There have been a lot of words spent trying to analyze what is going on with our society today. According to some, we have reached a point of no return - our society is on the brink of a major collapse, akin to the collapse of the empires of old, and it will only get a lot worse before we see the sun again. And the blame for this collapse lies on the [insert the political party to which you do not belong].
Others claim that we ain't doing that bad. In fact, we are improving, look at all the new green technology saving our precious earth. Only if [insert the political party to which you do not belong] weren't so damn pessimistic all the time, we wouldn't feel so down as a society.
So, where's the truth? Who's right? It may be one of the sides; maybe even both sides; or the truth may be somewhere in the middle; or there may be no truth. In a way, who cares? For us, Christians, as long as we remain faithful to God (as opposed faithful to satan; and sorry, there is no middle ground in faithfulness, it's either God or satan), whatever comes or doesn't come will not matter in terms of how we behave towards ourselves, each other, or the society in general. We are here to repent, to take up our cross, to follow Christ, and spread His Gospel.
There is, however, one troubling trend right now - the relationship between men and Christ. To put it simply, men are, for the most part, missing in churches. There are some men, and glory to God for them, but where are the others? There can be made a case for the present culture making the men weaker, less masculine (and no, masculinity does not equal toxic masculinity. Only toxic masculinity equals toxic masculinity. Masculinity is a gift from God and it has a purpose in our world. Just like femininity). Weaker men are incapable of maturing into husbands and fathers. Weaker men are incapable of building and supporting their families. Weaker men are scared of commitments and responsibilities. Weaker men are ashamed of facing God.
Below are two facebook posts from two men (one priest and one layman), who have done some background work and assessed the situation with today's men and tried to come up with their own propositions.
From Steven Christophorou:
A few weeks ago, I listened to an Orthodox podcast discussing young men entering the Church. The conversation was well-intentioned but mostly disappointing.
Since this topic is capturing people's attention, consider this:
1. We've spent decades failing to raise faithful youth & young adults. We delude ourselves if we think we're ready for new young adult inquirers without serious repentance. For decades, ministry hasn't been about life in Christ. Why do we think now will be any different?
2. Orthodox Christian ministry is largely derivative. We arrived in the US and started copying (mostly Protestant) forms of ministry. Even worse, we internalized the ethos of 20th century American Christianity (youthfulness, mass culture, quests for authenticity, etc).
3. We believe young men are drawn to "Orthodoxy" because it's old, hard, trad, etc. That's because we've flattened the Body of Christ to an ideology called "Orthodoxy" that's understandable in flat, secular terms: something Christless that's merely cultural.
4. For decades, we've seen youth pastors as "cool guys" who can connect with kids & help them find authenticity in our parish club. We're doing the same with "manly men" who can help young men find authenticity in our parish club. More flat, cultural, Christless "Orthodoxy.”
5. Like our youth ministry view of "coolness," our view of "manhood" comes from mass culture. We pretend to follow the God-Man who died on the Cross. But we prefer insecure influencers & pretentious pseudo-intellectuals who help confused boys feel like imitation "men."
6. We can't tell the difference between a flock & fans. Well-intentioned but misguided leaders enable the excesses of online spaces because it gives them the affirmation of youthfulness & mass culture ("Look, I'm relevant!"), growing their influence while obscuring Christ.
7. Absent repentance, old-country ethnic Orthodoxy (culture masquerading as Church) will be followed by new-country ethnic (American) Orthodoxy. Popular or not, it's just another version of the cultural, Christless "Orthodoxy" we've perfected over the decades.
And Father John Cox comments (in response to the above from Steven) on what a true masculinity looks like. And what do you know, it's not toxic!
We need faithful men. What does this look like? What I offer here is a sketch, but hopefully one that describes the figure.
1. Faithful to Christ and the Church. A faithful man is committed to Christ and the Church whether he’s “feeling it” at any particular time. He attends services as regularly as his circumstances allow. Like Jacob he struggles with God. Like David he struggles with himself. In both areas he is engaged and not passive. One who is trying to be faithful to Christ will be increasingly aware of his limitations and weaknesses. A faithful man is learning and growing in and through his failures and shortcomings; offering to God the little “gift” of himself (as he truly is, warts and all, rather than a Kincaid version of himself) and receiving God’s blessing and help in return. From this experience of God’s condescension and goodness, and his own need, he approaches the world outside himself.
2. Faithful to his spouse (if applicable). A faithful man models the qualities young men need to see in order to be healthy themselves when he is faithful to his wife in mind and body. He acts toward her in the way love demands whether or not he is feeling loving. He is learning to overcome selfishness in order to do be a genuine helper to his mate. He is learning to discipline his thoughts and his words so that he gives life to his spouse rather than takes it.
3. Faithful to his family. A faithful man invests his time and energy in his family. He is engaged in the lives of his children. He is encouraging and helpful. He does his best to set a good standard for them in terms of his own conduct and holds them to standards of character they should aspire to. He is merciful in failure and modest in success. He keeps his word and expects the same of his children, but is forgiving as they grow and learn to handle their own foibles. He uses both his strength and his weakness to help and strengthen his children.
4. Faithful to his friends. A faithful man has friends, at least a few, including another man (besides his confessor) in whom he can confide completely. He is learning to be a good listener. He is trying to become comfortable giving and receiving hospitality, kindness, and attention.
4. Faithful to his community. It is our relationship to others to whom we are not bound, save by conviction, that tests our mettle most. A faithful man does not live in a lonely tower but belongs to the community of the Church. As such, he thinks of himself as having an obligation of service to the people in his community. This does not necessarily mean a Sunday morning job or “ministry” in a formal sense, but merely the willingness to pay attention to others and help where and if he can. By virtue of his attention and effort, a faithful man is contributing to a culture of life, and an atmosphere of goodness that facilitates everyone’s ascent to the throne of God.