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CAN I CALL YOU SOLDIER?
By HAROLD D. DAVIS
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2006 Dr. Harold D. Davis
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE URGENCY OF THE HOUR
It has been said that nobody in this generation will forget where he was or what he was doing on the morning of September 11, 2001. I clearly remember where I was on that dreadful day. The images of the burning towers are still fresh in my mind these many years later. Various government agencies still point fingers at one another, trying to determine what caused the breakdown in intelligence that allowed this attack to be carried out so efficiently. I believe that a key factor in the success of the enemy was the dullness of the gatekeepers. People in charge of our security had forgotten some important things about the enemy, which made them overlook obvious clues that an attack was imminent. For example, some of the hijackers (from the Middle East) told their flight school instructors that they wanted to learn how to fly and turn large jets but did not seem particularly interested in learning how to land them. That alone should have been enough to alert thinking individuals that something was wrong. And at least one instructor did report his student to the FBI. That dreadful day, as bad as it was, represents only one type of threat to our nation. There are many different threats that we need to be concerned about. I believe the voidthat has developed between strong, mature men and the next generation is a considerable threat to the stability of our nation and to the black community in particular. This is the threat that we are addressing in this book. Consider the following commonsense facts that are being overlooked by much of our culture.
Men Make Men
A boy should learn how to be a man by watching men. I attribute my masculinity to the time I spent with my father. He did not sit me down and say, "This is how you be a man," but he simply lived out his masculinity on a daily basis. I saw him persevere in times of stress and not turn around during difficult times. He dealt with the abuse and prejudice of the day with seasoned wisdom and tact. Because our family did not have a lot of money his creativity was always in full swing, I realize today that the greatest gift my father gave me was to live before me in a godly masculine manner. "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).
Men Teach Boys How to Love Women
A boy should learn how to treat a woman by watching his father sacrificially love his mother. In today's society many young men have the false notion that marriage is for their pleasure only. Many have not been taught the realities of marriage or seen them demonstrated.
The true richness in marriage comes not on the honeymoon but after many years of facing life's difficulties together. This requires hanging in there through tough times as opposed to quitting like many men do. The apostle Paul told Timothy to "endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3). The hardness for most men takes the form of rejecting the desire to be served and becoming your wife's servant. This battle with self is a lifelong challenge.
At the University of Illinois, my wife conducts a choir of over one hundred young people. She is a mother figure to many of the young people, and I am a father figure. On one occasion a young man approached me and said, "Reverend Davis, we enjoy watching you and Sister Davis interacting as husband and wife. We have never seen a couple like you two before." Men who are committed to battle to keep their marriages intact are critically needed for the stability of our nation.
Men Teach Boys How to Persevere
A boy learns how to persevere through difficult times by watching his father and other men persevere. I distinctly remember one occasion when my father came home in the evening only to be greeted by my mother and five hungry children. My mother said to him, "John, we don't have any dinner." Without missing a beat, my father said, "Come on, Bud." He turned and we walked to the west side of town (about three miles), where he asked Mr. Peeples if he could cut his grass because he needed a couple of dollars to feed his family.
Seeing that it was dark, Mr. Peeples protested and tried to give him the money, but my dad refused to take it without working. After he cut the grass (in the dark), he received his pay and we bought some food and walked home.
I was so affected by that event that it has motivated me in many areas where I wanted to quit. By my father's actions I learned that men of force are actually soldiers who never quit when serving God or family.
Bad Parents Raise Confused Sons
A boy who is raised by a domineering, angry, or addicted parent will have issues to overcome. After many years of counseling, I have come to believe that the majority of problems that we have in our communities and schools find their origins in the home.
A coach recently told me that a boy on his team said to him, "Coach, my daddy is crazy!" The coach told the boy that he should never speak of his father in those terms. The boy then replied, "But coach, you don't understand. My daddy is crazy!" The coach then scolded the boy and told him he didn't ever want to hear that again. Two days later, the boy's father showed up at the first game. The coach saw how he was dressed and how he acted, and after the game he walked up to the young man and said, "Boy your daddy is crazy!" He had to be honest that this man's behavior was not right nor something his son should copy.
