Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

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

Rate this book
A scholar of American Christianity presents a seventy-five-year history of evangelicalism that identifies the forces that have turned Donald Trump into a hero of the Religious Right.

How did a libertine who lacks even the most basic knowledge of the Christian faith win 81 percent of the white evangelical vote in 2016? And why have white evangelicals become a presidential reprobate’s staunchest supporters? These are among the questions acclaimed historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez asks in Jesus and John Wayne, which delves beyond facile headlines to explain how white evangelicals have brought us to our fractured political moment. Challenging the commonly held assumption that the “moral majority” backed Donald Trump for purely pragmatic reasons, Du Mez reveals that Donald Trump in fact represents the fulfillment, rather than the betrayal, of white evangelicals’ most deeply held values.

Jesus and John Wayne is a sweeping account of the last seventy-five years of white evangelicalism, showing how American evangelicals have worked for decades 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 Du Mez explains, the key to understanding this transformation is to recognize the role of culture in modern American evangelicalism. Many of today’s evangelicals may 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 popular 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.

Trump, in other words, is hardly the first flashy celebrity to capture evangelicals’ hearts and minds, nor is he the first strongman to promise evangelicals protection and power. Indeed, the values and viewpoints at the heart of white evangelicalism today—patriarchy, authoritarian rule, aggressive foreign policy, fear of Islam, ambivalence toward #MeToo, and opposition to Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ community—are likely to persist long after Trump leaves office.

A much-needed reexamination, Jesus and John Wayne explains why evangelicals have rallied behind the least-Christian president in American history and how they have transformed their faith in the process, with enduring consequences for all of us.

356 pages, Hardcover

First published May 19, 2020

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Kristin Kobes Du Mez

5 books338 followers
Born and raised in Iowa with brief sojourns in Tallahassee, FL, and Ostfriesland, Germany. PhD from the University of Notre Dame, and now I reside in Grand Rapids, MI. I have 3 kids, 2 chickens, and a dog, and I write on gender, religion, and politics.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
9,855 (50%)
4 stars
7,166 (36%)
3 stars
1,953 (9%)
2 stars
392 (1%)
1 star
257 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,498 reviews
Profile Image for Laura.
720 reviews78 followers
February 7, 2021
I have no idea how to translate what I just learned into a “star” rating. Was her research five star? I feel pretty confident saying it is. Was the content unbearable at times, so cringey that I wanted to quit? For sure. One star. Is there room for disagreement on some of her conclusions? 4 stars? I don’t know.

This book won’t sit easily with most evangelicals. It shouldn’t. Du Mez has left no stone unturned in her quest to connect the dots between evangelicalism and Trump. Is their support for him an aberration or a phenomenon 75 years in the making? Du Mez makes the argument that evangelicalism has become so entwined with commercialism and politics that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. And somehow, John Wayne’s version of American manhood seems to be a central totem. If the title sounds bizarre, it won’t by the end. She makes the parallels abundantly clear and it’s no wonder she chose this title. John Wayne seems to have become a stand in whose swagger answers the question “what would Jesus do?” for generations of evangelicals.

It would be hard to disagree with much of what she says. The evidence is right there that the staunchest defenders of patriarchal thinking have often become the greatest abusers of the power they afforded themselves. The US church has conflated a narrow, Hollywood idea of manliness with godliness. It’s all there for the reading. It’s the kind of book that is hard to keep reading the closer it gets to recent memory. It will be an even harder book to forget. I think I’ll be drawing the lines between her ideas and the current events of the future for a long, long time. If you’ve been baffled by evangelical support for Trump, this book will connect the dots for you. If you’re sick of Trump, know that this is so much bigger, so much farther reaching, so many years in the making, that he is barely a blip on the timeline of this book. But it is his arrival that prompted the question.

If you’re like me, you’ll end this book in lament and grief. These are not problems fixed with a clever tweet or a new denomination or a label to replace evangelical. No easy fixes are offered. I guess I’ll sit with the grief for a bit before I try to figure out where we go from here.
Profile Image for David Wineberg.
Author 2 books683 followers
March 30, 2020
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.

David Wineberg
Profile Image for Michael.
657 reviews966 followers
December 31, 2020
cohesively maps out the rise of the American evangelical movement, homing in on how its leaders gained and wielded political influence. the book is great and provocatively argues that evangelicals’ early support of Trump wasn’t transactional but predictable and in line with the path of the entire movement, which has always supported coarse and oppressive white male leaders with roots in the entertainment industry.
Profile Image for Jessaka.
870 reviews106 followers
May 6, 2022
A Salty Jesus

Church services had just ended, and now I was standing in the hallway waiting to get into the restroom so I could then go home. A woman was standing in front restroom door with a megaphone in her hand, and she was preaching a different gospel, an evangelical one. I wondered why the Methodist Church was allowing her to be there, to preach. I just wanted out, and I never wanted to ever return to this church or any church. But, first, I needed to use the restroom. Fat chance of that happening. She would not move. I awoke from my dream. My kindle was still reading this book to me.

I have always thought of John Wayne as a soft-spoken man who spoke in a monotone, and whose vocabulary was limited to a few words, such as, “Yes, Ma’am, and “Hey, little lady.” Guess I did not watch many of his movies, just a couple of westerns, which means that he was not very impressive to me. But this author spoke of a different John Wayne, one whose macho qualities were that of a domineering man, and were aggressive, brazen, and crass. He was even a womanizer and a racist. Even an evangelical leader used John Wayne as a good example or a manly man, , and Trump once compared himself to him. This is what the conservative evangelicals liked now. Christ is no longer compassionate. He is a warrior, a “bad ass,” and for all I know, he, too, was a womanizer and a racist, according to them.

I was bewildered when I learned that evangelicals voted for Trump. Also, little did I know that there are far right evangelicals and far left. Jimmy Carter is a far left evangelical. The far right ones do not like him. They like Trump. Carter is too much like the old Christ. Now that he is no longer president, he continues to do Christ-like work by helping the poor, supporting HUD.

What changed? It was not the gospel. It was the fact that they needed more
men in their churches. A wimpy Christ could not cut it, a macho Christ could. This probably did not take much effort, for all they had to do was change the message by having a few of their readers write some books that presented to them a macho Christ. It worked like a charm. They made Christ into a warrior that one would fear.

So, when Trump ran for president, they recognized him as a Christ-like man. He was a racist, and they were racists. He wanted a wall, and they were against immigration. He was aggressive, and they believed that due to this, he would take care of our country, keep immigrants out. He would take care of them as well by electing judges who would get rid of abortion. He was not perfect, and his womanizing caused some concern to a few evangelicals, but in time they fell I together.

It should be noted here that the evangelical churches are replete with scandals of sexual abuse as well as physical abuse. Children are beaten and sometimes raped by their ministers. Women are beaten and seduced as well, if not raped. They try to keep it quiet, and when women speak out, they are blamed and often shunned by those in the congregation. The conservative evangelicals are not much different from Trump, as they forgave him just as they forgive their ministers. The good news is that some women are leaving the church, taking care of their needs and those of their children.

Trump’s macho behavior finally went as far as his not wearing a mask during this pandemic. Forget protecting other people, after all we are not them. We do not count. After all, God protects his own from pestilences. (Psalms 91.) But if God does not protect them, well, go down like a warrior. Die for Christ. (My husband was shopping at Lowe’s and wearing a mask. Some people were not, and they were not social-distancing themselves. He had to cough, and when he did, they all moved away. Now, you know how to protect yourself.)

So, do not believe it if a Christian tells you that they voted for Trump because God sometimes chooses a
“salty” man to do his job for him, like how he used King David, another salty character in the bible, to do his bidding. They are just making that up to appease you. They worship that salty man.

Note: Some thoughts are not those of the author but are of my own, such as the wearing of masks and the salty president.
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books344 followers
March 9, 2022
Christian Nihilism


The ugly side....



The real reason the Christian Right decided to oppose abortion...



Why Evangelicals are suckers for Qanon...

and why it's the ugly return of medieval anti-Semitism 



A precedent, Christians in Nazi Germany....

Germany was filled with Christians whose understanding of their faith had so converged with German national culture that it tainted both their politics and their theology. There were many devout, well-educated, Bible-reading Christians in Germany who read their devotions each morning and fully supported National Socialism.


The intertwined thread that runs throughout evangelicalism is patriarchy and misogyny. It's been going on for decades and Trump is a very obvious continuation of this political and social agenda. White males should be in charge of everything and everyone else has to put up or shut up.


“The public image of the leaders of the religious right I met with so many times also contrasted with who they really were. In public, they maintained an image that was usually quite smooth. In private, they ranged from unreconstructed bigot reactionaries like Jerry Falwell, to Dr. Dobson, the most power-hungry and ambitious person I have ever met, to Billy Graham, a very weird man indeed who lived an oddly sheltered life in a celebrity/ministry cocoon, to Pat Robertson, who would have a hard time finding work in any job where hearing voices is not a requirement.”

-Frank Schaeffer, "Crazy for God"

Bottomline is that these evangelicals have no concern about personal morality. If the pastor gets caught having affairs with parishioners or even molesting children, it's covered up, if possible, but not only for liability reasons. The most important attribute of the pastor is to be a good salesman. So as long he's bringing in new members, and their money, that's what matters most. As the author says, most of these people get a Mulligan, a do-over.


There are more than 31,000 verses in the Bible. Which ones are considered essential guides to faithful Christian practice, and which are readily ignored or explained away?

Answer: you cherry-pick out of context to support your pre-conceived notions.


Millennials Are Leaving Religion And Not Coming Back



Update on the stampede out of the churches....



The legacy of Billy Graham....

