men will be boys

young man with joy stickWhere have all the good men gone?

Well church, maybe.

The idea that Christians are as likely to be divorced as non-Christians is largely a myth, at least when adjusted to include the ones who actually go to church.

In fact, people who actually practice the disciplines of their faith tradition are far more likely to stay married, regardless of their religious tradition.

But getting married in the first place is a different challenge. In 1970 only 16% of 25 to 29 year olds had never been married, while today it’s 55%.

In an important upcoming book, Kay Hymowitz argues that delayed marriage causes or explains the extended adolescence of American men.

In Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, Hymowitz, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, says “it’s time to state what has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women. [This extended “pre-adulthood”] doesn’t bring out the best in men.”

And it’s not pretty.

She cites comedian Julie Klausner, for example, who writes inI Don’t Care About Your Band, that men today are “more like the kids we babysat than the dads who drove us home.”

Hymowitz argues that while women are more likely to go to college, grad school, and make strides in the workplace, men are increasing unsure of themselves, partly because they no longer have to pass a test of maturity, proving their competence as providers and protectors.

It’s unclear if delayed marriage is a symptom or a cause, but now, she writes, the “qualities of character men once needed to play their roles—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete, even a little embarrassing.” Today’s pre-adult male is “an actor in a drama where he only knows what he shouldn’t say.”

In an adaptation printed in the Wall Street Journal, she concludes:

We can be disgusted if some of them continue to live in rooms decorated with “Star Wars” posters and crushed beer cans and to treat women like disposable estrogen toys, but we shouldn’t be surprised.

Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does. ….Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There’s nothing they have to do.

They might as well just have another beer.

How sad.

And sadder still, the church may not continue to be the last defense of virtue, as it once was. Youth groups have become rock concerts and trips to amusement parks, not serious efforts to teach them what God calls them to be—men and women of character and purpose.

I teach at a Christian college and many young men I know want to be in a band, but not a brotherhood. They want to critique the church, but they don’t want to contribute to it. They want a relationship, but they don’t want responsibility.

We must take our investment in young men more seriously.

Because no thoughtful young woman wants to marry a boy.

Nor should she have to.

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About wally metts

Wally Metts is the daysman. He is director of graduate studies in communication at Spring Arbor University and is a pastor at Countryside Bible Church in Jonesville, MI. The father of four adult children, he and his wife Katie raise barn cats and Christmas trees in Michigan. His grandchildren call him Santa.

36 Responses to “men will be boys”

  1. Thank you for blogging about this! You have hit the nail on the head and just saying from a young women’s stand point it is a frustrating seeking the proper husband in such times. BUT, I rest easy knowing there ARE still good christian guys out there 🙂

    • i totally agree this is happening and has been for years, however the fault does not entirely lie with boys. girls these days are either looking for the wrong qualities in a guy or merely dont want to be pursued period. im a 27 year old single never married christian guy thats fed up with being labeled this way when both sides are obviously at fault. my two cents.

  2. Sadly, this describes much of the frustration of my dating life. Especially in the “Never-Never Land” that is New York City.

  3. I think I will be talking to my youth group about this. My husband and I will be leaving soon, and the youth’s greatest fear is a “typical” youth group pastor who will focus more on games and praise band than actual theology. We run our youth group much like a seminar, where the teens can ask really hard questions, and discuss them openly guided by semantics and scripture.
    With two brothers heading into the military, and a third working to be able to marry his sweetheart, this article means a lot to me. Thank you, Wally. 🙂

  4. Amen & Amen! As the mom of three daughters ages 23-28, only one of whom is married, I can affirm every point in this post.

    Along with Klausner’s well-stated factors perpetuating “pre-adult males”, I would add that our society actively penalizes those who try to act as real men . . . In national news last week we read about Joel Northrup, the Christian homeschooled sophomore & champion wrestler who, because of his biblical convictions, refused to wrestle a female opponent. Joel’s principled decision resulted in forfeiture of his opportunity to advance toward the Iowa state title. Yet, it’s likely that if he fought the girl and won he’d be derided as a bully. (She went on to lose all her matches against guys at the next level).