As I interact with children in the public schools, I encounter a disturbing number of boys who have parents who are not prepared to raise them. In previous generations, parents and grandparents raised boys using the Bible as their guide. We all know men who were raised in this manner, and many of them became leaders. Families have changed today, and their boys need help sorting out the issues they, face every day.
Absentee Fathers Hurt Sons
A boy who has no father is susceptible to low self-esteem and many other maladies.
I find it very comforting to see a new trend where society is recognizing the harm associated with absent fathers. God's design is that a boy is to jump off into adulthood from the broad shoulders of his father. The tragic injustice is that a vast number of boys are entering their adult years from the ground level.
The list of problems with fatherlessness in America goes on and on. We see the warning signs in our youth culture, where increasing numbers of young men do not understand masculinity Many are choosing to change their sexual preference with little provocation. We see single mothers struggling to raise sons who are well-balanced. We hear about teens running around with street gangs, getting involved in crime, and joining the exploding prison population.
The Enemy We Are Fighting
The handwriting is on the wall. The Enemy's plan is unfolding as we speak. The various components are in place, and the target is the family. Once the American family is destroyed, the good things about America will be spoken of in the past tense. Traditionally the band that keeps everything together has been the hus-band. If you want to destroy a nation, get rid of the strong men, and then you can have your way with the rest of the people.
This has been the strategy Satan has used to catastrophic ends against black families. If we are going to fully engage in this battle for the souls of our young men, we must know the Enemy well. Consider his characteristics:
1. The Enemy is committed to his cause.
We may be confused and misdirected about our purpose, but Satan and his minions are organized and very strategic in their attacks. He is clear about his purpose and committed to it. He knows attacks the purpose of man is to glorify God, and he works night and day to make sure our families do not reflect Gods glory.
2. The Enemy is patient.
Scripture describes Satan as a roaring lion, lurking about seeking someone to devour. He waits until just the right point of vulnerability
3. The Enemy will use our weaknesses against us.
Consider how Satan chose to attack Christ. He waited until Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights. He was physically weak. And it was at this strategic moment that he chose his attack. He does the same with us and our vulnerable young men.
4. The Enemy blends in.
It would be so much easier if he actually had a long tail and horns and carried a pitchfork. But, unfortunately he is not that easily detected. He blends in by fanning the flames of our natural passions and desires. He plants thoughts in our minds that-if we are not careful-will lead to our own destruction.
5. The Enemy capitalizes on our lethargic "all is well" attitude.
Many of us sat back and watched as our impact on the family was marginalized by social programs, welfare, and systemic evils. We have not fought for our right to lead and provide. And while we have laid down our battle gear, Satan has wreaked havoc with our families and with our sons.
How Will You Respond?
It is this author's opinion that we should respond to the crisis facing our young men with the same energy and determination as was used to respond to the 9/11 crisis. No, we don't see buildings burning, but voices of young boys cry for their fathers. No, there is no presidential proclamation but we have a mandate from history and motivation from the present. The time is now, and the task is ours if we will accept it.
A soldier is only responsible for those within his reach. He is not required to be successful on every battlefront but only the one where he is deployed. You and I have been deployed in our homes and communities for one reason, and that is to do battle.
In 1998 I obtained a copy of the suspension statistics for my local school district. The data indicated that for every white boy that was suspended from school, seven black boys were suspended, and we are only 30% of the population. In my mind, this was the equivalent of the KGB kicking in the door of my home and stating that they were taking all of the black boys away.
Armed with that information, I resigned my position as assistant pastor of Canaan Baptist Church and began an aggressive effort to help the boys in our local schools. Today we average one hundred mentors interacting with three hundred young people in our local school district. We have black children who are going to college because of the support and encouragement of their mentor. Other young people acknowledge that they would not have completed high school without the help of their mentor.
