psyche of boys trying to make sense of themselves in a locale where survival is paramount. The images of manhood are limited to the TV and the neighborhood, both of which tend to portray manhood as thuggish. In these neighborhoods, thugs are looked up to for their knack of being able to navigate the harsh terrain of the hood. Observing this, boys desire that same level of prowess. Thugs, then, become viable candidates for the predominate image of manhood.
Fatherlessness fuels the thug life, and the thug life fuels fatherlessness.
How might we combat this trend and pull out of a cultural nosedive? As a Christian pastor, Mason prescribes the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Indeed, were young men to embrace Christ as their savior and example, they would forsake the thug life. Ironically, the value of what Christ has to offer may be conveyed by an appeal to the same temporal concern which draws young men to emulate thugs.
The perceived prowess of the thug fades under scrutiny. His strength is a mirage. The thug elevates his personal whims above not only the rights of others, but his own objective best interests. Whether they intellectually comprehend it or not, thieves, bullies, and murderers bear a life-crushing weight upon their soul. Real prowess creates. It does not take. Real prowess sustains. It does not merely consume. Real prowess yields life, not death. The thug fails these standards. He proves impotent without real men to feed upon.
Throwing Christ into the mix elevates our consideration of prowess to a whole new level. When we recognize God as the author of manhood, we realize how high the bar is actually set. What can a thief offer to trump the Giver? How can a bully one-up the Comforter? What threat does a murderer present to the Sustainer? These qualities of Holy God define real prowess. As his image-bearers, men must seek to emulate Him rather than the impotent thugs presented in our fallen culture.