As I reflected on Calvin University professor Kristin Du Mez’s brilliantly provocative and painful, Jesus and John Wayne, I realized how many different intersections I had with her subject. After all, I serve as a pastor in a Presbyterian denomination that is committed to male-only ordained leadership. I worked at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I’m a two-time graduate of Bob Jones University, that bastion of fundamentalism, after spending a year at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. I’ve been to all three “levels” of Bill Gothard’s Institute for Basic Life Principles (basic, advanced, and pastors). I went to a white-flight Baptist academy for high school in northern Virginia, graduating right after George H. W. Bush became president. As the young people say, “I have the receipts.”

Thus, while I might quibble with some of the details in Jesus and John Wayne, I finished this book and felt like Han Solo in The Force Awakens: “Crazy thing is, it’s true—all of it. It’s all true.”

Jesus Plus Masculinity for America’s Sake

And especially true and irrefutable is Du Mez’s main contention. In trying to explain the pervasive evangelical support for Donald Trump, Du Mez argues that this support “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” (3).

After a quick orientation to the early part of the twentieth century, Du Mez connect the dots between evangelical Christianity, masculinity, and nationalism, starting with Billy Graham’s rise to prominence in post-World War II America. Graham nimbly linked these three themes together in his “crusades,” bringing a range of manly (and popular or powerful) men into his orbit, whether Stuart Hamblen or Pat Boone, Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon. All of this was in an effort to bring revival to America through a restoration of order to families, churches, and eventually nations.

The 1960s brought a massive political and ecclesial realignment. “At the heart of this realignment were attitudes toward civil rights, the war in Vietnam, and ‘family values,’” Du Mez wrote. “For conservative evangelicals, a defense of white patriarchy would move to the center of their coalescing cultural and political identity” (33). Strikingly, when conservatives talked about what they believed Christian manhood looked like, they inevitably invoked John Wayne—a man’s man, willing to fight for his beloved country in order to protect his wife and children, willing to bend the rules if necessary in order to succeed. Wayne’s masculinity was imperial, violent, politically incorrect, unapologetic.

Wayne’s masculine appeal, coupled together with evangelical Christianity, came together in the 1980s. In Reagan’s America, the Soviets were evil, Ollie North was a hero, and Americans were under siege. In order to preserve the next generation, the Christian homeschool movement rose up to equip parents in the training of their own children away from the godless factories of public education. The homeschool movement reinforced the linkage between evangelical Christianity, patriarchy, and Christian nationalism through curricula produced by soft Christian reconstructionists like Doug Phillips or Arminian perfectionists (my evaluation, not Du Mez’s) like Bill Gothard.

After the Bush and Clinton years, evangelicals believed that the situation was dire. The nation needed a strong leader, a John Wayne-type, who will protect evangelical Christianity and so maintain American greatness. When Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy in 2015, his self-proclaimed virility was what drew so many evangelicals to him. As Du Mez notes, “Donald Trump did not represent the betrayal of many of the values [evangelicals] had come to hold dear. His testosterone-fueled masculinity aligned remarkably well with that long championed by conservative evangelicals” (268). This strength—and the hope that Trump would use it for evangelical aims as their “ultimate fighting champion”—led white evangelicals to support him in vast numbers, both in 2016 and, as it turned out, in 2020.

Culture-Evangelicalism

There’s obviously a lot more here. As someone who grew up in this world and still has a range of connections to it, the cast of characters and their positions were quite familiar. But I look at this not simply as a participant, but also as an observer—a historian who has spent a great deal of time trying to understand modern American evangelicalism. While Du Mez’s contribution is undoubtedly anchored in her demonstration of the role that militant patriarchy plays in this evangelical story, there’s (at least) two other significant historical contributions that she makes.

The first is her observation that evangelicalism is less defined by theology and more by culture. Du Mez observed, “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” (297-98). I think this is very important and exactly right with an important caveat.[1] It is not as though any cultural system can somehow place its intellectual commitments outside of the system to maintain them in their purity. And so with evangelical Christianity—as theological commitments bump up against other commitments, regarding gender, education, region, class, race, or whatever, often it is the other commitments that will shape the way we read the Bible or think theologically.[2]

The real question is not whether evangelicals experience an interplay between theology and culture (we all do); rather, it is whether evangelicals are willing to be self-critical enough to recognize that there may be significant cultural blind-spots that are hindering the advancement of the Gospel itself. And what comes clear from Du Mez’s book (and from any given day on social media) is the answer to that question is a resounding, “No.” And that, in the end, is what is profoundly troubling.

Any Christian who reads this book to the end, especially the final chapter, has to question whether the emphasis upon patriarchy has been good for evangelicalism. And yet, what is more likely for most evangelicalism would be “yeahbutism”—as in, “Yeah, but there were extenuating circumstances, his theology was bad, he was a jerk, he had no oversight.” Complementarian evangelicals may be reading the salient biblical texts on gender correctly—but surely, we have failed repeatedly in living out basic Christian morality and have abused power over and again. As Walker Percy once noted, you can get all A’s, but still flunk life; and so here.

I fear that the evangelical response to Du Mez will be more evidence of the culture-evangelicalism (used here with a nod toward H. Richard Niebuhr’s “culture-Protestantism” category from Christ and Culture) that proves unwilling to look hard in the mirror and instead demonizes those who dare to question the status quo.

