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Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Is the new masculine movement harmful to women, or helpful to the church? -weigh in
Soon our church is doing the John Eldridge's "Wild at Heart: Road Map to the Masculine Spiritual Journey" (yes that's REALLY the name) for a men's bible study.

I think John may be trying MAN-UP Christianity, and make it more appealing to manly guys. Make it more marketable or something. Does this imply the feminine is bad? I realize that approx 60-70% of churches attendees consist of women in Evangelicalism and things are geared toward them and may tend to be to their tastes (songs and music styles for instance), and this attendance stat isn't true is Islam or Judaism or Orthodox Christianity, so some think new tactics are needed maybe. But it seems superficial, even insulting to men, actually.

Care to weigh in?
posted by LisaColónDeLay at 1:54 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 9/24/2008 02:13:00 PM, Blogger hewhocutsdown

    I don't think that the super/pseudo-masculinity embodied by the Wild at Heart studies are capable of giving a holistic view to men as to their spiritual being.

    That said, it does a hell of a better job than the majority of other church functions. Despite the exaggerations and the bullshit, there's a lot there to latch onto, for most guys.

    So that material, handled gracefully, can be a wonderful strengthening to men in the church. Handled poorly, and any man who feels he doesn't fit the 'bible's cookie-cutter frame' is going to come away distraught, distressed and frustrated.

    Ideally, a better method would avail itself. But with that aside, I say more power to them.

  • At 9/24/2008 04:14:00 PM, Blogger Tami Martin

    Several thoughts come to my mind:

    * the hyper-masculine movement (with attendant grunting and male-bonding stuff) IS harmful to women. It suggests that you can't really follow Jesus without being like him in his human form, ie, being a man.

    * All discussion of the "feminization of Christianity" is done with negative connotation. As if acknowledging the other half of humanity is somehow bad. One excuse given? Women run everything in churches. Since when????? Churches are run by men. There is a small percentage of churches headed by women, but by and large any direction that the church has taken in the last two millenia can be laid at the feet of men, not women.

    *No where in the Bible are we commanded or even suggested to be more masculine. No characteristic of Jesus is described in the Scriptures as masculine. We're supposed to be like Jesus in his humanity. Men are to strive to be like Jesus with male skin on and women to be like Jesus with female skin on.

    *Any extremism, whether it's trying to get girls to do better in science and math classes or men to be interested in church is going to do an injustice to the other half.

    My church, for the record, is fairly small. Probably like most of the churches in America. We average about 100 or so on Sundays. And at least half of that is men.

  • At 9/24/2008 08:44:00 PM, Anonymous sonja

    I think it's insulting to the Gospel. It implies that the Kingdom is not enough, we have to add to it or take something away in order to "help" God out.

    Why do we think we need to "market" Jesus anyway?

  • At 9/24/2008 10:08:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    Eldredge and his wife have one for women too, called "Captivating". So, it is not like men are being singled out. Interestingly, in my old faith community the Wild at Heart stuff was found acceptable. When "Captivating" came out, there was a huge uproar and dire warnings about reading it because it "smacked of feminism". (like that is a dirty word or something)

    I am of similar mind to hewhocutsdown...seems this stuff has been helpful to many. I have read pretty much all of Eldredge's books and found them useful in introducing me to some ideas about God that I had not heard of before and that prompted me along in my own journey, opening my eyes to God in new and fresh ways. Some of the more psychological issues in these books is actually right on as well (for ex, discusison of wounds in childhood and how they play out in relationships, etc). Finally, feminist authors have been celebrating the empirically established differences between males and females for decades now. Eldredge may wander off the data in some regards, but he does not sound much different than "Iron Man" author Robert Bly (I think I have his name right) and he has been respected for his take on male psychology for many years. The Eldredge books won't be for everyone and that's okay too. What book or author appeals to 100% of an audience?

  • At 9/25/2008 12:27:00 PM, Blogger himmiefan

    About a month ago, Christianity Today's website, and the magazine too, I believe; had a couple of articles on this subject. I was really please to see the comments that people made in response. By and large, Christians are rejecting the "macho taco Jesus" / macho Christian movement. One thing that's interesting to note is that the men have been more vocal in objecting to the books designed to tell them what to do, how to be, etc. Women have tended more to fall for books telling them how to be women. (We know how to be women. We are women!)

