88 – The State of Men in America
Foundations for the Battle for Men’s Souls™
(Note: This is adapted from an article written for the May-June 2002 issue of New Man Magazine)
Nick, who was in his late 30s, said, “When I got out of school I made a list of everything I thought I would need to be happy. Now it’s fifteen years later and I have everything on my list, but I’m still not happy. I have just realized I made up the wrong list.”
There are 98,000,000 men in America eighteen years of age and older. What do they want? How are they doing?
WHAT MEN WANT
Pascal said, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. This is the motive of every action of every man, even those who hang themselves.” Only a fool wouldn’t want to be happy.
How do men go about finding happiness? After working with men for 28 years, I see three universal “wants” that propel men’s efforts to be happy.
First, we want something we can give our lives to-a mission or cause. This is the need to be significant, to make a difference, that our lives will count, that it will matter we lived. No man wants to be a shooting star that streaks across the sky one night, then disappears.
Second, we want someone to share it with. This is the need to love and be loved, to be part of a community, to find acceptance.
Third, we want a “system” that offers a reasonable explanation for why 1 and 2 are so difficult. Frederick Taylor, the father of Scientific Management, said, “Your system is perfectly designed to produce the result you are getting.” What he meant was that if you manufacture cars and every third car rolls off the assembly line missing a front right fender, your system is perfectly designed to produce that result. Belief systems also “perfectly” produce predictable results.
HOW MEN ARE DOING
No man fails on purpose. No man wakes up and thinks to himself, “Well, I wonder what I can do today to tick off my wife, neglect my kids, let my boss down, and ruin my life?”
Most men wake up wanting to make an honest living and be loving husbands, good dads, contributing citizens, and, if religious, solid churchmen.
Of course, men often fail, but I don’t think anyone would suggest they fail on purpose. So why do men fail?
Regrettably, 63,000,000 men make no profession of Christ. It’s regrettable because Christianity is a “system” that is perfectly designed to produce abundant and eternal life, though not without troubles. Secular systems often end in ruin-usually at a great cost not only to the man but also his family.
50% of children from broken homes have not seen their father in over a year.
One of every three births is to an unmarried mother.
Fatherlessness is the single most important factor in a boy’s likelihood to commit a crime.
The U. S. leads the world in fatherless families.
The average American Christian male is in a “structural hurry.” Structured obligations keep him on the cell phone in the car that used to be his sanctuary. (One man told me he speeds to work to “save time.”)
The average American Christian male has made an idol of something that competes with his full surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Men are addicted to everything from money to secret thought lives to comfortable little secluded environments they spend all their waking hours to create.
Why are many Christian men so frustrated? It is exactly because God has set eternity in our hearts, and we have a built-in sense that life does have meaning, and our frustration is that we have not yet found it. We don’t have enough religion to make us happy when we look in the mirror, but we have enough to remind us how unhappy we have become.
SIGNS OF LIFE
Pollster George Barna created a stir two years ago when he said at the end of the high-flying decade of Promise Keepers, “Some good things happened among men during the 1990s, but it does not appear that there has been a massive reawakening of the male soul in the last 10 years.”
Barna noted not much changed in the number of American men who claim to be born again-from 32% in 1991 to 36% in 2000.
However, 32% of the 89 million men 18 and older alive in 1991 would equate to 28 million men. And 36% of the 98 million men 18 and older alive in 2001 would equal 35 million men, a possible increase of 7 million, depending on statistical error.
Perhaps more significant, humanity is not stagnant. Humanity is a pipeline-people die, others are born. Over ten years roughly one-seventh of the population will die, and one-seventh of the population will come of age. So if 35 million men today are born again, it’s likely that 5 million of them are new to the pipeline-“replacements.”
Combined, that’s as many as 12 million new Christians during the 1990s. Not bad. That would be quite an addition to the heavenly throng.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
What does all this tell us? America has no monolithic spiritual experience. We have a strong Christian base, but also a strong pluralism. There are many systems out there trying to explain the meaning and purpose of life. And men are trying them.
The problem is, the only system that does not deceive men is Christianity. This was Nick’s problem. His “system” told him that to be happy he needed to get the things on his list. But his system did not satisfy the hunger of his soul. Jesus Christ wasn’t on his list.
So, after fifteen years he finally realized he had believed the lie. His “system” was perfectly designed to produce the result he was getting. It was a system which ended in a feeling that “everything in meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon pursued every earthly avenue known to man in a search for meaning. At the end of the day he came to the famous conclusion: “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.”
Ecclesiastes has a message for the last remaining “moderns” and all of the new postmoderns. The message is simply this: Apart from God life has no meaning. Even if a man gets exactly what he wants, he will still not be happy apart from God.
THE CHRISTIAN ANSWER
All a man’s needs can be (and can only be) satisfied in the Gospel of Jesus. He is the cause, He is the someone, He is the “system” which explains the meaning and purpose of life.
The Gospel of Jesus is the only system that has ever been able to offer an adequate and redemptive explanation for why life is so messy. In the Gospel we find everything a man could want to be happy.
But men are often stubborn. They want to give “the world” a try. That’s why God has graciously made every system apart from Christianity end in the feeling of “meaninglessness”-that life is futile.
He does this so that we all will eventually see the futility of any system apart from Christ.
Not all men will humble themselves and turn to God, but observation and experience tell us that all men will see their systems fail them.
Everyone knows that the culture has deteriorated, beginning with the sexual and cultural revolution of the 1960s. What everyone doesn’t know is that the “system” which we call the kingdom of Christ has not deteriorated.
I remember hearing in the late 60s, “God is dead.” Apparently they were mistaken. Most men don’t profess Christ, but millions still seek Him. Yet among those who do, only a small percentage are in groups to study and apply this Gospel they profess.
And just exactly what does the study of Christian faith have to do with the happiness men want? God will not force a man to revere him, but he will make it impossible for him to be happy unless he does.
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.
©2001. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved. This may be reproduced with proper attribution for non-commercial purposes.