It is rare to encounter people in the United States who understand what I do. “You’re an anthropologist?” They say. “How interesting! Is that like Indiana Jones or more like Jurassic Park?”
I exaggerate (a bit), but anthropology is not a widely understood discipline in this country. I would also say, based on my highly unscientific study, that it is even less understood in the church. Anthropology’s traditional anti-missionary bias, combined with a general distrust of “-ologies” of various sorts, has led anthropology to be a weak voice in U.S. Christianity.
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.”
Popular references to God most often imply a certain masculinity, but I had always interpreted them as playful anthropomorphisms, endearments meant to humanize God just enough so people can speak comfortably yet respectfully about him in secular circles.
They came from all over— Bahrain, Turkey, Rome:
A little band of women
with hope all their own
To learn and to study,
To become stronger in their faith
To encourage one another
In the footsteps of the saints.
Change begins with our language, because what we say and what we write reveals our unchallenged assumptions about women. Beyond that, however, we must change our missions commitment to include evangelizing and training the world’s women.
Rendered invisible it has happened just too many times
times two squared
Even worse is being rendered visible
but not really important.
Your voice is not really that important they say.
It doesn’t have the right credentials,
Many books behind you ... a following... or enough degrees,
or how could you really have something to say
when you spend many of your days doing laundry,
wiping noses, changing diapers,
raising living human beings, instead of just words on a page.
Living words are not regarded with the same care.