    Now, for those Christians who put a bad connotation on the word "feminist," I have one word for them: hypocrit. So many Christian women put down the feminist movement, but don't hesitate to take advantage of the gains the feminists made. Okay, rant over.

  • At 9/25/2008 12:41:00 PM, Blogger hewhocutsdown

    Unfortunately, himmiefan, many women are ill-informed about the real progress feminists have made over the years.

    It's very comparable to people's views on unions; many unions today seem to have more problems than possibilities. Nevertheless the situation for workers would not be where it is today without them, despite their flaws.

    It is the same with feminism. Not all of it has been ideal, or beneficial, but there has been some good that has come of it....but that is rarely appreciated. Additionally, some people have a difficult time praising moderates for fear of aligning themselves with provocateurs.

    But I agree with you; there has been much done, and there is much being done for women under the banner of feminism that is right and good, and I'm thankful for it. Whether or not it's widely acknowledged or appreciated.

    A (male) feminist-of-sorts

  • At 9/25/2008 12:57:00 PM, Blogger MistiPearl

    I have no problem with John Eldredge's call to men via the Wild at Heart study. What concerns me is the lack of movement for women and men & women engaging in this Wild at Heart learning journey.I see a gap there and I would like to see it closed.

    We do need men to step up to the plate and live out their faith more deliberately, and this reconnection to their God given masculine side does need to be encouraged and developed; however, the movement needs to remember that men and women are partners in this journey, and their reclaiming masculinity does not mean displacing the women and their role in ministry, inside the home and outside the home (including in the Church!)

    I believe that we, as women, should encourage our men and support them to be all that God created them to be, but we do not need to fear this movement or back away from it. We need to come along side, reinforcing the effectiveness and strength of the Body of Christ as a whole.

  • At 9/25/2008 03:56:00 PM, Blogger Tulipsanticipation

    I bought my husband this book recently. He hasn't read it all.

    He said felt stereotypical because not all men have this urge to go out into the wild to hunt and forage for their food.

    I have yet to finish reading the book for females, "Captivating", but I like it so far. I don't understand the church's resistance to anything "feminist".

  • At 9/25/2008 06:17:00 PM, Blogger Deb

    I've read them both. My problem with them is that they insist that "all" women and "all" men have these stereotypical needs. And that just annoys me.

    I could say more but I am working on having a "quiet and gentle spirit."



  • At 9/26/2008 03:28:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I too read both. I found WILD AT HEART to be a powerful encouragement to men, not just to get out in the wild, but to find out what their heart was calling them to do. I was disappointed with CAPTIVATING because it seemed like the same old, be beautiful and make yourself worthy of being rescued crap that so many "How to be a Real Christian Woman" books are. Yuk! That said, I do not believe Eldriges's books are trying to MAN-UP Christianity. Instead I think they are acknowledging where the Church has caused hurt and confusion and needs to realease men to engage in ministry out from behind a desk or pulpit. But, that's just my take.

  • At 9/26/2008 07:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I think we miss the point when we limit masculinity to men and femininity to women. Masculinity and femininity is gender neutral. Meaning that we each female and male have masculine and feminine traits. And I think it would be worthwhile for each person to explore those aspects of self irregardless of sex. That to me is the downside of polarized gender roles, we limit people in true human development. God embodies both the masculine and the feminine and thus as his image bearers we do too.

    I think John Eldridge and his like have done more harm to gender relations by the polarized views he presents. If only he could have written from a gender neutral place and not limit it to men...I still probably wouldn't have enjoyed it much but at least then it would not feel so polarized.

  • At 9/27/2008 07:48:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Wow, as the wife of a man who has struggled with his masculine identity and found Hope and Encouragement in the writing of John Eldredge, I say, "BRAVO, JOHN!"

    There is so little in our (American) culture that promotes masculinity and masculine development -- aside from having belching contests during sporting events and discussing how well they "scored" on the weekend -- that those men who are repulsed by such "shows of maleness" have no place to turn. And God-forbid they should desire to have a connection that goes deeper than what culture teaches them -- they are immediately labeled "gay." So development and teaching men that it's okay to want a non-sexual bond that is deeper than belching and sports? Heck, yeah! My husband has benefited greatly from Eldredge's book, and I'm learning more and more about myself from the corresponding title for women ("Captivating").

    Is it going to scratch every itch that's out there? No, it's not. But is it beneficial to many men who need to hear the message? Absolutely, positively, "yes!"