In 1954, Congress added the words “one nation under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance, and the following year Eisenhower signed into law the addition of “In God We Trust” to the nation’s currency.

“There is no American that I admire more than Richard Nixon,” Graham proclaimed at one of his crusades.

Christians went beyond ceremony and spectacle. When Nixon came under fire for his secret bombing of Cambodia, Chuck Colson tapped the Southern Baptist Convention to pass a resolution endorsing the president’s foreign policy. Graham, too, worked to promote the president’s foreign policy agenda— including the escalation of the war in Vietnam.

In his acceptance speech, George McGovern issued a prophetic critique of the nation and its culture of militarism. He promised to end bombing in Indochina on Inauguration Day, and within ninety days to bring every American soldier home: “There will be no more Asian children running ablaze from bombed-out schools” and no more Americans sent to die “trying to prop up a corrupt military dictatorship abroad.” He called on Americans to live with more faith and less fear. Countering those who said “America— love it or leave it,” he instead urged Americans to work to change their nation for the better, “so we may love it the more.”

A small group of Evangelicals for McGovern rallied around the Democratic candidate, but they were a tiny minority. Powerful evangelicals like Graham and Ockenga publicly endorsed Nixon, and when McGovern spoke at Wheaton College, he was greeted with resounding boos.

When the young army lieutenant William Calley faced trial for his role in the murder of some five hundred Vietnamese men, women, and children in what came to be known as the My Lai massacre, Billy Graham remarked that he had “never heard of a war where innocent people are not killed.”

As late as 1971, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution urging states to expand access to abortion. Only in time, as abortion became more closely linked to feminism and the sexual revolution, did evangelicals begin to frame it not as a difficult moral choice, but rather as an assault on women’s God-given role, on the family, and on Christian America itself.

“Only when Christ comes again will little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little Black children,” Billy Graham famously said in 1963, when asked to comment on Martin Luther King Jr.’ s “I Have a Dream” speech.

C.S. Lewis says "no," there will be no Second Coming....

Profile Image for Jacob Hedlund.
35 reviews7 followers
August 12, 2020
As an Evangelical who voted for Trump, I have to say that this book missed it's mark. DuMez does not understand how we think or why we overwhelmingly supported Trump and the Republican Party in 2016.

If you are not an Evangelical and you are genuinely curious about why we supported Trump, this is not the book you are looking for. DuMez clearly did a lot of historical research, but she has such a different worldview then Evangelicals so when she tries to interpret events, movements, etc. she almost always lands in the wrong place. She paints the worst light possible on Evangelicals in every situation so if you read this, it will probably make you dislike Evangelicals.
(Side Note: If you are looking for a book to understand why Evangelicals have such a strong attachment to the Republican Party, I recommend With God On Our Side by William Martin. He similarly goes through the history, but he also understands more the way Evangelicals think and what we believe.)

However, if you are an Evangelical and you are genuinely curious as to what liberals think about us and what they THINK we believe, then I highly recommend this book! It is very eye opening.

My last critique is in her writing itself. There are so many people, events and concepts that she just states as if the reader knows what they are and she does not explain them at all. She casually brings up "September 2001" and starts going into Evangelical critique of it without taking a quick sentence to explain how the planes crashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11. To someone who lived through it,I did not need that explanation, but for younger people who don't know what "September 2001" means, it could be confusing. She does this frequently, making the book hard to follow.
Profile Image for Rex.
223 reviews32 followers
August 18, 2022
I was raised in a conservative Evangelical household. So was my wife, and so were most of my friends of my generation. Part of this identity was theological: the inerrancy of the Bible, which for most of us entailed young-earth creationism, was the critical plank. But a politics defined by opposition to abortion and homosexuality was at least equally important for our parents’ generation. I first realized this when, without any real shifts in my theology, I began to slide toward full libertarianism. I was subsequently refused a teaching job at my Evangelical alma mater, not because I was unable to sign the doctrinal statement, but because I admitted that I was not in a position to push my students toward activism on behalf of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The outline of Du Mez’s history is by now pretty familiar; besides lived experience, I’ve read enough books and articles on the history of American Christianity that few of the names she mentioned were foreign to me. But three years after the incident I described above, White Evangelicals voted in large numbers for Donald Trump, whose manifest moral degeneracy and venality dwarfed anything pinned on the reviled Bill Clinton. It would be difficult to explain the extent to which it felt like a betrayal to me and many of my young Evangelical friends. The November decision itself was not overly surprising; when choosing between a Republican with a checkered past and a cheerfully pro-abortion Clinton, many good Christian people, we knew, would feel obligated (however dismayingly) to vote for the former. But that didn’t explain why Trump’s popularity with Evangelicals actually warmed during the scandals and offenses of primary season and remained relatively constant during his years in office. You sometimes hear religious conservatives complain about Trump’s loose lips, but almost never about his flagrant misogyny and cruelty. The hypocrisy of “decent church people” supporting an inveterate liar and adulterer, especially after unrelenting assaults on the Clintons for bad character, was hard to take in.

Du Mez’s contribution to my understanding is that this pattern itself is not new. A significant force that made Evangelicals cohere behind Trump, despite enormous differences in values otherwise, was a resurgent but venerable commitment to patriarchy. The White Evangelical community has had repeated love affairs with irreligious tough guy celebrities defined not by fidelity to Christian principles, but by brash machismo and jingoistic militarism—men of the John Wayne type, contemptuous of the wimpy and “feminine” idealism attributed to justice activists and the liberal welfare state. On a personal level, Trump may be the ultimate parody of the ideal, but when he embraced the masculine rhetoric and political interests of White Evangelicals, he stepped up to a well-worn podium and took ownership of a longstanding cultural complex. And millions of White Evangelicals embraced him as one of their own.

In other words, Trump is not an anomaly, and the poison in White Evangelical politics goes deep. These tough guys lie transparently and often to their supporters, but maintain influence through fear: the fear that White conservatives and their values will lose privileged social status, and that the male-female hierarchy will be further upset. They give voice to a ressentiment that rises from the gut and cannot be reasoned or argued with. We have seen the fruit of this in the Trump administration, which is characterized not by any particular policy achievements but by shameless corruption, incompetence, racism, indifference to rule of law, and the courting of terroristic violence. Du Mez’s narrative also gives little hope that Trump’s Evangelical stalwarts, reared for decades by well-funded Christian nationalist organizations that promote militant masculinity and positive views of vigilante action, will settle for an America that begins to takes seriously, say, structural inequality.

Du Mez closes with a chapter observing that scandals cyclically fell a swath of Evangelical male leadership—often despite the enduring loyalty of many rank-and-file Evangelicals. In the latest round, the credible charges include toxic and abusive leadership (Driscoll, Patrick, Mahaney) and engaging in or covering for serious sexual misconduct (Haggard, Gothard, Mahaney again, Philips, Wilson, Duggar, Schaap, Hybels, Patterson). Since Du Mez’s book was published, the younger Falwell has also been forced down in a sex scandal. There are many indications that the culture of sexual assault and cover-up in Evangelical churches goes far beyond such high-profile cases. The point is so obvious it hardly needs articulating, but Du Mez articulates it well: this is the natural fruit of a noxious retrenchment on patriarchal power.

Demographic changes will, it seems likely, erode Evangelical power in this country in the long run. Evangelicals will just as probably continue to bolster authoritarians overseas such as Bolsonaro. There is not a lot of hope on offer here for an orthodox Christian who would like to see the White American church respond to the possibility of cultural displacement with grace, organized in care of the vulnerable rather than repression of perceived threats. But perhaps the most appropriate response for those of us who feel this way is to step up to precisely that work. The label “Evangelical” may, in our present context, imply a politics of hardness of heart; but the true evangel is the humble work of Christ. If there is anything to what we believe, the Spirit is not contained by the frailty of our religious culture. There are people living according to this Spirit even in this time, and true repentance and cultural conversion is never too much to pray for.
Profile Image for Libby.
575 reviews157 followers
February 27, 2021
“Christian nationalism—the belief that America is God’s chosen nation and must be defended as such—serves as a powerful predictor of intolerance toward immigrants, racial minorities, and non-Christians. It is linked to opposition to gay rights and gun control, to support for harsher punishments for criminals, to justifications for the use of excessive force against black Americans in law enforcement situations, and to traditionalist gender ideology.” Kristin Kobes Du Mez

Kristin Kobes Du Mez holds a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame and teaches history and gender studies at Calvin University. She’s got a slew of youtube related to this book videos and is as interesting to listen to as she was to read. Some of the history of evangelicalism I have been aware of (such as their political inclination for conservatism), but much I was not. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I read that Billy Graham was a lifelong Democrat, but apparently, most white southerners were until the 1950s and 60s. Du Mez writes, “With Truman’s term coming to an end, Graham began signaling to Republicans that they could woo the evangelical vote by aligning with evangelical views on morality and foreign policy.”

Billy Graham was a fine example of masculinity which was important to the Christian community as they have long been keen on definitions regarding gender. A key characteristic of evangelicalism is that the power structure of a family is designed by God to have a manly man at the helm and a submissive woman who never gives up on how she looks and finds her main purpose in life to be the support of her husband. “Complementarianism” is a theological viewpoint that says women are equal to men except when it comes to leadership. The masculine side of the equation is where John Wayne comes in. He’s the prototype of what men are supposed to be, heroic, strong, able to defend what is good against all evil, and above all, patriotic.

Another surprise that Du Mez had in store for me was her critique of James Dobson. I listened to his radio program ‘Focus on the Family’ for many years. I read his book ‘Dare to Discipline’ for common sense approaches on how to raise my two young boys. I loved his low key teacher’s voice; it seemed to me that Dobson understood the dynamics of family life. Dobson grew to have great influence in the political world and in American homes across the nation. He wielded it in important ways, swaying people to vote for candidates and issues that supported an agenda.

