Band Of Brothers
Will Not Clear a Man
Will Not Clear a Man 2
Will Not Clear a Man 3


Men Today vs Yesterday

When I was a boy, there was a railroad track we drove across every day that ran very close to a brick factory building; and on the side of the building, there was a sign that read "Will Not Clear A Man." Growing up, I always wondered about that sign. When I was older, I realized what it meant. Trains often had railroad men hanging onto the sides of them, for various reasons. That sign was there to tell the engineer that the space between the building and train was too narrow to accommodate a man hanging onto the side of it: he would be knocked off.

Today, our culture is very much like the side of that building: it is designed to knock a man - a real man - off the side of the train he is riding so he cannot "clear" it. It throws obstacles in his path that become increasingly harder to "clear." Even if parents home school their boys, and do everything in their power to raise them to become men, at some point our culture will try to knock them off. Our men - who are the heads of our marriages, families and communities - are the fatalities of our present culture as they are knocked, one by one, off the trains of life. What are some of the reasons for this phenomenon, and what can we do about it?

Unlike women, who are home-oriented, men need community. We need a community of other men to which we belong and by whom we are respected. Boys, too, when they reach the age of manhood, need to be initiated into that community. (See Christian Knighthood) How are fathers going to initiate their sons into something that they themselves don't have? If there is one thing that men and their families lack today it is community, and church isn't solving that problem except superficially. We are all living in some kind of isolation, and it is destroying our defenses against sin. We cannot fight sin alone. We need to stand with other men who love God.

Unlike women, who are security-driven, men need adventure. We need opportunities to discover new worlds and to test our mettle. You can see that tendency in boys at an early age. (See The Dangerous Book For Boys.) How are fathers going to teach their sons to be courageous and take risks if they themselves aren't and don't? Both men and boys lack those opportunities today, as our society has worked hard to tame them and make them "safe." By "gelding" our men and boys, we are rendering them incapable of action, and therefore incapable of leading.

Unlike women, who are relational, men need action. We need activities in which to prove ourselves. Our communities are not designed for relationship, primarily, but rather for activity. Our adventures are not passive but filled with action - like hunting, fishing, backpacking, cycling, kayaking, building things, etc. One of the best things I hear from fathers is how their sons "never stop moving." Boys need things to "do;" not read, not draw, not talk - do (meaning, involving movement). Again, our society, in its attempt to create a unisex culture, has tried to take all the movement out of education, out of life. We have become a sedentary society, and it is making our women and girls obese, and our men and boys effeminate and passive.

What are some of the results of a society that lacks community, adventure and action in the lives of its men and boys? The growth of gang cultures, a 75% pornography involvement among men, and a 50% divorce rate, to name a few. Gang cultures are nothing more than boys attempting to find community. Pornography is nothing more than men searching for adventure. Divorce is nothing more than men looking for motion in a marriage that has become static.

As I see it, men today 1) start out as boys, of course, and then, without fully maturing, 2) move into marriage. From there, they 3) end up in addiction (money, power, sex, pleasure), and that is when 4) the Church or some other organization steps in and tries to do something to help restore the man. Often, because the attempt at restoration comes late, 5) the man's marriage ends in divorce and he ends up feeling like a failure - as a man, as a husband and as a father.

Boyhood - Marriage - Addiction - Restoration by Church, AA, etc. - Divorce & Failure

In the old days, men 1) started out as boys, 2) were initiated into the community and fellowship of men (usually their grandfathers, uncles, and close male friends of the family), 3) married, 4) became part of a larger society, 5) realized a higher calling and purpose and strove to fulfill that calling and purpose (the fight for freedom, helping the poor, the salvation of the lost, etc.).

Boyhood - Community of Men - Marriage - Society of Others - Realization and Fulfillment of Purpose for Life

Today, the church arrives almost too late in the process to help the man. In the old days, the church was involved in the man's life from beginning to end.

How can we change things to make them more like it was in the old days? How can we help men to find the Community of Men and the Society of Others, so that they can realize their purpose (their true adventure) and fulfill it? How can we do that really, as opposed to the artificial way in which we are trying to do it today?

I recently moved. I asked a ton of guys to help me. They say you find out who your true friends are when you move. What I think I found out was who the members of my true community are.

I love the moving experience because it reminds me of how Amish men help each other raise a barn. Everyone in the community takes the day off from his own work and shows up, early in the morning, at the brother's house who needs help. (The movie Witness contains an excellent scene of this.) People don't offer excuses because they're a community and they know they need to stick together. I wish the Church-at-large were more like that. I wish all men saw their need for each other the way Amish men do.

Our society will rise or fall on our men. If our men get what they need in the form of community, adventure and action, our society will be strong. We need to change our culture so that it isn't working against our men, knocking them off the trains of life on which they are traveling. We need to build a man-friendly culture, rather than the anti-male culture that exists now. We need a culture that "Will Clear A Man."


Waitsel Smith, September 8, 2007

Text © 2007 Waitsel Smith. Pictures © 2001 HBO, et al. All Rights Reserved.

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