Acton Institute Powerblog

Time Magazine Gets It Wrong: Boys Are Still In Crisis And Securing An Immoral Marketplace

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The boy crisis is not a myth. David Von Drehle’s article, “The Myth About Boys,” in this week’s Time Magazine argues that the boy crisis of the 1990s has leveled off and is now improving. Not exactly. This assessment, however, is completely dependent on one’s moral framework. Boys are still in crisis, regardless of what feminists and other women, like some published in the Washington Post, are saying. It’s a crisis of morality. The ongoing crisis will have dire consequences because the market produces whatever men want, good or bad. Immoral men, immoral market. It’s that simple. The real issue is “what kind of men are we forming,” not “what bad things aren’t men doing.” Tragically, 90 percent of boys raised in the church will abandon it by the time they turn 20-years-old, so there is much work to be done.

“Statistics collected over two decades,” says Von Drehle, “show an alarming decline in the performance of America’s boys–in some respects, a virtual free fall. Boys were doing poorly in school, abusing drugs, committing violent crimes and engaging in promiscuous sex.”

Von Drehle offers the following as good news against previous reports:

The juvenile crime rate in 2005 (the most recent year cited in the report) was down by two-thirds from its peak in 1993. The number of high school senior boys using illegal drugs has fallen by almost half compared with the number in 1980. Fewer than half of all high school boys and girls in 2005 were sexually active. For the boys, that’s a decrease of 10 percentage points from the early 1990s.

Boys who are having sex report that they are more responsible about it: 7 in 10 are using condoms, compared with about half in 1993. Women now outnumber men in college by a ratio of 4 to 3, and admissions officers at liberal-arts colleges are struggling to find enough males to keep their classes close to gender parities. Today, 1 in 5 boys is obese. The percentage of young men between 16 and 19 who neither work nor attend school has fallen by about a quarter since 1984.

How does this debunk the crisis? If your moral compass is the lowest common denominator and the basis of comparison is “not-as-bad-as-the-past” (or “animals”) the Von Drehle story might be convincing. However, boys are still falling behind in school, having sex outside of marriage, obese, abusing drugs, committing suicide, overcrowding the criminal justice system, fatherless, and receiving little to no moral formation during critical decision-making years.

To make matters worse, Christianity has become a religion primarily for women, as reported by David Murrow author of Why Men Hate Going To Church and who also started “Church for Men” to address the crisis:

• As many as 90 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it by their 20th birthday. Many of these boys will never return.
• The typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female, 39% male.
• On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches.
• This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.
• Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants.
• The majority of church employees are women (except for ordained clergy, who are overwhelmingly male).

All these stats about the boy crisis and Christianity are far worse in the black community as a focus developing strong black men has been abandoned to produce “women of power.” You’ll be hard pressed to find a black church in America full of black men. Black America is experiencing the fruit of intense focus on black girls in the 70s, 80s, and 90s: black women are in college and many black men are in jail and/or fathering children outside of marriage.

If our nation continues to fail to form boys into men who live in absolute pursuit of the good and fight against evil–that is, men of dignity, honor, valor, courage, conviction, passion, and men with the highest morals–the future of our nation is questionable. Here are two huge consequences:

(1) Men with low morals create an immoral marketplace and culture: strip clubs, college athletes hiring strippers for their drunken parties, porn, misogynistic hip hop, politicians hiring “madams,” corrupt business practice, athletes who run dog fighting outfits out of their homes, athletes willing to cheat with “performance enhancers”, drug abuse, contexts for drunkenness, sexualized and crassly violent video games, and so on, exists because men create the demand and want to consume low-hanging, immoral fruit.

(2) Cycles of fatherlessness, divorce, and broken families will never cease if men are not formed and shaped by those institutions that have traditionally and successfully created some of the most amazing husbands, fathers, attackers of evil, and champions of justice in world history. Boys raised without strong fathers are generally clueless about what it means to be a man and wreak havoc on society trying to figure out often leaving behind a trail of destruction, pain, and perpetual brokenness. Masculinity is bestowed from one man to another in a larger community of men. Without strong communities of morally grounded men, boys will not be formed for the good.