Before James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, there was Phyllis Schlafly. Du Mez writes that she “helped unify white Christians around a rigid and deeply conservative vision of family and nation.” She was a leading figure in the fight against feminism and the ERA. I first recognized Schlafly’s role in politics when I watched Cate Blanchett portray Schlafly in the TV series ‘Mrs. America.” I have always loved Blanchett as an actress, but in this role, I just wanted to pinch her little head right off her shoulders. I guess that’s when you know an actress is doing a good job, when they make you dislike a character that much.

When Bill Clinton’s fiasco with Lewinsky leaked out, Schlafly scathingly wrote, ““At stake is whether the White House will become a public relations vehicle for lying and polling, akin to a television show, or will remain a platform for the principled articulation of policies and values that Americans respect.” I find that by turns hilarious and sad considering what the ‘Christian Right’ would come to embrace in the years of Donald Trump.

This is a singular work of intense research into the ‘Christian Right’ and how they have come to be what they are today, their immersion in a militaristic outlook, which is a major theme in the book and how they have become entrenched in our national politics. She covers how all these steps led to the evangelical embrace of Trump. I had no recognition of many of the names that Du Mez brought to account, but found the topic overall fascinating. Highly recommended for those interested in history, politics and/or religion.
Profile Image for Jeremy.
Author 2 books217 followers
March 20, 2023
Did you know that white evangelicals are bad, Bad, BAD? Well, you should know that, and K. K. Du Mez really needs you to know that.

Du Mez, who grew up in the CRC and went to Dordt, supplies what she thinks is a neat genealogical account of 20/21c events that led to evangelicals' voting for a jackass. Her point is parallel to Ed Stetzer's claim that evangelicals who voted for Trump sold their souls in exchange for political power. Du Mez has compiled a highly selective and misleading family photo album of evangelical people and events from the last hundred years, leaving many Christians blushing and offering a mumbled "Heh, heh, how'd that get in there?"

Various characters who appear include Teddy Roosevelt, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, John Wayne, Pat Boone, Richard Nixon, Jack Hyles, Marabel Morgan, Elisabeth Elliot, Phyllis Schlafly, R. J. Rushdoony, Bill Gothard, James Dobson, Tim LaHaye, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Oliver North, Pat Robertson, the Clintons, Rush Limbaugh, Josh Harris, John Eldredge, Doug Wilson, the Duggars, Mark Driscoll, Roy Moore, John McCain and Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, Eric Metaxas, the Duck Dynasty folks, Donald Trump, C. J. Mahaney, Darrin Patrick, John MacArthur, James MacDonald, Rachael Denhollander, and others. Did I mention that Du Mez thinks white evangelicals are awful? Just checking. The book is obviously about politics, but the constellation of subtopics includes immigration, evolution, gender roles, racism, abortion, Islam, homeschooling, gun control, etc.

The scope of this exposé might seem impressive to an outsider, but for evangelicals, this is all just the standard evangelical gossip that has been going on for decades. Du Mez's tone is hard-hitting, gutsy, ballsy—dare I say, masculine. Not only that, but, in its omphaloskeptic self-loathing, it may be the whitest book you've read in a while. The book concludes with a complaint about Christian nationalism (a useless term), but the ending is hopeful because we have the opportunity to undo what we've done—because un-Christian nationalism would be waaaaay better. Or something.

Hillsdale professor Darryl Hart wrote in the Wall Street Journal (June 2022) that Noll's scandal of the evangelical mind continues: "The main difference is that evangelical scholars used to try to correct it. Today they prosper from it."

Burk's summary is that "when white evangelicals turned out en masse to elect Donald Trump in 2016, they voted for him not in spite of his misogyny, racism, and toxic masculinity but because of it."

Paul Marshall suggests that "those who criticize John Wayne theology also reflect on whether they too might simply be reflecting a common enculturated stance — but one that pervades not fundamentalist churches but faculty common rooms."

This is a helpful review. Here are some snippets: "[I]n Du Mez's book, the overt political agenda overwhelms its scholarly agenda. It seems her goal is to engage in straight polemic. She writes in a highly progressive patois that never leaves any doubt about her sympathies. . . . She too easily collapses twentieth-century evangelicalism's diversity and complexity into a singular motif: inflated masculinity. . . . Du Mez repeatedly fails to tell a full story. . . . I question the prevailing assumption throughout the book that 'patriarchy' somehow belongs to evangelical Christianity."

Here's a longer section:
"We have a crisis in terms of how we think about men and women. Years ago, my wife and I watched a reality show about couples competing for a prize by surviving a full year on the Canadian plains with technology not to exceed that of 1870. There were two couples, one young and one old. The old couple immediately fell into the complementary work. The wife focused on home tasks. The husband worked on building and farming. The younger couple had a harder time. The wife wanted to be out building and farming. After a few days, she conceded that she did not have the strength to do the tasks with the tools of 1870 and adjusted to working in the home space (cooking, tending to clothing, preserving food, cleaning, etc.).

"In situations where our bodily capacities matter, nature dictates a lot of things. A world ruled by muscle is going to be a man’s world. We don’t live in that world anymore. And we don't know terribly well what men and women are without that context. Are they just interchangeable? If there are essential differences, what are they? What should they be? The main thing Du Mez's book does is make clear that we have a lot to think through along those lines. But in order to be faithful, we need to have more goodwill and charity than the book extends to its targets."

This review says that the book "is built on the shifting sand of postmodernism." Here the author responds to pushback on Twitter.

The image below is hilarious.

Maybe we'll be treated to similar exposés in the near future:

See here for some complexity in John Wayne movies.

Here the author provides a list of topics and authors (including Foucault) for an average person to read "in order to inhabit this time more wisely." Here's a comment on parenting.
47 reviews
January 21, 2021
Well, I have mixed feelings about this book. There was much that I really enjoyed. It is first of all just a really good, easy read. Du Mez introduces a whole host of major "evangelical" and conservative figures who have exerted considerable influence on the American church and American politics in the past 75 years. She quite convincingly demonstrates American "evangelicals" unhealthy obsession with a particular kind of militaristic, masculine leadership and the many unhappy consequences that have followed. This exposes so much that is wrong with the church in America, most notably in the way in which a number of "evangelical" churches have responded to sexual abuse cases, where the desire seems to have been to protect the male leadership rather than care for abuse victims. At the conclusion of the book, it comes as no surprise that so many "evangelicals" chose to support Donald Trump with such gusto.

However, I felt there were a number of fundamental problems with Du Mez's assessment of American "evangelicals". Du Mez maintains as broad a definition of "evangelical" as possible, allowing her to lump together under one banner groups and individuals who are in reality very far apart, whilst keeping it as narrow as possible with regards to race so that only white "evangelicals" are properly considered. Is it really fair to describe Billy Graham and Phyllis Schlafly as proponents of the same message? Do John Piper and Jerry Falwell propagate the same gospel? Perhaps, "evangelical" is a basically redundant term in the US today. But, in any case, the founders of modern-day American Evangelicalism, such as George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, would not have recognised the gospel that many individuals in this book are said to propagate. Moreover, Du Mez presents "evangelicals" as being to all extents and purposes singularly driven by a desire to maintain traditional, patriarchal values. This seems a little reductionistic to me. It seems to me, from my admittedly small exposure to American "evangelicals", that there are many who have a sincere desire to simply proclaim the good news about the risen Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture. Lastly, Du Mez fails to engage with the major political issue that to my mind has driven many "evangelicals" to side with the Republican Party and, more recently, Donald Trump. That of abortion. Abortion is such a sensitive issue and I think "evangelicals" in America have often failed to present their case in a loving, compassionate manner. But in a book like this, it is surely necessary to consider the mindset of people who sincerely believe that the life of a foetus is that of a human being and therefore deserving of as much protection as possible. If people really believe this then it is perhaps unsurprising that it would cloud their political views quite considerably.

Nevertheless, I am glad I read this book. It has given me much to think about with regards to Christian engagement in politics, the state of evangelicalism in America and the nature of Christian leadership. If only more Christian leaders would heed the words of their servant leader: "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
1,979 reviews3,300 followers
February 13, 2022
Video discussion: https://youtu.be/IFHShWKCkmg

I have a lot to say about this one, and I will in a forthcoming video. But suffice to say, any former, deconstructing, or moderate American evangelical should really read this book. It is a fantastic piece of non-fiction, tracing the history of the American Evangelical movement from its roots in the early 1900's through the Trump years. It is well argued and I was riveted.

As a former evangelical who came of age in the late 90's/early aughts, I found this book to be both incredibly illuminating and deeply validating. I would say the primary thesis of the book is that the early 1900's American church moving toward patriarchy and aggressive, heteronormative, white masculinity (as epitomized by John Wayne) is at the center of how we got here and explains everything that is so toxic and harmful about much of evangelical Christendom. By the end of the book, it makes PERFECT sense why Trump was the candidate of choice, despite his (many!) moral shortcomings. The best thing I've read so far this year.
Profile Image for Mara.
1,510 reviews3,669 followers
January 8, 2021
This is a really cohesively argued piece of historical non-fiction that persuasively traces the connections between the muscular Christianity that arose in the 1800s to early 1900s American fundamentalism to the neoevangelicals of the 1950s through today. I am used to seeing these kinds of histories drop off around the first Reagan election, so I was really interested to see the more detailed history outlined of the movement between 1980 & 2020. I also really enjoyed seeing the connections to militarism with Billy Graham all the way in the 1950s, as well as the connections between modern evangelicalism and the Vietnam War. All in all, I would definitely recommend this to anyone trying to understand American evangelical subculture of the late 20th & early 21st century
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,063 reviews697 followers
November 30, 2022
The apparent contrasting dissimilar spirits contained in the book's title, Jesus (turn the other cheek) versus John Wayne (militant white masculinity), illustrate the stretch between the Christian ideal and American evangelicals today. This book also suggests that this striving toward visions of militantly muscular Christianity to be the motivation for evangelicals to participate in the fracture of the nation via their support of Donald Trump.

