It’s as if Providence put a hard shoulder into him. After graduating from UCLA, Kenny Luck settled into a business career in Southern California. Perhaps settled isn’t the right word. He accelerated, and after a few short years became the CEO of a very successful healthcare organization.
The actual transition came more gradually, however. He enrolled at the Fuller Theological Seminary and then began volunteering as a lay minster. But there was a sense of calling that demanded a deeper commitment. Ultimately, he forsook the corporation for the cloth. Luck is now the pastor of men at the Saddle Back Church in Orange County, Calif., and founder of Everyman Ministries.
“Why men? Why have you focused your pastoral role on the needs of men?” I asked. Then I listened to a man who thinks with unusual clarity on the subject, a man more than wistful, a man having real impact.
“Is the predominant male culture in America healthy?” he asked. “Are we producing the fathers and the leaders we need, that society requires? It’s one thing to talk about the metro-urban matriarchies of our inner cities that are 70 percent fatherless, but what about the rest of the nation? Is the trajectory any different? We live in a society with a broken male culture traceable to the home. The roots of male identity are shaped in the home. Leadership and character formation begin in the home.
“Men become men in the company of other men. That doesn’t negate the influence of women. Their influence is critical. But it’s not enough. Women can influence and nurture, but they can’t model masculinity. A mother may raise a boy, but a boy increasingly needs male connections as he passes through adolescence into manhood. He needs to learn sonship from a father — at the very least from another healthy male. He needs to be trained, taught and mentored in a healthy masculine context. He needs to learn from other men how to value women, family and society.”
As I listened to the good pastor, I couldn’t help but reflect on the dismantling of the triangle of socialization — the age-old edifice of the family, church and school — that acculturated so many generations, that inculcated values and engendered civic duty. Filling the vacuum today is the predatory and many-headed hydra that is popular culture and the mass media. I asked Pastor Kenny what popular culture teaches a man to be in our society.
“It’s not really much different than in the past — to indulge, impress and increase. That’s the great mantra of the media. The themes are hedonism, narcissism and materialism. What’s the result? If your identity has been shaped in that environment, you’ll likely seek validation in accumulation, recreation and sexual conquest — the apex of contemporary culture. All of this creates a broken male culture and a pool of suffering.”
“I know this is strong language,” he continues, “but men in our society are being pimped by contemporary culture. That leads to self-destructive behavior. Some go on a quest and turn to faith. The most vulnerable become media prey, especially if they don’t have the time, talk and touch of their fathers or other healthy men.”
“And where do you come in?” I asked.
“I’m in the crosshairs of an epic cultural showdown between real manhood and the counterfeit version our popular culture has to offer. Every man has influence. The question is what kind? Men are more squeezed today by relationships, responsibilities and economic pressure. What comes out under pressure is often a boy with man-sized responsibility. So we organize and help men to help each other. We help them create a transformational context where they can discuss their struggles and personal journeys, where they can get on a true search for identity that transcends the immediate culture."
Any parting thoughts?
“Yes, keep in mind that every boy will be fathered. The only question is by whom. If not by a good father or another healthy male, by default that boy will most likely be fathered by a broken culture. One other thing: Every young man needs to hear the words, 'I love you. I’m proud of you.' ”
Timothy R. Clark, Ph.D., is an author, international management consultant, former two-time CEO, Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University and Academic all-American football player at BYU. His latest two books are "The Leadership Test" and "Epic Change." E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org