Like many cultures, mainstream Christianity shares the value that rites of passage are a good thing for young men to go through. The belief is that young men need the benefits grained by the passage and the benefits may even be critical for them to correctly function as a man in the future. With so much potentially at stake, it would seem that this value would be emphasized more often and that there would be more Christian rite-of-passage initiatives.
Perhaps one reason we do not see many rite-of-passage initiatives in mainstream Christianity is that fathers likely recognize the value of a rite of passage more easily than sons. This is either because fathers have recognized the impact that such an experience has had in their own lives, or because fathers have observed the effects of the absence of such an experience in their own lives.
Either way, it explains why a rite of passage is valued. However, the issue becomes more complicated when a father or a group of fathers who value a manhood rite of passage try to explain that value to their sons or convince them of its merit. The difficulties may arise partly because the younger generation does not have the same experiential context as their fathers.
American young people, including Christians, grow up in a world of many competing, ambiguous, and complicated value systems. It is sometimes hard for a young person to prioritize and reconcile those value systems. When asked to adopt yet another value system, like those found in a rite of passage, a young man may feel that it is simply another set of principles, which are ultimately abstracted from his true experience. Thus, it is more difficult to accept, let alone adopt or believe in.
In light of this, the father knows from experience that the value of a rite of passage is not just another abstracted and arbitrary set of principles to adopt. One can see how difficulties might arise here. Much of the conflict between fathers and sons likely stem from this gap in experience. Perhaps fathers can find creative ways to convince their sons that a rite of passage is not an arbitrary matter. But there is the possibility that the son will still remain unconvinced.
The young man must go through life and let his own experience testify to the truth and validity of the values found within the rite of passage. He may never be simply convinced that they are good or necessary ahead of time. However, if the son’s experience does testify to the truth and validity of the values presented in the rite of passage, then convincing the son to believe in the values ahead of time is really of secondary concern.
What is primary is to provide sons with knowledge and an authentic rite-of-passage experience, and then let the sons decide later about the value of that experience. If a rite of passage is all that it is cracked up to be, then sons will discover this for themselves in their own time.
Still, sons must have this experience even if they cannot accept or adopt the values from it until later. Sons who do not complete some kind of rite of passage into manhood may experience the type of loss observed by fathers who did not go through a rite of passage with their fathers when they were younger.
Christ in the Rockies provides tools for fathers and sons to help them learn and go through an authentic rite-of-passage experience together. For a son, the value of this experience may not be realized until later in life, but it is critical that he have the experience, whether it is through an organization like Christ in the Rockies or something else.
A father-son camp like Christ in the Rockies provides a context and setting for fathers and sons, which can help bridge the cultural and experiential gap between them. It gives them a shared experience which can be drawn upon for years to come.