The degree to which this emphasis on masculinity by white evangelicalism is more cultural than spiritual is the fact that many African American Christians have identical theological beliefs to those subscribed to by white evangelicals, yet the two groups end up in completely different camps when it comes to politics and support of Trump. This dichotomy suggests racism to be involved. ( Link to the "evangelical distinctives,")

The goal of this book as described in its Introduction is to explain why white Americans who self identify as evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. When they voted for “a man who seemed the very antithesis of the savior they claimed to emulate” they were not making a choice between two less than desirable alternatives. Not only did they vote for Trump, they did so enthusiastically.
But evangelical support for Trump was no aberration, nor was it merely a pragmatic choice. It was, rather, the culmination of evangelicals’ embrace of militant masculinity, an ideology that enshrines patriarchal authority and condones the callous display of power, at home and abroad. By the time Trump arrived proclaiming himself their savior, conservative white evangelicals had already traded a faith that privileges humility and elevates “the least of these” for one that derides gentleness as the province of wusses. Rather than turning the other cheek, they’d resolved to defend their faith and their nation, secure in the knowledge that the ends justify the means. Having replaced the Jesus of the Gospels with a vengeful warrior Christ, it’s no wonder many came to think of Trump in the same way. In 2016, many observers were stunned at evangelicals’ apparent betrayal of their own values. In reality, evangelicals did not cast their vote despite their beliefs, but because of them.
The author avers that one can understand white evangelical behavior by reviewing their history of increasing emphasis and insistence on traditionalist gender ideology—i.e. patriarchal authority and feminine subservience. Their opposition to gay rights and gun control plus their support of harsher punishments for criminals and excessive force against black Americans in law enforcement have been bound together into a coherent whole by a nostalgic commitment to rugged, aggressive, militant white masculinity.

This is a history book telling the story of white evangelicalism through the twentieth century up until the present. As this history is recounted, note is made of the frequent instances of support for militant masculinity. The following are brief descriptions by chapter of the book's contents.

A history of fundamentalistic/evangelistic Christianity in the first half of the 20th Century is covered. Names mentioned include Theodore Roosevelt, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, Stuart Hamblen (the hard-drinking “cowboy singer”), Pat Boone, and the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA).

John Wayne would capture the hearts and imaginations of American evangelicals. The affinity was based not on theology, but rather on a shared masculine ideal.
Quote (reaction to WWI):
Liberal Protestants embraced the conflict (WWI) as a war to end all wars, a means of extending democracy and Christianity across the globe. Among fundamentalists, the response was more complicated.
Quote (reaction to WWII):
Tellingly, when it came to the tactics of total war employed by the US military, it was liberal Protestants—many still chastened by the First World War—who expressed reservations. Ockenga, on the other hand, defended the firebombing of German cities in the pages of the New York Times. Evangelicals relished this role reversal, and their newfound patriotism and militarism would help them overcome their reputation as extremists and their marginal status.
A history of evangelicals during the 1950s is covered. Names mentioned include Billie Graham, Dwight Eisenhower, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Barry Goldwater,Roy Rodgers/Dale Evans, and Pat Boone.

Most of this chapter is about the author Marabel Morgan and her book, The Total Woman.

History of evangelicals in the 1960s and 70s is covered. Names mentioned include Bill Gothard and Rousas John Rushdoony. In 1970, James Dobson published the book, Dare to Discipline.


Discussion of events during the 1970s. Tim Lahaye is best known today as the coauthor of the Left Behind books, but in the 70s he and his wife published sex advice books.

Jerry Falwell (moral majority) echoed and amplified themes articulated by Phylis Schlafly, James Dobson, and the LaHayes.


Evangelical support of Ronald Reagan during 1980s is covered. The purging of moderates from Southern Baptist is discussed.

The issue of inerrancy did rally conservatives, but when it turned out that large numbers of Southern Baptists—even denominational officials—lacked any real theological prowess and were in fact functionally atheological, concerns over inerrancy gave way to a newly politicized commitment to female submission and to related culture wars issues.

This chapter is about Oliver North and “Olliemania.” To help explain why Oliver North was such a hero to evangelicals the book talks about Edwin Louis Cole, a man widely considered to be the “father of the Christian men’s movement.”

Cole had no use for “sissified” portraits of Jesus that failed to reveal his true character. “Christlikeness and manhood are synonymous,” he insisted, and to be Christlike, to be a man, required “a certain ruthlessness.”
Toward end of chapter there’s mention of the fall of some well known evangelical names—Marvin Gorman (1986), Jimmy Swaggart (1991), and Jim Bakker & Tammy Faye of the PTL Club with church secretary Jessica Hahn (1987). (The dates are when they were defrocked.) Toward the end of the chapter there’s mention of growing close relationship between evangelical organizations and the military.


Description of evangelicals during the 1980s and 90s.

Evangelical support for Bush (H.W.) was tepid, and the feeling was mutual. Bush, too, lacked the rugged masculinity of his predecessor, but fortunately for him, he was running against Michael Dukakis.
Discussion of 1993 election, Bill Clinton vs. George H.W. Bush, and then the presidency of Bill Clinton. They weren’t as forgiving for the Lewinsky affair as they would be later for Trump.

If conservative evangelicals needed one more thing not to like about the Clintons, there was the Lewinsky affair.
Among Clinton’s evangelical critics, it appears that their concern with Clinton’s predatory behavior was more about Clinton than about predatory behavior. Within their own circles, evangelicals didn’t have a strong record when it came to defending women against harassment and abuse.

Most of this chapter is about Promise Keepers in the late 1990s.

Less abrasive than “male headship,” servant leadership framed male authority as obligation, sacrifice, and service. Men were urged to accept their responsibilities, to work hard, to serve their wives and families, to eschew alcohol, gambling, and pornography, to step up around the home.
Racial reconciliation emerged as a guiding purpose of Promise Keepers.

Framing racism as a personal failing, at times even as a mutual problem, PK speakers routinely failed to address structural inequalities. …. In this way, the pursuit of racial reconciliation could end up serving as a ritual of self-redemption, absolving white men of complicity and justifying the continuation of white patriarchy in the home and the nation.
A 1998 questionnaire revealed that whites made up 90 percent of its membership of promise keepers.

In 1996, for instance, 40 percent of complaints registered by conference participants were negative responses to the theme of racial reconciliation.

John Eldredge’s 2001 book, “Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul,” set the tone for a new evangelical militancy in the new millennium. Eldredge’s God was a warrior God, and men were made in his image. Aggression, not tenderness, was part of the masculine design. Wild at Heart would sell more than four million copies in the United States alone.
Dobson’s Bringing Up Boys had a similar message. Douglas Wilson published Future Men: Raising Boys to Fight Giants.

The Books by Wilson, Dobson, and Eldredge appeared in the months before September 11, 2001. When terrorists struck the United States, their call for “manly” heroes acquired a deep and widespread resonance among evangelicals. A very real, not merely rhetorical, “battle to fight” had suddenly materialized for American men. The success of these books, and their cultural impact, can be understood in light of the renewed sense of crisis.
Chapter 11 HOLY BALLS

This chapter describes several examples of extreme sexualized masculinity. Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church in Seattle

Driscoll challenged men to either recommit to the mission of the church or leave, “because you can’t charge hell with your pants around your ankles, a bottle of lotion in one hand, and a Kleenex in the other.” Driscoll then handed the men two stones, telling them God was “giving them their balls back to get the courage to do kingdom work.”

Description of the hyper-evangelism in the Colorado Springs area and at the Air Force Academy.


This chapter contains descriptions of evangelical leaders stoking fear of Muslims. Muslims replaced Communists as the Evil Empire. There’s mention of some examples of professional speakers claiming to be ex-Moslem trained as terrorists who had converted to Christianity—they were bogus.


2008 election of Obama vs. McCain, evangelicals supported McCain but not enthusiastically. 2012 election not mentioned, thus no comment on support of Romney.

In his 2013 book, 7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness, Eric Metaxas started with John Wayne to explain what makes a man great. (highbrow version of heroic masculinity)

Duck Dynasty show (lowbrow version of heroic masculinity)

Also included are discussions of various publications that depict Jesus as a badass.


This chapter is a review of the 2016 election of Clinton vs. Trump. Many Evangelical favored Ted Cruz in the Republican primary, but the evangelical grass roots support was for Trump.

Evangelicals hadn’t betrayed their values. Donald Trump was the culmination of their half-century-long pursuit of a militant Christian masculinity. … … He was the latest and greatest high priest of the evangelical cult of masculinity.

This chapter provides a review of the fall from grace of many of the leaders of Evangelical groups due to sexual indiscretions and harassment. Evangelicals learned that the problems of sexual abuse of children wasn’t restricted to the Catholic Church.

Was complementarianism “just camouflage for abusive males and permission for the abuse and mistreatment of women?”

Evangelical attitudes regarding gun rights, immigration and border security, are discussed.

