I have long deliberated the possible efficacy of another Wild at Heart critique.1 Although many excellent critiques arose in the years after the book’s initial release in 2001, it still sells unusually well, progressively working its way into churches, homes, and minds. The English language version has sold over 4.5 million copies, annual sales exceed 100,000, and it currently holds the #1 Best Seller spot in Christian Men’s Issues on Amazon. To date, the book has been translated into thirty languages. Beyond this, the ideologies of Wild at Heart find expression in subsequent books written by John and Stasi Eldredge, most notably Captivating, as well as numerous contemporary Christian works on sex and gender that display direct influence from the Eldredges’ teachings or promote similar ideas. Hardly a year passes without some popular Christian book on gender or parenting acknowledging the Eldredges and their teachings or listing Wild at Heart as recommended reading. Stephen Mansfield, for example, calls the book “masterful,” listing it first in “The Ten Essential Books for Manly Men,” because it provides men with “the tools for understanding and living out the essential passions of manhood.” For Eldredge himself, such steady reception confirms its timeless truth. It is somehow paradoxically “truer” than before, because “it rings eternal, and universal. God was in it then; he is in it still.”
I have been told on a number of occasions that men who adhere to an egalitarian view of the marital relationship and who see no ministry restrictions for women in the church approach the Bible from some personal bias that keeps them from seeing the truth. What usually follows in the conversation (lecture) is armchair psychologizing as to why such men want or need to hold an egalitarian view. I find armchair psychologizing somewhat specious and boring when it occurs among my professional colleagues, so I am quite intolerant when laypersons enter into such endeavors, particularly when I know they are applying their theories to me! Nevertheless, in violation of my own rules in this regard, I offer some of my ideas as to why men have a psychological investment in holding to a hierarchical view and thus may show little willingness even to entertain the possibility that an egalitarian view could be scriptural.
David Hart recounts his personal experiences with women facing gender inequality, explores his male privilege, and calls men to stand with women and fight for equality, humanity, and inclusion in the business and leadership of the church.
With vivid emotional clarity, I can remember standing helplessly before the chalkboard, crying in front the entire fourth grade class as I struggled to overcome the enigma of a long division problem. Any student would've been humiliated, but one reason I found it so hurtful as a boy was because a woman was making me cry. As a boy who was just learning the chauvinistic norms of my school, somewhere deep inside I knew it was especially embarrassing when a woman made you cry.
Word are my gift to my son, a gift many men do not grow up with. Instead, they are taught that emotions are silly or effeminate and should therefore be ignored (or at least restrained). These men now struggle with anger and health issues that don’t seem to have any clear causes. They struggle to connect with spouses or significant others, not understanding the value of conversation to solve problems. Simply put, they struggle without their words.