    Young men shouldn’t be wrestling with girls, nor competing with them in other traditionally male contact sports. Apart from the sexual distractions and the natural differences in muscle mass that make coed sports riskier for girls, our boys need all-male sports to learn how to be strong, confident, respectful defenders/protectors, and to develop countless other traits of godly manhood such as courage, perseverance & leadership.

    Even our military now forces our young men to share barracks and deadly duties with women, and it has lowered fitness standards for females. Penalties abound for men who acknowledge the obvious or complain.

    I pray that God will raise up more families like the Northrups to stand against the attack on mature manhood.

  5. As a happily married boy, I resent this post. 🙂

    • by definition, if you are married you can’t be a boy anymore. sorry. too late.

      • I was 30 when I got married. And I honestly wasn’t ready before that point. Patience, people.

        But I can honestly say, I don’t think the immaturity is firmly in the men’s court. It’s simply accepted among evangelicals that women need to be ‘taken care of by a man.’

        I find that to be silly. Marriage is a team effort. And no thoughtful young man wants to marry a girl either.

      • i agree. to a point. more on that to come. 🙂

  6. As my father used to say: “You are going to have to change the subject if you want an argument.” Well said and sadly true.

  7. My husband is playing video games as I read this….. ha.

    but all joking aside…. *nervous grin*

    this stood out to me the most.”Youth groups have become rock concerts and trips to amusement parks, not serious efforts to teach them what God calls them to be”

  8. Well said Wally, may God rIse up men to seek Himself not to fear responsibility and commitment They can never be all God intends them to be until they do. Many of our beautiful daughters are waiting

  9. I got married with a man at the age of 19 (he was 24) and now we have a son. He is a very great husband and father figure. I will not take him for granted. Love him very much ^_^! Now we just have to think how to rise our children to be adults and prepare them for the world too.

  10. You’re absolutely right about this. It’s alarming how few men are equipped with basic survival skills when it comes to family and how few even care about family. It’s like they’re chasing some world that doesn’t really exist.

  11. what i want to know is why guys who love the Lord seem to be more timid in pursuing Godly women than “worldly” guys are. and also, i appreciate that a man is writing on this rather than a woman. no woman should be labeled a feminist when she complains that the men around her are not stepping up to the mark. that said, i admit i am surrounded by an incredible community of Godly young men, and we all (regardless of gender) make mistakes in life and in love from time to time. (thank you for writing on this)

  12. I married at 18; he was 21. While young marriage is a hard fought battle, we both had a strong center of Christ in our lives. Not only did my young husband rise to the occasion as a husband, provider and protector to me, but he had the wisdom and fortitude to accept the gifts that God has sent us as well – our soon to be 5 beautiful children. Real Men can handle marriage, responsibilities, and parenting. Now we need to make sure we equip our boys to become men at the appropriate time.

  13. *Sigh* Thanks for posting this Wally. I am a 29 year old Christian gal who owns a (very) small business and has dated plenty but never been able to say “yes”. Your assessment strikes me as mostly true and sad. There are three things that I want to be able to trust a future husband in: Spiritual Diligence, Financial Forwardness, and Emotional Connection. At this point I would consider anyone who had even 50% of each of these. If I can’t trust him then how can I ever say “yes” to anyone?

  14. The other day my 13 year old daughter says to me “mom, how come women grow up and men just get older?” Yeah, she already understands that some men stay boys…. On a better note, her youth group is awesome! Last night we had a healing prayer meeting at church, and she and her friends got right up to pray for some people who’d gone up for prayer – way before her dad and I decided to join in.