Evangelicalism’s Odd Friend Named Fear

The other historical (and really, pastoral) contribution that Du Mez makes is the way she puts her finger right on the heart of evangelicalism’s public stance. As she puts so well, “Fear had been at the heart of evangelical postwar politics—a fear of godless communism and a fear that immorality would leave Americans defenseless” (59). For those who grew up in evangelicalism, the twin evils trumpeted in the 1980s were Communism and secular humanism; fast forward past 9/11, those were exchanged for radical Islam and the militant gay agenda; today, “critical race theory” would fit somewhere in the rogues’ gallery.

But while the rogues change, it is fear upon which evangelical leaders always trade. That’s how all too often they build their platforms, secure donations, justify their reasons for existence. And fear is what drove the past two national election cycles: fear of Hillary Clinton, fear of various agendas, fear of Black Lives Matter, fear of “socialism” and AOC, fear of “losing our country.” Fear is what has caused evangelical believers to fall for QAnon and will keep them from receiving the COVID vaccine.

Of course, as a historical explanation, identifying fear as a motivator and catalyst for evangelical political engagement is important, as important as historian Richard Hoffstader’s observation of the “paranoid style in American politics.” But pastorally, fear is utterly inimical to Christian discipleship. As Marilynne Robinson noted, “Fear is not a Christian habit of mind.”[3] For Christians, we are told that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and self-control (2 Tim 1:7). Surely that means when we engage in the public square, we aren’t looking for enemies to fear or power to seize, but others to serve and justice to seek. And surely the biblical teaching about the Christian’s dual citizenship—not only here in our various nation-states, but more importantly in heaven (Phil 3:20)—should shape the way we think about national (or state or local) elections, not as fear-filled, but ultimately hope-full.

All to say that Jesus and John Wayne should be required reading for those who live and move and have our being within American evangelical denominations and churches. And the first thing we should do is to look in the mirror and say, “It’s true—let me see myself as I am.” Then, going forward to change will prove whether we evangelicals are doers of the Word or just hearers only.

Enjoy the article? Pay the writer.

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $0

Footnotes

  1. I tried to make a similar point in my For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2015).
  2. See here Sean Michael Lucas, “Church History as a Pastoral Discipline,” in The Pure Flame of Devotion: The History of Christian Spirituality, ed. G. Stephen Weaver and Ian Hugh Clary (Toronto: Joshua, 2013, 20-23.
  3. Marilynne Robinson, The Givenness of Things: Essays (New York: FSG, 2016), 125.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted by Sean Michael Lucas

Sean Michael Lucas is Chancellor’s Professor of Church History at Reformed Theological Seminary and Senior Pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church (PCA), Memphis, TN

52 Comments

  1. I appreciate this review and your argument favoring Du Mez’s conclusions. I haven’t read the book and so can’t fully appreciate the entire argument, but this line that you quote does stand out to me, “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.” It feels like Du Mez is making a similar argument that Hannah Nicole Jones does in the 1619 Project, to say that a regrettable mentality that has always been present actually constitutes the essence of the movement, rather than a corruption of its ideals or values. The distinction seems really important to me; if evangelical support for Trump is simply a logical outgrowth of its essence, than evangelicism must be strongly disavowed by faithful Christians, and any of the institutions or works that are rooted in it are at best highly suspect in their credibility (for example, Dallas Theological Seminary, ETS, the ESV Bible translation, The Jesus Storybook Bible, Adventures in Odyssey, Wheaton College, Bethlehem Baptist, etc). The burden of proof must rest on them to show that they are not heavily influenced by this Evangelical “core value”. But if we can view it as a regrettable corruption of the ideals of evangelicalism, we can fight for reform within the institution and celebrate victories like the ouster of Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill, the holding of Page Patterson to account by the SBC, and the leadership of Beth Moore in repudiating Trump, as steps in that direction.

    Reply

    1. Worth pointing out that Mars Hill completely collapsed within six months of Driscoll’s firing/resignation (can’t remember which it was now). Also, not sure how much credit I’m willing to give the SBC for the Patterson account. As I recall, the Trustees at SWBTS did an about-face once the wave of public pressure really started breaking. The additional details are fuzzy to me, though. Did the denomination take additional steps?

      You’re 100% right about Beth Moore!

      Reply

  2. Looking forward to this symposium. While acknowledging the importance of Du Mez’s critique, I hope that commentators will consider that there may be some good reasons for some of evangelicalism’s positions. E.g.

    1. There needs to be some sort of place for masculine, manly virtues. Many critics seem to think that masculinity, as such, is “toxic.” That can’t be right.

    2. There are plenty of good reasons to be suspicious of communism and socialism.

    3. There has to be some room for patriotic attachment to country and nation. America isn’t *entirely* a matter of White Racism and Sexism.

    4. America was 90% white and 10% black between 1920 and 1950. Outside the South, it was even more white and even less black. For any random small town outside the South, “white culture” was simply inherent to those communities, and not inherently morally suspect, despite the best efforts of the Radical Evangelical Left to portray it as such.

    Reply

    1. Lots of places were and are still almost entirely white. The problem isn’t being white. It is being (and remaining) mostly white through the means of believing in a racial hierarchy. And while not every person that is white in the 1920-50s did believe in a racial hierarchy, the vast majority did. Which is why ‘the culture’ was infected by racism and sexism. (Because sexism is similar in that while not all men, or women, believed in a gender hierarchy, most did.)

