Fight Like A Man!

Men were built to fight. Wired for it. I don’t have the time or energy to debate with people who don’t agree. Some would oppose this by saying “We have a violence problem; we need less violence.” I couldn’t agree more – fighting and violence are two different things. Violence is rage; violence is hatred; violence is uncontrollable, chaotic, and evil. Fighting is different; it is born of the passion and energy of righteousness. The word champion means “one that does battle for another’s rights or honor.” It means “to fight for, defend, protect.” That’s why young boys can be found instinctively engaging in play involving righteousness – cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, superheroes, army. They’re practicing righteousness – taking a side, defending a cause, protecting that which righteousness demands. As boys, they understand that’s part of their wiring.

Violence can happen when we try to take the fight out of the man – because we can’t, because it’s inborn. When we tell men to cool their passion, cool their energy, it’s like trying to put a hurricane in a box – eventually, it explodes. Children need to be scolded not for fighting, but for wisdom and discernment in knowing what to fight for. Too many boys grow up being told not to fight, and their only outlet for this natural force within them is a video game. And so, they’ll spend half their day trying to release it, which doesn’t work because it’s not the type of release they need. They don’t become champions, so they dive right back into the video game hoping if they can pass one more level, kill one more bad guy, they’ll be fulfilled. Guess what; this leads to violence far more often than playing cops and robbers does.

Today, we don’t have foreign marauders or wild animals wandering through our towns and villages, so fight (at least in the physical sense) isn’t as necessary for survival as it was 1,000 years ago. It’s more important that we elevate our righteousness to something more relevant. Daily survival is no longer our primary cause; our fight has moved to the next level. Fighting today means protecting those who can’t protect themselves; defending the defenseless, raising the downtrodden. This is how we grow and mature as a species, and there are too many examples of failure in our modern day history to think we are doing this well. There are more than enough causes to fight for – poverty, genocide, child abuse, domestic violence, religious persecution, hatred, babies being murdered, … the list goes on and on, and for every man, there is a cause that burns his heart and drives him to action, if he’s ready and trained to fight. Or, he can ignore the call and go play video games.

There are healthy, constructive ways for men to release the fight inside them, like on the basketball court, but this is little more than an adult version of cops and robbers. Which means two things: it proves the value of righteous play, and it propels us to something more. The REAL fight. The one where we can become champions. It teaches us to fight for our wives and our marriages, for our children, for our neighbors and friends, our churches and our communities, our country, and for other parts of the world. The challenge with older boys, men of all ages, is not whether to fight – if we don’t fight, we die or resort to violence – but to learn increasing discernment over what to fight for. Men of the world seem far more likely to fight for money, power, sexual prowess or other things that don’t really matter. Sadly, pursuit of these things can lead to violence and to compromise of the values and ideals that are supposed to become our causes. Charlie Sheen, despite his tiger’s blood, is not a fighter. Martin Luther King, Jr, is a fighter of the highest caliber. A true champion. He and many, many others like him should be our inspiration.

My hope for men is we would all get off the couch, go find a good cause, and fight for it and become champions. My hope for women and children is that you would cheer us on and ride to glory with us.

This post is dedicated to young baby K, a  helpless, horribly disadvantaged little boy who has more fight in him than many adults. K, you are forever etched in my heart. May a hundred champions, no, a thousand, rally to your side to shelter, encourage, and care for you. God bless you.

How Metal Ministries was Born

On my first real missions trip, in 2011, I was working side by side with a local pastor in Rocky Point, Mexico. Not preaching the Gospel, not feeding the poor. No, I was hauling rubble from the courtyard of a hotel that was being renovated for a mission headquarters compound, out to the street into a front loader, so it could be loaded onto a dump truck and hauled away. We filled two dump trucks, if I recall (maybe it was 3), and I loved it. Nothing feels better than an afternoon of accomplishing something through hard labor, when afterwards you can point to it and say I did that and you had the sweat and grime and sore muscles and tremendous appetite to prove it.

During this very glamorous missions activity, the pastor I stood shoulder to shoulder with throwing stones, hunks of concrete, decaying sewer pipe, and other undescribables (I just made that word up), would occasionally find a piece of rebar, and pull it out of the pile and set it carefully aside. Okay, I’ll bite – what are you saving that for? I asked him. In not-too-shabby English came the reply:

“I can sell it. This bring a lotta more money to the church.”

Wait, whaat? A few pieces of metal, maybe 20lbs, if even that, was worth recycling as scrap metal? This realization didn’t hit me immediately; rather, it simmered slowly in my subconscious for a week or so until I really caught the significance. Something you and I (assuming you are a middle class American like myself) would dismiss as ridiculous, like recycling a few pounds of scrap metal (for what, like one dollar or something??) could be an important fundraising activity for a pastor of a small church in an impoverished area. The gravity of this truth hit me like a glacier – that is to say, it didn’t hit me with any real force but rather it moved me – slowly, for sure, but it moved me someplace far, far away from where I had started my naive journey.

That was 2011. The next step in the journey goes even further backwards, to my childhood in suburban Chicago in the late 70’s. The 70’s were a lot of things – no time to delve into all of that now – but they were also the beginning of of household recycling on a mass-consumer level. And my father took it very seriously. More beatnik than hippie, my dad was typical in a lot of ways, but atypical (at least I thought) in one respect: he was really really serious about recycling and taking care of the environment. Some of that was fun – packing and stacking newspapers in brown paper grocery bags (remember those?) in the garage; throwing glass into separate brown, green, and clear bins (pretending I was hurling hand grenades against the Nazis). Some of it was not – I remember how embarrassed I was when my Dad would go out of his way to pick up someone else’s trash on the road or in the parking lot.

To make a long story short, recycling is in my blood. I can still sing the melody to the “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” song (Woodsy Owl is roughly the same age as I am; he looks better for his age than I do, however). When I grew up the most popular books available at used books stores (for boys, anyway) were the cub scout manuals. Now that I’m in my 40’s, I look at this in a whole new way. The U.S. population in 1960 was 179.3 million; in 2010, that grew to 308.7 million (a 72% increase). In the same time frame, according to the EPA, the amount of solid waste generated by those very same people grew from 88 million tons to 243 million tons, a 176% increase (2.5 times as fast, in other words). That doesn’t include trash we send elsewhere; including, for example, millions of tons of scrap paper to Chine (8.5 million in 2005) which, by the way, they reuse at a commercial value estimated at over $1B (yes b-b-billion) since we’ve been sending it to them (other countries profit from our trash). Yes, we’ve gotten better – dramatically better – as a country in recycling and reusing (thank’s Woodsy) and Yes, we’ve gotten better at landfill management and waste management in general. But the issue still exists: we generate more and more trash per person and we’re adding more and more people to the country. You don’t need to do the math: we need to recycle, and we need to teach our kids to recycle.

But I digress, again. I gave you the background, the passion, but in 2011 the holy spirit started working on me, buzzing in my ear like some gnat I needed to listen to and not shoo away. Recycling is necessary, and charities need money. Recycling is necessary and can generate money; for some charities, especially small, local charities, a little goes a long way. Finally, I got what I was supposed to get. Build an organization that was based on recycling, refurbishing, and reusing, and target the local community by allowing them to engage with local charities. I mean, you can guilt a lot of people into recycling with the bit about too much trash, etc., but you can really sway them if you have a cause to attach it too. you’re not just saving the planet, you’re helping another cause. Metal Ministries turns the chore of recycling into the joy of serving others.

Why did it take so long for me to figure this out?

Thanks, Woodsy Owl!

Thanks, Woodsy Owl!