In my previous post, Random Male Violence, Part 1, I began to unravel the mystery of why the random violence we regularly encounter happens in the U.S. on a level unlike any other country. Our soul-searching requires that we recognize that we are developing wounded males. But all countries have wounded males.

(This article is written by Craig Glass.)

There’s another inescapable reason random mass slaughter happens within American borders so much more than anywhere else— the ease with which anyone, regardless of capabilities, mental health or training can get their hands on assault rifles—weapons of mass destruction. The solution to this issue has proven exceptionally difficult to find, but I don’t think there is any question that this is a central part of the problem.

Why is it that the perpetrators are almost always males? Simply put, because the male “heart,” our core design, is different from the female “heart.” The historic essence of how we understand femininity is that it’s open, relational, inclusive, and fiercely protective of others. The essence of how we understand masculinity is that it’s aggressive, adventuresome, initiating, and fiercely competitive with others. The power of femininity draws others inward; the power of masculinity extends itself outward. If you notice the parallel with our respective anatomies, that’s not a coincidence.

When wounded women turn violent they so often turn their anger inward. They harm themselves: suicide, cutting, prostitution, eating disorders. Even when mothers attack or kill their own children, which we read of with awful regularity, I’d suggest that’s the ultimate attack that causes her the deepest pain possible.

When wounded men turn violent they so often unleash that anger toward others. Yes, of course, men are capable of suicide and self-cutting with frightening effectiveness, but no one can deny that the vast majority of assaults, beatings, murders, terror incidents and, yes, random mass killings, across the globe come from the hands of males. That same male quality—aggressive outward action—is also the reason why the majority of those who heroically run into the building, who face the gunfire, who stand in front of those who are risk, are also men.

It’s why a Kenyan pastor told me of an African proverb that strikes close to the heart of what we are seeing: “The boys in the village must be initiated into manhood or they will burn down the village just to feel the heat.” Almost every month we see “boys,” not-yet-men whatever their age, burning down American villages—schools, movie theaters, university campuses, or outdoor concert arenas— just to feel one blast of heat before they die or head to prison.

In the United States we have an awful culmination of cultural and gender issues at work creating a heart-rending example of American Exceptionalism. What can we do about it? The causes of this condition are numerous and they didn’t happen suddenly. The solutions are likewise multiple and won’t resolve the problem suddenly.

But we must take steps forward in every path that is part of the solution:

  • Our schools, places of faith and community organizations must understand that boys are not the same as girls. They must have healthy, non-shaming opportunities for play, competition, communal connection, bonding and success.
  • Just as Jewish, African and Native American cultures have practiced for centuries, elder men need to “call out” boys in the “village” and acquaint them with values and a vision for who they can be as healthy contributors to society. I’ve developed an approach from a Christian perspective in the Passage to Manhood Field Guide.
  • We need to pay particular attention to boys who are on the fringes of our schools, who are loners in the lunch room, who express their rage on social media, and provide them with insightful, effective mental, emotional and spiritual care.
  • We need to press against the expanding levels of brutality and violence marketed as entertainment in video games to our sons who are making life-altering decisions about how to connect with others, relate to those who are different from them, and how to resolve conflict.
  • Somehow we need to dramatically limit the accessibility of firearms for those who have no business getting them. In many ways the genie is way out of the bottle in the U.S. in limiting firearms—there are more guns in our country than there are citizens. But certainly we can do a much better job of limiting assault weapons, conducting background checks, sharing crucial information between branches of local and federal police agencies and tracking those with violent histories.
  • We must insist on requiring training and certification in all states for anyone who wants to buy or own a firearm to ensure they actually know how to use it safely.

There are more factors to address, but can we agree to begin with these?

Radio commentator Dennis Prager says, “One of the most important issues for any society is to answer the question: How do we build good men?” That’s not because men are more important than women. Of course we aren’t. It’s because the difference in impact between good men and violently wounded men is so huge. Our headlines prove this every day.

There may be no more crucial domestic issue for the United States to face right now than to effectively answer this question. Let’s make sure that the recent violence in Parkland marks the beginning of us finding the answers and finally putting an end to this brand of American Exceptionalism.

Craig Glass is the founder and president of Peregrine Ministries.

You can see several video interviews I did with Craig Glass on his new book, Noble Journey.  You can also purchase his book for just $12 with free shipping here:  Noble Journey

Are you living a prepared life?

One hundred and twenty-two months ago today, I sat at my desk with no appointments, no tasks to perform, no clients to serve, and no employees to pacify. My desk was empty. So was my mind. I had absolutely no clue what I should do for the next ten minutes of my life. Much less the next ten days or their following ten years.

Until that purposeless day, years ago, my entire life had been directed by others. Oh, I had flickers of freedom, twinkles of time when I chose to watch a movie or play my guitar. But all the sparkles of significant activity in my life were dictated by other people.

My parents told me what friends I could see and when to go to bed; my teachers told me what books to read and which assignments to turn in; and my bosses told me where to sit and which clients to serve. Even when I became a boss, higher-up bosses assigned budgets, projects, employees, and deadlines.

In 1989, two friends and I bought a software company. We no longer had bosses, not even shareholders to please. We were the bosses and shareholders. But even then, my daily activity was determined by clients, employees, and industry competition.

My life was not my own, except for the merest flashes of freedom when I golfed or scuba dived.

Ten years ago, I quit that job to pursue ministry, but on day-one, I woke up with a sterile desk and no parent, teacher, or boss to hint at what I should do for the next ten minutes.

