"Wild" at Heart?

A look into the heart of Evangelical men.

“God did not create men to be nice boys. He created us to live a life of passion, freedom, and adventure. To be dangerous men living in a really big story.”

So says the description for the book Wild at Heart, written by John Eldredge in 2001. The impact this book has had on evangelical Christian people in our country in the past 20 years is now coming to the surface - and much of what is being discussed on social media is negative towards Eldredge’s type of masculinity. For some in the evangelical world, this book is the source of toxic masculinity found in our churches.

I suspect it was already there.

I tried to read Wild at Heart years ago. But because of my other studies, I put the book down. I don’t remember my initial reaction to the first few chapters. However, knowing who I was then, I would have loved the book. The thought of being a rugged, self-made man appealed so much to my young ego. Today, I don’t think I will have the same reaction.

Have you read Wild at Heart? What was your reaction? Would your reaction be different today?

Recently published books have spurred a debate about what is true biblical manhood and womanhood. The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Barr. Another is Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez. Each book looks at our evangelical world from historical points of view from different angles.

These books deserve to be read. They help to understand the past 70 years of evangelicalism thought and how gender issues are shaped and molded. John Eldredge wrote his Wild at Heart at the turn of the century - when biblical manhood and womanhood ideology was peaking.

I picked up Eldredge’s book again to see for myself if his ideas about manhood are Christian, or outright toxic.

I suspect what I will find in Eldredge’s book is a focus on what some would categorize as “manly men” in the Bible with seldom a mention of our meek and lowly Savior, Jesus Christ. Reading the description on Amazon for the book, I believe my suspicions will be correct.

I hypothesize Christian men today look up to king David as a role model more than they look up to King Jesus. Men today are more apt to be taught by David’s nationalistic war psalms than they are the Sermon on the Mount. This has led to the toxic masculinity we see in our churches, and in the larger culture. I believe John Eldredge’s book is only one fruit of this paradigm in Evangelicalism.