Du Mez’s brilliant and engaging Jesus and John Wayne traces how evangelicals used their power to protect patriarchy over the last few generations.Matthew Avery Sutton, The New Republic
Trump’s victory, she writes, was “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 this account, the Jesus at the center of their lives is not the peacemaker of the gospels but a vengeful warrior Christ.
Across chapters ranging from “John Wayne Will Save Your Ass” to “Holy Balls,” Du Mez peppers her text with entertaining (and sometimes horrifying) examples.
In 2018, Trump welcomed one hundred of the nation’s evangelical leaders to a dinner at the White House. The guest list included almost every one of the major leaders profiled by DuMez, Posner, and Whitehead and Perry. “We’re here,” the president explained to his audience, “to celebrate America’s heritage of faith, family, and freedom. As you know, in recent years, the government tried to undermine religious freedom. But the attacks on communities of faith are over. We’ve ended it. We’ve ended it.” Evangelicals finally had the kind of ally in the White House they had been longing for since the days of Billy Sunday. Trump aimed to bolster patriarchy, roll back the power of the courts, curtail immigration, and grant evangelicals a privileged position in the American religious landscape.
These three books help us understand how this happened. No matter how many never-Trumper evangelicals argue that some kind of pure faith exists independent of politics and culture, the truth is that evangelism and Trumpism is a near-perfect partnership that grew out of a shared history and culture.
Du Mez ends her book by calling on her readers to “dismantle” white evangelicalism by exposing its true history and priorities. But evangelicals will not be easily dispossessed of what they assume is rightfully theirs. God, they believe, has destined them to make the United States in their image. Trump’s success demonstrates that their power is still ascending. We can only hope that as the goals and tactics of Christian nationalism are exposed, the rest of us—secular and Christian, agnostic and “none”—will mobilize to bury it for good. If we don’t, then surely a different kind of apocalypse will soon be upon us.
Matthew Avery Sutton. “The Truth About Trump’s Evangelical Support.” The New Republic. Critical Mass. July 16, 2020. https://newrepublic.com/article/158539/truth-trumps-evangelical-support-sarah-posner-jesus-john-wayne-book-review