We personally don't allow our kids to play with toy guns. I don't mind laser guns as much, but a gun that actually mimics firing a bullet at someone is not permitted. However, it becomes increasingly clear that even though we don't usually let them have actual toy laser guns, they are continually turning objects into laser guns. I remember playing guns as a kid. We played with laser guns, cowboy guns, army guns. Boys just like guns. They like weapons. They like wrestling. They drift toward violence. And that's a good thing.
You see, violence is not all bad. Our culture pretends that it is, but no one, down deep, really believes that it is. Violence can be misused, and often is, by a selfish and sinful culture, but violence is a neutral action that can be used for good or evil. That's why, even though I don't allow my kids to have toy guns, or turn objects into toy guns (other than laser guns that will never exist), I don't think their affinity for guns is a bad thing. I think it is part of who they are as males. Men are the protectors of the household. They are the protectors of the community. They are the protectors of the country. They are built for war, but that war is meant to be against evil, not in service of it.
Now, you may say that boys like guns because they like power, and that is true; but boys like power because it gives them they ability to do what they want to do. Some like it because they want to do harm with it (and that is evil); but others like it because it allows them to fulfill their role better. They can now do the good that they felt less confident to do before. Power, as is violence, is a neutral thing.
When someone breaks into the household, or attempts to come into the community to do violence against the innocent neighbor, or innocent family member, the man has been crafted in such a way to counter that misuse of violence with a proper use of violence. His violence is to be a thoughtful violence that seeks to protect the innocent from the wicked. His is a good violence.
That's why I have no problem with my boys watching movies like "Lord of the Rings." My wife doesn't understand it, and thinks it will give them nightmares; but as they have gotten older, and can understand the contrast, I want them to see it. I want them to see that good men protect the innocent with violence after all else has failed to stop it. I want them to see the imagery of distorted looking monsters and creepily deformed creatures using violence to attack the innocent representing the distorted and deformed humanity that uses violence against the innocent when it was really made to protect them instead. I want them to understand that violence is sometimes needed, and is consistent with their role as men, to protect and guard what is weaker in physical strength. My favorite line in the entire trilogy is when the men come to Theoden and complain that they will not be able to defeat the evil forces that have come against them. Theoden replies, as all strong men who understand their role should, "No, we cannot. But we will meet them in battle nonetheless." The men instantly perk up at this. They are reminded of who they are and that their lives are to be given in service of others. They will use all that they have, with all the violence they can muster, to counter the threat and save innocent lives.
War isn't pleasant, and I don't want my kids to enjoy violence for the sake of seeing something hurt. That is the distortion of violence. That is the joy of evil, and that will lead them down the path of using violence to harm the innocent rather than to protect them. I want them to learn violence in a good way. I want them to role play, but to enjoy playing the heroes. I want them to even want the other side to win when they have to play the villains, so that the other "team" can role-play the hero. I want them to enjoy seeing biblical shalom "peace" that exists as a result of good violence setting things right when evil violence rears its ugly head. I want them to play the guardians of their families, communities, countries.
When I was in grade school and junior high, pretty much every fight I got into was with a bully. I hated bullies. They weren't usually bullying me (I was pretty big even as a kid), but they were bullying others. I would then stand up for the others and get into fights that way. Some I won. Others, not so much. But the bully exists because of a misuse of violence, and I have always seen my standing up for those who were bullied as a good thing, a good kind of violence. Was it pleasant? No, I hated conflict, especially the violence of fighting; and that's what I want my kids to learn: that violence is a good, and that they should seek to protect others and have joy in that, but that they should never enjoy the conflict itself. They should hate to fight, but always be ready to protect others from harm when all other avenues toward resolution have been exhausted.They should walk away if they can, as Kenny Rogers once advised in his song, "Coward of the County," but always have the courage to fight if they were unable to walk away with those who needed protection.
So we don't let our kids play with guns because I don't want them to enjoy the thought of firing a bullet into someone. But I do think teaching an older child to fire a gun, and why he might need to do it one day for the protection of his family and the securing of food in hunting (both examples of using violence to thwart chaos and secure safety, security, and order for the sake of human life) is a good thing. It's not an absolute to me that one should not let their kids play with guns, but I do cringe when I see so many kids who are let loose without any direction, who seem to enjoy doing harm to others. We are cultivating murderers rather than heroes when we fail to put violence in its proper context.
But I would say the same for those who cast all violence as wrong. Boys have an innate draw to their role. They know they are to use violence, and to attempt to feminize them in such a way as to inoculate their minds from ever seeing it as good will only lead to more confusion of who they are, and a misapplication of violence elsewhere. Let boys understand that violence is neither good or evil. It is the course one takes with it that exists as such. Let boys role-play. Let them wrestle each other. But let them understand why they desire to do so. Teach them that they are getting ready for life when they role-play, and to have self-control, so that, rather than being impulsive and reacting immediately in violence, a lack of discipline that will lead to harm toward the innocent, they are thoughtful and seek out all other alternatives before they are forced to engage another in a violent manner, having exhausted all other hopes to reach shalom without it.
We are so afraid of gender roles in our society, because we are so afraid of the abuses that come with it; but to suppress who we are because we've been indoctrinated that our gender distinctions are bad things is to suppress the divinely assigned vehicle through which our true humanity is to be expressed.
Boys aren't made for housework. Sorry Girls. I know that's what society, and you, want of them; but although there is nothing wrong with teaching them to be responsible in that area, and having them help out, they are primarily made to secure food for you and to protect you (which is why women are likely attracted to males who are physically strong and have good jobs).
I'm not saying that modern conveniences don't allow us to switch gender roles. A woman can use a gun, and should, if there is no man in the house (or if the man of the house has turned his violence against her and her children); and a man can cook and clean and do all of the household duties that exist for the woman to thwart chaos and secure order within her role (I'll talk more about this in my next post); but at the end of the day, we are only using technology in a way that is contrary to who we are in our respective genders. There can be some overlap, but it is likely not a good thing to "switch places" for too long, as one will likely have an identity crisis sooner or later over the matter just from the pure fact that one is trying to run against rather than with his or her distinct makeup.
In any case, we need to teach our boys honor, duty toward God and man, respect and love for human life, etc., and along with these, their respective roles within the family that express all of that. They guard the family from chaos, both physical and spiritual. In fact, their role also tells us why they are to be the primary spiritual teachers of the family. It is not that women do not teach their children about God. Of course they do and should. But he is there to watch over what is being taught. He is there to protect her from demonic ideas that seek to penetrate her mind and bring the family to ruin. He is the guardian of the household in that regard. He is the representative of God within that sphere. A man who understands his role doesn't view life as a vacation but as a war in which he must continually battle for the hearts, minds, and physical lives of his family. Nothing he does is to harm his family. Everything he does is to protect it from all harm. A man who shuns his role will soon find his family in ruin, but the man who saturates his family with love for their lives, physical and spiritual, will pray, teach, and guard them with his own life.
He realizes that he is the last defense from an ever growing darkness that seeks to take over and bring to ruin what is good. He is God's warrior. He is the hero of his family. He is guardian of the household. And he will use all that he has, even a properly directed violence, to fulfill his role because he loves his family, his community, and his country. And that is why boys like guns.