Jesus and John Wayne

Jesus and John Wayne How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.

Book cover

In Jesus and John Wayne, Kristin Kobes Du Mez gives us a good look at how evangelicals have changed the Jesus in the Bible through the decades. They present him now as someone a lot of us do not recognize.

Do people really understand what they are asking for when they say they want to live in a Christian nation?

Much in this book is familiar to me. I've been keeping tabs on this myself since the Reagan years.

The people who want this to be a Christian nation have obviously not thought this through. They may think they want Christians to rule this country. But have they thought about which Christian denomination may end up in the driver's seat?

It could be one with which they have few beliefs in common. Some who call themselves Christians aren't considered Christians by others.  And have very different ideas about what following Jesus means.

Is any of this taken into consideration? Have they thought about the many interpretations of the Bible? Which Christian denomination will make and enforce the laws?

Whichever one wins is going to make others unhappy. They'll be fighting among themselves in no time. And ... we're back to square one. 

They may band together now to try to control the lives of those they consider their enemies. And that is pretty much everyone unlike themselves. Anyone of another color or from another country. The entire LGBTQIA+ community, and all females. They want to say where and how – and sometimes if – all others live.

When it comes to women and girls, they also want to make decisions about their health and well-being. Some even think it's acceptable for a ten-year-old child to have the baby of a rapist. 

These people remind me of The Handmaid's Tale. In that story, things are not turning out well for some of the people who made up the rules for Gilead. 

The same could happen for evangelicals. They may not be so fond of living under their own rules.

If they can't understand, or don't care, about the cruelty they inflict on others, they might want to consider how they would feel if the same treatment came knocking at their door.

Would they be okay with their 10-year-old daughter carrying a rapist's child to term? Would they be fine with watching their wife die because of a pregnancy gone wrong? I think not. How they seem to not take these things into consideration is a mystery to me.

Why do they want to change Jesus? Why turn him into a rough and tough guy who uses force and violence? Maybe because they want to use force and violence?

What happened to the Jesus that taught love, forgiveness, and compassion? What happened to treating others the way you want to be treated? 

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12 (KJV).

If you can't wrap your head around how evangelicals can adhere to Trumpism, your answers are in this book.

Highly recommended.

From the Amazon sales page

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.

book cover

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