Jesus, I know and John Wayne, I know, but who is Kristen Kobes Du Mez?
Du Mez is the author who set evangelical Christians’ hair on fire writing about John Wayne, Jesus, white evangelicals and, of course, Donald Trump.
She crafts a compelling narrative revealing 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.
I plowed through all 386 pages in three nights of reading. One after another, legendary influencers of my formative pastoral years were paraded out. Billy Graham, James Dobson, Tim LaHaye, Ed Cole, Bill McCartney, and organizations like Promise Keepers, and the Christian Men’s Network. Du Mez is an historian. She doesn’t make accusations or applications. She doesn’t need to. Du Mez exposes the darkest underbelly of Evangelicalism. Her research shows evangelical males replacing the Jesus of the Gospels with what one chaplain calls “a spiritual badass.”
John Wayne is the icon of a lost time when men were men, political correctness was for sissies, the good guys were unafraid to tell it like it is and did what needed to be done. Jesus and John Wayne share a lot in common in evangelical thinking.
Boys Will Be Boys
Du Mez is a Professor of History and Gender Studies at Calvin University. She holds a PhD from the University of Notre Dame and her research focuses on the intersection of gender, religion, and politics. Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation is a New York Times bestseller.
She offers a biting version of Evangelical Christianity; “What makes for a strong leader? A virile (white) man. And what of his vulgarity?… Even sexual assault? Well, boys will be boys…If you wanted a tamer man, castrate him.”
Rev. John MacArthur is the lead pastor of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, the Chancellor of Master’s University & Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry. He is one of the many leaders that Du Mez points to as an illustration of an unhealthy, patriarchal church culture.
“This is the way apostle Paul describes marriage in Ephesians chapter 5: A husband is like a savior to his wife, the burden really lies with men, to see themselves as those who rescue women from loneliness, to rescue women from being in a unfulfilled life, being in a place where they are not provided for, where they are not protected, not cared for, not loved, not given opportunity to have children.”
Norms And Values
Jamie Carlson, though critical of Du Mez’s arguments, says her work brings order to what others have struggled to express. “We’ve seen many of these issues with our own eyes: the dismissive responses, the sexist comments, the failure to act on the part of victims, the exaggerated responses to perceived cultural threats. For those of us who have struggled to make sense of our evangelical culture, we don’t need citations to tell us what we already know.”
Du Mez clearly shows that the books, book tours, Bible studies, music, Christian bookstores, and publishing industry within evangelicalism played a crucial role in maintaining and distributing evangelical norms and values.
The Subjugation of Women
In an interview Du Mez asks, “Did you grow up listening to Focus on the Family in your home each and every day? Did you shop at Christian bookstores? Did you listen to Christian music or Christian talk radio?” Yes, yes, yes and yes.
She goes on to observe, “This evangelical consumer culture not only shapes evangelical beliefs and values, but it also fosters a sense of communal identity across regional, denominational, and socioeconomic differences.”
Most damning is story after story of downplayed instances of clergy sexual abuse and the subjugation of wives. Mark Driscoll is the former pastor of Mars Hill Church, and leader of the Acts29 network of churches. He grew his churches to over 15,000 with young men through preaching about wives serving their husbands sexually.
Jesus and John Wayne is not a flawless book but it is worth the read over your Christmas holidays.
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