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Nazario Moreno, John Eldredge, and “muscular Christianity”

I do not pay a lot of attention to the Mexican Drug War, in spite of the fact that it qualifies according to most people who pay attention to this sort of thing as a real war [link], is in danger of causing Mexico to qualify as a failed state, and is just a five-hour van ride from my house [link]. Michael Newham, owner and sole proprietor of the Phoenix Preacher blog [link] pays a lot more attention to these things than I do, and keeps up with much of the news coming from the conflict.Michael and I tend to disagree on how the Mexican Drug War should be viewed; he sees it as primarily a spiritual conflict with public policy implications; I tend to see it as a public policy problem with spiritual implications.

Over the weekend an article from The Economist [link] surfaced in my news feed that mentioned the death of Nazario Moreno, until recently the head of La Familia/La Familia Michoacán [link], a drug gang noted partly for their brutality and partly for their embracing of the works of American evangelical writer John Eldredge [link]. Eldredge for his part does not return their admiration, as articles on the connection take varying degrees of care to state [link, link, link]. In its simplest form, the relationship between La Familia and Eldredge goes like this: Moreno was both a professed Christian and a drug lord, read at least one of Eldredge’s books on what is sometimes called “muscular Christianity,” appropriated at least some of Eldredge’s concept of the Christian man as a (dominating) man of action, and applied it to his chosen field of work as drug lord with brutal consequences.

For the record I don’t think this one little point necessarily means my analysis of the Mexican Drug War is better or worse than Newhham’s: I think he suggests that some sort of Christian revival would end the drug war; I’d be inclined to claim that it wouldn’t if the various believers involved in the revival didn’t leave and resist the drug trade. I mean, I don’t really believe anyone can be both a Christian and a drug lord, but I’m not sure I’d make that claim foundational to my soteriology.

Also, for the record, the modern “muscular Christianity” shares a name and some characteristics with a Victorian movement [link], but the two aren’t closely related: one was primarily a mainline Protestant phenomenon, the other is primarily evangelical/nondenominational. There’s probably no good reason to bring up Tom Brown at Oxford when discussing e.g. Mark Driscoll. Teddy Roosevelt yes, Mark Driscoll no.

Various authors have taken Eldredge to task for recasting God in his own image and for presenting a loosely-defined “biblical manhood” that doesn’t really start or end with the Gospel. From having read a couple of his books (Wild at Heart and The Journey of Desire) I think I’d have to suggest that Eldredge also tends to adopt biblical stories that are historical as illustrative without good reason. Of the three points mine’s probably the palest.

Anyway, the strange case of Nazario Moreno gives me pause; it seems crazy on its face to read books on biblical masculinity and apply the lessons learned to running a drug gang, but honestly I have a hard time seeing it as anything other than a weird isotope of Jesus CEO [link].

  1. Michael
    December 21, 2010 at 8:43 pm


    I’m not sure where I communicated that I believe that the situation in Mexico is primarily spiritual because that certainly is not my position.
    What we are seeing now is a result of the continual corruption of the Mexican government, the U.S. lust for drugs, and our free trade policy that’s created an economic disaster in the northern part of the country.
    The spiritual side of the equation is two fold in my opinion.
    The nature and volume of the killings and the blinding of the perpetrators to the horror they commit is demonically inspired to some degree in my opinion.
    The other issue is that I believe that Christians have a responsibility to their neighbor that should inform us about this situation and immigration policies in general.
    There is also a need for spiritual warfare on behalf of these people.
    We may be closer on this than you think, in any case I need to express myself more clearly.

  1. December 24, 2010 at 5:56 pm

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