Changing the Inner-City
William Gairdner, The War Against the Family
Christopher Lasch, Haven in a Heartless World
David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America
Robert Griswold, Fatherhood in America
David Popenoe, Life Without Father
That's a start. To my knowledge, none of these authors are Christians, though they are all thoughtful, pro-family, and persuasive. Reading these books will of course open you up to a wider range of literature and manhood, fatherhood, and families that will only continue to expand your thought process and knowledge about the subject. This is what has happened to me, and I am now trying to apply what I've learned about manhood and fatherhood to a subject that has long concerned me, namely, the inner-city. Critical, thoughtful, and Christian books need to be written about this subject.
Ryan Hill asked some great questions yesterday on how best to minister across the unfortunate cultural divide between white middle-class and urban inner-city. He also mentioned how to conceive of para-church groups that seek to address the problem. There's nothing wrong with such programs, and much good can come from them, but I think it would be even better to have a number of Christians in a given church band together and try to strategize how they might influence the inner-city. Now, note carefully my words here. I'm not saying the church should take on this responsibility; I'm saying that the Christians of the church should take it on. This may seem an unimportant distinction, but it is very important. Unlike some, I hold to a very mere view of the church. The church is appointed by God to carry out the essential duties of worship and evangelism. I believe it will do these things best when it does not try to be a hospital, day-care center, fitness center, and whatever else you can think of. Theme park.
However, my line of thinking does not exempt Christians from doing all kinds of meaningful activities and deeds. I think that individual Christians within a church should thus band together under the oversight of an elder and come up with a strategy by which to lead their fellow members in reaching out to the inner-city. They may well want to develop a curriculum that they would lead boys and girls through, and also a curriculum for their parents to try and teach them a biblically informed doctrine of the family. But the church members would not simply hold a three-month program, hand out a bunch of certificates, and then step back, beaming at all the good they had accomplished. No, they would realize that the work of ministry is expensive and demanding, and thus commit themselves to staying involved with these young people and developing further curriculum and activities by which to engage them. Whole families from the church could then be involved in the program. With some careful thought, this thing could really fly. Christians really could make a difference. Racial divides might heal. Communities might heal. Boys and girls would learn the biblical way of gender and living. Most importantly, the gospel would be at the center of all this, and be taught to kids in a loving context.
If you're interested in this idea, I would encourage you to pray about it, and talk to an elder in your church about perhaps starting something up. Don't wait on me to start something up, though I may try at some point to write a curriculum and book about this. Start thinking now in your church about how to do this. I hope to join you in this work. Let's pray that many more will do the same, and that light will come to a darkened place, the American inner-city.