What's Tony Thinking

Week’s End: Satanism, Boys and Politics in the Pulpit


A couple items, as this week ends: Yesterday Vladimir Putin accused the West, the U.S. in particular, of “satanism.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

Satanism, in my book, looks like starting wars of aggression, invading your neighbors, destroying whole towns and cities, slaughtering civilians, rape, torture and war crimes.

Guys like Putin, authoritarian strongmen and the wannabes, offer one textbook illustration after another of the psycho-dynamics of “projection.” Whatever evil you’ve done or are doing, accuse you opponents of that as loudly and emphatically as possible.

I recall Scott Peck’s exploration of evil, People of the Lie. Peck argued that the ones we need to worry about are those who have no awareness of their own capacity for evil.

Item No. 2 the state of boys and men in our society and in the world. It’s not good. And this is, by the way, related to No. 1. David Brooks commented in his most recent column on Richard Reeves’ new book, “Of Men and Boys.”

It’s not a new issue. For years Linda and I have commented at school graduations, awards assemblies and the like that all the students up front and being recognized were girls. The social costs of lost boys seems to be getting larger,  though for reasons of, I guess, political correctness it is seldom mentioned. Here’s Brooks:

“If you’ve been paying attention to the social trends, you probably have some inkling that boys and men are struggling, in the U.S. and across the globe.

“They are struggling in the classroom. American girls are 14 percentage points more likely to be “school ready” than boys at age 5, controlling for parental characteristics. By high school, two-thirds of the students in the top 10 percent of the class, ranked by G.P.A., are girls, while roughly two-thirds of the students at the lowest decile are boys. In 2020, at the 16 top American law schools, not a single one of the flagship law reviews had a man as editor in chief.

“Men are struggling in the workplace. One in three American men with only a high school diploma — 10 million men — is now out of the labor force. The biggest drop in employment is among young men aged 25 to 34.”

The list goes on, problems in relationships, lack of friendships. The causes are multiple, but the big picture is that the world has changed and a lot of men haven’t figured out, or been helped to figure out by good men, what their role is and how to be a man is in a new time. This filters down to boys. Reeves says the problem isn’t the lack of opportunity, but a deficit of confidence and ambition. I think it also has something to do with the sexual revolution, the upshot of which is too few men taking responsibility as parents and role-models.

This relates to item No. 1, Putin the Terrible. The response of many men to changing roles is to imitate the brash, offensive, and hyper-masculine models offered in movies, media and politics. In a time of challenge and confusion, take “testosterone” supplements, get an AR-15, and double-down on loud, rude, and aggressive.

It also relates to No. 1 in that for guys like Putin, Trump, De Santis and Cruz, you don’t take responsibility when you screw up, you always blame someone else.

I sent Brooks’ column to my two sons, telling them how proud I was of the men they are and of the boys, and girls, they are raising.

Item No. 3 is a great call-out in Christianity Today of the increasingly common “preacher’s rants,” that is commenting on the week’s political and other news from the pulpit. It used to be that we liberals were accused of too much politics in the pulpit, while religious conservatives really avoided that. Well, that’s changed. An increasingly number of “evangelical” pastors are commenting on the week’s news under the rubric of “preachers hot takes.” Hot air, I’d call it. Actually worse, idolatry.

Chris Guy, a preacher, reports that in these hyper-politicized times, he gets a steady barrage of texts saying, “What does the church have to say about this?” “Are you going to speak out on this?” “Are you going to take a stand?” Over the years, I’ve gotten those charged, often angry and self-righteous, messages too.

In an interview about his article, Guy said, “All the people who want me to “take a stand,” want to me take their stand, to take their position and to agree with them. No one is even vaguely interested in hearing me take a different position or perspective.” “Speak out, by all means, just be sure that when you do you agree with me!” Funny how that goes.

It goes, or should go, without saying that preachers have to address the world we live in. But to just be another echo chamber for the culture wars isn’t preaching the gospel. I realize items one and two in this blog are in fact my comments on news items. But this is a blog not a sermon.

Moreover, the gospel has its own politics, the politics of Jesus, which aren’t the same as either the contemporary right or left, and which call both into question.


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