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screenshot of Baptist News Global article by Alan Bean titled Jesus and John Wayne Exposes Militant Masculinity in the Age of Trump


Simple hypocrisy is the simplest answer. Others see evangelical support for Trump as nothing more than transactional politics.

Kristen Kobes Du Mez, a history professor at Calvin College, isn’t buying either of these explanations. In Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nationshe explains why. The majority of white American evangelicals support Trump, she says, because he embodies the kind of militant masculinity they have learned to love.

I first became aware of Du Mez’s project shortly after writing a piece for Baptist News Global in October of 2016 called Jesus and John Wayne: Must we choose? When I Googled “Jesus and John Wayne,” the first item up was a 1980s song by that title by the Gaither Vocal Band that portrayed American evangelicals as living in a healthy tension between the fierce masculinity of John Wayne and the radical grace of Jesus. Evangelical enthusiasm for Donald Trump, I argued, suggested that that militant masculinity of John Wayne had eclipsed the spirituality of Jesus.

Du Mez came across my article because she was thinking along similar lines. Her book includes a couple of references to my article and uses one of my best lines as a chapter title: “The unspoken mantra of post-war evangelicalism was simple: Jesus can save your soul, but John Wayne will save your ass.”

. . . by so thoroughly exposing a faux religion rooted in power and privilege, Du Mez poses a provocative question: What would white American evangelicalism look like if we had listened to the civil rights marchers, anti-war protesters, gay rights advocates, and second-wave feminists instead of shutting them out and shutting them down?

Alan Bean. “Jesus and John Wayne Exposes Militant Masculinity in the Age of Trump.” Baptist Global News. Analysis. July 25, 2020.

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