Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Book Reviews, Part VIII (Wild at Heart).

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge contains valuable advice...if you are going into battle.

"Battle" as in: World War II, William Wallace (Braveheart) and Maximus (Gladiator). These examples feature prominently in Mr. Eldredge's book. Read his own words: "In your life you are William Wallace...." (p. 142). And, "The whole crisis in masculinity today has come because we no longer have a warrior culture, a place for men to learn to fight like men." (p. 175.)

Just when the reader believes that Mr. Eldredge must be speaking purely metaphorically, he pulls the rug out from under such an assumption.

Claiming he is "not advocating a sort of 'macho man' image" (p. 26), Eldredge then fills his book with examples that seem to fall squarely under this stereotype. For example, he advises one woman's husband to get a motorcycle, and ridicules men who only know how to work "fax machine[s]" rather than how to kill wildlife (p. 48), and other cliched manifestations of "macho".

While Eldredge has some difficulty staying with his thesis, he impairs it further by some pretty acrobatic scripture twisting. He manages to turn Jesus' exhortation to turning the other cheek into precisely the opposite.

Also, he quotes Jesus thusly: "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force." (p. 177.) Huh? Does Eldredge really want to imply that Jesus was advocating physical violence? If not, he should have included disclaimers on top of qualifications resting on explications. To the contrary, he argues that God is a "warrior" (p. 25), and then consummates his implication with the fungible concept that we are made in God's image. (p. 26.)

Eldredge's book is (pardon the pun) wildly popular. The cover indicates "over 1 million copies sold." Can "over 1 million" people be completely wrong? Yes, but not in this case.

The book contains some valuable nuggets to mine, especially at the beginning and end. At the beginning, the book catalogues an emasculating passivity enveloping American males. In the end, the book encourages men to live their lives with more risk (calculated), adventure and passion.

One need not step into the arena like Maximus in Gladiator to adopt this advice.