File Name: Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation
Author : Kristin Kobes DuMez (Goodreads Author)
ISBN : 9781631495731
Format : Hardcover 368 pages
Genre : Politics, Religion, Nonfiction, History, Race, Anti Racist, Spirituality,
Rating: it was amazing
Usually I will stay away from books on religion. Everyone’s passions overtake their judgment, facts are few, fleeting and ignored, and no minds are changed in the reading. But the pop culture intersection of American politics and American evangelicalism proved tempting, and thankfully, most worthwhile. For a title like Jesus and John Wayne, I broke my rule.
“To be an evangelical, according to the National Association of Evangelicals, is to uphold the Bible as one’s ultimate authority, to confess the centrality of Christ’s atonement, to believe in a born-again conversion experience, and to actively work to spread this good news and reform society accordingly.” There is no mention of watching Fox News or voting Republican straight ticket, carrying guns, supporting the patriarchy or proselytizing the military. But those facets have taken over evangelicalism. The rest of the requirements have pretty much dropped away.
Kristin Kobes Du Mez hails from this environment, so she is intimately familiar with it and how it operates. She has written an exhaustive study of the evolution of American evangelicalism, with emphasis on its political effects. She has assembled all the top personalities and all the turning points in a fast-moving, if stomach-churning history that ultimately explains how America adopted Donald Trump. It is less than pretty.
Putting John Wayne and Jesus Christ in the same box takes a little work (for the uninitiated, like me). Wayne was a philanderer, married three times in an era when divorce was shameful. He was hard-smoking and swearing. He was a racist who claimed the Indians got what they deserved because whites needed more land and Indians were selfishly occupying it. For all his patriotic ballyhoo, he avoided the draft and never served. You might not see how this would be the ideal role model for evangelical Christians. But then, millions would say the same of Donald Trump. And that is the point.
Wayne was a swashbuckler onscreen. He took no guff from anyone. He was his own man; everyone else be damned. That is what evangelicals aspire to. They demand it of their president. And they also attribute all these qualities to Jesus Christ.
Throughout the last hundred years, evangelicals have glommed on to very flawed, most un-Christian characters as their heroes. Du Mez examines the histories of numerous televangelists who bilked millions from their viewers, only to be humiliated out of business by sex scandals. Two-faced politician-hypocrites are nothing new, and whoring Hollywood stars are the kinds of people evangelicals want everyone to look up to. Trump is not a difficult case to rationalize; he fits the cast perfectly.
Evangelicals believe in the patriarchy. Men rule, women are submissive. Men need to be serviced, women are only there to serve and support. Men are wild conquerors, saving and protecting the family. Women prefer it this way, needing to be swept off their feet by a bold knight in shining armor, rather than a pretty Prince Charming. There is stability and order in the patriarchy; equality means chaos.
Evangelicals are against anything that dilutes the power of men. They are against abortion (women having control over anything), women dressing like men, working outside the home or in politics. They are against (most) immigration and any form of foreign government they object to. This means constant war, the main thing they seem devoted to.
Two things can be drawn from this: 1) America can never be seen as wimpy. It must strike fear in the hearts of all other nations, and go to war to prove it, repeatedly. And stay until it wins completely. 2) America’s leader must be a warrior-king: loud, bold, unafraid, hard-nosed and direct. Evangelicals will vote against anyone who doesn’t fit that description. So Jimmy Carter, despite being an evangelical himself, had to go. So did George H.W. Bush. Trump over Clinton was an easy choice. And when they vote, it is en bloc, like north of 80% of them voting for this caricature of a president.
The other thing all their requirements spell out is White Supremacy. Guns are for all whites (44% of evangelicals have one), but not for blacks. Immigration is for white Europeans, not Central Americans. John Wayne cleared those people out of his path, and so must evangelicals – and their presidents. And they insist Jesus was like that too.