Despite evangelicals’ frequent claims that the Bible is the source of their social and political commitments, evangelicalism must be seen as a cultural and political movement rather than as a community defined chiefly by its theology. Evangelical views on any given issue are facets of this larger cultural identity, and no number of Bible verses will dislodge the greater truths at the heart of it.
Chapter includes discussion of the gendered nature of the evangelical marketplace at Hobby Lobby and Walmart. Evangelicals were glad to export aspects of this ideology globally, to places like Uganda, India, Jamaica, and Belize. There is discussion of examples of people recovering from their background of growing up in the evangelical world. Trump was the last straw for some.

Ending Quote:
Although the evangelical cult of masculinity stretches back decades, its emergence was never inevitable. Over the years it has been embraced, amplified, challenged, and resisted. Evangelical men themselves have promoted alternative models, gentleness and self-control, a commitment to peace, and a divestment of power as expressions of authentic Christian manhood. Yet, understanding the catalyzing role militant Christian masculinity has played over the past half century is critical to understanding American evangelicalism today, and the nation’s fractured political landscape. Appreciating how this ideology developed over time is also essential for those who wish to dismantle it. What was once done might also be undone.
The following is a link to a podcast interview with the author, Kristin Kobes Du Mez. I found it provided a succinct summary of the message and spirit of this book.

Another interview in print in which she says many of the same things as in the above podcast:

Profile Image for John.
721 reviews46 followers
July 3, 2021
Kristen Kobes Du Mez's history of the legacy of evangelicalism's culture of toxic patriarchy must be reckoned with. The stories Du Mez shares cannot be shrugged off. My skin crawled as I read the history of men like Bill Gothard, Doug Wilson, and Mark Driscoll. I ached as I read about CJ Mahaney's hurtful mishandling of sexual abuse allegations. I cringed as I read Billy Graham's early words around the role of the wife. I sighed as I listened to men I respect like John Piper defend his friend, Doug Wilson.

As an evangelical, we need to repent of this history of mistreatment of women. As an evangelical male, I must be very cautious of the motives of my heart in how my theology is formed and examine my heart for any pharisaical tendency to erect fences around that theology.

On the other side, Du Mez's book is tremendously flawed and deserves a humble but serious rebuttal. Du Mez's premise: that evangelicals are sexist, xenophobic, power-hungry Trumpers is massively flawed. She cites the fact that 82% of evangelicals supported Trump in the 2016 election. She ignores more in-depth analysis which demonstrated that when one looks into not just those who self-report as evangelicals, but those who have evangelical beliefs and attend church regularly, that support precipitously dropped. Furthermore, Du Mez's consideration of Trump's counterpart, Clinton, demonstrates her inability to move past her progressive ideology to consider the decision as evangelicals would have weighed their votes. Evangelicals were slow to support Trump. Most only did so when he was the final Republican candidate (you can basically point to two major prominent evangelicals, Jeffers and Fallwell Jr, who broke rank on this front). When faced with a choice between two candidates with massive moral failings, many evangelicals did choose to support the candidate they felt would uphold their social ethics. This is not to defend Trump, nor even to defend the decision to vote for Trump (that is far beyond the scope of this brief book review). It is only to say that Du Mez's thesis, which conflates evangelicalism with Trumpism, is flawed.

Having built this premise: that evangelicalism is, to the core, corrupt, poisonously patriarchal, and power-hungry, Du Mez looks for every scrap she can find to create her collage. There are many such scraps over the past 75 years. There are, without a doubt, men whose legacy is defined by these sins. Du Mez wrings these men for all they're worth in her telling. And she is right to do so. There is horrific behavior and theology that must be accounted for.

But what Du Mez doesn't do is offer counter-examples: godly, humble, and faithful evangelicals who might have a theology she opposes, but who lived exemplary lives. For instance, the main figure Du Mez focuses on from The Gospel Coalition is Mark Driscoll. TGC needs to deal with their complicity with Driscoll. But what of TGC's founder, Tim Keller? There isn't a word about this man who was much more influential and whose theology and witness ought not be ignored. For many of us Keller is much more important as an evangelical leader than Driscoll.

Nor does Du Mez tell the full story when it comes to those who certainly said or did things that they ought to have repented for, but whose ministries, in general, stand as a faithful witness. Billy Graham, for instance, stands out. Du Mez shares a handful of statements Graham made in the early years of his ministry that are wince-inducing. She shares the story of how he embarrassingly sought to have political power. And yet, in the context of the 50s and 60s, Graham's statements that cut with the grain of a culture steeped in patriarchy. And Graham frequently repented of his sinful and foolish pursuit of political influence. Du Mez does not return to the Graham in the final decades of his ministry who repented of these words, spoke very differently, and, in fact, made his daughter the heir of his ministry platform.

Du Mez writes a history that gives the impression that evangelicals are so toxic because of their theology. Patriarchy is at the heart of this theology, she says. She begs questions throughout, such as when she says that it was because of patriarchy that evangelicals recovered a doctrine of inerrancy. There is no context given that those with liberal theologies have no better track record of treatment of women. It made me sigh to discover that the four cornerstone pieces of Du Mez's work: John Wayne, Teddy Roosevelt, Oliver North, and Ronald Reagan were all from the mainline, not evangelical context. This fact is shrugged off by Du Mez.

A scan of a few dozen reviews of Du Mez's book make it clear that her readers laud Du Mez's "Jesus and John Wayne" as top-notch history and analysis. There are serious issues that must be addressed head-on by the evangelical community. We cannot dismiss "Jesus and John Wayne" because of its bias. And yet, reader beware, this is not how Christians ought to write history. This is not a healthy example of seeking the truth with charity. Nor does it actually deal with the question that is begged throughout: what does the Bible actually tell us about who we are as human beings and what difference (if any) there is between men and women. For that question, I commend a thoughtful, nuanced, and author with a high view of scripture, Michelle Lee Barnwell and her book "Neither Complementarian Nor Egalitarian."

For more reviews see www.thebeehive.live.
Profile Image for David .
1,223 reviews147 followers
December 16, 2020
This book is a history of white American evangelicalism and its highly readable while managing to pack in a lot of history. Its also highly depressing and frustrating. I feel I grew up in the best of white American evangelicalism but as I look around, I fear the worst has won out in the end.

I grew up in American evangelicalism, though I was not conscious of that until I left home for college. My church growing up was certainly evangelical, but most of the focus from the pulpit was on living as a follower of Jesus. I do not recall sermons on the sorts of things this book mentions, though James Dobson’s Focus on the Family’s bulletin inserts showed up each month. My understanding of a wider evangelical culture began near the end of high school as I made friends in other churches, then grew as I attended Christian music festivals and attended other churches while at college.

Thankfully, the seminary I attended, though probably evangelical, did not press these ideas. Sure, most probably voted Republican. But we were more into reading the church fathers or contemporary apologetics than books on how to be real men (perhaps all our reading and studying meant we weren’t hunting and shooting things, so we weren’t “real men”? Hmm...).

I was basically steeped in this evangelical subculture then from about 1998-2004. I read both I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Wild at Heart. Thus, that part of the book was especially intriguing for I recall living through it.

Reading the rest of the book made me thankful I got out of it.

Perhaps that’s not fair. I still work in the evangelical world, as uncomfortable I am with the term. I suppose we could fault the author for not speaking of other aspects of evangelicalism, like the aforementioned apologetics. When I think of “evangelical” I think of William Lane Craig’s arguments for God’s existence. I think of the influence of Ravi Zacharias. So someone might argue that evangelical is wider than how she defines it.

Yet, she does address this and I think she is largely correct - however we might like it, the fact is to the majority of people both inside and outside the movement, “evangelical” now means “political, conservative Republican, support of Trump.”

The best thing about this book is that by documenting the history of hyper-masculinity and the love of John Wayne type heroes, she manages to show how the overwhelming support for Trump is not hypocrisy by evangelicals but the logical conclusion of decades of work. Back in the 90s it was clear that for many men, Braveheart’s William Wallace was more interesting than the Jesus of the Bible. Jesus might save your soul but John Wayne and William Wallace and Ronald Reagan and Duck Commander and the rest will save your ass.

What amazed me most was the level of deception and fragility throughout this story. I began to notice how often men were considered to possess a “fragile ego” by writers like Dobson. The message seemed to be that men had fragile egos which women had to prop up. I lost track of how many times this idea came up. But it does explain why men in the movement are so resistant to women in leadership - they have fragile egos. The solution they offered for decades, putting the onus on one to submit, is the problem. To be blunt, if you’re a man with a fragile ego and threatened by strong women and you need women to serve you to make you feel better, you’re not a proverbial “real man.”

Along with that, its amazing how easily duped white evangelicals have been. Perhaps we should not be surprised so many are impressed with a president who demonstrates he’s patriotic by waving a flag and demonstrates he’s Christian by doing a photo op with a Bible. It seems white evangelicals have been impressed by blowhards and big talkers for years. Yet, like Trump, most of these men were revealed to be hypocrites or frauds.

That leads to the most depressing part of the story. So many of these men who preached toughness and protection of women turned out to be abusers. Even Ravi Zacharias, lionized at his death a few months ago, was an abusive man (this was known by some at his death but drowned out in the cacophony of praise; more stories have since come out).

White evangelical Christianity has long been steeped in racism (as documented in books such as Robert Jones’ White No More and Jemar Tisby’s Color of Compromise). Du Mez’s book shows how the movement’s views on men and women grew and influenced not just evangelicalism but the entire nation. These ideas have moved into the military and the highest halls of power.

I will still never understand how white evangelicals have largely chosen to throw away any sort of moral compass or leadership to bow at the alter of a narcissistic madman like Trump. This book helps as it shows a long history of loving strongmen as well as being duped by fake strongmen. Maybe I should understand by now. But growing up in this world, in the best of this world, and seeing the worst of it take over, I am just sad.

