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Du Mez is a Christian herself, but this book is a secular work of history and analysis. It doesn’t say anything about what God wants, nor does it make any arguments about who is or isn’t a true Christian. There’s nothing that would stick in an atheist’s craw.

Reading this book was like watching someone assemble a jigsaw puzzle. I knew about most of the individual pieces she presents – the names, the institutions, the events, the theologies – but Du Mez’s expertise is in showing how they fit seamlessly together into a bigger picture. The cumulative effect is a perspective shift, like seeing a portrait emerge from scattered fragments.

I don’t usually comment on an author’s writing style, but Jesus and John Wayne is extremely well-written. Although it’s a work of academic history, it never gets bogged down. It reads as lightly and quickly as a fast-paced novel. Du Mez has a talent for drawing connections, using deftly chosen details to illuminate the currents of evangelical thought. Even if you’re acquainted with the history and politics of the religious right, this is a book that’s worth reading and may well give you a new depth of understanding.

PSA: If you’re interested in hearing more, you can listen to Feminist Coffee Hour’s interview with Kristin Du Mez about the book.

Adam Lee. “Book Review: Jesus and John Wayne.” Daylight Atheism. March 24, 2021.

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