By Eric C. Miller | July 7, 2020
photo above: Donald Trump stands near a statue of John Wayne during a news conference at the John Wayne Museum in Winterset, Iowa. (AP/Jae C. Hong)
WN: Though not declamatory, this interview with Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of just published Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, is nonetheless scathing about white evangelical masculinity and the great “harm [done] inside their communities, and also at the national and even international level.” One reviewer writes:
Jesus and John Wayne demolishes the myth that Christian nationalists simply held their noses to form a pragmatic alliance with Donald Trump. With brilliant analysis and detailed scholarship, Kristin Kobes Du Mez shows how conservative evangelical leaders have promoted the authoritarian, patriarchal values that have achieved their finest representative in Trump. A stunning exploration of the relationship between modern evangelicalism, militarism, and American masculinity.”
– Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism
Another new book, The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelical Christians on Justice, Truth, and Moral Integrity, points in the same direction. An excellent review of it is here.
White American Evangelicals arguably are the most dangerous religious group on the Planet, whose political alliances baptize American terrorism the world over: initiating by far the greatest scourge of barbaric violence the world has seen–with so much more almost beyond imagining waiting in the wings. (See the post, The Pentagon’s New Wonder Weapons for World Dominion: Or Buck Rogers in the 21st Century.)
This website contains many posts about the white evangelical right/alt-right. It is deeply humbling to have been formed in my Christianity in the cauldron of white male-dominated Canadian evangelicalism (Plymouth Brethrenism). My Chrysalis Crucible novel was a fictionalized attempt to come to terms with that. Though a Canadian evangelical in my Christian upbringing, White American Evangelicals dominated such religious formation in terms of what we consumed culturally/theologically.
And though a good friend has tried rather vehemently–somewhat successfully–to distance the Canadian version from that, having himself converted to the faith in that American context through Francis Schaeffer, he has remained largely unconvincing for most scholars I respect, likewise knowing that Canadian religious culture well. They are in fact (as I) responding mostly from a formative inside experience. My friend took for instance a dim view of award-winning Canadian journalist (and committed Anglican!) The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada. (My review of it–together with Captain America and the Crusade against Evil: The Dilemma of Zealous Nationalism–is here.) We largely disagreed with his negative assessment. (But we all remain friends!)‘s
The excerpts from the highlighted interview below speak not only to an extremely toxic masculinity, to an extremely dangerous religious pro-American-military orientation, but most of all, to an extremely false Christianity so cult-like in its rock-solid support (over 80%) of four years of Trump. It is therefore arguably the most reprehensible American religious cult ever, given its enormous impact upon presidential elections/performance, and consequent untold terror and misery foisted upon the Planet.
We can only pray: Lord, have mercy! And we can only exclaim: Maranatha! And we can only cry out, Lord, how long?!
A professor of history at Calvin University and the author, previously, of A New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism, Du Mez’s new book pledges to explain the current state of white evangelicalism—from family dynamics to voting preferences—with help from gender analysis.
Eric C. Miller spoke with Du Mez about the book by phone. Their conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Religion & Politics: What is the relationship between evangelicalism and masculinity, and what prompted you to write about it?
Kristin Kobes Du Mez: Evangelicalism isn’t just about theological doctrines, and “family values” evangelicalism isn’t just a set of political commitments. Evangelicalism is a way of life. For over half a century, evangelicals have been “focusing on the family,” and distinct gender roles have been at the heart of this. Evangelicals have bought and read millions of books about how to raise boys and girls, how to be a man, and how to be a woman. To understand American evangelicalism, we have to take gender seriously, to understand how gender connects to theology and politics, and how it is at the heart of the evangelical worldview. To be clear, there isn’t just one evangelical masculinity, and individual women and men respond to prescriptive advice in all sorts of ways. But in Jesus and John Wayne, I trace the history of a particularly militant strand of evangelical masculinity that has been a defining feature of conservative white evangelicalism.
R&P: This book grew out of a piece that you wrote for Religion & Politics, correct?
KKD: Yes! Since about 2010, I had been giving talks on evangelicalism and masculinity and had been approached by publishers, but there were two things at that point that made me a little hesitant to dive into a book project. For one, the things that I was uncovering were very depressing. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to live with that for the years that I knew it would take to write a book. For another, I wasn’t sure at first how mainstream it all was. As a Christian myself, I wanted to be careful about shining a bright light on this dark underbelly of American Christianity if it was merely a fringe phenomenon. Around this time I finished my first book, began another on the religious history of Hillary Clinton, and committed myself to that project through 2016. However, just before the election, things clicked for me. The Access Hollywood tape came out, white evangelical elites continued to defend Trump, his support among white evangelical voters remained strong, and I thought, “Ugh, I think I know what’s going to happen and I think I know why.” That’s when I pulled some of that old research and wrote “Donald Trump and Militant Evangelical Masculinity.”. [And eventually the book discussed in the interview.]
Please click on: The Price of White Evangelical Patriarchy
Please also click on: Some evangelicals deny the coronavirus threat. It’s because they love tough guys.