Atrazine Anger
(A Christian-Agrarian Response)

Original Dateline: 26 April 2006
Repost Dateline: 7 August 2016



I heard on the radio a couple days ago that the European Union has recently banned the use of atrazine in E.U. countries. That got my attention.

The report stated that atrazine is the #1 selling herbicide in the world. 70 million pounds of the chemical killer are used by farmers in the U.S. each year. It is used primarily by corn growers to suppress weeds.

The E.U has banned atrazine because it recently came to light that the toxin has a significant “adverse biological effect.” What that means, in part, is that atrazine was found to destroy the reproductive ability of frogs. That understanding led to further research where it was found that atrazine causes breast and prostate cancer in mammals. Not coincidentally, people who work closely with the chemical have significantly higher rates of those cancers.

Atrazine runs off the fields, into streams and lakes, and finds its way into the drinking water supply. The acceptable U.S. drinking water standard for atrazine is 3 parts per billion. But new studies have found that as little as .1 part per billion (that is 1/30th of the standard) is enough to do harm. According to the news report, atrazine has been found in groundwater as far as 600 miles from where it was applied.

In light of the new findings, the Environmental Protection Agency here in the United States has NO intention of eliminating or even limiting the use of atrazine. Why would an agency of the government, charged with protecting the environment (which includes the people who live in the environment), NOT ban a widely-used synthetic poison that is making people sick?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because the EPA is a government bureaucracy, and like every government bureaucracy the EPA is subject to political influence. And the chemical companies have a lot of political influence because they rake in a whole lot of MONEY when American farmers slather 70 million pounds of atrazine over the earth each year. Atrazine is a cash cow. Safety is really beside the point. MONEY is what it’s all about. And keep in mind that we are discussing just one of many such chemicals.

Atrazine is yet another example of how corporate-industrialized agriculture is a sham and a failure. The monster proudly boasts that it “feeds the world” but, in the process, it poisons the environment, causes innocent people to suffer and, in many instances, kills them with impunity. Such lives are sacrificed on the altar of profit and success.

When technology kills innocent people as a “side effect” it is inherently wrong. I dare say it is evil. It is the result of sin and rebellion against God. He created the earth and all that is in it and when He was done He said, “It is good.” God made it good and sinful man destroys it. In the book of Romans, Paul says that creation longs to be set free from the bondage of sin. Creation longs to be set free from things like atrazine.

I don’t believe the average modern Christian really cares much about atrazine. Most modern Christians do not really believe in exercising responsible stewardship of the earth. The concept of sustainability is foreign to them. They see the earth as expendable—something to be exploited and used up in the process of supporting the ease and comfort that come with their high standard of living.

This is, I believe, the natural extension of modern evangelical thinking that Christians are going to be raptured out of this world at any moment. That being the case, so the thinking goes, why should Christians give much concern for husbanding the earth? Few Christians will outright admit to that way of thinking, but actions (or lack of actions) speak louder than words.

And, by the way, doesn’t the Bible say that God is going to replace the earth with a new one someday? If that’s true, then we can exploit and destroy to our heart’s content, right? Let us eat, drink, be merry, and ravage the earth, for tomorrow we get a new one. Such thinking is also a sham and a failure.

That God will one day create a new earth does not give His people license to destroy the one He has placed us in now. I do not think God winks at the pillaging of creation for vainglory achievement and personal profit. How presumptive and prideful and evil it is to assume such an attitude.

Any government that protects the corporate-industrial destroyers has forsaken it’s God-given mandate to protect the innocent. And Christians who buy into the technological destruction should be ashamed of themselves.



The Bad Cut

Original Dateline: 1 June 2006
Repost Dateline: 6 August 2016



I was working in my garden yesterday afternoon, preparing the soil so I could plant tomatoes, when my son, Robert, called out to me from the kitchen window...

”Hey Dad! James cut his finger. It’s pretty bad. I think you should come in.”

I stood up, straightened out my stiff back and marched toward the house, wondering what I was going to encounter. Just how bad was the cut going to be? Would I have to take my 11-year-old son to the emergency room? I wished Marlene was not away running errands.

James was waiting for me just inside the door. He was clutching his finger. There was a very concerned look on his face. “”How did you cut it?” I asked.

”On the top of a can,” he replied.

”Let me see it.”