Overall, this is a must read book for any who want to understand white American evangelicalism.
Profile Image for Avid.
223 reviews16 followers
May 31, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Alex Strohschein.
685 reviews96 followers
October 18, 2021

In undergrad a girl bought me a copy of 'Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul' by John Eldredge. It was a sweet gesture but never was there a book I wanted to violently toss across the room more. ‘Wild at Heart’ was my baptism into a particularly prevalent form of Christian masculinity that I have never been able to relate to - that I find off putting and at odds with what the Bible says (and DOESN'T SAY) about masculinity. I relished every opportunity I had to point out the problematic teachings, especially around gender, of Eldredge, Mark Driscoll, and complementarianism.

'Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation' has attracted a remarkable amount of attention, striking a chord with Christian men disillusioned with militant masculinity and women who have had their own tragic experiences with the manipulation, exploitation, and abuse recounted by Kristin Kobes Du Mez. I also think ‘Jesus and John Wayne’ is one of those rare history books that is actually read by masses of evangelicals who would not read academic history books such as Daniel K. Williams’ 'God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right' or Emily Suzanne Johnson’s recent and intriguing 'This Is Our Message: Women’s Leadership in the New Christian Right' and Kate Bowler’s equally fascinating 'The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities,' the latter two chronicling how famous women and recurrent archetypes (e.g. the homemaker, the counselor) have been able to exercise influence, even in more traditionalist contexts. Du Mez’s narrative has largely been recounted in other books but she brings the exploits of militant masculinity and complementarian patriarchy (almost) up to date (though her book released just last year, in 2021 there has been a massive fallout over the late American-Canadian Indian-born apologist Ravi Zacharias’ sexual sins and Owen Strachan has emerged as a new, youthful and brash face of fundamentalism).

Du Mez traces the rise of militant masculinity, patriarchy, and complementarianism in white conservative evangelicalism from Billy Graham to Donald Trump. She recounts Graham’s early entrance as a spiritual advisor to the presidents, the rise of the Religious Right and its attacks on liberals and the Democratic Party, and how white conservative evangelicals eventually came to see Trump as the flawed but pugnacious champion they could place their hope in. Militant masculinity castigated the church for “emphasizing ‘feminine traits’ like tenderness, compassion, and gentleness” while failing to instill “the equally spiritual but masculine traits of aggressiveness, courage, and standing on the truth” (p. 181). Along the way readers are introduced to influential evangelicals including psychologist James Dobson, military icon Oliver North, bellicose pastor Douglas Wilson, the Promise Keepers (p. 183-184), and the eccentricities of this patriarchal subculture like a fondness for MMA (p. 188), Quiverfull, and purity culture. Some of the individuals and groups Du Mez includes among the exemplars of militant masculinity and patriarchy differed from each other in theological beliefs (e.g. Baptists and Presbyterians over baptism) or critiqued each other (Wilson lambasted the Promise Keepers, accusing them of advocating “a quiet adoption of feminism,” and Driscoll secretly complained about the “‘pussified James Dobson knock-off crying Promise Keeping homoerotic worship…’ where men hugged and cried ‘like damn junior high girls watching Dawson’s Creek’” p.179, 195). This is as close as Du Mez gets to teasing out the spectrum of complementarianism to egalitarianism, with the Promise Keepers representing the "soft patriarchs" sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox writes about and Wilson, Driscoll, and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood representing the extremes of complementarianism.

'Jesus and John Wayne' is an engaging read. It exposes the belligerence and seediness of complementarianism that I pray fades from the wider evangelical movement soon. I hope I am not needlessly quibbling, but with any book that receives so much acclaim and little critique (beyond, perhaps, from the fragile egos of complementarians themselves), I hope this comes across as constructive engagement while acknowledging that no historical narrative will entirely be comprehensive.

The term “evangelical” is always being contested, with historian David Bebbington’s eponymous “Bebbington Quadrilateral” frequently critiqued (Bebbington asserts that evangelical identity is centred on biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism and these have been a frequently cited shorthand for evangelical identity), including by Du Mez who opines:

“Evangelicals claim to uphold the Bible as the highest authority in the Christian life, but there are more than 31,000 verses in the Bible. Which ones are considered essential guides to faithful Christian practice, and which are readily ignored or explained away? In like manner, when evangelicals define themselves in terms of Christ’s atonement or as disciples of a risen Christ, what sort of Jesus are they imagining? Is their savior a conquering warrior, a man’s man who takes no prisoners and wages holy war? Or is he a sacrificial lamb who offers himself up for the restoration of all things? How one answers these questions will determine what it looks like to follow Jesus” (p. 5).

I’m no biblical scholar but it seems quite obvious to sift major guiding verses from less applicable verses. The Ten Commandments have been important Old Testament teaching for centuries whereas verses prohibiting the consumption of shellfish have been rendered obsolete through Christ’s work. Some scholars argue that OT law is divided into civil, ceremonial, and moral law and that we need only continue upholding the moral law. I know of no churches that have deemed Ezra 6:6 as foundational. Regarding Christ’s death on the cross, on the one hand, I would admit that patriarchy and complementarianism as “lived experiences” are easier for the laity to describe and live out than the minutiae of doctrine but I would posit that a “generous orthodoxy” does not obsess too much about whether the mode was penal substitutionary atonement or Christus Victor rather than that Christ’s death on the cross accomplished SOMETHING crucial for Christians and was necessary and that he rose again bodily from the dead. Someone who does not believe these “basics,” someone who thinks the cross was unnecessary and that Jesus rose again only “in Christians’ hearts” would not be an evangelical, would not be a believer at all according to the Bible and the most venerable of church tradition. The biblical text describes Jesus both as a sacrificial lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) and as the triumphant King of kings leading the “armies of heaven” (Rev. 19:11-16), though admittedly, a Mennonite might put their christological accent on the former point and a young, restless, and Reformed type might emphasize the latter. Du Mez is clearly a seasoned scholar but she throws up these challenges with all the guile of a French deconstructionist when I would suggest these questions have ready answers.

Du Mez lumps fundamentalists and evangelicals together (coverage of Trump consistently analyzes his support among white evangelicals but neglects to hone in on fundamentalists as a separate category). There will be overlap between the two camps but Du Mez’s use of evangelical encompasses a huge range. I wish an analysis of evangelicals (especially by a historian at Calvin University) was better at teasing out how evangelicalism and fundamentalism differ, especially as figures like Jerry Fawell are often deemed more accurately as fundamentalists.

The SBC may have (d)evolved away from ordaining women after the conservative resurgence starting in 1979 but Roman Catholicism has never been open to the priestly ordination of women. And, anecdotally, 'Wild at Heart' often shows up as one of the few evangelical Protestant books that Catholics will read. There are roughly 70 million Catholics in America (of varying degrees of orthodoxy) but Rome’s exclusive male priesthood is based on the concept of “in persona Christi” which I would assert also has had a major effect on Catholic notions of gender roles. And as it has well been reported, evangelicals were late to the pro-life cause compared to Catholics so the early agitators for laws on women's reproduction were Catholic, not evangelical. Leading members of the Religious Right across generations -Pat Buchanan, Paul Weyrich, and (reportedly) Steve Bannon are Catholic.

Du Mez declares that as evangelicals organized into the Religious Right “they did so by rallying to defend ‘family values.’ But family values politics was never about protecting the well-being of families generally. Fundamentally, evangelical ‘family values’ entailed the reassertion of patriarchal authority. At its most basic level, family values politics was about sex and power” (p. 88). It is shocking to see so many “family values voters” flock to Trump and other sexually devious leaders but Du Mez’s tone throughout her book is deeply cynical. Is there no such thing as “egalitarian family values?” Du Mez gripes that big box Christian retailers base their children’s products on gender stereotypes (p. 300-301) but is this really about sinister gender indoctrination or could it be that through time some stereotypes actually do in fact have some traction - that boys do like battle, that girls are more empathetic.

Conservative Christians have supported the Republican Party and its presidential candidate since at least Ronald Reagan but this has to be put in contrast to the Democratic Party’s liberalizing trajectory that alienated evangelicals. Du Mez’s narrative is generally one-sided, recounting the conservative entrenchment of evangelicals without giving equal attention to the Democrats’ radicalization or the changes that came about in wider culture, especially on social issues like sexuality (Du Mez does give brief mention to this by noting that during the 2016 presidential election the Democrats dropped “rare” from their abortion policy, a shift from the previous talking point that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare,” p. 251). Where Du Mez’s case is most compelling is in discussing why TRUMP emerged the victor among evangelical voters during the 2016 Republican primaries over Ted Cruz (the “Jerry Falwell wing”), Marco Rubio (the “Billy Graham wing”), or any of the other contenders (p. 253).

Culture’s liberalization on sexuality and gender explains the rise of complementarianism and patriarchy among religious conservatives. From a theological angle, Catholicism and Calvinism in particular offer (seemingly) cohesive and comprehensive frameworks for understanding and navigating the world, whether it is the guidance given by natural law or God’s sovereignty that wills all things. As reality is continually deconstructed and “truth” gives way to “MY truth,” many people seek CERTAINTY. I believe that the complementarian patriarchy of religious conservatives does not accord with Scripture’s arc but I can understand why those seeking certainty would take comfort in the rigorous framework of gender roles that complementarianism provides (Du Mez herself also makes this point on p. 9; admittedly, egalitarian evangelicals have a trickier time advocating for their views on gender roles while holding to orthodox convictions on LGBTQ+ issues). Religious conservatives have long been losing the culture war; every defeat leads to greater entrenchment and casts religious conservatives in greater opposition to the surrounding culture.