      I do think there is space to have a discussion about the extent to which sexism and racism did infect many areas of of life and culture in the US, but there was an impact. KKK was strong, not just in the south, but throughout the country in the 1920-50s. Birth of a Nation was popular not just in the south, but around the country feeding the culture stories that reinforced racial hierarchy.

      As to your first point, the problem isn’t masculinity as an abstract, the problem the cultural normativitiy of a particular type of masculinity.

      And to your second and third points, the book doesn’t say communism and socialism are good, but critiques the way that Christianity is turned into a commodity who’s purpose isn’t faithfulness to Christ, but anti-communism. Patriotism isn’t an inherent negative, it is an understanding of the identify of what it means to be an American gets wrapped up in a particular cultural expression of white Christian expression that moves from patriotism to Christian nationalism.

      Reply

    2. “radical evangelical left”

      It’s worth reading up on redlining to check out what random 90% white towns outside the south were up to between 1920 and 1950.

      Reply

    3. You do realize that 1950 was 71 years ago. One would have to be about 80 years old to have any coherent memories of 1950. You speak of that era as though the demographic conditions of that time should have any relevance to people today.

      Reply

  3. I, like you, found Jesus and John Wayne to largely hit the mark. I would however suggest that there is an inherent tension in the authors argument. If evangelicalism is a cultural force more so than a theological movement—why is it that it’s theological stances are (implicitly and explicitly) critiqued?

    What relevance do evangelicals positions on complementarianism or inerrancy have on the shaping a body of people who by the authors analysis take their cues from culture more so than the Bible or theology?

    Why is complementarianism on trial when what is experienced in evangelicalism is not Biblical complementarianism but some right wing amalgamation?

    It would seem to me that the problem is not evangelical theology—but nominalism.

    Reply

  4. This is an excellent review. As a kid who grew up in the PCA, this rings quite true concerning the subculture in which I was raised. It is impossible to understand evangelicalism without considering the degree to which it reflects a reaction to the increasing insecurity to the declining hegemonic role that white Christian men once played in society. To this day, I wonder whether I would identify as gay if I hadn’t been raised in a subculture that rejected me for my failure to live up to the masculine ideal of being a man who defined his manhood principally in terms of his ability to bully and humiliate women and “weaker” men with impunity.

    Reply

  5. Admittedly I’ve yet to read “Jesus and John Wayne.” I’m currently reading several books addressing significant personal issues with which I’m currently wrestling. Maybe I’ll pick it up at some point in the near future.

    I come from a different perspective than the author of this review. I find complementarian theology to be based on culture rather than Scripture. I belong to a denomination which permits women’s ordination, yet I also have serious issues with Beth Moore. I think Donald Trump did some good things as president in spite of his serious character flaws. That having been said, I agree American evangelicalism is in serious trouble. I want to see the evangelical church purged of the flawed theology preached by disgraced fallen leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips. I want to see evangelicalism divorced from its far too close relationship to the Republican Party while also acknowledging that many aspects of the Democratic Party’s platform are seriously troubling. I’d also like to see the evangelical church stop idolizing marriage and family while treating older singles like myself as third-class Christians.

    Reply

    1. I would deem the book by its very title is in the same stream of contemporary leftists tribes, that lament anything pertaining to traditional American values- or an orientation to the biblical precept of patriarchal reality that mankind has subscribed to for multiple millennia. She has many axes to grind, and they are all political.

      Reply

      1. The book does an effective job of documenting that most of these values aren’t that traditional. They were passed off as traditional as part of an intentional effort to address white make anxieties concerning racial and gender equality.

        The author is fairly conservative, and would likely not identify as a progressive.

        Further, patriarchy is no more biblical than getting around by horse and donkeys. The teachings of Christ and the apostles point in an eschatological direction away from the maintenance of patriarchy and related forms of authoritarianism.

        Reply

  6. Sean,
    If you’re incapable of refuting Du Mez’s statement on Evangelical Trump support: “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” then I think you were given a bill of goods, not viable receipts.

    Du Mez’s work is just another social-political attack against Evangelicals. I am associated with a diverse group of Evangelicals and none of us support a “callous display of power, at home and abroad.” That’s just bullshit. It’s a caricature meant to denigrate Evangelicals. If you can’t argue against that then you’re broken. None of us view Trump as a Messiah, saviour, or example to be followed. We see his ugly flaws and they are repulsive. We did vote for him out of a pragmatic choice.

    You ask if we are self-critical enough. I say the opposite. Evangelicals have been consistently bombarded by the liberal press, and weak fellow Christians who think they are doing Christ’s work by flinging crap at fellow Christians. Nary a week goes by without some mainstream press criticizing and caricaturizing Evangelicals. Du Mez goes further. On the other hand, how much self-criticism do you see by “progressive” Christian organizations? Does Sojourners ever critique their lack of proclaiming the Gospel? Does the PCUSA ever examine their compromises with sin? How many articles do you see criticizing churches that have compromised Biblical truths, compromised with sin, or have just become social clubs? If Christ’s message is neglected, even criticized by professing Christians, then what’s the point of being a Christian?

