No Swords (or Pruning Hooks) Allowed

This article in TIME by Christina Hoff Sommers is well worth a read:

As school begins in the coming weeks, parents of boys should ask themselves a question: Is my son really welcome? A flurry of incidents last spring suggests that the answer is no. In May, Christopher Marshall, age 7, was suspended from his Virginia school for picking up a pencil and using it to “shoot” a “bad guy” — his friend, who was also suspended. A few months earlier, Josh Welch, also 7, was sent home from his Maryland school for nibbling off the corners of a strawberry Pop-Tart to shape it into a gun. At about the same time, Colorado’s Alex Evans, age 7, was suspended for throwing an imaginary hand grenade at “bad guys” in order to “save the world.”

In all these cases, school officials found the children to be in violation of the school’s zero-tolerance policies for firearms, which is clearly a ludicrous application of the rule. But common sense isn’t the only thing at stake here. In the name of zero tolerance, our schools are becoming hostile environments for young boys.

Exhibits X, Y, and Z in the Ongoing War on Masculinity. ‘Cause boys are just so freaking violent. If you see one behaving, y’know, the way boys normally do (wrestling, sword-fighting, playing army, etc.) be sure to call 911. We’ll send a squad car and a straightjacket right away.

What was it Lewis wrote in that magnificent little volume The Abolition of Man? “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Even this scathing indictment is too generous for us. We remove the organ because we hate the function. We make men without chests because we’re scared of what they might do if they had them. We laugh at honor because we know that honor is an antiquated notion best left to the Victorians. We castrate because the last thing we want is fruitfulness.

In Future Men, Wilson argues that “men who follow Jesus Christ, the dragon-slayer, must themselves become lesser dragon-slayers. And that is why it is absolutely essential for boys to play with wooden swords and plastic guns. Boys have a deep need to have something to defend, something to represent in battle. And to beat the spears into pruning hooks prematurely, before the war is over, will leave you fighting the dragon with a pruning hook.”

Let us have our way, and pruning hooks will be banned, too.

5 thoughts on “No Swords (or Pruning Hooks) Allowed”

  1. I’m enjoying your blog now that I’ve subscribed. Hoff Sommers I like, and the Lewis quote is profound. But Wilson, I think, is guilty of bad reasoning. First of all, Christ’s warfare was not against flesh and blood enemies so one must consider whom Christian young men are supposed to grow up to kill with their weapons of carnal warfare. Second, the example Christ set was of victory over the enemy through self-sacrificial death. Wilson’s argument by analogy from Christ as dragon slayer is defective and frought with unhealthy implications. It should be enough to argue that self-defense is a natural law principle and that the instinct for self preservation is shared by Christian and unbeliever alike.

    1. I don’t think Wilson’s reasoning is bad at all? Don’t we serve a God who is forever unchanging? The same yesterday, today, and forever? Was it not Him who commanded the children of Israel slaughter every living thing in Canaan, even the livestock? I don’t believe God stopped forming “Mighty Men of Valor” in their mother’s womb once Christ fulfilled the Law and took the keys. We don’t worship a fool and God is very much keen to the souls of men who have called damnation upon themselves to rid themselves of His presence forever. If not for mighty men of valor in our current age, the world would be overrun with wicked men who thirst for blood. BUT, that is exactly one of the problems with Christians today: they seem to think that the world no longer needs defending and we are to hand it over to Satan while pretending it’s in the name of Jesus. Soon this world WILL be overrun with wicked men who thirst for blood…just look around you. It’s happening all over the world unchecked. Why? Because adults are telling the young men, the children who were born to be warriors that they are needed no longer. It’s a shame, but that’s how the prophecies of the Word will come to pass. Even so, maranatha!

  2. @defenseofselfdefense, thanks for commenting and subscribing! Agreed on Lewis and Sommers; as for charging Wilson with bad reasoning, I just can’t see it. :)

    First, notice Wilson says “lesser dragon-slayers.” He’s not advocating some kind of bloody-minded jihad with carnal weapons. But if Christ is our Head, if He is our Captain, if He is our King, then “onward, Christian soldiers!” Let us take Him for our example. The martial language we find in Scripture is not for naught. Boys should understand that they are growing up to fight in a war – The War – and actual physical confrontation is one way they learn this. The wrestling, the sword-fighting, the soldier-playing: all these are representative of deeper spiritual truths; they are rich in didactic imagery.

    Second, and most important, I think the issue you take with Wilson’s argument might be solved if you had the entire context of the chapter (and maybe even the book). I wasn’t intending to write an in-depth study of “a theology of fist-fighting” or anything close to it, but I highly recommend Future Men, as it addresses this very issue. :)

    Thanks again for your comment!

  3. I love Wilson’s book on Future Men, it was very good; I also appreciate what Christina Hoff Sommers has to say here. Earlier this year I read Christina Hoff Sommers’ book titled “One Nation Under Therapy” and it was really good

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