Evangelicals have twisted Christianity to fit their needs. For them, Jesus was a warrior, more Rambo than Mister Rogers. Fearsome, not loving. As Jerry Falwell said in 2004 – “God is Pro-War.” And millions took that to heart. At several points in the book, evangelicals refer to Jesus as a “badass”. This aggressive interpretation has led evangelicals to the US military. Not to serve, but to convert. They get onto military bases, give lectures, show Christian films (Mel Gibson is the new John Wayne), and actively work on individual soldiers. Today, 40% of active duty servicemen consider themselves evangelicals, fighting for Jesus, the patriarchy and White Supremacy.
This is also closely tied to the rape culture so prominent in the military. Women are there for the taking, and not for active duty service. Victims are hounded out of the service. A favorite strategy is to blame the victim for being there at all. With evangelists, there is always a woman to blame. In one of the numerous sex scandals among celebrity evangelists, blame was assigned to the preacher’s wife, who clearly hadn’t satisfied her husband sufficiently to keep his eye from wandering. He was clearly innocent.
Which brings out another of the many distasteful aspects of evangelicals: sexual hypocrisy. While busy telling the faithful how to have sex, they themselves are total pigs. Du Mez examines numerous scandals around numerous evangelists. They blame the victim, they deny, they ignore, they get away with it (though they often have to resign – for a while). It is astonishing how low quality so many evangelists are. As inspirations and moral models, they are total failures.
What they are good at is profit. The God business is booming. All the celebrity evangelists have built massive multimedia empires that funnel cash back to the center. They write Christian books by the thousands. (They love to write highly instructive sex manuals for men and women, the juicier and more explicit the better). They have theme parks, museums and tours like rockstars. As a friend of mine told me just yesterday – any shepherd will tell you, the flock must be fleeced as often as possible.
Evangelicals maintain they are conservatives. They abhor government participation in anything they do. Unless it involves free money, like federal funds for the sexual abstinence for teens effort. They lobby government, cozy up to politicians, and press a religious agenda. In this, they are obviously and blatantly hypocritical and totally un-Christian. The rights of no one else count worth a damn.
They venerate the Bible, but are most selective in what they follow. Turning the other cheek is out, as is never coveting another man’s wife. The Golden Rule is ignored in favor of violent deaths. Bearing false witness? Please. Love thy neighbor? Only if they’re white evangelical Republican Americans.
There is a ton of irony throughout the book. My own favorite is from Phyllis Schlafly (one of the very few women evangelicals respected). She said of Bill Clinton’s impeachment that if he got away with lying, “Americans can look forward to a succession of TV charlatans and professional liars occupying the White House.” She was correct. In another bout of irony, 77% of evangelical leaders believe Islam is “dedicated to world domination.” Takes one to know one, I’ve heard say.
The “family values” evangelicals propound are just a cover for patriarchy, submissive women and masculine power, Du Mez says. In the “always a woman to blame” mode, not satisfying husband’s sexual needs led him to abuse children. He is innocent. She is the guilty party. Evangelicals pressure women to restore violent and abusive husbands and fathers to the family. They knowingly allow child abusers and rapists to marry in the church and are surprised when there is trouble later. Counseling will be needed – from the church. They have created a mountain of abuse cases by themselves. In this Me Too era, 700 victims came forward in the Southern Baptist Conference alone.
All in all, Jesus and John Wayne makes Christian evangelicals look like a very ugly cult. Unlike so many others that bloom, fester and disappear, this one has staying power. It is successful, and it is a shame.
Rating: really liked it
This was an unsettling read. It stirred me up to read the particulars behind the philosophy of millions of evangelicals. Nothing was particularly new or eye-opening for me, but to read the numerous examples and details tended to rile me up. There is a great deal of information here that evangelicals should know about their own history and philosophies and practices, especially as it relates to contributing to today’s political divide. The frustration is that those who need to read this probably won’t. The rest of us already know (or suspect) most of this. That’s at least part of the reason we’re not evangelicals. I guess the bottom line is: It’s going to be very hard to recommend this book. Those who need to read it won’t, and those who will read it have probably heard most of this before. I do wish it well, and i’m glad the information is out there, and that it was well-written and very readable in this case.
Rating: liked it
I enjoyed reading this book but it was NOT an exciting read. It read like a history book but I still gladly soaked in the information. It is long and serious and factual, but it is not fun. If anyone is looking for some evangelical history you don’t usually hear, check this out. Beware, evangelicalism is not placed in a flattering light, but it’s good to have extra knowledge.