    As an aside, I simply don't understand why a masculine movement would be "harmful" to women in the church. If we are strong women who understand who we are in Christ Jesus, then why would we be threatened when men come to understand who they are in Christ Jesus? Responding out of fear and/or disdain is something of the Enemy and bespeaks how much culture we've absorbed with our freedom in Jesus, not how Jesus Himself would have us respond. I believe there is more than enough room in the Kingdom for women AND men who understand their position in Christ and the freedom that position gives and brings.

    We would do well not to make masculine development in the Church a zero-sum-gain situation; there is more than enough freedom and love in our God to have both genders fully operating in the good gifts He provides. The external worldly culture says that if one gender has empowerment, the other gender loses out -- God's Kingdom doesn't operate that way.

  • At 9/27/2008 10:02:00 AM, Blogger Robert

    One almost has to ask, from the opening question on this page, if the author would rather her church were devoid of men. She presumes that the only problem with a 70/30 ratio is that it doesn't fit an old Judaic stereotype. Is it merely aping the rabbis to want the whole family in church, or to enlist the particular talents of men in building the Church, or is there a problem with Christ's command to carry the Gospel to all? Is it not possible to affirm one's own God-given sex without denigrating the "opposite?" Eldredge actually does it quite well- possibly some lessons might be learned in reading his work?

  • At 9/27/2008 09:48:00 PM, Blogger Deb

    I guess what bothers me about the Eldridge book and others is that they spend a lot of time "building up" men... and talking about men doing the "leading" -- (inference - in the home, in the church)

    As someone who is an egalitarian, it gives me pause.

    The Church has been led for most of her history by men. The preaching most of us sit under is by men. The elder boards, with a few exceptions, are mostly men. Even in the secular realm... the leadership of our government is mostly men (and mostly white men).

    I am not feeling the urgency and I sure don't feel their pain.

    If the sermons and music and songs etc don't meet their "tastes" and the men in leadership can't do something about it... then they are blaming it on women? on society?

    I don't really want to buy any more of his books. I guess I will wait for the library to carry it so I can read it.

    It doesn't connect in my head.


  • At 9/28/2008 01:34:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    "I think we miss the point when we limit masculinity to men and femininity to women. Masculinity and femininity is gender neutral. "

    I agree with you, tglips. Sometimes I wonder, though, if it wouldn't be better to coin new terms for those words. Masculinity and femininity are so tightly bound up to biology and gender in western culture that it can be difficult for the average person to deal with them separately.

  • At 9/29/2008 12:45:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    I guess I'll come back in now that I've been inculpated....

    I've read Sacred Romance and it had profound positive effects on my spiritual life, and other portions of his work have been helpful. And to answer Robert's narrow reading of my post... God is genderless Spirit, and Jesus appealed to both genders, and included them both without hammering hyper-masculinity as important to spiritually or road maps, or journeys with God.

    His message of redemption was plenty. It could be enough for Eldridge too. I think the Wild at Heart series points more to the lack of John's own identity as a male, and not in to good imitation of Christ, than anything else, and sadly, this may appeal to many men, who have id crisis. It's the easy way out as well.

    Besides, if you have a a X and Y chromosome, you are a man. (What's all the hype?)

    I pointed out other sects don't seem to have the Evangelical gender deficit, but good for them. They don't have to resort to manly-man marketing tactics. Church for everyone is preferable. Jesus is really enough, right? Jesus was probably 5'2" or shorter. Is this manly? Not so much. But, he's man enough for me, not b/c he is male...because he is God in the flesh. He is my Redeemer.

    Some men I speak with don't fit the mold and feel left out or insulted by Eldridge. Others enjoy his remarks, or even have "found their own voice" for the first time, so to speak. It's probably a matter of personality, past woundings, and personal preference. I have noticed, sadly, it CAN pit men against women... in the sense that things go backward..... I hear..."WE men are this way... and you ladies do this..." that nonsense doesn't do much good. (Well, it might help you, Robert. Are you in authority over women?) ; )

    Really interesting comments everyone. Thanks for participating. Keep it coming!

  • At 9/29/2008 06:38:00 PM, Blogger Euodia

    ""Despite the exaggerations and the bullshit, there's a lot there to latch onto, for most guys.""

    Spoken like a "real man," hewhocutsdown?

