Monday, March 27, 2006

More Gender Essentialism from Conservative Christians

Oh man.  So I was looking at the website for the John Eldridge gender ridiculousness franchise today because I was talking about it with a friend.  And, of course, I started making fun of it.  So I thought I’d invite you along.

So they have retreats.  Retreats to discover together with others your gendered soul, primarily through watching movies, journaling, crying, etc.  If you’re a man you get dirty, if you’re a woman, it seems, you get pretty.  Check out the design on the site – it’s really polarizing.  Evidently women like flowers and men like D-day.  And here’s the funniest thing (well, in competition for it): the last paragraph on the women’s retreat description:

“Unfortunately this retreat is not designed to offer childcare and it is not able to provide for nursing moms. We do pray that God would supernaturally provide for your children while you are away and for nursing moms, we pray with all our heart that Jesus would make a way for you to participate in a future retreat.”

That’s right.  God is going to SUPERNATURALLY take care of your children!!!  Evidently their father will be too busy battling things or something.  Don’t worry.  Come discover your core desires for romance and to be a nurturer.  As your children get fed and washed by God’s hand.  Because, obviously, there’s no other way to deal with this problem.  Also, then men’s retreat says nothing about childcare at all.  It would be more funny if it wasn’t so sad.


Rachel Birr said...

That does hurt my heart a little. Stupid gender roles!

KBush said...

All I can say is wow.

o1mnikent said...

I'm sad now.

Ron Rienstra said...


There's the six-pack I was hoping you'd open up. Well done!

Debra Rienstra said...

Oh Bethany. This is unbelievable. If it were a parody, it would be funny. Please tell me this is a secret subpage of Lark News or something.

Or at least come up with a new blog post to drag us all out of our God-gilded-essentialism-induced depression.

Let's all design a "free yourself from shallow essentialist notions" retreat.

Huisj said...

Don't be sad, Kent. Just strap on your combat boots, grab your guns, and get ready to learn how to kick some butt for Jesus. All the shouting, shooting, and crawling through mud will surely clear your mind of its sadness, and it'll teach your wild heart what being a young Christian man is all about? Right? Are you with me? Let's go learn how to fight! I think the two of us would make quite a boot camp team.

I hear that as a special treat, they're showing re-runs of Walker Texas Ranger for the late night movie time. Oh boy!

jimmy said...

Whenever I get into a situation and I don't know where to turn, I don't ask myself WWJD, because Jesus lived a life of nonviolence, which clearly is wussy and unacceptable to a man who is Wild At Heart(tm). I ask WWCND - What Would Chuck Norris Do?

Surely Chuck Norris wouldn't worry about childcare. Merely the threat of a roundhouse kick to the face would scare all those girly-men who want to care for children over to his house to make sure his kids are well taken care of, and Chuck would be freed up to pursue a life of adventure, catching bad guys, and growing a manly beard. Chuck Norris doesn't take no guff from nobody, and certainly wouldn't interrupt his life, liberty, and pursuit of manliness for things like taking care of kids, sharing housework, or connecting emotionally with his wife. That Chuck is a real man's man. I want to be just like him when I grow up.

Yeah, I've had half a bottle of wine. It's because I haven't killed any Nazis today and am feeling un-manly. What's it to you?

Jacqui said...


did you know that i had a huge conversation with helen sterk about john eldridge's ministry on our trip to kansas city....i think his ministry is often laughed off by people associated with higher learning because they read the broad statements he makes and find them ridiculous (which i know they do seem) however, i also find that not many of these people have read his books. i'd be interested to see if you have read any of his stuff because i'm actually reading one now and finding it pretty good.

i agree that those statements that you quoted are bizarre, but i also know that he has some awesome things to say about the christian life that are totally overlooked by most christains today, especially educated christians. i just find it a little sad that good things get written off because of broad staements that need explaining in order to fully understand. now, don't mistake me, i haven['t read all of his stuff and so can't advocate it all, but i'd be interested to see if you've read any.


bethany said...

Jacqui - that's a fair critique. I've read bits and pieces but not a whole book. I am perfectly willing to believe that he has some good ideas, I just wish he wouldn't couch them in polarizing gender terms. He does make statements about our essential natures being about gender, and I think that that kind of discourse has been causing problems for a long time.
and, really, how can you not make fun of supernatural childcare?

Anonymous said...