He extended his right hand, and let off his grip around the finger. The cut was in the fleshy thumb-side of his middle finger, between two knuckles. It was a bit over an inch long, and deep. But not to the bone. It was hardly bleeding and that surprised me. I shook my head and pronounced in mock seriousness, "Well, it looks like we’re going to have to amputate.” James managed a weak smile.

I took my work boots off and walked into the kitchen with my wounded son following, and clutching. ”Tell me again how you did that.” 

He showed me an empty can of Bush's Baked Beans on the counter. The round top, held to the can by a small section of rim metal, was hinged straight up. James had reached into the cabinet over the counter for a drinking glass and brought his hand down on the sharp lid.

It so happened that James and Robert were hungry. Marlene wasn’t there to feed them so they opened the can and satisfied their empty stomachs with the beans. I like it when my boys fend for themselves, but I stated the obvious: ”You shouldn’t leave the lid up like that. Next time, fold it down into the can and throw the can away.”

”It’s starting to hurt a little now,” James said, looking at his finger.

I replied, ”Oh it’s gonna hurt all right! I expect you’ll be screaming in pain in a few minutes.” He didn’t say anything.

”I’m going to have to wash it real good,” I announced. ”Because if I don’t wash it out, it could get infected and swell up and turn green and ooze pus and gangrene will spread up your arm and they’ll have to cut yer whole arm off.”

He protested with a frown... ”That’s not a nice thing to say. It doesn’t make me feel good.”

I quit the kidding, grinned, and told him, in all seriousness, ”You’re going to be fine, Buddy. Dr. Kimball’s going to fix you up real good.”

My hands were soiled from working in the garden. I made a big show of sudsing, scrubbing and rinsing up to my elbows, with him waiting patiently by the sink. Once clean, I regulated the water to a comfortable warm, worked lots of fresh soap suds into my hands and gently washed his hand in mine. Then I rinsed his hand off and patted it dry with a clean towel.

The gaping wound showed meat and was, frankly, a little unsettling to me but I didn’t tell him that.

”That’s a good one, James. Did I ever tell you about the time I cut myself bad and your Mom sewed it back together for me?”

He responded by showing me a diagonal scar on the base of his left index finger, where he had cut himself with a knife a couple years ago. I had never noticed the scar before, but it sure did look familiar. I looked at the same spot on my own left index finger and there it was.

”Look at that, James,” I said, proudly showing him the scar on my finger. ”That’s the one Mom sewed up. You and me got the same scar!”

I reached for a bottle of Betadine in the kitchen cabinet.

”Is that going to sting?”

”No, it shouldn’t sting.

I flooded the cut with the solution and told him to wait while I went to my shop. There, in a file cabinet drawer, I keep a bunch of first-aid supplies, including a selection of military surplus sutures....

But I did not get any sutures. I got the next best thing—little butterfly bandages. Butterfly’s will hold most cuts together very well, especially if they are not bleeding too much. They are, to my down-home, self-sufficient way of thinking, a satisfactory substitute for stitches. I always keep a supply of butterfly bandages.

One butterfly, carefully placed, pulled the wound together very nicely. To keep it clean, I applied a couple of oversize Band Aids. Then I told my patient not to get the hand dirty or wet for at least a couple of days, and not to put a lot of stress on the finger— Doctor’s orders.









This Deliberate Agrarian's
Long Swan Song

Dateline: 6 August 2016



A swan song is a metaphorical phrase for "a final gesture, effort, or performance given just before death or retirement."

My swan song as "The Deliberate Agrarian" is in process, and it will be a somewhat drawn out final gesture. It will conclude with my retirement from this blog. Hopefully not my death. But wouldn't that be dramatic... concluding this Deliberate Agrarian swan song and then dying! One never knows.

This blog, which began in the spring of 2005, now has 1,110 posts in the archive. That's a lot. I am in the process of going through each one, starting with the first. 

I'm closing off the comments so the posts don't get loaded with spam comments (I am continually removing them). I'm deleting some of the posts. And I'm reposting a few, as you may have noticed the last few days.

It's not like I have nothing else to do, so all of this could go on for a couple of months. 

And then that will be that.

My future plan is to launch another blog. It will NOT be about "Faith, Family and Livin' the Good Life."

Well, maybe it will be a little. But my main focus will be on.....

Oh, but I'll save that for later. 

