John Eldredge didn't start the discussion on what it means to be a "real man," but his 2001 book Wild at Heart certainly ramped up the conversation in Christian circles. In the decade-plus since, pastors, scholars, pundits, and regular shmoes like me have all weighed in on what manhood really means in the context of Christian faith.
Eldredge wrote that for a boy to "become truly masculine," he ultimately needs "a battle to fight" and "a place for the warrior in him to come alive." Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll, fond of cage fighting and occasional cussing, believes in an "Ultimate Fighting Jesus," lamenting that the church has produced "nice, soft, tender, chickified church boys." Paul Coughlin, author of No More Christian Nice Guy, writes that "a meek and mild Jesus is a bore. He doesn't inspire us." Even Christianity Today senior managing editor Mark Galli joined the fray with the 2006 book Jesus Mean and Wild.
However such notions go down in the annals of scholarship on Christian masculinity, this is certain: Men of faith—studly, manly men—were everywhere on the big screen in 2011, ready to kick some butt and spill some blood. They were Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Norris all at once.
The trend even trickled down to Sherwood Pictures—the church production company behind Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and, now on DVD, Courageous—whose films are typically more "meek and mild" than "mean and wild." Leading men—a football coach, a fireman, cops—have always carried Sherwood's movies. But the coach in Giants was too whiny, and Fireproof's Kirk Cameron was too much of a pretty boy. Maybe we could relate to their issues, but not to a guy whose name is oft preceded by the phrase "former ...1