Rating: really liked it
This is a really superb book on the subject, and I have more reading I want to do as a result. The author lays out a timeline of events and reasoning for the development of the evangelical church as it is now. Also, I continue to, as a religious woman myself, be horrified by how evangelicals in this country comport themselves and twist gospel to allow for really heinous actions.
Rating: it was amazing
I received this ARC together with a copy of Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, which was apt, as both deal, to an extent, with the harmful aspects of gender politics in modern societies and were both well-researched. Many thanks to Liveright for this opportunity.
There are certain books that you just keep quoting to those around you day after day, which make a few days of reading them feel like a long but fulfilling trek through decades of experiences and ways of conceiving things. That's what happened with this book. While I am going to differ with other readers who said it was a quick read (there are dozens of individuals in here and they're hard to keep track of- the need for a list of prominent players at the beginning is my only complaint) it didn't need to be, and it gave me more time to digest the wealth of information and context crammed into 300 pages.
Kobes Du Mez is not an entirely unbiased observer, as some researchers strive for, but she didn't seem to be going for that anyway. History, to me, is the art of creating and critiquing narratives we tell ourselves about nations, states, and cultures, and in this book Kobes Du Mez critiques the heck out of the cult and culture of mainstream evangelical masculinity, tracking it from Billy Sunday to Donald Trump and beyond. Yet, in her criticism, she still strives to show understanding towards evangelicalism- not cutting any corners or leaving out its absurdity (there's plenty of quotes that will have you laughing, outraged, or both) but at the same time making the case that people could and did believe these arguments abundantly clear. Even in a faith associated at times with televangelist charlatans, her mapping of development of evangelical tropes from one influential man (and they're almost always men, save a few prominent exceptions) to the next makes it understandable how rank-and-file believers and even a few sincere pastors could hold to these ideas.
As a Catholic myself, this definitely made me draw parallels both between evangelical culture and their opponents in my faith (I was basically a Catholic purity TA for about a year and purity culture- with a few notable tweaks, like John Paul II's statement on renewed virginity, was a staple at my school, as it is no doubt in evangelical schools). I won't be leaving my faith over the contents of this book, but suffice to say it will make me look at certain strands of it with a more critical eye.
Fair warning- this book does include talk of victim-blaming, rape, and crude language involving sex. Granted, it is a book primarily about the role of conceptions on gender and sexual politics, so that may be obvious, but if you are someone who is very uncomfortable reading about those topics, you might want to steer clear here. With that being said, it is my belief that these conversations are necessary to have if you have the mental or spiritual ability to read and reflect on them.
Ultimately, this is a great book written with a keen, critical, yet understanding eye. I strongly encourage you to read it when it comes out on June 23. I know that I will be recommending it to people, both academics and casual readers, at the very least.
Rating: it was amazing
Instead of venerating a first century Palestinian who said things like "Blessed are the meek/merciful/peacemakers," American evangelicalism has adopted as its ideal the swaggering, aggressive, thrice-married John Wayne, the author argues.
At the center of the author's argument is the idea that American evangelicalism has become indelibly tainted by a machismo toxic masculinity that is harmful to women and men alike and has distorted the Gospel to fit its narrative of strongman (white) dominance. Dominance, aggression, and violence are considered something holy and God-given rather than sinful temptations to be wrestled with, allowing fertile ground for other sins to thrive, such as abuse, hubris, and corruption. The book eloquently argues this point by walking through a history of these strongmen and the way they have channeled or manipulated well-meaning believers into providing them outsized resources to enrich themselves and their friends and grab power for themselves.
It reads easily and quickly and is clearly well researched and sourced. Recommended for readers who want to get a better understanding of why the religious right rallies around its favorite issues but seems much less interested in the issues that Black churches and progressive Christians are interested in like racial justice, de-escalation of war, or alleviating poverty. Also recommended for people from evangelical backgrounds (positive or negative) who are trying to understand the differences between cultural evangelicalism and the actual teachings of Jesus Christ.
arc received from the publisher to review
Rating: really liked it
I gonna be download this precious books. who can help me?