Monday, September 19, 2005
Hook'em Dads: How to de-neuter Christian Fathers
I had the opportunity to attend Saturday night's UT Longhorn football game against Rice's Owls with my 2 sons and my former neighbor and his son and his (son's) friend. The season ticket holder (with reserved parking) couldn't make it so my ex-neighbor got all 6 seats and invited us to join. I had plans for the night but I figured it wasn't every weekend I get invited (1st time in 10+ years of living in Central Texas, if my memory serves me correctly) with my sons.
I'm not into spectator sports so my sons aren't either. However, since they have lived in the US all their lives, with friends playing sports and having played sports in home school related studies or church related programs, they are aware of football, baseball, basketball etc. but they have yet to sign up for a team. And their only other spectator sports they've attended was Round Rock Express minor league baseball about 3 years ago. The seats were in good locations but was too slow for me or my sons. We ended up most of our time at the play area they have for small(er?) children.
I personally have yet to attend any college level sports and the only pro sports I've attended were once or twice at L.A. Dodger stadium around highschool. Note that we were poor so I'm sure we were sitting in the cheapest section.
With the past experiences, I didn't have any expectation for myself or my sons to get a whole lot out of attending the football game.
And boy was I wrong!
It was one of the most exciting paid "events" I've attended (that I can recall). We were sitting about 20 yards from the northern end goal, on the west side (we were in the shade all the time), less than 20 rows from the front. We were in the nicer section with individual seats with plenty of leg room! We were on the side with the cannon so we not only heard but experienced the cannon going off whenever they made any point. We also had cheerleaders right below us (with their pretty young faces -- there were few guys running around, too, but from our seats we could only see the gals' faces) and the marching band was seated right across the field. And we were surrounded by men and boys who were really into the game (and mainly decked out in school colors of "burnt" orange): they had their hands thrust out in "hook'em horn" signs, they stood up, clapped their hands, they shouted and yelled and lots of energy were all around us! And to think that some of these folks waited hours before the game having tailgate parties!
It was a very manly event with lots of excited men and boys! But it was interesting to see that there were many women who were with their husbands (or dates, etc.). I only noticed one group of handful of women by themselves.
Afterwards, my sons and I talked about it and they've thought it was a very good experience, too. My younger son is kind of AD(H)D and tends to be easily bored but last night he was engaged enough to ask what did he miss or if I pointed out something, he reminded me that he already saw it himself.
Looking back, for the experience, I would be willing to pay something like $100 per person. I've been to our church's men's retreat and there are some manliness expressed but this was nowhere near the level we experienced at the college football game. And in a largely feminized society including the corporate world, these games are one of the few areas where men can be men while not getting their hands "dirty" -- i.e., as an observer rather than actor -- without being immoral.
...Fade back to the reality of church...
And yet, what a contrast 12 hours later at our church, men come late (if they come at all) and they, at best, mumble through songs and softly clap (if any). Seems like the men at the game were neutered during the night and turned into "organization man" (be-quiet, don't-make-waves and follow-the-boss type of men).
The problem is that everything today is run from the top to the bottom: school (teacher teaching their students), companies (boss ruling over the employees), government (politicians ruling over the tax payers), and even at home, where women tend to run the household. The passive man have allowed everyone to run his life: with school or work or politician, you can "fire" the boss/teacher by voting with one's feet (or ballot). With a wife, it's costlier since there is more than just money involved (hopefully some sort of love was -- and still is -- part of the relationship, even if it wasn't so at the beginning). However, the only thing worse than a nagging wife is a nagging mother. Unlike a wife, whom one can divorce, you can never divorce your mother!
The church, unfortunately, is no different and is just as easily run from the top. And, like it or not, people readily switch churches because they stopped a sense of belonging or disagree on something or with someone (usually it's the wife who starts the feet voting for the family).
So, how can the church let men be men, even a place where man can truly be an active man? The one place where he should be able to become a real man, in the image of God Himself?
I believe that the right model is what our church does with our rite of passage "J2M (journey to manhood)" where the dads get together to create unique rite of passage program for their sons. Two other dads and myself got together few times (and many email exchanges) to organize and plan for our sons J2M -- we had many examples but we stumbled around finding and creating our own rites. By creating our own, we had a sense of not only responsiblities but ownership.
I believe that fathers need to take ownership of all spiritual leadership at home and at church. And the church should be there to support the fathers turn into the leaders at home and at the church through the process of training and equipping. I envision the fathers learning to lead worship at home, hopefully on a daily basis.
One way church can help is to take advantage of the royalty payments being made such that copies of music made for practice can is permitted as long as they are destroyed after the performance. The church can loan out CD's with worship music to "practice" at home. This way, the fathers do not have to buy CD's (or learn to play music) just for worship, they can prepare themselves and their family for the music performed at church and they can try it for "free" and if they like it, they can buy the CD's themselves -- a win-win for both the families (able to try music without first buying it) and the church (better worship experience since the members would prepare beforehand).
Small groups should be run for men by men, such that men get together because they have common goals and ideals (much like how we got together for J2M) rather than getting together because our wives get along. It needs to be driven to keep men and boys interested, not keeping our wives happy (hard to do when men are feminized!). Hopefully, church can give training and tools on creating such manly environment.
One of the problems of feminization is that perfection is expected while men want to give things a chance while bumbling around at first is a good thing and even desired. What is interesting is that in home education, it is given that parents pick and choose education materials that work well with each child and be open to change if they don't fit (you don't change the child's learning method but change the teaching materials). In schools, it's just the opposite: students are expected to follow school rules and teaching styles with no variations allowed. They even drug up boys who can't sit still (rather than making the teaching materials fit the student).
Back to church: Next "level" is to orient worship at church to be men focused such that the whole worship experience would get the men actively engaged. However, we would have to figure out making do without the cheerleading gals! But I'm sure creative minds can come up with ways to get other men pumped. Read more of my thoughts on sissy churches and other posts below.