The subtitle of Du Mez’s book suggests that all agency is given to white evangelicals for fracturing the nation. But have white evangelicals (or orthodox Christians) been the ones who have sought to change the definition of marriage or for children to undergo gender transition? It seems to me that white evangelicals sought instead to preserve a staid and flawed status quo that was never immune to critique and reform; patriarchy did not begin with George W. Knight III in the 1970s but has been present in Western culture for centuries. Naturally, I want to believe that MY version of Christianity is faithful to the Bible and in this respect I DO think John Piper, Eldredge, Driscoll, and their allies have corrupted the faith but so have Gene Robinson and Austen Hartke from another angle. Du Mez laments that “Over time, a common commitment to patriarchal power began to define the boundaries of the evangelical movement itself, as those who ran afoul of these orthodoxies quickly discovered. Evangelicals who offered competing visions of sexuality, gender, or the existence of hell” were expunged from the evangelical milieu (p.204). I’m not sure this is entirely accurate; yes, John Piper famously bid Rob Bell “farewell” but those who are excommunicated from evangelicalism are largely made up of those who profess liberal theology, the affirmation of LGBTQ+ relationships, or who wind up “exvangelical” (Glennon Doyle first gained an audience as a “Christian mommy blogger” before divorcing her husband, marrying soccer star Amy Wambach, and now disavows Christian faith while opining, “If I were going to write a story now about what love would do if it walked around on Earth...I would make Jesus, like, a transgender Black woman.”) And what does Du Mez do with figures like Stanley Grenz, Scot McKnight, John Ortberg, or Andy Stanley who are traditional on LGBTQ+ issues, would be considered white evangelicals, and yet who can be identified as egalitarians in their views on gender roles (including women in ministry)? This is a significant bloc within evangelicalism (I would even argue its future) but it receives next to no attention, a glaring omission.

Is patriarchy ACTUALLY at the heart of evangelicalism? Conservative Calvinism stresses complementarianism but can the same actually be said about the prosperity gospel wing of evangelicalism that has arguably been Donald Trump’s most steadfast bloc of Christian supporters or the pentecostal-charismatic wing of evangelicalism which has a different understanding of gender roles? How does Du Mez’s arguments about patriarchy account for Paula White? The Assemblies of God has ordained women since its founding in 1914, its current general secretary is female, and approximately 25% of its ordained ministers are women, in sharp contrast to the SBC. As well, one must factor in the variety of gender views held by non-denominational churches (for instance, at Lakewood Church in Texas, Joel and his wife Victoria Osteen BOTH serve as pastors). Lastly, Beth Moore (who has notably exited the SBC recently) and Joyce Meyer get one brief mention each, despite wielding a lot of “soft power” among evangelical women (not to mention no mentions of other popular women’s authors such as Anne Graham Lotz). Beyond egalitarian pastor Bill Hybels (who has been accused of sexual misconduct), Du Mez’s discussion of evangelicals doesn’t seem to include a typical white moderate evangelical who reads 'Christianity Today' and IVP books, attends a multicultural C&MA church, who doesn’t own a gun, who grudgingly voted for Trump as the “lesser of two evils'' (or a third party candidate) but who would’ve preferred John Kasich, who holds to traditional views regarding LGBTQ+ issues, and who stayed the hell away from Quiverfull, CMBW, and Douglas Wilson (but who thinks Timothy Keller and Russell Moore are pretty decent all things considered). Du Mez avoids discussing black Christians claiming “Survey data indicate that on nearly every social and political issue, black Protestants apply their faith in ways that run counter to white evangelicalism” (p. 8) despite the fact that black Christians tend to be more socially conservative on issues than even the general white population.

I hope people read 'Jesus and John Wayne'. I learned things I did not know - including that Driscoll and Wilson are even worse than I previously thought (which was already quite bad). I read 'Jesus and John Wayne' as a white male Canadian evangelical whose experience of white evangelicalism has always largely been set within the context of multiculturalism and egalitarianism. My experience of evangelicalism is not normative for all Canadians, white Canadian evangelicalism is not perfect, but living in a diverse city like Vancouver, it was moderate in the best of ways. I know that the Church is imperfect and that many men and even more women have been manipulated, bullied, and abused in the pews. I hope that books like 'Jesus and John Wayne,' 'The Making of Biblical Womanhood,' and 'A Church Called Tov' continue to stir up constructive conversations around power, justice, and gender roles in evangelicalism. Were I a young evangelical woman (or even a male egalitarian growing up in a conservative complementarian church), my reading of Du Mez’s book would be different. But I have not had quite the cathartic response that many of these readers have had. I liked the book more than this review might suggest but as I read 'Jesus and John Wayne' there were times when I think nuance gave way to (righteous) anger and salacious excerpts and quotes took up more space than the expositions of Du Mez’s subjects.
Profile Image for Luke Evans.
212 reviews13 followers
April 9, 2021
There’s some good conclusions in here but they’re deeply marred by the ridiculous slant so much of this book takes. Smarmy is not a strong enough word to describe this author’s perspective. Also, if I have to read the word “patriarchy” one more time...

What the author doesn’t understand is that there’s this thing called “The Bible” that Christians adhere to and submit to.

Also - the book is well written but the historiography is weak. Many more primary sources are needed. And, an authors job is to present the viewpoint he or she criticizes in the more accurate and representative light possible. This author certainly fails miserably in this.

A book needs to be written explaining the evangelical support for trump and it’s historical reasons, but this book isn’t it. And by the way, I am no trumper and I fully agree that evangelical support of him is disastrous and will set evangelicals back a generation. Yet - this book is just a failure
Profile Image for Jordan Shirkman.
122 reviews28 followers
March 31, 2021
This book traces an interesting (albeit, IMO misguided and overstated) thread of “toxic masculinity” in evangelicalism over the last century. But I have a hunch that Du Mez solved the mystery before the book was written and picked the clues up that fit her narrative along the way.

Granted, there’s a whole lot of cringe-worthy quotes that I wish self-professed evangelicals didn’t say. This book is a hit list of who’s who from new Calvinism, including a good number of now-fallen pastors, and, again, much of what many of them have said and done is nasty.

But even when it’s not a complementarian, Calvinist pastor (Du Mez’s primary targets), Du Mez finds a way to connect their issues to toxic masculinity, as is the case with Bill Hybels. So basically if some male “celebrity” in evangelicalism sins, there’s a way to hop, skip, or jump and pin it on “toxic masculinity,” complementarianism, “family values,” or some other scare quote version of evangelicalism that Du Mez just doesn’t care for.

I think that perhaps this book more than anything convinced me that the title “evangelical” has become meaningless, because I think someone could just as easily write a book full of awful quotes from “feminist evangelicals” and “toxic matriarchy” and write a book called Jesus and Margaret Sanger and pretend like most of evangelicalism is into eugenics.
Profile Image for Gary  Beauregard Bottomley.
958 reviews570 followers
July 23, 2020
82% of white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump. For ease of use, I’m just going to refer to them as Christian Supremist. Their epistemic bubble reinforces all of their hates, fears, doubts and uncertainties. As the author mentioned in the very beginning of this book Trump campaigned by saying anyone who disagreed with him was weak, corrupt and not worthy of consideration. That is in synch with how they see the world and that lets them hate the same people and long for the good old days when women knew their place, men reigned supreme, foreigners stayed in their own country, Muslims are to be feared, and ‘men were men, and women were glad for it’. After all, “don’t be a sissy, be a man, be like John Wayne”, and it’s a sin to be homosexual and it’s a choice, all of this is how the Christian Supremist sees the world and Donald Trump channels their hate for them.

There’s an eerie overlap between white supremist and Christian Supremist. They both hate most of the same people, and they just know that they aren’t practicing identity politics since they don’t have an identity except the identity without an identity since they are the consensus and therefore the only true identity within their system of hate, after all, according to them, the US is a ‘Christian Nation’ and that by definition makes it the default religion. For fascism to connect and thrive the starting premise must always be ‘there is no identity except for the one true identity’. It needs a strong man, better yet, a strong man who gets his strength by proclaiming he is strong rather than actually being strong, someone who hates the same people they hate and will project strength, like John Wayne did in the movies. Nuance or understanding is not necessary, matter of fact that is a hinderance. Ted Cruz spoke their evangelical language, but he didn’t have Trump’s ability to make everyone else seem weak, corrupt or not worthy of consideration.

I fault this book for not explaining why the Republicans chose Trump and not Cruz (‘the Zodiac Killer’), and for not explicitly connecting the white supremist with the Christian Supremist, and for mostly rehashing a story that was told just as well in other books such as Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump . Both Trump and Cruz want the same traditional hateful values but why did Trump win the hearts of the Christian Supremist.
Profile Image for Gregory Jones.
Author 4 books9 followers
June 24, 2020
This is a fantastic book about masculinity and Christianity. As someone who grew up idolizing John Wayne in reruns of his films in the 1980s, this book resonated with me from the title to the last word. For many men who struggle to reconcile America's "rugged individualism" with the gentle servant heart of Jesus, this book connects a lot of dots.

There are so many good sections of the book that I could highlight, but for me understanding the common thread of masculinity in evangelical churches is absolutely key. This was an intentional desire of folks like Mark Driscoll (who features in the book) to "save the family by saving the man." Yet also this culture of gruff, chest-pounding masculinity held flaws that helped to shape the nation.

I enjoyed this as an academic historian learning a bit more about religion and masculinity. But, perhaps more meaningfully, I was blown away by the truthtelling in DuMez's writing. There are moments that the book helped me better understand my own upbringing and why I struggled to understand or fit in to so many "tropes" of evangelical maleness. I was a part of the *Wild at Heart* generation. I had never thought about how much the book recommendations from pastors and comments from youth leaders were all connected to a larger narrative intending to shape me as a man in a very intentional way.