Living a Prepared Life

When Winston Churchill became prime minister of Britain, at the beginning of World War II, he said, “I feel like my whole life has prepared me for this moment.” Personal preparation is the pattern of God’s hand in our lives:

  • Joseph was hand-groomed by God to be the prime minister of Egypt;
  • God invested eighty years to teach Moses to lead his people home;
  • David was trained as a shepherd, so he could battle Goliath (David himself sang, “You trained my hands for war and my fingers for battle”);
  • Esther was brought to the palace “for such a time as this.”

God’s personal preparation is not reserved for the big-wigs of history. He acts the same with us.

Churchill’s comments are completely consistent with God’s work in our lives. He orchestrated our entire journey—up to the last tick on the clock—to train us for this second. And he uses this moment to get us ready for the next.

Living a 4th Quarter Life

Professional football players are trained from the first day they tackle their little brother; and in the Super Bowl, it all comes down to the fourth quarter. Even the first three quarters of that game are just training-ground for those last fifteen minutes.

The question for all of us is simple: What are we going to do with our last quarter? What purpose has God invested years equipping us for? God used past coaches—parents, teachers and bosses—to prepare us to lean on him alone in this, our endgame.

What has God so strongly put on our hearts that we’ll do it when our parents aren’t there, our teachers are silent, and our bosses retired? What are we unstoppably willing to pursue, even if there is no money, audience, or fame, and even if we lose friends, family, or die because of it?

We are right now—no matter our age—living in our fourth quarter. What will be our game? Let’s not dabble-away our most significant moments playing golf.

Sam

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God still personally prepares us today, with words, circumstances, friends, and family; but especially with His Words. He wants us to learn to recognize his voice when we drive to work, wait in line, and engage in prayer.

To grow in that divine dialogue, please watch the video bel0w (It’s Not that God Is Silent), and read, Hearing God in Conversation.

Once again we wrestle with piercing feelings of grief, bewilderment and anger. Yet again a young American male has unleashed his wrath against a vulnerable group of students. Our hearts ache, our heads shake and our minds reel. How can this keep happening? What can we do to make sure this never happens again?

(This article is written by Craig Glass.)

We’re familiar with the spectrum of suggested causes as well as solutions—it’s a mental health issue, it’s a gun access issue, it’s a cultural issue. It’s all of those to some degree, but in my opinion it’s a horrific case of American Exceptionalism.

I love my country, but I really dislike the way that term is typically used. It implies that American culture is first and best, as if we’re all in a global competition for a mythical cultural gold medal. Having traveled to more than 60 countries over the years I’ve experienced qualities in every one of them that are admirable as well as unfortunate. Mine included.

Yes, we Americans have demonstrated an outstanding technological ability to fly humans to the moon or to instantaneously connect and communicate with others half a world away. But honesty also compels us to admit our exceptionalism in incarcerating the highest number of citizens per capita of any nation in the world.

In grief we must also admit the exceptional acts we regularly face—young males who randomly unleash deadly violence against their own kind. Even a short-list of the locations where slaughter took place over the past 19 years evokes memories and emotions that should never entirely fade: Columbine, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Las Vegas, and now Parkland. (See my previous post, Our Spirits Groan.)

Each stands out in its own uniqueness of location and horror, but they share two common characteristics: the perpetrator was male and he was an American.

Of course, other nations have violent young men, but they tend to slaughter those who are different from themselves. They go after those of another religion, ethnicity, tribe or political persuasion. In the US our violent males slaughter randomly.

Why does this happen here and not elsewhere? My opinion is that American culture produces young males who are profoundly self-absorbed and entitled. (See my previous post, Brilliant Jerks.) At the same time they are deeply uncertain of their own significance and place in a dramatically changing cultural and economic landscape. And, they often pick up the message—whether through bullying, macho posturing, gangs, or violent video games— that the solution to disagreement and conflict is often best settled through some form of violence.

I had intended to start writing this blog last weekend, but found myself gripped by both sadness and anger at the violence recently unleashed in Parkland, FL. Having decided to take a break and see a movie, I was stunned at what appeared in the very first frame: this quote from author D. H. Lawrence, “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.” It was all I could do to keep from gasping out loud at how horribly accurately this described exactly what I was grieving.

Man, how much I want to disagree with that statement! I know so many wonderful, connected, compassionate, life-giving men. And, Lawrence had a different, late 19th-early 20thcentury, American era in mind when he made that statement. But I have to also acknowledge the extent to which this quote fits today. So many young males in American culture are tough, alone, emotionless…and can so easily turn into killers.

In his book Guyland, author Michael Kimmel identified an American sub-culture of males, ages 16-26 whose key qualities are privilege, narcissism, entitlement and self-centeredness. They are convinced that they are the center of the universe, that they are the most sought out marketing demographic (unfortunately, they’re right), that they set the social rules, and that everyone else who wants to fit in, women above all others, needs to accept and adhere to those rules. As long as a male in that demographic succeeds, he’s in. If he doesn’t measure up by the group’s or his own standards, he’s out.

Some of those young males who find themselves “out,” simmer with anger and shame until they decide to resolve things in violence. Some of them grow older and never find a sense of community or significance, until the lava of hidden resentment suddenly erupts with deadly consequences. Then they become a headline.

Courage and humility require us to face the awful circumstances we repeatedly see in American culture. In the next post, American Exceptionalism, Part II, I’ll explore factors that indicate what some solutions might be.

You can see several video interviews I did with Craig Glass on his new book, Noble Journey.  You can also purchase his book for just $12 with free shipping here:  Noble Journey