They are Britain’s meek, mild-mannered Christian men whose most outrageous role model is Sir Cliff Richard and sole point of physical contact a limp handshake with the vicar after church.
But the stereotype of Britain’s God-fearing males could soon become a thing of the past after the extraordinary success of a book urging Christian men to ditch their soft image and embrace a life of adventure.
Swimming among killer whales and tangling with a bull moose are just two of the practical tips offered in Wild at Heart [UK] by the American evangelist John Eldredge, who calls for men to rediscover God by modelling themselves on heroic warriors such as Henry V and Mel Gibson’s interpretation of William Wallace.
The book, whose overriding message is that “God designed men to be dangerous”, is a bestseller after just three months in Christian bookshops in Britain and Mr Eldredge’s Colorado-based company, Ransomed Heart Ministries, is considering setting up its Wild at Heart weekends at which men are taught how to “recover their masculine soul” by watching films such as Gladiator, in which Russell Crowe plays the sword-brandishing title role, and Gibson’s Braveheart.
The book, which has already sold 1.5 million copies in English and has been translated into 16 languages, urges its readers to go back to basics by fighting noble battles, rescuing women and finding adventure in their lives.
It declares: “A Battle to fight. An Adventure to live. A Beauty to rescue. This is what a man longs for. This is what makes him come alive. There is something fierce, passionate and wild in the heart of every man. That is how he bears the image of God.”
Citing a quotation attributed to Jesus in the Bible, that “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and violent men take it by force”, it advocates the “deep and holy goodness of masculine aggression” and contrasts this with the idea that “the kingdom of heaven is open to passive, wimpy men who enter it by lying on the couch and watching TV”. In the book Mr Eldredge writes about receiving a message from God. “This is what I heard: ‘You are Henry V after Agincourt, the man in the arena, whose face is covered with blood and sweat and dust, who strove valiantly, a great warrior, yes, even Maximus’.”
He calls upon men to see career, marriage and family as heroic quests rather than chains that bind.
But Mr Eldredge’s book has already split the Christian world, with men from as far away as Kazakhstan forming study groups to examine his teachings. His ideas have attracted strong criticism from conservative Christians for promoting a 1950s view of masculinity and conveying an unbiblical view of God. Rut Etheridge III, a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, said: “He has made God the idol of his own psychological, emotional cravings. This is why Wild at Heart is so dangerous; it leads hurting people into idolatry.”
The book is already being recommended in churches across Britain.
Additional reporting: Jonathan Wynne-Jones and David Lister
HEROES WHO KEPT THE FAITH — AND THE ARCHETYPAL WIMP
The Pope In the days before becoming Pope, he was a keen football goalkeeper, skier and mountaineer. He has been unafraid to take a stand on moral issues such as abortion and sexuality and remains unbowed by political correctness
Mel Gibson The actor came to fame with the testosterone-charged Mad Max and Lethal Weapon movies. Last year, he risked millions of dollars from his own fortune to produce The Passion of the Christ, inspired by his staunch Catholic faith
Bono Has used his position as frontman of U2, one of the world’s biggest rock bands, to spearhead attacks on world poverty. Bold and outspoken, he prays frequently and is reported to say grace before meals
Richard the Lionheart One of England’s most ferocious warrior kings, he spent only six months of his ten-year reign in England, departing for the Holy Land in 1190 to lead the Third Crusade
Reverend Timothy Farthing The long-suffering vicar in BBC TV’s Dad’s Army who came to personify the wimpish man of the cloth
We appreciate your support
One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at Amazon.com.
Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission — at no additional cost to you — for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this service free of charge.