A true story: last week two young men, one 20, the other 22, bumped into one another on a busy New York City street. For some reason, both assumed ill will. Words were exchanged and soon one was dead of a knife wound. Hours later, as the police knocked on his door, the other took his own life. Like a twisted tale from Aesop, this story leaves us bewildered as we try to understand how an inadvertent bump can lead to the death of two young men.
You can’t help but wonder if, at some level, all of this is the result of a fundamentally flawed understanding of manhood. If the world of “My Three Sons” (I know I am dating myself here) ever did exist, it’s long gone, and I’d guess that neither of these men ever had a dad to help him through the trials of adolescence. They are not alone. Today nearly 70% of boys in some demographic groups are being raised without fathers, and it’s not unusual for these youngsters to acquire a distorted definition of manhood. Too often they see hyper-masculinity and violence as the norm.
In RAISING CAIN, Michael Thompson points out that, if we can’t teach boys how to “process out,” they’ll be left to simply act out on their impulses. This approach didn’t work for Cain in Genesis or for our two young men in New York. Now, more than ever it seems, we need all the Fred MacMurrys we can get because there are so many Chips and Ernies in desperate need of a little guidance.