I would recommend this book for church men's groups. I would recommend this book for men and women who want to understand evangelical masculinity. I would recommend this book for an undergraduate sociology course on gender. There are so many ways this book would be an excellent resource. This will become standard reading for anyone writing about masculinity and broader "evangelical" culture for the foreseeable future.
Profile Image for Carmen Imes.
Author 9 books276 followers
December 30, 2021
This book ought to come with a gift certificate for therapy.

For those (like me) who thought that Evangelical support for Donald Trump was a puzzling anomaly, Du Mez demonstrates that it fits squarely in the Evangelical narrative as it has developed over the past 50 years. She guides readers through decades of religious and political leadership to highlight the emergence of a militant, masculine version of Christianity that has captured the imagination of white Evangelicals.

As a child, I had a book by Ann Jonas called 'Round Trip.' It was a picture book that you read from start to finish, then flipped over and read upside down back to the beginning. All the images in the book worked right-side up as well as upside down. 'Jesus and John Wayne' turned my childhood narrative upside down. Household names like James Dobson and Ronald Reagan -- even Billy Graham -- were situated in a wider field of view where I could see the shadows they cast. Christian retail, "family values," "law and order," homeschool networks, and men's retreats all changed shape, too, under Du Mez' careful scrutiny.

Things are not what they have seemed.

I'm thankful for Du Mez' careful work to expose the abuses and imbalances of white Evangelicalism. Her voice contributes to a collective day of reckoning. I pray it's not too late.
Profile Image for Kelsi Berry.
129 reviews3 followers
February 3, 2022
I am white and an evangelical. I felt like I needed to read this book because until recently I didn’t know that being a “white” evangelical was even a thing. If you know me and read this book and think this is who I am, we need to have a conversation.

This book is a joke. This book is dangerous. This book takes a blanket of awful ideas and spreads it over millions and millions of people. This book is blasphemous and heresy in many places. This book is a foundation for progressive Christianity which is very different from historical Christianity. This book does the dangerous thing of presenting opinion quotes as facts. It does do one thing well; it takes every major failure of evangelical culture and Christian celebrities and chains today’s evangelicals to it by their right hands. It takes our left hand and chains us to any historical racist, bigot, white person who identified as Christian and leaves us there bound to some identity that is a mix between these two personas.

This book refers to God as “the vengeful warrior God” it states we as white evangelicals need to “address the problem of whiteness” (please explain to me why one race has an inherent problem to it while others don’t). It refers to Trump as the white evangelical “new high priest” ummmm....no.

In addition this book also essentially states that:
-Whiteness is bad
-Conservative/historical Christianity is bad (everyone else is fine)
-Masculinity is bad
-femininity and “traditional” female gender roles such a stay at home moms are bad
-homeschooling is a tool to raise kids in the way of the white evangelical ideals
-White evangelicals are radical nationalists and we all live to push some huge political agenda. (By the way I’ve missed all the meetings on this, they must have my old email address.)
-white evangelicals are a “cult of masculinity” and white evangelicalism is “militant Christian masculinity” that needs to be “dismantled.” Plus much much more.

Also, I didn’t even know John Wayne was a Christian.
Profile Image for Jeff.
9 reviews5 followers
March 10, 2021
This book belongs to a long tradition of religious bigotry and functions much the same way Julius Streicher's "The Poisonous Mushroom" functioned in Germany to spread malicious and hateful misrepresentations of a people the author does not like but does not care to understand. The reader will find it filled with undocumented anecdotes which are used to justify empty caricatures of an entire people group. Think I'm wrong? As yourself - what is her definition of "evangelical" and would an evangelical institution of any age affirm that definition (if you find it)?

Perhaps in some forgotten and isolated corner of the fringe of American society one might perchance meet one or two people who match Du Mez's descriptions. But they would not have any meaningful relationship to evangelicalism or the common identity of evangelicals. The men she names as influential in evangelicalism are indeed influential in some subsets of evangelicalism. Unfortunately, however, they are entirely unrecognizable in her descriptions to anyone who knows them as well.

This will be a comfortable book to those who despise evangelicals and refuse the possibility of any other posture. It might also serve to console those who grew up connected to evangelicalism and want to find some justification for their break. Otherwise it will perpetuate anti-religious stereotypes and hatred, fueling a fire that will do no one any good.
Profile Image for Carmel Hanes.
Author 1 book127 followers
November 20, 2020
Not being a terribly "political" person, I haven't paid much attention to elections until the last 12 years. Watching the last four in particular led me to question many things about how and why others vote as they do. When things baffle me, I seek more information. This book offers one perspective on why those categorized as "white evangelicals" vote as they do--what matters to them and how they see our culture. The author explores previous elections and presidents along with more current ones. She gives background on a number of evangelical leaders and their intersection with political agendas. I learned some things about people whose names I'd heard in the past, but hadn't paid much attention to. It was often eye-opening to see the rise and fall of well-known players in this murky world.

In fairness, I believe the category of "evangelical" is a broad umbrella term that includes a wide continuum of people, beliefs, and practices. This book appeared to focus on the far right spoke of that umbrella, at least I'd like to think so. It may not fairly represent all who self-identify with this term. That said, it did seem to capture some of those who puzzle me, offering possible explanations as to why they see this world so differently from me, and vote accordingly. It did increase my understanding of "why".

Like most academic books, it was a bit repetitive at times, but otherwise was well-written. As a read, it was a 3.5, rounded up.
Profile Image for Lucas Dorminy.
33 reviews8 followers
March 9, 2022
An historical account of the evangelical masculinity movement in the US that throws boringly predictable egalitarian jabs and gives frustratingly deceptive presentations of patriarchal views. Her conclusion is especially maddening with unserious comments about evangelical support for Trump’s wall, such as: “given that the Bible is filled with commands to welcome the stranger and care for the foreigner these attitudes might seem puzzling.”

This book, for whatever historical insights it might offer (very few), is surprisingly sloppy and predictably preachy. A real snore. 1/5 stars.
Profile Image for Justin.
Author 2 books127 followers
September 8, 2021
This is brilliant and deeply challenging. For starters, it helped me to better articulate why I have always felt like a foreigner in American Evangelicalism. Having grown up in the Independent Fundamental Baptist circles, I saw much of these attitudes and trends. At the same time, being a part of that movement outside of the United States provided some insulation from the worst elements.

In general, I think this is an excellent and necessary book for all evangelicals to read. As we hear more stories of those who are deconstructing, this book helps to explain why. It will be hard for many to understand which of their convictions and beliefs are indigenous to the Christian faith, and which are parasites spoon-fed to them by ethnocentric, political, or cultural interests. It has been hard for me.

I think it is worth engaging with secular, scientific literature on masculinity, though. Du Mez can give the impression that the only ones who are advocating for certain masculine traits were those with a political or theological impetus. However, some of the soft sciences have been known to express some of the same ideas. Are men biologically predisposed to greater aggression? Is that bad in and of itself? What nuances exist between men and women at a neurological and biological level that should be affirmed for the sake of healthy development and what happens if we outright label them as wrong? Do we run the risk of shaming boys for who they are, painting a picture of the Hulk that must be domesticated? I'm not saying that those biological/neurological differences merit a hierarchical structure, but they must be engaged and explained.

I honestly don't know. I'm left with so much learning, and at the same time with many questions. But they are the good kind of questions, the kind that will make me a better man, leader, and pastor for the men and women God has placed around me.
Profile Image for Daniel.
369 reviews
February 20, 2021
A really odd book in that I think it's valuable and insightful and at the same time, I disliked it quite a bit. The thesis - White Evangelicals enthusiastically supporting Donald Trump is a feature, not a bug, meaning evangelicals have long espoused a macho masculine mentality and Trump is a logical outcome of that. This mentality is typified by a decades long reverence on evangelicals part for the machismo of John Wayne (and the parallels to Trump are almost too convenient - promoting courage while personally avoiding the military, a disregard for family values when it comes to divorce and fidelity, and no real personal faith) . It seems kind of absurd at first but the quotations by evangelicals through the cited in the book become kind of overwhelming - there's something there. And it traces that masculine thread from Wayne to Billy Graham, Bill Bright, purity culture, James Dobson, Promise Keepers, and more through today.

I think in its basic point the book is on to something, which depresses me; so much so that I'm not even sure I can call myself an evangelical. But ultimately, I disliked it. The problem is that it's so persistently negative and paints such a broad brush that it lacks any sense of nuance such that I'm not sure I can trust it. Anyone who displays any patriotism whatsoever is militantly masculine and bad. Any complementarian automatically supports macho masculinity and is bad. So Mark Driscoll is lumped in with John Piper and Tim Keller - all bad. It's just too much - surely there is some good in the things the book discusses, but it's either ignored or effectively glossed over, and it lost me.
Profile Image for Rachel Shearer.
189 reviews6 followers
February 3, 2021
I can’t remember the last time I had such a visceral reaction to a book. I am so angry, but it is a righteous anger. I am angry at how the faith I hold so dear has been twisted and manipulated into the evangelicalism of America. I’m so angry that I was gaslit into believing that people like John Piper, Focus on the Family/James Dobson, and even Billy Graham were good and had the purest of intentions. I’m so angry. Anyone who grew up evangelical needs to read this.
Profile Image for Darby Stouffer.
111 reviews16 followers
March 19, 2021
If you’ve ever looked at the evangelical political landscape and wondered...exactly how did we get here? This is the book for you. It was a difficult and frustrating read. Many of the things mentioned are things I literally lived out in my own life. But it was insightful and helped connect a lot of dots as well. I wish there had been more of a solution presented but at the same time, it’s more difficult to argue with facts and history presented in this way.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,498 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.