Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kingdom Man: A Thought from the Illiad

There’s a scene in Homer’s Iliad (Book 11) in the front of my mind. The scene describes a significant turn in battle. Here’s the short version: Agamemnon has spent nearly ten years in siege against the city of Troy (the purpose and outcome are not the point of discussion here). The scene-in-mind describes the Trojan Hector in battle and what captures my attention is that which holds his attention. While the battle is raging, Hector watches Agamemnon. When the King Agamemnon is fighting with his men on the front, Hector keeps back but encourages his men in the melee; but, when Agamemnon mounts his chariot, Hector steps into battle and fights until at last the Trojans drive Agamemnon and his armies back to their ships. Hector is not distracted by the particulars of the battle. Instead his eye is fixed on the leader of his enemy. When Agamemnon is no longer the strength of his troops, Hector steps in and drives the invaders away from the city.

This ancient scene comes to mind as I ponder opening questions asked at the beginning of Tony Evans’ “Kingdom Man” Bible study. We are given this statistic: “roughly 70 percent of all prisoners come from fatherless homes. Approximately 80 percent of all rapists come from fatherless homes.” Then there comes the question: “are these statistics surprising? Why or why not?” (Caveat: I suffer from over-thinkage, so brace yourself).

My reflex action is to say, “yes” but I must honestly say “no,” this statistic does not surprise me. My reaction to the statistic is not “surprise.” I am not comfortable having an emotion suggested to me and I had to honestly search to determine how I really feel. At last I have found my word. I am not “surprised” but I am “appalled” [I hear the voice of Barry McGovern acting as Vladimir in Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” as he growls out the depth of his new-found emotion (for which he, too had to search).  “AP-ALLED!”]

Why am I appalled? The problem addressed is not so much that men are in prison, nor is it that a percentage of those men are rapists that have come from fatherless homes. The problem that causes me to pale is this: there are males not in prison who don’t have the fortitude to stand up and speak truth, doing everything possible to help others stay out of there.

The real issue, the real battle is not on the front line. Consider first the source of “fatherlessness” and who steps in to fill the void. Evans’ discussion on fatherlessness presents only two options: the father 1) who has walked away with no sense of obligation or responsibility; or, 2) who has made himself unavailable, unapproachable. Novelist Donald Barthelme gives us an idea of what happens within the child who at some point searches out the source of his confused anger:

“He is mad about being small when you were big, but no, that’s not it, he is mad about being helpless when you were powerful, but no not that either, he is mad about being contingent when you were necessary, not quite it, he is insane because when he loved you, you didn’t notice.” (The Dead Father)

What about the third option (and I suggest this not as criticism, but as an observation): what about those families who lost their father due to death?

Further, what about fatherless children who turned out ok, those that are not in prison and/or are not rapists?
Here is where I find myself appalled: I along with so many others permit these statistics, allow them to occur. I along with so many others know what young men need to hear and know in order to 1) help them be good earthly citizens; and 2) become heavenly citizens. I am appalled because I let this happen. Both Hector and Agamemnon give me something to consider: I must never leave the front lines where the battle rages against a real enemy (don’t ask me where Menelaus was, Agamemnon’s brother). Also, I must keep my eyes open, ready to step in and fill the gap or someone else will.

Having said this, I find God’s words both comforting and disturbing: “I searched for a man among them who would repair the wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land so that I might not destroy it, but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30).

God is looking for men to fill a gap. Defenses are compromised and the city of Mansoul is in jeopardy. We must fill in the gap as representatives of the King. This means when men go wrong, we must tell them of their wrong based on the standards of the King. We must also point them to the way of reconciliation to the King. 

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