(I don't think it will be a big surprise, but it's still an idea in its infancy). 

So, with the end in sight, I hope you will enjoy my swan song of selected blog reposts.



Christian-Agrarianism:
Not Isolationism,
But Counter-Revolution


Original Dateline: 14 April 2006
Repost Dateline: 4 August 2016

Please note that Isaiah's vision of the future
was peaceful and agrarian.


I believe God is actively working in the hearts of more and more of His people to convict them of their “industrial” sins. As a result, He is bringing about a modern day Exodus. We who feel this calling (and it is a calling) desire to leave the bondage of corporate-industrial “Egypt.” We are leading the way for our families, for the generations that follow, and for other believers who will, in God’s time, come to the realization that agrarianism is not an option, it is a mandate. God has always intended for His people to live primarily within the agrarian paradigm, and for good reason. It is inevitable that Christian agrarianism will become more of a movement that gets noticed by more and more people within the community of Believers. In fact, it already is.

One case in point is a recent Chalcedon Foundation blog article titled, Babylon, Agrarianism, and the Military-Industrial Complex. My thanks to Carmon Friedrich who recently mentioned this article at her blog.

The article is well worth your reading, as is just about everything that Chalcedon puts out. But the following excerpt is the part I find most compelling...


###

“I find it interesting that when Isaiah prophesied (chapter 2) of the glorious kingdom he described it in terms of a repentance in technology: swords are made into plowshares, and spears are converted into pruninghooks. Converted hearts lead to converted technology. This is ably demonstrated by the present emphasis upon agrarianism. The movement is emblematic of a righteous "restraint" upon the abuses of technology and the sin it inspires. All to say, the fulfilled kingdom may appear more Amish than the steel and stone of Huxley's Brave New World.

The same has often been said about hunting -- old-school rocker Ted Nugent is one of the most outspoken advocates of this idea. Christians are rediscovering a lost world, by discarding much of the plastic society and the cultural control grid of corporate advertising. By removing their children from public schools, and by disengaging from certain social tentacles, today's Christian can better taste the potency of God's creation.

The issue here is not isolationism -- far from it. It is a counter-revolution to an exclusively institutional and industrial existence. It is a self-imposed restraint upon the use of certain technology, and the adoption of older technology that is pure and God-sanctioned.

The new Tower of Babel is a vast system contrived and built by humanistic man, and is intended to have dominion over every area of life. We, as modern Christians, are plugged into this system. We should always be looking for ways to "unplug" so as to circumvent its control in our lives. Educating our children is the first step. Removing ourselves from the neo-babylonian churches is next. These mega-wonders of institutional worship are drenched in technology, and serve as faithful ambassadors of the state.

I find other movements, such as agrarianism, as helpful to the cause of Christ. I also see a helpful trend within the family-based churches, despite the shrills of patriarchy. My goodness, so long as sinful people are involved any system can be abused! But centering on the family helps to de-tox Christians from their slavish adherence to institutions. We can only rejoice then as faithful Christians work to decentralize a one-world order. Bureaucracy is a great opponent to the expedient application of Biblical law.”

####


"History has never been dominated by majorities, but only by dedicated minorities who stand unconditionally on their faith."
—R. J. Rushdoony



Crunchy Cons
And Christian Agrarians

Original Dateline: 8 March 2006
Repost Dateline: 3 August 2016



I stopped by Carmon “Prairie Muffin” Friedrich’s Blog, Buried Treasure Books, this morning and read her most recent post about Crunchy Cons.

Crunchy Cons is the name of a book written by Rod Dreher. Cons is short for conservatives. Crunchy is a reference to eating granola. Crunchy Cons are people who embrace conservative ideology, but do not fit into the dominant conservative stereotype. The book’s subtitle sheds a bit more light on what it is all about:

How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party)

Since I just learned about the book this morning, I have not read it. But I did read an interview which Carmon provided a link to. The interviewer describes Dreher’s book as “a manifesto that celebrates faith, family, community and nature against the forces of greed and lust.” Hey, that sounds a lot like the subtitle found up at the head of this blog!

Though I do not necessarily agree with everything Mr. Dreher says in his interview, he and I are definitely on the same page when it comes to a lot of things. It sounds to me like Crunchy Cons and Christian agrarians have a lot in common. In fact, it would appear to me that, even though he lives in an urban setting, Rod Dreher is a Christian agrarian.

