The New Peter Pans

In so many of our new dynamic Christian Churches, many of the young (and not so young) men are not marrying. Instead they see their life in utilitarian/individualistic frameworks (success, accumulation of assets, personal growth) and despite its efforts, it appears these churches are not succeeding in shifting them to a more relational framework to balance out their lives (except in utilitarian relationships, which they mistake for a full, well-round relational context. )

I believe what I am seeing within the Christian Church is a new kind of Peter Pan. Not the eternal boy who lives to play, but eternal young man who cannot make the transition to true adulthood; who seems stuck at the transition point of getting ready to be, but never fully becoming, which our utilitarian/existential/self-absorbed culture of the young, upwardly mobile, wanting to be successful, almost men seem to have embraced.

I see these type of young men all around the Christian Churches and the larger the church the more likely I am see them, gathered together in self-reenforcing groups. Interestingly, it appears that dealing with old fashioned sexual sin through marriage (it is better to marry than to burn – Paul) has been the primary thing to move these young men into marriage. But so many them have been able to use our uber forgiving, non-confrontive culture to avoid facing that issue for far too long, if at all.

Do you think this is a valid observation on my part, or am I suffering from from reading too much into the situation? If so, what do you tell the young Christian women who want a husband, but dispair of getting married while these young men are all around them? I believe this is a growing issue in our churches.

Update: This issue is further developed in Agape vs Eros, the next posting.

4 thoughts on “The New Peter Pans

  1. Having written about this before…well, I shall try to keep it brief.

    In short, you are absolutely correct. Our young men are herded into groups – coed and single gender – where they’re kept busy with all sorts of activities – from sports to soup kitchen work and so forth. I think the hearts are in the right place, but we DO end up with our young men getting all of their relational needs taken care of by the rest of the ‘pack’. As far as sex before marriage, that isn’t a big deal in most churches anymore, as you’ve hinted. It’s hardly a sin, actually.

    As a result, they feel no need for marriage, and as much as I admire men in general, they kind of need to notice something is missing before they miss it! When they ARE ready to settle down and perhaps procreate, they do not look to their female contemporaries (in age), but to the young ladies 8-15 years younger, and in some cases, 20 years younger (speaking from experience). Thus, we now find ourselves with a whole generation of young women already facing a life that will, statistically, be alone except for their family, friends, and pets; another generation is not far behind, because the situation is only worsening.

    What do we tell them? I don’t know, because I was one of those women resigned to living her life alone, never marrying, because at my ripe age, I’d not yet married and had high standards (Christian, didn’t live with his parents, and had a job).

    An apology for mismanagement is in probably order, as is a change in the way we deal with our young men. I think the young ladies are far more mature than the young men; while the young Christian men are living at home with parents until the late 20s or even later, I’d say most of my girlfriends and I moved out on our own around 23-25.

    I’m not expecting that apology anytime soon. And it makes me very, very sad for my still-single girlfriends, who’ve all but lost hope in finding a godly young man to share their lives with.

  2. Peter Pan lives on — really? Well, as in most fairy tales I remember it may be that way, or off the poor maiden goes
    with the prince to the castle to live forever. But I really wonder
    if it is merely my generation (bd 1932) that doesn’t allow me to “relax and have fun” or is there a point my generation really has or is it a rant? I think I may be too close to the forest to see the trees.

    Activities for youth is a real issue today. I once heard an older preacher talking about music and he was not “for” drums in the church. He argued that drums are used in war to encourage the troops to march on (I doubt if anything much like that goes on since the revolutionary and civil wars — our military got a bit smarter and snipers could pick off that poor drummer boy pretty quick). Music today is different, and perhaps that is a understatement, but let’s leave it there–a statement.

    Is it really all that entertaining to have “paint ball gun” shootouts? Maybe they aren’t called that but is it just me who thinks becoming accurate with a gun (even though it is a harmless paint ball gun) is not exactly an activity necessary or appropriate for Christian young people?

    Peter Pan? Well, I really can appreciate a question Elizabeth Elliott once expressed, “When are they going to grow up?” She was talking about young men who seemed to be unable to shed their boyish interests. I wonder what Elizabeth thinks of the trucks today — trucks were once used for “work”; now they are so “dressed up” and stlylish they have become status symbols.

    Perhaps we simply need to pray for this area of of church and let God know we still believe He can lead and guide us. Let’s pray then.


  3. There is a significant difference between between enjoying boyish things (even I enjoy simple games and relaxing and having fun, serious as I am) and wanting to continue to live the boyish life and not grow up. As to my “new Peter Pans” there is also a difference between taking the step past “becoming” and moving on to maturity, in life, in faith, in responsibility.

    Paul explicitly dealt with the first group in 1 Corinthians 13:11 when he said, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

    Jesus, in the parable of the sower, deals with the second problem, “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” Luke 8:14 [Emphasis added.]

    Extreme business and purposeful side-tracking can be contributors to the problem, but they are merely facilitators, not its roots, which is a root problem, as Jesus identifies. You have to pull up your plant and repot it (reroot it) in fertile soil (in Christ) away from the weeds of this life that choke the maturity out of you. It is a wrenching experience to do such a radical thing and sadly many shrink from it. Yet, it is absolutely necessary to produce mature spiritual fruit.

    One of the reasons that Jesus said it was so hard for a rich man (in our culture the rich man of our Lord’s time has penetrated a very large percentage of the U.S. population–it is not relative–see my earlier posting on Having It All) to get into heaven is just that, the attraction of the “good” life and the extreme difficulty of tearing yourself away from what it offers.

    I am not against success. What I am against is perpetual immaturity.

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