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LOS ANGELES: Christian men called to become 'warriors', not 'nice guys'

Christian men called to become 'warriors', not 'nice guys'

By Nigel Hunt

LOS ANGELES (1/29/2005)-- Movies like "Braveheart" and "Legends of the Fall" are on the viewing list for men in a growing Christian movement that calls for them to throw off their "nice guy" personas and emulate warriors.

The book which inspired the movement, John Eldredge's "Wild at Heart," has already sold 1.5 million copies in English and been translated into 16 languages, most recently Korean.

Eldredge believes many Christian men have become bored, "really nice guys" and invites them to rediscover passion by viewing their life's mission as having a battle to fight, an adventure to live and a beauty to rescue.

"The modern era has brought up immense conveniences but at what price. The human heart is desperate for something more than a quicker serving of popcorn," Eldredge said in a recent interview.

Eldredge calls on men to be prepared to take risks and rediscover their dreams but does not provide a specific route to find, for example, an adventure to live. Career, marriage and family become heroic quests rather than chains which bind.

He focuses on how men can become less passive and "engage" those around them, particularly their wives and children.

"The guy who sits in front of the television is unengaged. That man is a bad man. They (children) need engagement whether it is playing on the floor with your 1-year-old or tougher games when they are 15 (years old)," he said.

Eldredge said he has been astounded by the response to his book with momentum gathering steadily since the book was published in 2001 by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson.

Men have been flocking to retreats and forming small groups to study it. Some are organized by Eldredge and his team, but many are just informally arranged by readers of the book. These groups have sprung up as far away Kazakhstan and even among tribes along the Amazon River in South America.

"It has become something of a grass-roots wildfire," Eldredge said.

Jim Chase, an advertising copywriter from La Crescenta, California, has had a replica of the sword actor Mel Gibson used when he played legendary Scottish warrior William Wallace in "Braveheart" hanging above his desk since attending a Wild at Heart retreat with 350 other men last year.

"It is just a reminder that we are in a battle every day. It can be just facing boredom and routine, but it is a battle," Chase said.

"Life isn't just about going to work and sitting in front of a computer and bringing in as much money as you can. We all have a story. God has written a story and we are meant to find out what the story is and live it," Chase said.

He said, for example, that the book inspired him to teach his 15-year-old son to ride a motorcycle.

Eldredge, who is a trained counselor and worked for 13 years for Christian organization Focus on the Family, said we are currently living in a "fatherless age" with many men having abandoned their children if not physically then emotionally.

His own father was an alcoholic who after some good years when Eldredge was young became increasingly distant. Chase had lost his father, who he described as "very cold," just a few months before he attended the retreat.

"A lot of what it brings out is how much you are impacted by your own father. What role model he set for you and how God relates to us as the big father," Chase said.

Eldredge said he used characters such as Mel Gibson's warrior Wallace in "Braveheart" because the characters often embody men who are engaging their passions by fighting noble battles, rescuing women and finding adventure.

CHRISTIAN CRITICS

The movement has stirred controversy, attracting criticism from some Christian leaders who fear he may just be reinforcing stereotypes.

While some women have welcomed suddenly receiving flowers and more attention from their husbands, in the long-term there are concerns about the impact on marriages.

"The basic premise that men need a princess to rescue has set back male female relationship in the church by 30 years. He sanctifies a mythological view of 1950s malehood," said Chapman Clark, associate professor of youth, family, and culture at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California.

"It is destructive (to marriages) in the long-term," Clark said, adding that treating women as a figurine rather that the personal image of God will hurt relationships over time.

Clark said Eldredge had tapped into an angst among middle-aged white men who are dissatisfied with their lives and for whom depression had become a very serious problem.

Eldredge acknowledged the movement would be judged based on the impact it has on family life.

"The real test of this ("Wild at Heart") is does it make life better for women? Does it make life better for children? We have received letters from women who are immensely grateful. Marriages have been restored," Eldredge said.

END

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