    My faith is in Christ, not America. Jesus is my example, not John Wayne or Trump, nor Biden or Obama.

    Reply

    1. We see his ugly flaws and they are repulsive. We did vote for him out of a pragmatic choice.

      Arguably, that’s worse. You knew he was a snake, yet…
      Honestly, I have more respect for people like Jim Bakker who truly believes (erroneously, of course) that Trump is a godly man.

      You ask if we are self-critical enough. I say the opposite.

      Your post contradicts this.

      Reply

      1. Rusty, you’re completely wrong. The vote was a choice between the lesser of two evils: phony and corrupt Hillary or corrupt Trump. I went with the lesser of two evils as did many of my Evangelical friends. Trump was never a hero of our faith.

        On the other hand, when does the left do any self-criticism? When does the religious left hold itself accountable for its failure to fulfill Christ’s commands? Does Biden’s cloak of Catholicism impress you? It’s as phony as Trump’s religiosity, he just hides it better.

        It’s tragic that the church is being educated by weak Christians like Sean. I don’t know if Du Mez is a Christian. Leader like this are not going to move the church forward. Pandering to the wills of the world as they do only result in churches like Sardis and Laodicea.

        Reply

        1. Right, you did the same thing Jehosephat did when he joined forces with Ahab against Syria. And the results are going to be about the same this time around as they were then.

          Reply

        2. weak fellow Christians who think they are doing Christ’s work by flinging crap at fellow Christians.

          Does Biden’s cloak of Catholicism impress you?

          Reply

        3. Jimbo – there you go again with that lesser of two evils argument. Really? Remember Hillary won the popular vote in a rigged election of interference from Russia and other malevolent entities. Do you think Hillary Clinton as president would have caused all the evil that Trump has? Hillary Clinton in her entire career has done more good for more people than Trump ever even attempted. So, your rejection of a woman, even a woman with a background and proven good works such as Hillary Clinton accomplished, only speaks to your own misogyny and your worship of toxic masculinity in the example of John Wayne. Hillary was not the lesser of two evils. You just use that baseless argument to defend your deadly choice of her opposite in Donald Trump. He was your choice. Own it!

          Reply

        4. I think the tone with which you are dismissing this book is exactly the response predicted by the article above. I think also the fact that the conversation almost immediately became about politics just reinforces the author’s point that evangelical culture is about culture and not theology.

          Reply

          1. Ryan,
            As you note, I’m sure Du Mez anticipated some push back, like mine. But doesn’t painting with such a broad brush deserve some criticism? As I’ve noted elsewhere, long before you or I were born Evangelicals have been involved with helping others, sacrificing of themselves, in medical missions, homeless shelters, food banks, drilling wells, dental missions, giving to the poor, etc.

            The “politics” comment was raised by a previous poster, not me. I just responded.

            By the way, MereOrthodoxy has two additional articles both of which were written by women and both agree with, and criticize, Du Mez’s work in some points. I am criticizing Pastor Sean’s weakness and failure in swallowing all of Du Mez’s caricatures indiscriminately.

            Ryan, what “theological” aspects would you raise?

    2. Surely not all critique of evangelism is a socio-political attack on evangelicals meant to denigrate believers?

      I do recognize the people you describe. Unfortunately, it’s hard to take them very seriously because those same people were not only largely silent about Trump’s many violations of law, biblical principles, human decency, and positions evangelicals used to stand for, they also were loudly defensive of the President and deflected any criticism of him. Perhaps not many evangelicals argued for “callous displays of power,” yet far too many were willing to accept them over and over again with nary a comment other than an offended “Yeah, what about…?”

      Reply

      1. Jeff, I agree with you. Far too many Evangelicals gave Trump a position of prominence and deferred to his offensive rhetoric. We could have, and should have, been more vocal about it. We embarrassed ourselves. If Sean, and Du Mez argued what you have stated above, I would not disagree. But Du Mez paints deliberated with a large and denigrating brush. As you see and noted Evangelicals don’t support, argue for, or condone “callous displays of power.” She went too far of course, and Sean Lewis bows his knee to the world.

        Reply

    3. Jimbo: There are so many things to refute in your simplified, superficial treatment of the theme of Jesus and John Wayne, but here is the one thing you said that I think explains a lot and tells us why you are an unconscious subscriber to John Wayne, rather than Jesus. That one thing you said: “We did vote for him out of pragmatic choice” is, to me, simply mind boggling. If you chose Donald Trump, nonbeliever, nonfollower of Jesus against Hillary Clinton, Christian Methodist, what is pragmatic about that. That alone shows your misogynistic view of your brand of “Christianity,” which bears no resemblance to actual Christianity. It is John Wayne, not Jesus, your choice.

      Reply

      1. Psy,
        I wasn’t doing a treatment of the book, I was criticizing Pastor Lucas’ broken-leg response. Further, there are two other reviews of this book done by MereOrthodoxy writers, both females, that are far more fair and balanced than Lucas’ work. Their work and evaluation is far more palatable than Lucas’. Many of their criticisms are acceptable and accurate to me. They also offer a nice critique, and very charitable, of Du Mez’s book. One in particular shows Du Mez’s methodology was shallow and biased, part true, part false.