  15. As the token unmarried young man / old boy, I’d say a lot of it comes down to incentives and environment. Guys my age (21) aren’t sure why to get married. We’re not satisfied with “because that’s what men do.”

    Our heroes move to exotic places, not settle down in the mid-west. Our friends play at the local rock show, not the neighborhood park. Even some of our mentors, I’d say at least 50% of them (based on personal experience), encourage us to wait… because they know we’re not ready.

    We hear that true love waits. But that’s not true. True love doesn’t wait – it prepares. Big difference. But no one told us that.

    One hundred years ago, I would be married by now and might be building my own house somewhere. Instead, I’m single with a college education, and I’m moving to South Korea. I’d like to be married now, but if I’m honest with myself, I’m not willing to sacrifice the “adventure” for the “stability.”

    I need better reasons and examples and encouragement (like this post) to get married. Or more precisely, I need to know why to give up everything else (or why I don’t have to give up everything else) to get married. Like most guys my age, “Why I should want responsibility?”

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

    • i like your distinction between waiting and preparing.

      And I think there is too much pressure generally in Christian culture to get married. Being single is a biblically privileged option.

      Marriage on the other hand is one way we model for others God covenant keeping love to his people. (I recommend Piper’s Momentary Marriage on this point.)

      And its a powerful lab experience— a place to learn about honest, grace, forgiveness and and other virtues as we work to recover a place where we can be safe and vulnerable, or “naked and not ashamed, as Genesis puts it.

      You’ve given me food for thought. And plan to returned to these themes in a future post.

  16. I just want to say, that many young men aren’t very clear on when they should take the initiative to move forward in a life building relationship. Many find themselves interested, but not quite enough to give up the “adventure” as someone else said. I think that the adventure truly began in marriage, but this is the one that counts and can finally set an example for others (the marriage covenant vs. a worldly marriage) and also teaching the next generation that there are still committed relationships out there.Times are not always easy, but well worth every bit of the joy that comes with marriage and family! 🙂

  17. Hi Wally,

    I stumbled upon your blog tonight as Elisabeth and I were checking up developments at SAC(U). I was actually on a panel with the author of Manning Up here in NYC last week! Have you had a chance to read the entire book yet? I thought that it was OK, although the section on “men boys” was heavy on anecdotes and light on hard data.

    Hope everything is well,
    Eric

  18. I’m a 32 year old single, never-married Christian male who is the bachelor of my group of Christian friends. I believe that today’s worldly culture has poisoned the minds of the vast majority of younger women in the church (in my church at least). Today’s culture preaches that the marriage relationship must be heavily slanted toward the women. If it is not, then there is something wrong. If the husband does not constantly cave to the wife’s demands, he is a bad husband. If the husband doesn’t give 100% while the wife gives nothing, he is a bad husband. I reject that cultural construct of the Godless world. God created marriage to be a 50-50, reciprocal relationship. However, I just don’t believe that young Christian women are willing to submit to that paradigm.

    I will admit that right now, I am not willing to submit to the paradigm of a reciprocal relationship. Perhaps my frustration matched with my past relationships with Christian women has made me jaded. I used to desire marriage when I was younger, but in recent years I have given up. A shy and timid guy plus social anxiety plus past rejection and cruel treatment by women was the perfect equation to impose a life of solitude upon myself. I will admit that since conceding to a life of singleness, that I have become selfish. Now I find it difficult to imagine myself married because I can’t imagine giving up what I want out of life. I find the idea of marriage or even dating a Christian lady to be horrifying. I can’t imagine being anything else but on my own, and as strange as it sounds, the thought of being on my own is comforting. It’s what I know: just me and God.

    • I guess i see marriage as 100%-100%, instead of fifty fifty. But it seems like a biblical view requires us to give 100% whether the other person does or not.

      I also know women who give a lot married to men who give very little, so this depends somewhat on the particular culture of a particular church.

      I hope you can find a community that takes a more balanced approach than the one you have described here.

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