  • At 9/29/2008 11:43:00 PM, Blogger daniel + adrienne

    I feel like both "Wild At Heart" and "Captivating" were incredibly essentialist and though seemed to affirm some people's faith and sense of self worth, many people I talked to felt alienated by the Eldredges' very Western narrative. But all that evidence is anecdotal.

    I feel like the increasing popularity of the Song of Songs metaphors are reaffirming traditional gender roles that many of us (me and my fiance included!) were not raised with. Maybe this new emphasis on gender roles are a part of a reaction against the changing identity of family? I'm not sure, but I'd be wary to validate either the hyper-masculine or -feminine narratives as universal. I feel like it cheapens men and women's identities by constantly comparing their lives to fairytales.

    In any regard, I'm happy that both my fiance and my mothers gracefully raised us as feminists--we both usually are able to look at issues of gender and faith critically. I wish gender studies were a mandatory part of every Christian's education!

  • At 10/07/2008 10:49:00 PM, Blogger Sensuous Wife

    We have a saying here in Texas, and the gist of it is there are few things as dangerous and unpredictable as a horse with a burr under his saddle.

    In my life the men who have caused me so much pain have acted out of their woundedness. Some literally acted out as in perpetrators acting out. Some lesser pains such as when my Delighted Husband lets fly a hurtful remark when he is having a bad day.

    We've all heard it before. Hurt people hurt people.

    So here's this guy John and his community of friends who have dedicated their lives to helping get the burrs out from under the saddles of men. To come alongside men and help them negotiate the path for Jesus to heal their hurts.

    I have read the The Way of the Wild Heart Manual a Personal Map for Your Masculine Journey and I was floored by the beauty of it. The realness and willingness to deal with issues. In fact, I had such a sense of awe and that I was standing on holy ground that I stopped reading after the 4th chapter because even though my husband had not yet written in the workbook when I read it brand new, the workbook author Craig McConnell included his own personal notes and responses to the workbooks' questions and I felt as a woman I was unintentionally intruding on a private moment. I have no doubt that Craig's kind of realness will inspire men to open up and allow Jesus to heal them and mature them.

    Which men are kind and affirming and loving of women? Men who can afford to be because they have a sense of knowing who they are. Men who are living that gorgeous paradox that they are deeply loved by God and feel comfortable instead of being dogged by a sense of personal insecurity--YET at the same time their security is not arrogant false bravado that leads them to throw their weight around. No. it's strength and humility.

    Is John and Craig's book the only way to help men own a personal sense of strength and tenderness? Lordy no! But I personally consider it a wonderful resource.

    I bought one for my husband and I recommended it to my brothers.

    and no, Delighted Husband did not become a lumberjack or start ordering me around after he read The Way of the Wild Heart-A Map For the Masculine Journey. He knows better. ;) And it's not in his heart to do that.

    True intimacy requires TREMENDOUS personal growth. Every piece of the puzzle that comes together for me and my healing makes me a better woman, better able to love my God, my self, my man, my children, my world. I see this same dynamic in my husband. Every step DH has taken with God to mend a spot of his personal brokenness (we've all got 'em) every step he has taken has healed him and changed him made him a better husband, a better father, even a better lover.

  • At 10/08/2008 07:09:00 AM, Blogger Sensuous Wife

    It's very rare for me to post 2 comments back to back, but this time I think it's worth it.

    Five minutes after posted my comment, I read a blog post that I could have written. Every word.
    In fact, I prolly have written a post maybe two that talk about this very idea that Jesus has to be the only one who has the right to stamp my okayness card. When I read this post, I thought, "oh yeah I've been there. yes. uh-huh."

    The post was written by John Eldredge. I didn't realize he has a blog! which reinforces my gratitude for blogroll leads you to blogroll leads you to blog.

    Anyway, I thought it would be relevant helpful even to mention that not every word out of John's mouth is 'man this woman this'. This post, as well as the books Sacred Romance and Journey of Desire I believe speak to a spirituality common to men and women.

  • At 10/20/2008 02:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I read Wild at Heart the year it was first published. It has definitely had a positive impact on my husband. That being said, he will be the first to admit there is a lot of nonsense in there-especially about "pulling away from women, not being under a women's influence, " etc. My take on this is :it is in unity that the church has great strength and power, men and women working together for the Kingdom of God. Anything less is not very fruitful and is very distorted.


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