        I don’t think that Trump is a Christian, but I also don’t think Hillary is either. Yeah yeah, she pays lipservice to Christianity like the most vulgar of politicians, left and right, but her actions say otherwise.

        Instead of relying upon Du Mez’s trite caricatures of all Evangelicals, do some study of this theme for yourself. I have liberal Christian friends who totally get it. I also have solid Christian friends who couldn’t stomach Trump and voted for Biden. I get that also.

        I don’t vote for politicians just because they claim to be Christian. Jimmy Carter was probably the most devout Christian I’ve seen as President, but he was a horrible president. You are well aware of that. Carter, despite his Christianity lost in a landslide to Regan. Now you want to make caricatures out of all those voters? LOL.

        Here are some points for you to understand:
        1) Hillary was pro-abortion, or pro-choice if you prefer. Trump was anti-abortion. Both the pre-Christ Jewish leaders, and the early church, were staunchly anti-abortion. Trump held the Christian position, Hillary did not.
        2) Hillary demonstrated her ability in the failure at Benghazi. If she was too inept and calloused to protect Americans, why should I trust her? Trump didn’t have a record here but no record is better than a record of failure.
        3) Hillary is part of the swamp, Trump was not.

        These are not difficult reasons to understand, they should not boggle a normal person’s mind, and they have nothing to do with the John Wayne caricature.

        Psy, are you capable of carrying on an actual discussion or argument without relying on charged words and cariacatures? Most liberals I’ve encountered are not able to do so. Intellectual cowards who hide behind those caricatures never fair well in strong discussions.

        Reply

        1. Oh, dear, Mr. Jimbo: First of all, we all know women who think like men and support their desire to be mastered and controlled as John Wayne women. There are women who are not pro-women. So your reference to female writers that would be far more fair and balanced means nothing for your argument. Your description of Hillary as ” paying lipservice to Christianity like the most vulgar of politicians” is extremely offensive to the majority of women who voted for her. I’m sure many Catholics and other people, churched or unchurched, would not appreciate your caricature of President Biden, as well. You must be very young to think that Benghazi proved anything about her life-long work to help fellow Americans cope with the horrors of inequality and social injustice of a John Wayne culture, which we have always had. How dare you say that Clinton’s actions say otherwise than that she is a Christian! What of her actions say otherwise than that she is a Christian first and a Democrat second. You malign a good women as being a vulgar politician, a part of the swamp, and then you talk about me not being able to carry on a discussion without relying on charged words and caricatures? You think I am an intellectual coward? If I were I wouldn’t be here on Disqus. Most people here are intellectually and emotionally able to have a discussion, you sir, are not. All you have is extremist Republican and fundamentalist talking points, mostly bound up with a hatred of Pro-Choice people who value women’s lives as much as the lives of the unborn. You have one issue – your hatred of women that you show on these pages is so John Waynish as to be laughable, if it weren’t so very serious. Wait, no you have two issues, the second one being your ad hominem arguments that make me think, as I have read here before, that you have an ax to grind against a fellow pastor, or anyone who would challenge the authority you think you have.

          Reply

          1. Look at your bigotry Psy. Here are articles by two women who took exception to Du Mez’s argument, both from MereOrthodoxy: 1) https://mereorthodoxy.com/missing-subtler-yet-greater-problem-replying-jesus-john-wayne/ and 2) https://mereorthodoxy.com/accusations-arent-evidence-responding-jesus-john-wayne/.

            I am not sure if Jamie Carlson, (MA) are Kirstin Sanders, (PhD), are Evangelical or a Catholic, but they’ve written thoughtful and balanced pieces critiquing Du Mez’s work. Unlike Pastor Lucas they do not throw the whole of the Evangelicals under the bus. Ljke me, they see some of the truth and flaws in Du Mez’s caricature. Unlike you Psy, they do not give themselves over to thoughtless accusations and bigotry.

            Instead of engaging their arguments you castigate them as “John Wayne women.” Yes, definitely a lack on intelligence on your part. You might as well say, “If you disagree with me you’re the devil!”

            One of the big problems with Du Mez’s caricature is that it demonizes all Evangelical Pastor and leaders. I’ve been privileged to know a number of Pastors and Priests and I’ve found that most of them are loving and caring men. They’re not abusive, they’re not famous, and they’re not rich, in fact they are on the lower economic scale. Some of them work part time at secular jobs, and/or their wives also work to make ends meet. They love their flock, they help bear their burdens, they give of their finances to help those in need. As the New Testament instructs, they “mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep.” They don’t complain about how difficult it is at times to be a Pastor. They wouldn’t throw fellow Christians under the bus in subservience to a caricature. They’re not perfect but these men are following Christ and act like Christ’s hands on earth. We need more men like that.

            I know a handful of Catholics who reject Biden as a true Catholic because of his pro-abortion stance. I also know of several Catholic Priests who refuse to offer communion to pro-abortion politicians. I am not a Catholic but I understand why they take that position. Before Jesus the Jewish clergy rejected abortion and the early Christian church was anti-abortion. They knew it was morally wrong, and very unloving, to kill unborn children. Pro-abortionists like Biden are now allowing abortions to take place as late as 9 months into the pregnancy. My criticism of Biden’s Catholicism is proclaimed more loudly by many Catholics. If there are Catholics who are pro-abortion then they are at odds with their church, not the other way around.

