Boys and the Army

Albert Mohler has written an article called “The Army We Have” — Young Men, Responsibility, and Leadership for the Twenty-First Century. He writes about the difficulty of recruiting soldiers for today’s volunteer army. It seems the problem isn’t just that the Iraq war is scaring off recruits, but that it is awfully difficult to find qualified recruits in the first place. Here are some quotes, from Mohler and another writer whom he quotes:

[T]he Army doesn’t have the luxury of selectivity in filling its expanded rolls. It needs 80,000 new soldiers this year and must find them in a populace that is in many ways less willing and less able to serve than earlier generations were. Young people are fatter and weaker. They eat more junk food, watch more television, play more video games, and exercise less. They are more individualistic and less inclined to join the military. And with the unemployment rate hovering near historic lows, they have other choices.

–Brian Mockenhaupt

At the same time, [Army Colonel] Shwedo sees today’s recruits as the product of a society that can’t quite figure out how to raise its children. “Most kids coming into the Army today have never worn leather shoes in their life unless it said Nike, Adidas, or Timberland. They’ve never run two miles consecutively in their life, and for the most part they hadn’t had an adult tell them ‘no’ and mean it. That’s bizarre,” he says. “Our society says you can’t count in a soccer match, because you might hurt somebody’s feelings. Every kid is going to get a trophy, whether or not you ever went to practice or ever won a game.” But these societal shortcomings can be leveraged in the training environment, Shwedo says. “If you go up and do something as simple as slap a soldier on the back and tell them they are doing a good job, you are giving them the recognition that society hasn’t given them besides those cheap trophies.”

–Brian Mockenhaupt

Fatter. Weaker. Less willing and less able to serve. Junk food. Television. Video games. Individualistic. Never been told “no.” Meaningless rewards.

I need to ask myself: “What am I doing as a parent and teacher to counter these cultural trends?”

The article is an incredible piece of cultural insight and analysis, and it should spark thousands of worthy conversations among parents, pastors, youth ministers, and others concerned with today’s boys and young men.

The emergence of a generation of boys and young men who have never been told ‘no’ by an adult who meant it, who include a large percentage who had no father in the home, who were put on Ritalin instead of taught and disciplined, tells us a great deal about ourselves as a society.


How about the church? How is the Church faring in its own challenge to reach this generation of young men — the same generation described by Colonel Shwedo above? Are we reaching the boys and young men in our own churches? Are we seeing them transformed from boys into men, from followers into leaders, from undisciplined young males into faithful disciples of Jesus?

If anything, our challenge is greater than that faced by the Army. Beyond that, the stakes are even higher for the church than for the military. The church needs more than a few good men. What are we waiting for?


Grace and Peace

I got this link from Glenn at Be Bold, Be Gentle.

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