Wendy: “But where do you live mostly now?”
Peter: “With the lost boys.”
“Who are they?”
“They are the children who fall out of their perambulators when the nurse is looking the other way. If they are not claimed in seven days they are sent far away to Neverland to defray expenses. I’m captain.”
“What fun it must be!”
“Yes,” said cunning Peter, “but we are rather lonely.”
JM Barrie, whose dialog is quoted above, was the author of Peter Pan, the stage play, and several other works that contained references to the lost boys. These stories hint at a darker tale than we have gleaned from the Disney films. Barrie’s first lost boy was his older brother, who died as a child, leaving Barrie to compete for his mother’s attention with a sibling who would never grow up. The rowdy crew of animal-boys described in Peter Pan were actually the childless author’s surrogate children who lost their own parents and eventually became Barrie’s wards. Two of them also died in the Neverland of adolescence. Barrie’s lost boys inhabit a child’s limbo where they will never mature, never find love and where they will never really live.
This is uncomfortably close to the situation for boys who are leaving the church today in droves. Most of them would say they have quit the world of make-believe faith for the reality of science and culture, but they have chosen a half-life, based on their own brand of faith, where they will find it hard to mature, difficult to know love and impossible to hope for eternal life. I suppose we had best consult Chaos Theory to know why this phenomenon is occurring, since the variables must be nearly infinite, but I would like to consider a few of them.
Superficial Heroes. Pick up a few children’s books from 150 years ago, and you will see that kids today are given little concept of philosophy, honor or purpose by comparison with generations past. Media heroes today are often violent, simplistic caricatures who save only themselves and achieve only pleasure. Such are our sports heroes, financial titans and video stars. This is an especially glaring lack for boys whose God-given love of adventure and combat can serve a bright purpose or an easy, empty vanity.
Surrendered Science. Boys mapped the known world and launched the first rockets, invented the telescope and split the atom. There is a reason beyond discrimination (which has also played a large role) for their prowess in the field. Boys are better at problem solving and spatial thinking. It’s how they are made. But science today has been conquered virtually unopposed by deists and atheists. Although there are some excellent Christian scientists, they are a small minority, and their influence has been tainted by other Christian voices which spoke disparagingly of things they did not understand. So boys, who still pursue scientific endeavors in greater numbers, are exposed to mentors and teachers who shame their belief in something they cannot quantify.
The Feminine Church. Churches are largely female and becoming more so all the time. There are denominations where more than half the ministers are women, and every denomination is plagued by desultory male attendance. It’s a self-perpetuating problem. But there is something else which has become increasingly feminine about the church: an emphasis on the softer side of God. Whether it’s the unbiblical grace of universalism or the true grace of a sinner’s salvation, you will hear more about grace in the church today than ever in history. Salvation grace is real and necessary and good, but our God is also a powerful and uncompromising warrior-king, capable of great ferocity in service to righteousness (see Revelation 16, for example). His love demands something of us and asks us to count the cost. He is a God who imparts strength, equips leaders, commands attention and makes an impact. This is a man’s God, and He has gone missing from the church.
Barrie’s Lost Boys cannot become real men unless they give up their make-believe world of shallow and selfish pursuits. One might be willing to make that leap of faith if there was a place where real purpose, real adventure, and real love could be found together. That is the place we must make visible, by telling it in our own stories and living it aloud every day. As a last word, I must say that I believe in the sovereignty of God, that neither Satan nor human beings can thwart the Lord’s intentions, that He is not wringing His hands ineffectively over our folly but is continually working in time and events. However, that does not excuse us from doing our very best to make God known and to be most like Him, our intrepid Savior who fought His great enemy and confronted death and to save women and men, girls and boys alike.