            Hillary also has a proven track record of lying. She lied about her “sniper” experience in Bosnia, she lied about Benghazi, she even got fired from her position on a committee working on Watergate because, “She was a liar.” She lied about the classified files on her personal computer, which also wound up on her aide’s personal computer and her aide’s husband’s computer. Regular Americans have gone to jail for such infractions. I was disappointed that Trump let her off. This is not a Christian way to act. Those are some of the reasons I doubt her faith is legitimate. She’s just like any self-serving politician who wears a veneer of religion.

            By the way, I like John Wayne. Perhaps Du Mez’s, and your, image of the perfect man is Pee Wee Herman. I don’t know why she chose him for her caricature. Most actresses who worked with John Wayne, like Maureen O’Hara said that he was a perfect gentlemen. Further John Wayne did a lot in the fight against cancer, it’s now known as the John Wayne cancer foundation. An easy internet search shows that John Wayne did a lot to help people. All Du Mez has done is throw mud at a somewhat decent man. I’m also sure that when Du Mez needs to call for help, she’ll hope that a John Wayne type shows up, instead of a Pee Wee Herman type.

    4. Jimbo, well, Jesus was not anything like John Wayne, so what does that mean about your statement that Jesus is your example? Just asking for a friend.

      Reply

    5. Interesting, you say this as you display in your words the very elements of toxic masculinity that you claim not to embody. Hilarious.

      Reply

      1. Kiyoshi,
        It is not toxic to criticize someone or point out a bad error. Humans, male and female, across all cultures and faiths have been doing it for thousands of years. Don’t rely upon a caricature to do your thinking for you. Even Du Mez criticizes others and has pointed out some bad errors, yet you would not call her guilty of toxic masculinity.

        Reply

        1. Certainly. Critiquing others research is not necessarily toxic. But doing so in the manner you’ve exhibited here is. Never mind that it doesn’t even appear that you’ve read the book.

          Reply

          1. Kiyoshi,
            I’ve not read the book. My initial criticism was of Pastor Lucas’ weakness in swallowing Du Mez’s caricature and throwing fellow Evangelicals under the bus. Other MereOrthodoxy writers have read the book and also rejected her sweeping, thus false, caricature. Certainly Du Mez has provided some terrible example of male Evangelicals, but to characterize them all as abusive toxic males is false. You know this.

            This is not a black or white issue, zero or 100%. It’s a question of degree. I have known far to many wonderful and decent Evangelical Pastors who bear other’s burdens and at times give beyond their means, who contradict Du Mez’s stereotype.

            If a conservative writer were to write, “all liberals are stupid,” and provide 10 example of stupid liberals doing stupid things, then certainly you would reject the criticism. Rightly so. So would I as I know many intelligent liberals. The Evangelicals deserve the same type of fairness. Unless of course one wants to justify a hatred of “the other” behind a caricature.

          2. Thanks for at least admitting that you’ve not read the book.

            Your criticism, if given credence, would undermine any kind of historical analysis. Thus, your objection is not to the thesis of the book, but to the mode of analysis itself. After all, these critiques are implicitly incorporated into the practice of historical analysis. So, if you’re going to proffer a meaningful critique of Du Mez’s thesis, you should conduct that critique with the assumptions of historical analysis in mind.

            I point this out because there is a general resistance among white evangelicals to the general value of historical and sociological analysis. This is no accident, of course. Historical and sociological analysis are precisely the tools that are most likely to undercut the self-serving hagiographic narratives that white evangelicals use to describe themselves and their movement.

            I grew up within white evangelicalism, mainly in the PCA in the Midwest and South (although I lived overseas for a event chunk of my adolescence). Yes, there are disparate exceptions to the Du Mez thesis. Even so, most of what she says rings fairly true to my observations over the course of two decades. Of course, the kinds of social hierarchies that Du Mez describes create winners and losers. It’s understandable that the winners selected by social hierarchies have a vested interest in making sure that these social hierarchies and their inherent power either remain invisible or are passed off as the product of “biblical” mandate.

            In that context, your empty criticisms of Sean come off as little more than allegations of tribal disloyalty: As a straight white man, Sean is supposed to uphold the system that reinforces the social institutions that serve to redistribute power in ways that benefit straight white men at everyone else’s expense. Your allegations of “weakness” suppose that he’s obligated to uphold the system and is failing to do so out of some kind of personal flaw. Perhaps you should consider that his weakness is indeed disloyalty: And it’s precisely this kind of disloyalty that makes the Gospel of Christ so dangerous to the comfortable and powerful. Loyalty to Christ over and against loyalty to tribe is the central embodiment of faith in Christ. That faith allows us to trust that God’s lavish grace to us in Christ secures us, so that we can be free to deconstruct systems that redistribute temporal social power.

          3. Kiyoshi, your own statement, “Yes, there are disparate exceptions to the Du Mez thesis” is my point exactly. At least in three separate posts I’ve agreed that there are abuses, and I’ve generally acknowledged and agreed with what the two other MereOrthodoxy writers have written. My objection, and implicitly your objection, to Pastor Lucas’ statement is with his inclusion of all Evangelicals as toxic males. You’ve failed to understand my criticism and you’ve misrepresented my argument.