I predict that it is only a matter of time before he and his family start a garden and get a few hens for eggs.

Here are some quotes to give you a taste of where Rod Dreher and his Crunchy Cons are coming from...

###

“I'd say that Crunchy Conservatism is nothing new. It's a rediscovery of the kind of traditionalism espoused by Russell Kirk and Richard Weaver and others in the 1940s and 1950s. It's a conservatism that values religion, family, and culture...”

###


“The institution most essential to conserve is the family. Beauty is more important than efficiency. Small, local, old and particular are almost always better than big, global, new and abstract.”

###


“There are a lot of people out there who don't fit into left-right categories. Robert Hutchins, one of the Christian farmers I wrote about, told me that he sometimes feels that he and his family have more in common with hippy organic farmers than with Republicans living in the suburbs ... and Robert is very Republican.”

###


“God did give man dominion over animals, but he didn't intend for us to turn these creatures into widgets. That's what's so foul about factory farming.”

###


“I interviewed a woman for the book who lived with her family in Midland, Texas. She and her husband were Presbyterians, and they were church planters there, and they had eight kids, and they were home schooling, and they ate a lot of natural food, and no TV, the whole magilla, and you know she told me, "It's the weirdest thing, we're living in the most Christian, most Republican place we've ever lived, and we look around and we can't see how people's faith affects the way they live their lives at all. They're all captives to the consumer culture. They're all buying their kids the most expensive new things. She said that's not how Christians are supposed to live; that's not how conservatives are supposed to live. They've sold out to the values of the world, and think that as long as they profess to hold the beliefs of the Christian faith, that that's enough.”

###


“What we try to do with our kids is teach them the tools they need to spot when they're being manipulated. If parents don't see their role to be actively countercultural—not passively countercultural—then they're going to lose. We see people losing all the time, good conservative people who don't see how the messages of mass consumer marketing work against their values.”

###


“I think that as Christians we know that the world is filled with God's presence and everything is given to us as a gift, and perhaps that's the secret to joy—being grateful for everything and taking joy in small things, and realizing through a sacramental mentality that this is how the Lord shows himself to us, through these little things, and we should rejoice in it.”

###


“The point is though that if you're going to attract people to a way of life, you've got to show them not only that it honors God and our conservative convictions, but that it's joyful, it's a fun way to live. And I really do think that if you live by the principles I outline in Crunchy Cons, where you place your faith and your family at the center of everything, and you learn how to value things like food and wine, and aesthetic things, beauty as the expression of the divine, then life becomes a lot more colorful and interesting and passionate.”

###


“I think only religious faith has the power to resist our very powerful commercial culture.”

###


“...Crunchy Cons is not primarily a book about policy; yes I have a few policy changes I'd like to see. I'd like to see laws passed to make it easier for families to homeschool, for families to start small farms and small businesses, but ultimately Crunchy Conservatism is about what Vaclav Havel called anti-political politics. And what he meant was the idea that the only way to rebuild society after the horrors of communism was through individual ethical choices and collective ethical choices made every single day...”

###


“I have no illusions that I'm going to be able to change America by what I believe, but I can change my family. I can change my parish. I can change what Edmund Burke called the "little platoons" of which I am a part. And I think that's enough. That's got to be enough because that's what I have control over. And maybe other people will see by the examples we live—I'm not talking about withdrawing and becoming neo-Amish—but by making these small changes, by living a good, virtuous life every single day, we can effect a more lasting change, a change that comes from deep within.”

###


Okay, I’m back...

Did he say neo-Amish? That’s the first time I’ve heard that term. As a Christian agrarian, I think that withdrawing from the popular culture or, as Pastor McConnell has termed it, cultural secession to some degree is a necessary part of living a successful Christian agrarian life. And I dare say it is part of what Crunchy Cons are also doing.

Whatever the case, it looks like the fundamental beliefs of Christian agrarianism are starting to attract a larger audience and that is a good thing.

=======

Update: 2016

Well, ten years after posting this essay, Carmon Friedrich's blog, Buried Treasure Books, is no longer on the internet. The interview I mentioned with Rod Dreher is no longer on the internet. Pastor McConnell is no longer on the internet. And I don't think the Republican Party is worth saving. But the contra mundum worldview expressed by Rod Dreher in the above quotes is still, in my opinion, right on. And Rod Dreher's last quote pretty much sums up the question of "What can we do?" in the midst of the slow collapse of American civilization.


To Be Of Use

Original Dateline: 7 March 2006
Repost Dateline: 2 August 2016




I'd like to share with you the following poem by Marge Piercy. It is in the book, Circles on The Water. I love the agrarian analogies. I appreciate the words that celebrate the value of hard, diligent work.... "work that is real."



To Be Of Use


The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.



A Son's Identity
Part 3
(an archive selection)

Original Dateline: 10 July 2005
Repost Dateline: 1 August 2016




In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series I discussed how boys seek role models and that these role models shape a boy’s identity. I also pointed out that godly fathers must not only endeavor to be a godly role model for their boys, they must also provide their boys with wholesome alternatives to the sorry examples of manly role models that the popular culture provides for our children.

Now, finally, I want to tell you about a wholesome character-building, identity-shaping, resource that I believe is an incredibly effective tool that fathers can use to help their boys mature into wise and well-adjusted men. But this is not just a resource that fathers can use. It is something that mothers and grandparents and, even, close friends and relatives can give to a young boy and it will make a difference for good in that boy’s life. And I think young girls will like it too.

I discovered this resource three years ago, when my two youngest boys were 7 and 10. Christmas was coming and I was surfing the internet, looking for unique gifts. I got the idea that some books-on-tape would be good for the kids. It would be an alternative to television (which we do not watch a lot of) and videos. I bought a couple G.A. Henty books on tape. Then I found a tape series called Sugar Creek Gang. I read the description of the series and the testimonials and I decided to part with the money to give the first 12 tapes in the series a try (there are 72 recorded stories altogether). I also bought each of the kids a $12 tape recorder from WalMart.

Come Christmas day, the kids opened their books-on-tape gifts and were not exactly thrilled. They were polite and thankful and set the tapes aside so they could play with the more exciting gifts. Later on, they gave their recorders a try.

Now, here we are three years later. The Henty tapes were listened to once. The “more exciting gifts” have been forgotten. But The Sugar Creek Gang tapes are still being listened to.... every single day! I kid you not. 

My kids listen to the stories on these tapes (I’ve purchased 4 volumes out of 6, so far) every single day. They listen to them in the car when we are traveling. They go to sleep at night listening to them. My two youngest boys absolutely love these tapes.

The tapes are narrations of the original Sugar Creek Gang books written by Paul Hutchens, starting in 1939. They are based on Mr. Hutchens’ own boyhood days growing up on a farm in Sugar Creek township (near Thorntown) in Indiana. Mr. Hutchens was born in 1902. The stories are a wonderful celebration of agrarian life. Hutchens had six brothers and two sisters. His childhood memories were the inspiration for the books.

The tapes I have are narrated by Paul Ramseyer, who does such a good job. They are fast paced, exciting and boy do they ever teach good things! When I hear my boys saying bible verses, singing portions of hymns, and quoting poetry (i.e., “Barefoot Boy With Cheeks of Tan” or “Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree” ) that they picked up from these tapes, I am delighted. When my youngest son asks me, “Dad, do you know what a Quaker Blessing is?,” and then tells me when I say no, I’m impressed. And when these boys want to help their mother in the kitchen or me in the garden, because of the influence of these stories, I’m grateful. 

I simply can not say enough good about these audio recordings!

I asked my youngest which Sugar Creek Gang stories he likes best. It was hard for him to decide, but his top three are “The Timberwolf,” The Treasure Hunt,” and “The Killer Bear.” I asked him what “The Killer Bear” was about and he told me it is about how “Little Jim” shoots an angry bear with “Big Jim’s” rifle. Big Jim is fifteen and the leader of the gang. Little Jim is only 8 years old. I won’t tell you how he does it. Wow! What a story! 

When I asked my 14-year his favorites, he thought awhile and said “The Lost Campers,” “The Trapline Thief,” and “The Blue Cow,” but quickly added that they were all good.

Marlene says I should tell you that Bill Collins’ father (the book’s are written from Bill’s perspective) is not portrayed as a bumbling idiot, like fathers are portrayed in the media today. Instead, this father is a good Christian man who leads his family with wisdom and compassion.

I purchased these tapes on the internet from Beloved Books. They are worth every penny of their cost. I know this sounds like an infomercial. Let me officially say that I do not have any any financial interest in any way with Beloved Books.

Today I am ordering volumes 5 and 6 for my boys. I should not have put it off. I see that Beloved Books has a special introductory offer. You can get two hours of listening to “The Swamp Robber,” for $4.95, postage paid. I encourage you to at least get this tape and listen to it. Do it today. You’re going to enjoy it as much as your kids!

This concludes my 3-part series on A Son’s Identity. Thank you for reading it.


2016 Update

It has been 11 years since I first posted this essay. My boys are no longer children. My two youngest (who were 7 and 10 when I first bought them those Paul Ramseyer cassette tapes of The Sugar Creek Gang) are now 22 and 25. They haven't listened to the audios in a lot of years. But if you ask them about those stories, they will still tell you how much they loved them.  Now, of course, the audio recordings are available in CD format.

I believe those audios from Beloved Books were the the absolute best educational and character-building resources I ever bought my kids. I thank God I found them. 

There are also Sugar Creek Gang books and there is a relatively new DVD series. But I'm persuaded that these old audios by Paul Ramseyer are uniquely special. They engage the imagination far better than a film can do. Hutchens just has a way of telling the stories so well.

You can see what I mean for yourself by listening to the first story in this audio series now. Just go to this link: A Free Gift From Beloved Books

One more thought... Times have changed. My kids didn't have phones and Facebook when they were younger. And I did not allow any video games in my home. Will Paul Ramseyer's audio readings of The Sugar Creek Gang still appeal to young boys now in 2016? 

Probably not all boys, especially not those who have been well mentored by popular culture and the peer conformity dictated by popular culture. But if you can introduce these stories to boys at just the right age, I think they can still resonate. There is still the potential to make a tremendous positive difference.



A Son's Identity
Part 2
(an archive selection)

Original Dateline: 9 July 2005
Repost Dateline: 31 July 2016

This immoral fictional character was 
one of my biggest boyhood role models.

In A Son's Identity: Part 1 I explained how all young boys look for role models they want to be just like. When this happens, the boy, in a very real sense, allows these role models to shape his identity. Then I told you how, as an 8-year-old boy, I wanted to be a super secret agent, like Derek Flint and James Bond.

Having read all the James Bond books when I was a boy, I can tell you the lifestyle of this man is one of materialism, womanizing, gambling, and substance abuse (alcohol and tobacco). Sure, there are all kinds of thrills in 007's life, but thrills do not lead to fulfillment. Look under the glamour and you'll find a shallow, self-centered, and vain man whose life is void of substantive meaning. In short, Bond is a desperate and pitiful human being. He is a product of, and a classic example of, the modern industrialized man.

So how, you might wonder, did I make the transition from idolizing to indicting this fictional paragon of vainglory foolishness? Well, it's a God thing, really. I became a Christian, grew in my faith and, eventually, caught the vision of God's archetype for manhood, which is pretty much the complete opposite of the 007 example.

And then there is the Agrarian connection. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries, my family moved from our suburban tract-house outside Syracuse, N.Y. to an old farm house on 25 acres out in the country. This was a significant life-changing experience for me. I was not a complete stranger to the country. My grandfather (another role model I’ll talk about one day) was a retired potato farmer in Northern Maine, and I have wonderful memories of summers spent visiting my grandparents. But I was not a country boy. And our family’s move was not a visit. It was for life. I’m still here.

I am firmly convinced, from my own experience, that there is no better place for a boy to grow up than out in the country. Agrarian life at its best fulfills a boy’s deepest yearnings and can ignite his imagination in countless wholesome ways. The little adventures and experiences that come from living in close contact with the woods, fields, streams, wildlife, and work of a simple rural farm or homestead are also incredibly valuable when it comes to instilling character and integrity in a boy.

But Agrarian life does not, in itself, provide a boy with the positive identity-shaping influences he needs. Within the Agrarian framework, there needs to be an example of a real man. I’m not speaking of a hollywood super hero or a sports star or a rock musician or any of the sordid subculture icons that vie for a modern boy’s attention and, in reality, his life. I’m talking of a real, reach-out-and-touch-him-talk-to-him-and-do-stuff-with him man. This man should, preferably, be the boy’s father (but a grandfather or other man can fill the role).

A father who lives, and loves, and leads in a wholesome, God-glorifying manner will impact a boy’s life like nothing else. If a son sees the good fruit of a godly father, he will, 99.9% of the time, embrace the beliefs of the father. I believe a father’s primary ministry and work in life should be to his family. A father must not only provide a godly example, he must protect his children from the influence of unwholesome role models. And he must provide his children with other examples of wholesome role models.

This is what I believe to be true. This is what I endeavor to do in my family with my boys. I am not the best at it, but I’m aware of the importance of being and doing what I’ve just told you, and I believe, with God’s help, it is making a difference in my children’s lives. My boys are thriving in this kind of environment. They are having a far better childhood than I ever had. They will, I trust and pray, grow up to be better men than I.

I have one more thing to say along the lines of this subject, but I have decided to save it for the next entry. I will tell you about a resource for young boys (and, to some extent, girls) that is a powerfully effective, wholesome, identity-shaping and character-building influence. It is something I discovered three years ago and I have seen it bear remarkable fruit in the life of my two youngest boys. 

Stay tuned.......



A Son's Identity
Part 1
(an archive selection)

Original Dateline: 7 July 2005
Repost Dateline: 30 July 2016


James Coburn as Derek Flint

All boys seek out and identify with role models that they want to be just like. It is part of the process a boy goes through to find his identity. I do not understand the psychology behind it. I just know it to be true. It is true with every single boy. No exceptions. I suspect it is true with girls too. But it is especially true with boys. This is a very powerful truth. It is something that every father needs to understand.

I want to explain this a little better by giving you an actual example of what I’m talking about. When I was a boy, I lived in a housing development outside Syracuse, New York. I enjoyed reading Hardy Boys and Brains Benton mysteries. These books were not bad but they did not inspire my young mind in ways that were as good as could have been the case with better books.

I believe those books prepared me for that fateful day in 1966 (I was eight) when my stepfather took me to see the movie, Our Man Flint, starring James Coburn. Flint was a super secret agent who, with a bevy of buxom beauties fawning over him, nonchalantly saved the world from a nefarious bad guy. He did it again the next year in the sequel, In Like Flint. I thought Derek Flint was the coolest man on earth. Never mind that those movies were a total spoof of the whole secret agent “thing” that was a part of popular culture at the time. I took the Flint movies very seriously. I wanted to be Flint.

I idolized this fictional invention of Hollywood to the point that I would not allow anyone to take my picture. How could I ever be a super secret agent if there were photographs to identify me. My parents thought this was cute.

A boy who rode my bus (he was four years older than I) bore a remarkable resemblance to James Coburn, or so it seemed to me. I secretly observed this kid’s every move. I noticed that sometimes the muscles in his jaws would ripple. I thought that was very cool. I figured out how to repeatedly clench my teeth so I could do the same thing. I wanted to be just like this kid because he was the closest tangible example of my secret agent idol. This is the way young boys think and act. (This is also the way they get into trouble).

Then came James Bond. My dad took me to see my first Bond movie in 1969 (I was 11). It was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service starring George Lazenby as Bond and Diana Rigg as the Contessa Teresa Di Vicenzo (a.k.a., Tracy). She was the daughter of a European mobster and became 007’s wife. Right after the wedding, Earnst Stavro Blofeld and Irma Bundt machine-gunned Tracy to death. I had a new idol to attach my identity to.... I wanted to be James Bond.

I never missed an opportunity to watch a Bond movie. But I didn’t just watch them, I absorbed them. I used my reel-to-reel recorder to tape the movies when they were on television. I thank God there were no VCR’s back then. But there were James Bond books. I read them all. I can tell you these are not the kind of books you want your impressionable pre-teen reading. None of this was good for me.

It is because of this experience of mine, innocent as it was compared to so many others, that I am very conscious of identity-shaping influences in the lives of my boys.

I see the ungodly popular culture around me as a destroyer of boys who, but for the lack of proper identity-shaping influences in their lives, would grow to be men of incredible virtue, honor, and responsibility. The world sadly needs more men like that, don’t you think?

In the next installment of this Blog, I will tell you why I did not become a super secret agent. I’ll tell you a little about what I think a boy needs in order to one day become a man in the best sense of the word. And I’ll tell you about an incredibly powerful and totally wholesome identity-shaping resource for young boys that I discovered three years ago. Stay tuned.....