NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
The “paradigm-influencing” book (Christianity Today) that is fundamentally transforming our understanding of white evangelicalism in America.
Jesus and John Wayne is a sweeping, revisionist history of the last seventy-five years of white evangelicalism, revealing how evangelicals have worked to replace the Jesus of the Gospels with an idol of rugged masculinity and Christian nationalism—or in the words of one modern chaplain, with “a spiritual badass.”
As acclaimed scholar Kristin Du Mez explains, the key to understanding this transformation is to recognize the centrality of popular culture in contemporary American evangelicalism. Many of today’s evangelicals might not be theologically astute, but they know their VeggieTales, they’ve read John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, and they learned about purity before they learned about sex—and they have a silver ring to prove it. Evangelical books, films, music, clothing, and merchandise shape the beliefs of millions. And evangelical culture is teeming with muscular heroes—mythical warriors and rugged soldiers, men like Oliver North, Ronald Reagan, Mel Gibson, and the Duck Dynasty clan, who assert white masculine power in defense of “Christian America.” Chief among these evangelical legends is John Wayne, an icon of a lost time when men were uncowed by political correctness, unafraid to tell it like it was, and did what needed to be done.
Challenging the commonly held assumption that the “moral majority” backed Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020 for purely pragmatic reasons, Du Mez reveals that Trump in fact represented the fulfillment, rather than the betrayal, of white evangelicals’ most deeply held values: patriarchy, authoritarian rule, aggressive foreign policy, fear of Islam, ambivalence toward #MeToo, and opposition to Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ community. A much-needed reexamination of perhaps the most influential subculture in this country, Jesus and John Wayne shows that, far from adhering to biblical principles, modern white evangelicals have remade their faith, with enduring consequences for all Americans.
Historian Du Mez (A New Gospel for Women) explains white evangelical support for Trump in this engaging history of the shifting ideal of Christian masculinity. Starting in the early 20th century, white Christian men followed charismatic preachers in striving for a muscular, militant masculinity. For Du Mez, the growth of Christian publishing and popular culture in the mid-century reinforced the sense that evangelicals were at war with liberal social movements like feminism and civil rights. 9/11, she argues, revitalized the extreme warrior ideal for evangelical men and curtailed the softer patriarchy fostered by the Promise Keeper rallies of the 1990s. The recent growth of homeschooling and Quiverfull (child-centric evangelical theology) and evangelicals' suspicion of Obama are also explored. Persuasively arguing that the evangelical dismissal of Trump's flaws is the culmination of believing that "God-given testosterone came with certain side effects," Du Mez closes with a bruising chapter on recent evangelical leaders' abuses and sex scandals, such as those involving Mark Driscoll, Ted Haggard, and C.J. Mahaney. This lucid, potent history adds a much needed religious dimension to understanding the current American right and the rise of Trump. (Jun.)
This book was extremely helpful in highlighting where the origins of things I felt that didn’t actually match the Bible came from in American Christianity and Reformed circles. This was an essential read and has shaped my view going forward allowing me to scalpel out things that have no basis in my faith and whose origins were based out of trying to prevent threats to unbiblical patriarchal power.
Christianity has been hijacked
A great read detailing how militant masculine nationalism has hijacked evangelical Christianity.
Best book I’ve read in a while!
Incredibly poignant, thorough, and convicting. Much work is ahead for those who refuse to let the cult of Christian nationalism claim the banner of faith in Christ.