            You’ve singled out white males as some type of special culprit, but these types of “toxic masculinity” abuses occur in many hierarchical organizations. I have black Pastor friends and they’ve told me about their frustration within their own denominations power structure, (Church of God in Christ). Also, just a little bit of searching and reading about some Protestant churches in South Korea reveals the same type of power structure. So this is not a white phenomena, it is a human phenomena and it’s existed throughout our history in many different organizations. People in power are sometimes abusive. Within the church is should not happen but it certainly does.

            Christians are commanded to judge one-another. BTW, I’ve witnessed, and experienced some horrible abuse from fellow Evangelicals. Of course there is truth in Du Mez’s criticism. I do consider Pastor Lucas’ weakness as a disloyalty, but not because he criticizes fellow Christians. Instead, Pastor Lucas’ refused to take a stand against Du Mez’s over-arching, and bigoted, caricature of male Evangelicals.

            If you would have bothered to understand my critique of Pastor Lucas before replying you could have saved us both some time.

          4. As I’ve noted, neither Du Mez nor Sean are implying that their conclusions apply to every last white evangelical. You’re simply creating a straw man, and then taking on the straw man instead of the thesis of the book. Disparate counter-examples do not vitiate broader historical trends. If they did, then then one could never conduct historical analysis. Doh.

          5. Kiyoshi, here is the quote in question:
            “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”
            Evangelicals en masse have not embraced militant masculinity that condones callous display of power. We do not condone abuse. Further, the other two articles on this topic written by Christian women also take exception to Du Mez’s gross characterization. This is no strawman, this is Du Mez’s contention, and she’s wrong.

            I also disagree with your “disparate” comment. I’ve known hundreds of Evangelicals, pastors, layman, and regular church people. Most of them have been fine men and women. I’ve also known some very abusive, and sickening, Evangelicals, one who was a Pastor, who fit Du Mez’s stereotype.

            Your comment above supports my argument, and the other two writers as well. If anything you should be taking exception to Du Mez’s overreaching caricature.

          6. Where is your evidence? From what I can tell, you simply don’t like the fact that she’s called a spade a spade. Never mind that you’ve not even read the book or considered the evidence she’s proffered.

  7. I have been a Catholic priest for more than 30 years and I completely agree with this analysis of Evangelicalism. But I think that everything said here applies not only to Protestant Evangelicals but also to many Catholics, those whom I call “Fundamentalist” Catholics. The many Catholics whose fundamental world view is shaped much more by culture, by nationalism, by sexism, racism, by machismo, by Fox News, and by fear of losing power and control, fear of anything new or “different”. It also seems that everything said here about Evangelicals and “Fundamentalist” Catholics could also be said of fundamentalists of other religions such as Muslims and Hindus. It is sad but seems true that all of these seem shaped much more by nationalism, racism, machismo, misogyny and xenophobia instead of by the true teachings of their religion.

    Reply

    1. You indicate you have been a priest for 30-years, yet apparently are in lockstep with the virtue-signaling, sanctimonious left of your church- even though the majority of Catholics still consider themselves ‘conservative’. Isn’t that uncomfortable for you?

      Reply

      1. Why are you insulting a priest?

        Reply

  8. All right, let’s talk about the elephant in the room for a moment. Whatever one thinks of Trump’s policies, Hillary Clinton, abortion rights or gay marriage, Trump’s toxic masculinity did massive damage to the country that won’t even be known probably for years. He left us with crushing debt because he both raised spending and reduced taxes. He thoroughly destroyed our international prestige and wrecked alliances his predecessors spent decades building; Foreign Affairs is now reporting that the third world is increasingly looking to China for leadership largely because of Trump. He destabilized our democratic institutions, when he wasn’t waging full scale war on democracy itself. He spent weeks lying to his supporters about the election having been stolen, only to have a riot erupt at the Capitol, further damaging our international prestige. He started a trade war that was a catastrophe for American farmers. His militant masculinity, as you call it, essentially made him a bull in a china shop, and we now have nothing but glass shards to sweep up.

    And once it sinks in just how awful the consequences of his administration are, guess who’s going to get blamed for it? Evangelical Christians who supported him, that’s who. Not saying it’s fair, but that’s what’s going to happen. This is going to be catastrophic for the reputation of the evangelical church.

    Reply

    1. The crushing debt to which you refer existed before Donald Trump took office. The COVID pandemic relief bills had a lot to do with the record budget deficit for fiscal year 2020. Yes, Mr. Trump deserves some blame for a national debt approaching $28 trillion, but so do George W. Bush, Barack Obama and members of Congress in both parties. Evangelicals have plenty for which they need to answer; the debt crisis isn’t on them.

      Reply

  9. The reason Donald Trump generates the all-consuming, unbridled fury he does isn’t character flaws per se, though he has many. If it were character flaws alone, Washington D.C. would be a ghost town. It’s that he refuses tamely to submit to ritual castration by a mob. That mob is now behaving like addicts who have lost their supply. In July 2016 I was somewhere on I70 in central Ohio headed to the east coast, listening to a CBS radio morning call-in show. A woman called in and said, paraphrasing, “what you have to realize is that Donald Trump activates every woman’s inner control freak,” a sort of restatement of the Genesis 3 curse. There’s a modern recasting of chapter 3 as a whole, Spengler’s Universal Law of Gender Parity: “throughout all history, and in every corner of the world, the men and women of every culture have deserved each other.” The slow death of the 60-year so-called sexual revolution — which is unsustainable — has turned out to be a writhing, hideous, and agonizing spectacle. Prepare for more of the same.

