Evangelical's bestseller is a must-read for members of Mexican drug cartel

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By Alfredo Garcia
Saturday, July 10, 2010

In one Mexican drug cartel, the mandatory reading includes an American evangelical's bestseller.

Drawing from an unlikely source, La Familia Michoacana bases its ideology in part on the book "Wild at Heart" by John Eldredge, founder of the Colorado Springs-based Ransomed Heart Ministries.

And Eldredge sees the gang's use of his book in a positive light.

"At first, I was really mad that they hijacked my book for their purposes," he said. "But on second thought . . . maybe it will touch the hearts of the people who use [it]."

Nazario Moreno González, known in Mexico as "el Mas Loco" (the Craziest One), runs La Familia with rigid discipline and a pseudo-evangelical spirit. La Familia is known in Mexico, a nation plagued by drug-related bloodshed, for its extreme violence.

According to Time magazine, while Moreno González was ferrying cocaine to the United States in the 1990s, he was influenced by Latino evangelicals and images of the mafia in "The Godfather" films. Later, he returned to Mexico with a sense of religious justification -- and Eldredge's book.

The book has become central to La Familia's recruitment strategy and group mentality.

For recruits, the cartel turns to addicts in drug rehabilitation clinics, helping them overcome addiction before forcing them to join the group. Family values and religion are emphasized during the recruitment process, which includes daily group prayer sessions and mandatory readings.

Included in the readings is Eldredge's book, Spanish translations of which have been found during police raids of La Familia strongholds.

Eldridge's theology is based on a "muscular" view of Christianity, one that emphasizes an "authentic masculinity" that has been lost, he said, in modern Christian theology. He said it is meant to "champion an understanding of masculinity that is not passive."

" 'Wild at Heart' is a call for men to engage as husbands, fathers, members of their community," he said. "So there is this call to be a hero, to live a life that matters, to make a difference."

The book contains language, however, that has been misappropriated by La Familia in its mission of "divine justice." Central to "Wild at Heart" is an image of man as warrior, willing and able to fight the battle, rescue the beauty and live the adventure.

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© 2010 The Washington Post Company

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