Boys are still in crisis. They are not as bad as past jacked-up men, or as bad as animals, but surely we all have higher moral standards than that to hold men to, don’t we?

Anthony Bradley Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics in the Public Service Program at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.


  • “Tragically, 90 percent of boys raised in the church will abandon it by the time they turn 20-years-old, so there is much work to be done.”

    What church is this referring to? If the author means it in the traditional, grand sense of “The Church,” then it would follow that no more than 10% of men over the age of twenty are still members of a church. (And that’s assuming that 100% of boys are raised in the church, which is clearly not the case.) Demographic data show that far more than 10% of adult men in this country are part of a church.

    So…is the sentence meaningless, or did the author make a statistical error?

  • Anthony B.

    Phil, did you read the entire post and/or check out the “Church For Men” website?

    The stats are NOT about membership. You can be a member of a church (that is, on the church roll) and never attend church or be involved in the life and ministry of the church in a local community. Taking the other stats into consideration, “churched guys” stop practicing Christianity by the time they are 20. It does not mean they’ll never return to church ever again nor does it mean that they are not “members” somewhere.

    I was raised in the church and spent about 10 years not caring about Christianity at all while I was a “member” of my parent’s church.

    Also, as the Church for Men website makes clear, the stats are about boys raised in the church (only) NOT 100 percent of all boys in America. Again, “as many as 90 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it by their 20th birthday.”

    Phil, here is the key clause “of the boys who are being raised in the church.” Notice it does not read, “of all the boys raised in America.”

    The key question is why are men that grow up in the church check out during their 20s?

  • “Also, as the Church for Men website makes clear, the stats are about boys raised in the church (only) NOT 100 percent of all boys in America.”

    Right, but that means that the statistic is even _more_ extreme, not less. If, for example, only 50% of all boys in the country are raised in the church and 90% of _them_ abandon it at 20, then a whopping 95% of all adult men have either abandoned or never been part of “the church.”

    Your point is well-taken, though, that “abandoning” a church is different from abandoning membership in a church. It sounds, then, like the statistic is completely made up, just pulled out of a hat. Would that be an accurate assessment?

  • John

    Unbelievable – if the subject had been a minority group or girls, the conclusion would have been “we have got to organize and get this fixed.” Instead the author chose to picture white boys and, even after quoting many statistics showing that boys need help, chose to say it’s a myth.

    The fact that boys have gone from being the majority of incoming students in college to being outnumbered by girls 4 to 3 is a huge red flag. How many times has the argument been made that the reason girls didn’t do well in math was because of boys’ enthusiasm (they raised their hand faster) or putdowns from other girls and boys. Now that the tables have turned no-one wants to say that the gains of girls have been at the expense of boys, but to say there’s not a problem is beyond disingenuous.

  • “History is there so we don’t repeat it,” is the thought for this week.

    As school opens, there are so many thoughts that invade our separate CPUs. CPU? That’s a new term that’s entered our vernacular that helps us think of our brain as a big computer. Think of it, our brain as a big computer that potentially can crash. Think of your brain that way we operate separate central processing units that occasionally are called upon to store information that hopefully keeps us from making the same mistake our parents made, our friends made, even our country made.

    Tragedy strikes in many forms, whether it’s wind and rain associated with a Katrina, a bridge falling in Minnesota, or a family torn apart because of broken vows, ill-conceived reactions to boundaries established by a mom or dad trying to raise a teenager who can’t understand the need for a curfew.

    There are three things I’d like to address this week. I want to first focus on events that have happened that some of you may be aware, and some may not then challenge you as you reflect on the three events to do something. I’ll provide you with an opportunity to effect a difference in your home, school or community.

    The first has to do with a book that invaded not only our home, but millions of homes across the world. Harry Potter. As I waited patiently to read “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows,” the last book in the seven-book series, it became obvious there was an opportunity to educate my sons on the importance of insight. It became obvious there was an opportunity to talk with them about the importance of experience. It became obvious as I read the last book there was a teachable moment I could not pass up as I saw my younger son begin to reread all the books. If you know how a story ends, then it might affect the decisions you make at the beginning. Without revealing anything about the last book, after reading it one realizes that “All perceptions are real, they may not be valid, but they must be dealt with.” People do things for reasons they can’t always tell us, but when the truth is revealed, the revelation causes us to realize, if we listen to those who know the ending, maybe we should trust them more to find a better way in our journey through life. Harry Potter is a great series. There are tremendous values shared about friendship, family and truth. The last book makes one realize you shouldn’t judge someone, or their actions, until you’ve stood in their shoes.

    The myth about boys? Time magazine’s 6 August issue emphasizes that all the hoopla about boys being in trouble is a myth. Though the author, David Von Drehle, provides information on how things are not as bad as everyone had been proclaiming, he doesn’t dismiss the fact that some of our boys, particularly black boys, are in trouble. Unfortunately some people will read Mr. Von Drehle overly generalized statement take it out of context without reading the whole article. While admitting that girls are doing better than boys in many areas, and that girls continue to outdistance boys by achieving better grades, having higher graduation rates, and in some cities women are earning just as much if not more than men, Von Drehle doesn’t state why the improvement, or why he challenges the myth of their being a boys crisis. Rather, he comments that the positive changes that have occurred have resulted from there being a clarion call that boys needed help. Don’t let this attempt at making us feel better let us forget how boys got into to trouble in the first place. We must remain diligent! We must not forget! Parents still need to be involved, particularly fathers in the lives of their boys. Teachers still need to find ways to encourage boys to continue their education. Researchers of the 1990s, who surfaced the issues of boys needing help, need to continue researching and sharing the models that are helping turn things around, otherwise history can repeat itself again.

    My third issue? Well, it hard to believe that one day you get in your car, drive a route you’ve driven every day for years that the bridge you have lost count the times you’ve crossed will collapse. That of course happened in Minnesota. People died. Some survived. But the point to be made here is that this bridge had been listed as “structurally deficient” seventeen years ago. A few years ago, try 1950, the levees in New Orleans were listed in need of repair. The point is… ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away. There were reasons for us to be concerned about our young men and the importance of what a man being involved in their life can do. That’s the lesson we should remember. Whether it fictionalize as Dumbledore and Harry Potter, a teacher and a student, or a father and his daughter or son, it’s a fact! Moreover, we should not let an article lull us to sleep believing things are fixed.

    Now here comes your opportunity to do something. What are you doing the first day of school? Do you or your neighbor have a child who is in school? If for no other reason to see the facility, meet the teachers, or meet another male, taking your child to school is a way to get involved. It sends a message.

    If you’ve not heard about the “Million Father March” that’s happening across America, you’ve just heard about it. It’s a movement established to address the lack of involvement of men in schools. It’s a movement established to validate the importance of men in the lives of their home, communities, especially their schools. It’s a movement that I’d like for you to contact your schools and find out what they know about it. If they don’t know anything, then tell them to contact Mr. Phillip Jackson at the website No one can provide for our children the way we can, and if you want the schools to do that, then stay at home. Otherwise, contact schools in your district and ask them, what are they doing to provide a venue for fathers to get involve in their child’s education? If they can’t give you an answer, then you have just unearthed another bridge that may be structurally deficient as we work to grow boys into men into fathers.

  • I totally agree. As I state in an article, if we forget what we have done, we are bound to repeat it. I struggle with the man going to church, and I hope and pray that even though I stopped for awhile, I returned, that my sons, if they choose to stop, will find their way back. Granted I have been around more than my dad, so that might help. But I’m not optimistic. The lack of positive christian male role models continues to slide, and unless men encourage other men to take up the cross, our sons will pick up an IPOD instead.

  • David Case

    The Service Economy has had as much detrimental effect as anything. Males are productive by nature – creators, builders, inventors. A society of T-dotters and I-crossers will favor females – end of story. The U.S. is at 10%, the lowest ever, workforce directly involved in manufacturing. Men lose in a non-productive, Social Contract oriented culture.

    As for the Church — men may have left churches, but churches left men. The death of expositional, prounoncement oriented preaching for relational emotionalism, again, heavily favors females.