This is the first blog i have done..interesting, to say the least.
John Eldrige has touched on a subject that has never been brought to the surface and it is going to cause a stir amoung men and women. That is good...we need to be stirred up for Jesus. If we are so afraid of being who we were made to be gender-wise, maybe we need to look at the reason we have the fear. Only those things which touch a nerve in us really cause a reaction and reactions usually bring about change.
Praise the Lord for He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

bethany said...

Dear Anonymous, is all change good? it's not my visceral reaction to Eldridge's ideas that makes me upset, its my absolute rejection of gender essentialism in any context. It's not theology, it's pop psychology. I just don't believe that every woman's heart's deepest desires are to be rescued and be pretty. Maybe that is appealing, and maybe the culture reenforces that. I'll even buy that it's beneficial to replace the knight in shining armor we've been trained to expect with Jesus, who really does rescue us. But I think there's more evidence to indicate that my heart was created to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Bob K said...

I would also like to respond to the anonymous commenter. There are many things that stir me up that I think you and I would both agree are not good things: injustice, racism and poverty just to get started. So, being stirred up is not a very good yardstick to decide if something is good or not.

I don't think Bethany is afraid of being who she was made to be as you suggest - quite the contrary - I think some Christians want her to be who THEY think she was made to be. The only fear here is that she might have something to offer to the church and to God that is different from what others expect.

joshwall said...

I've also read Eldridge and was never overly thrilled with what he had to say. In general I think he presents a false dicohmity that says that in order to understand who I am (mind you I'm a male) I must "act" like a boy and reinscribe what culture says boys do. In the USA, that means that I go to woods, get sweaty, and play with guns (oddly enough all things I enjoy doing, but not for masculinities sake.) Additionally, if I don't do those things, I'm not capturing the true nature of my (inherantly masculine) soul. I just have issues with that, can I not discover myself hiking out doors as well as reading a book in a coffee shop?
He also talks (at least in wild at heart) about rescuing the girl and that women want to be "saved" and carried of by their knight in shinning armor. I'm sorry, I walk with my wife I don't save her... and furthermore I don't know what I'd save her from.

I guess its things like that that really get to me. Though de does have some points that I liked, if I recall, (I read Wild at heart in 2004) but alot of it was so enmenshed in his gender construction it was hard to pull out. Additionally, I felt like he's talking to men who feel emasculated in churches, where they don't feel they know who they are anymore, so I liked his approach I think its a problem. But I don't feel like his solution was great, rather than becoming more "manly" maybe we should attempt to reunderstand what "masculinity" means for contemporary contexts? Do I need to go to a boot camp to become a man, can I sit and write poetry? (Eldridge, tends to indicate that's a negative). Why should I (or anyone) have to conform to a cultural norm to discover who I(we) are? Should I discover that internally and in dialogue with God?

Anonymous said...

John Eldridges "Wild at Heart" is being taken way over the edge of what he intended. Not every man wants to go play with gun in the wilderness. What he is saying is that God made man to be the "warrior" for his family. To pursue and to protect his wife; To do the things that are central to him and not to conform to the doctrine of the church today. God made each of us unique and it is that uniqueness that we need to nurture. And I do believe that every woman DOES want to be the princess to her man...even in this world of equal rights and abilitys for gender, there is the part of each woman that wants to know she is under the protection of God first and her husband secondly. This is not to say that she is weak..quite the contrary. Women are very strong and are warriors in their own rights. But there is the nurturing part of a woman that needs the counterpart of a man to allow her the luxury of being protected so that she can nurture without resentments and hurts getting in her way.
We are made in the image of God..male and female, hard and soft, warriar and madian..together we represent all that God is, Alone we are only a part of Him..we compliment each other for a reason.

joshwall said...


just a quick response, you write
"What he is saying is that God made man to be the "warrior" for his family. To pursue and to protect his wife;"

A) I have no desire to be a warrior and I'm a man, do I just not understand myself as well as Eldridge or is he generalizing all men by his understanding of masculinity?

B) What about people without wives? In this construction they are left out of the picture all together, all catholics, me who never married, oh yeah and Jesus. It really gets to me that Eldridge says I need a wife... I don't need my wife (that I passionately love the woman) I need God and that's a big difference.

Jon Trott said...

Eldridge is critiqued rather nicely by Christians for Biblical Equality, an evangelical feminist group. If you really want to get an ulcer, though, take a long look at the largest Protestant denomination in America's (d)evolving position on women, women's allegedly biblical roles (highly selective Scripture quoting along the lines of Jehovah's Witnesses), and so on. I'm speaking of course of the Southern Baptists. Sigh...