Many who read this book, and this review, for that matter, will find Du Mez’s thesis harsh and culturally charged. It is. Whether or not readers agree with all of her arguments, Jesus and John Wayne offers discerning evangelicals the opportunity to reflect carefully on their view of the world and women’s place in it, and how that view has been shaped both by Scripture and a prevailing cultural conservatism with a specific narrative history.
Du Mez is not arguing that every American evangelical is a misogynist; rather, she carefully examines the construction of an evangelical culture communicated through revival preachers, radio programs, Christian music, and an extensive Christian publishing industry. To illustrate the aggressive masculinity at the core of evangelical culture, she cites Billy Graham who wrote that prior to his conversion he thought religion was “more or less sissy,” something well suited for “old people and girls, but not for a real he-man with red blood in his veins.”
Jesus and John Wayne delivers a powerful message that deserves a wide readership.
Reckoning with who we really are and how we have been shaped by a particular history can open evangelical Christians to healing. Few will agree with everything Du Mez writes, but every evangelical community should be discussing the role aggressive masculinity has played in shaping our theology so we can live more like the beloved community where every person is encouraged and empowered to serve God and one another with freedom and mutual love.
Peterson, Kurt. “Reexamining Evangelical Culture.” Covenant Companion, the Official Magazine of the Evangelical Covenant Church. October 28, 2020.https://covenantcompanion.com/2020/10/28/reexamining-evangelical-culture/