    Reply

  10. There’s another way to look at Lewis’ article. He’s an Evangelical Pastor and he says that Du Mez’s statement that Evangelicals condone callous displays of power at home and abroad is irrefutable. Therefore isn’t Lewis an abusive, calloused Pastor?

    Pastor Lewis, do you display calloused power at home? Are Du Mez’s words true of you as you say it is true of other Evangelicals?

    What about the men in your church? Are they abusive towards their families? Is your church leadership accepting of these callous displays of power? For all your Christian education can you say these callous displays of power are acceptable to Christ? If not, why are you and your church partaking in it? Who would want to belong to a church like that?

    Maybe I’m being a little facetious but maybe Lewis pastors a church full of abusive calloused men. It’s easy for weak Christians to point the finger at the other. “Those Evangelicals are (enter progressive caricature here), but not me.” Evangelicals are not perfect but they don’t deserve to be thrown under the bus, to the delight of the world, by someone who claims to be one of them.

    Reply

  11. I’d like to recommend an article by another Mereorthodoxy writer, Jamie Carlson, on this topic. Carlson does a much better job in assessing Du Mez’s work. Unlike Lucas, she doesn’t compromise and bend the knee to the yet another liberal hit job. https://mereorthodoxy.com/accusations-arent-evidence-responding-jesus-john-wayne/

    This contrast alone highlights the difference in strength and clarity between Carlson and Lucas. Lucas is not a man you want leading the church. Certainly he’s qualified to be involved with other church-related ministry, but he’s not a Pastor who cares for and defends the flock. He’s too weak.

    Reply

    1. To be honest, with all of your comments that you’ve added already, it’s really sounding like you just have an axe to grind again Pastor Lucas. I don’t know, maybe you used to be a congregant at his church and have some ulterior motive, or you don’t like other things he’s written, or something else.

      Whatever other points you’re trying to make, you’re just clouding them up with your hatred of a minister of the Word.

      Reply

      1. Hi Rusty,
        I’ve never heard of Pastor Lucas until I read his article. There is no axe to grind. I would bet money that he’s very good and loving to his family and church.

        My problem is with his willingness to throw fellow Christians under the bus. We are instructed by Scripture to judge/evaluate ourselves, and each other. Part of the reason for that command is that we are not perfect, we do sin, and we do make mistakes. So fair and appropriate criticism of the church by fellow Christians is more than warranted, it is commanded.

        The other article I linked does criticize fellow Christians similar to how Lucas does. But that writer was able to discern Du Mez’s shallow and unfair approach.

        Yes, I can see that my sharp criticisms of Pastor Lucas would cloud my other points. I just feel that the body of Christ deserves better from a “shepherd.” Shepherds are to protect the flock, not turn them over to the wolves.

        Reply

        1. Jimbo: Let’s look at “throwing fellow Christians under the bus.” I don’t know who you think are fellow Christians, because some of us think there is a difference in acting under the banner of the name “Christian,” and reckoning with the fact that just because you call yourself a Christian doesn’t mean that you are. Talk is cheap and some of us “fellow Christians” do not acknowledge that the evangelicals who support Donald Trump can possibly be Christians. So there, I’ve said it. If we are going to call ourselves Christians, then we have to value the life of Jesus’ ministry and we have to BEHAVE as though we are followers of Jesus, not just churches who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, as they say. They will know we are Christians by our Love. Love is not apparent in anything Trump or his enablers have done, therefore it isn’t from God or Christ. If we had asked “what would Jesus do” in these times, well, it wouldn’t have been anything that Trump or his enablers (evangelicals prominently among them) did.

          Reply

          1. You’re wrong here Psy. For example, President Trump didn’t start any wars, in fact he withdrew US presence from war zones. That is a great thing. Further, he cut taxes for everyone, that is a great thing. He also stimulated the economy and unemployment hit record 60 year lows. That is also great. He also was anti-abortion, which is a definitely a Christian thing. So yes, President Trump did some very good things.

            The Christians I know who supported Trump, mostly Evangelicals or Charismatics, and Catholics and Orthodox, are all engaged in walking the walk. They support food banks, pay to help house the homeless during winter, provide free food and clothing, go to foreign countries and did wells, build churches and schools, and provide free medical and dental to the poor. Yeah, we are definitely walking the walk. Long after Trump is gone we’ll continue to do as Christ commanded us.

  12. […] quote will give you a taste of this reflection on the recent book Jesus and John […]

    Reply

  13. Here’s another recent article published on this theme and it is far more balanced than Pastor Lucas’ knee-buckling cave-in. https://religionnews.com/2021/02/09/still-baptist-and-evangelical/

    Karen Swallow Prior has also seen her fair share of sin in the church yet she does not paint all Evangelicals as John Wayne worshippers. Instead she’s aware of the tens of thousands of Evangelical laymen and clergy who serve the body of Christ, as they serve Christ.

    Reply

  14. […] called the book one of the most important on modern evangelicalism in the past four decades. A review for the Christian website Mere Orthodoxy said the book should be required reading for evangelicals. Du Mez’s book also inspired a […]

    Reply

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *