Monday, February 16, 2009

Boys and Gangs

"Listen, my son, to your father's instruction
and do not forsake your mother's teaching.
They will be a garland to grace your head
and a chain to adorn your neck.

"My son, if sinners entice you,
do not give in to them.
If they say, 'Come along with us;
let's lie in wait for someone's blood,
let's waylay some harmless soul;
let's swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
throw in your lot with us,
and we will share a common purse'--
my son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
for their feet rush into sin,
they are swift to shed blood.
How useless to spread a net
in full view of all the birds!
These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they waylay only themselves!
Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the lives of those who get it" (Proverbs 1:8-19).

I find it interesting that the book of Proverbs tackles the problem of gangs so early in the book. Not only does Proverbs address the problem, it points toward a solution: the involvement of both parents in teaching their sons basic lessons of right and wrong. Boys need their mothers and their fathers to be involved in their lives, guiding them, and molding their consciences.

As a father, I do not want to see my son involved in a gang. I do not want to see him self-destruct while taking others out with him. I am intentional in being with my son and teaching him the lessons of life. I am intentional in bringing him to the Saturday morning men's breakfasts at the Park Plaza Church (when I have a Saturday off work), so that he can gain the wisdom of other men as we face life's issues together. Bible reading and philosophical discussions are a regular part of our everyday lives.

So, I was interested in an article reprinted in the recent newsletter of the Amy Foundation (an organization that promotes biblical teaching through public forums such as letters to the editor and personal blogs) entitled "Street Gangs and Sons of Our Society: A Cry for Daddy" by Gordon Dalbey. He focused on the connection of fathers and sons as a solution for the gang problem. Here is an excerpt:

"The recent deadly State Street gang fight begs the lesson of a Los Angeles Times Magazine cover story entitled 'Mothers, Sons and Gangs,' in which several mothers of young gang members pondered sadly why their sons had gone astray. As a man, I was startled by what they didn't say. 'I don't understand why he goes out on the streets,' was the gist of each woman's grief. 'I'm a good mother.'

"No matter how righteous and fine a homemaker his mother may be, a boy is drawn to the gang by the innate male longing and need to break away from the mother, bond to the father, and be joined thereby to the company of men. Without the father to engineer that process, the choice for a young male is ominous: either join a gang and get killed or go to prison, or stay with Mom...

"Certainly, these are good mothers...I suspect their sons genuinely know that. But these mothers are not fathers, nor can they be...

"The gangs are surrogate fathers, and their violence is a misdirected vengeance against males/fathers who have abandoned them and a society which has misled them.

"No doubt, in days to come, we will hear much official rhetoric about getting tough on gangs and the violence they often stir. But restricting behavior, while at times necessary, is not sufficient to heal the heart. Gangs, that is, are symptoms of a deeper disease among us.

"This disease is the curse of fatherlessness. We will not likely hear so much about that, however, because so few men today have dared face this awful emptiness in our masculine souls. Much as an alcoholic uses a drink, often we use the police and courts to avoid facing our problem.

"You don't have to be young and poor to understand what drives a gang. You just have to be real."

Although I feel a great responsibility as a father, I am thankful to God for the privilege. I'm also thankful to have Janet as my wife and partner as a parent. And I'm also thankful for the members of the Contact Church who are mentoring the young men in our church who are either in gangs or susceptible to becoming gang members. This is a problem that cannot be handled alone. We each have a role in pointing our sons to a higher purpose: glorifying God as men were meant to do.


Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

Terry great to have you come by my blog. I am humbled and honored. Thank you for the work you are doing in urban ministry there in Tulsa. I will lift you and your ministry up in prayer.

Hope to meet you at the Tulsa Workshop ...

Seeking Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

Terry said...

Thanks, Bobby! I stop by your blog fairly often, and enjoy reading your thoughts about church history and how it applies to today. I'll look for you next month.