Godly Men Shouldn't Be Weenies

Men want risk, danger, a battle to win. Their souls atrophy when they think God wants them to be 'swell guys.'

BY: Interview by Steven Waldman

 
God wants men to be courageous and fierce, says John Eldredge, author of "Wild at Heart." The bestselling book sees the men's movement through a Christian lens, urging men to overcome the stereotype of Jesus as a "bearded Mr. Rogers." Beliefnet's Editor in Chief spoke with Eldredge about how men can reclaim passion and adventure as part of their faith.



You write that Christianity as it currently exists has done some "terrible things" to men. What do you mean by that?



Christianity has basically communicated to men that the reason God put you on this earth is to be a good boy. Mind your manners, be a nice guy. That's soul killing! It's not true, and for a man to hear the message that the greatest achievement of his life is simply not rocking the boat, not offending anyone, not taking any risks but just being a genuinely swell guy--that kills him.

His nature is made for something much more dramatic. Here's how you can tell: look at the games boys play or the films men love. Boys want risk, adventure, danger, exploration. Why do men love maps? Women don't love maps.

Look at the films men love, whether it's Chariots of Fire, Schindler's List, The Shawshank Redemption, the Die Hard films, Indiana Jones, or James Bond. They all involve a challenge, a great battle, something to be won, some deep hardship to be faced and overcome. That's the soul of a man. To tell him that you're really not made for that, that what God really wants is for you to be an altar boy, kills a man. It takes all the passion out of life

Related to that, you argue that Christians misunderstand Christ.

Good grief, look at the images we've been given of Jesus Christ, particularly from our Sunday school years. The pictures of Jesus we were given--in fact, the only pictures of Jesus I have ever seen of Jesus in any church--are 'gentle Jesus, meek and mild.' He's got a lamb on his shoulders. Or he's sitting in a field with children on his knees, looking for all the world like Mr. Rogers with a beard! He's the sweetest guy you could possibly meet. And men can't relate to that, frankly.

You look at that guy and you say, "He's a weenie!" This is not a man I would follow on the beaches of Normandy. This is not a man who would lead me in a protest against apartheid. This is not a man who would teach me how to romance a woman. I mean this guy can't even drive a car, I bet.

So we've really misunderstood who Christ is. We've emasculated Christ and we've emasculated men in the church.

It's a very inaccurate reading of Jesus. He's called the Lion of Judah, for heaven's sake. When he comes back, the scriptures describe him as riding a white horse with his robe dipped in blood! He is not sweet. He's loving, but he is also fierce and immensely brave. I think he's a whole lot more like Braveheart--William Wallace--than Mr. Rogers.

What's been the reaction to that message as you've talked to Christian audiences?

A wild fire. Men are just desperate to hear a message of freedom, passion, validation. Even better, women are writing and calling, saying, "I don't know what you did to my husband, but I'll take him and you can keep the other one."

The modern man has this dilemma between striving for his passion and being with his family. They're not always incompatible, but sometimes they are. You write that sometimes a man has do it, even it means less time with his family.

I understand the tension because I live it myself. I'm married. I have three children. I have a mortgage to pay. The plumbing breaks and the yard needs trimming. However, what my wife and children need most from me is my passion for them. They need a

man

alive. A dead man does them no good. A man who is bored, depressed, in resignation about life--if that man spends 40 hours with his family each week, he's doing them no good. Before you can love well, and offer them passion and aliveness, you have to go get that.

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself, "What makes me come alive?" Because what the world--a wife, a child--needs is men who have come alive.

Yes, there are times when I have to sacrifice my desires on their behalf. Ultimately, where this message comes out is, God made men in the image of his strength. Not just big muscles--I mean soulful strength, courage, daring, and a fierceness.

It was men who stopped slavery. It was men who ran up the stairs in the Twin Towers to rescue people. It was men who gave up their seats on the lifeboats of the Titanic. Men are made to take risks and live passionately on behalf of others. Ultimately, I'm not encouraging selfishness. I'm saying, go get your heart back so you can offer it to those you love.

Continued on page 2: »

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