A soldier or warrior is one who seeks out the enemy A soldier never waits for the enemy to come to him but goes on search-and-destroy missions. There is considerable controversy regarding the overseas wars that our nation gets involved in, but the point that most Americans agree on is that it is better for the soldiers to be over there fighting than for the enemy to be over here fighting. Let us take up the battle against our Enemy
Soldiers Are Desperately Needed
What I envision is an army of men having a great impact their neighborhoods. This can be done when men take ownership of the problem. In other words, it is not the government's problem, nor some other guy's problem, but our problem! People often ask me why I am so motivated to help young men. I respond, "When I look at a young man, I do not see him. I see me. He is just as helpless and hopeless as I was at his age." This perspective makes me keenly aware of my own individual responsibility as a soldier in this crucial battle.
Work with the Mind-set of Individual Responsibility
This is key to solving the problem if we will accept it. What I mean by individual responsibility is trying to see every boy as our own. If this is not natural for you, you can train yourself to think this way. I suggest that you begin by asking God to give you His heart for young men. It is amazing how our attitudes about people change when we give God permission to love through us.
Whenever you encounter a young man, look him in the eye. This will help you connect with his soul. I promise that when you begin to see the emptiness in the souls of so many young men, it will affect you.
Looking at them this way also has an impact on the young men. I often look complete strangers under the age of seventeen in the eye. They most often respond favorably to this, because many of them are not accustomed to having their souls viewed by the discerning eye of a mature man.
When you meet a young man, say to yourself, "It's not him, but me." In time, this practice will draw you closer to young men. I can promise you a richer life when you connect with them. Your scope will be broadened; your perspective on today's youth will be challenged and stimulated. And as each of us accepts our individual responsibility, we will be prepared to coalesce our efforts with other men.
Work in Concert with Other Men
I meet with men on a regular basis who are fellow soldiers of mine. We have the same goal of helping young men. I answer to them, and they answer to me. I encourage them, and they encourage me. All soldiers are strengthened when they know that other soldiers have their back.
The first time I was addressed as a soldier was when I was in Baltimore visiting the Maryland Mentoring Partnership. Selwin Ray approached me, stuck out his hand, and said, "How you doing, soldier?" Because I do not have a military background, I had several reactions to being called soldier:
I was taken by surprise, because few people understand that we are in a war and that the title of soldier is appropriate for men who are committed to making a difference.
I was shocked by the graphic nature of the title, the imagery it conjures up, and what it says about me.
My heart was warmed by the clarity that comes with that title Soldiers do not make excuses. Soldiers are trained to get the job done in spite of obstacles. Soldiers have a heart for the mother country and embrace the cause of their generation.
Well, soldier, how are you doing? It is my prayer that you will become motivated to action, because it is our turn to make a difference. I believe we can turn the negative trend facing young men if we work together. Proverbs 17:17 says, "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."
As I said before, previous generations responded to their challenges, and now it is our turn. Consider what the following Scripture says about soldiers: "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
We can no longer only raise our own sons, but we must also raise the sons of our community. As I was writing this book I wanted to name it Your Son and a Couple More. I was advised to name it Can I Call You Soldier? but the main idea is that every man needs to be responsible for his son and a couple more young men. There is a war going on, and we must be alert to the conditions of the battlefield
Become Alert to the Conditions
If we become keenly aware of how the condition of the youth of the larger society affects our families, we will be more motivated to do something. This was made clear to me on several occasions with my own children.
On one occasion I spoke at a church on the West Side of Chicago. I took my thirteen-year-old son with me. When we arrived at the church, men met us in the parking lot and proceeded to watch my car while I was inside. Once inside, my son went to sit with a group of boys his age. Meanwhile, I chatted with the pastor, who informed me that his church was helping that group of boys. He said that they were all in gangs, most had been incarcerated, and a few had killed people. I looked at my son who was sitting among them and thought, I hope he does not say the wrong thing.
Excerpted from CAN I CALL YOU SOLDIER? by HAROLD D. DAVIS Copyright © 2006 by Dr. Harold D. Davis. Excerpted by permission.
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