Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez

The second I saw the title of this book I had to pick it up and see what it was all about. What on earth could Jesus and John Wayne have in common? I also never understood our infatuation with John Wayne, but that’s besides the point, so I started reading to find out. It turns out that John Wayne was a prototype of Christian masculinity, the masculine ideal, the touchstone for Christian manhood, the ideal of white men battling non-white populations, good against evil, red white and blue, aggression, redemptive violence. All of this despite the fact that he had a string of broken marriages and abuse allegations, and, oh yeah, was a legit, crazy racist as well. But no matter. Du Mez traces the roots of Christian nationalism, fundamentalism, it’s cult of masculinity and how it directly effected the politics of the day, and shaped an entire culture in its wake. Turns out, there is a direct connection from John Wayne to Reagan to Trump, and as I’ve pointed out in other notes, this was no accident. The leaders of the movement deliberately twisted and diluted the so-called American ideal with a culture and ideology based on false truths, myths, and limited perspective. It’s a unique and interesting take on the 20th century, but one that obviously continues to reverberate today.

  • Trump was not an aberration — culmination of evangelical embrace of militant masculinity, patriarchal authority and condones the callous display of power, at home and abroad
  • derides gentleness for wussies
  • defend faith and nation, secure in knowledge that ends justify means
  • Christian nationalism — white evangelicals belief that america is god’s chosen nation, must be defended as such
  • rugged, aggressive, militant white masculinity
  • bible is ultimate authority, patriarchal authority, gender difference, christian nationalism — intertwines with white racial identity
  • rarely consume media that is not conceived of or produced outside of this world
  • righteousness of white christian america — white christian americans, won hearts and minds of large numbers of american christians
  • about culture and theology
  • John Wayne was an icon of christian masculinity, although not an evangelical christian, he was not
  • militant masculinity linked religious and secular conservatism
  • 40’s and 50’s — believed they had a special role to play to keep america christian, american families strong, nation secure — assertion of masculine power could do this
  • family values politics by the 70’s, defense of patriarchal power as an evangelical distinctive
  • leaders worked to stoke their fears
  • discern god’s will, bring order to uncertain times, extend power
  • early 20th, century, christians had a masculinity problem — men punching a clock, moved to cities
  • women, immigrants a threat — Teddy Roosevelt was framed as an effort to restore american manhood, hypermasculinity
  • WWI — christian loyalty belonged to God’s kingdom, not to the nation — fundamentalists emerged patriotic, combative, cantankerous
  • out of step with mainstream america, american culture
  • WWII and Billy Graham — newfound patriotism and militarism would help them overcome reputation as extremeists and marginal status
  • military welcomed the work of evangelical organizations — was largely drunken, vulgar, promiscuous
  • Graham preached gospel of heroic christian nationalism — wives must submit to husbands, stability of nation and home
  • L.A. Hollywood, Sunbelt, evangelicals flocked — cowboy was frontier freedom, righteous authority
  • John Wayne was the masculine ideal — touchstone for christian manhood
  • defense of white patriarchy, center of cultural and political identity
  • Eisenhower was close with Graham — added In God We Trust, one nation under God
  • Cold war — evangelicals raised the stakes
  • heroic christian man was also a white man — didn’t accept critique by Civil Rights of the nation
  • Barry Goldwater — truculent style and aggressive foreign policy went hand in hand with cowboy mystique
  • white evangelicals significant part of Nixon’s Silent Majority
  • advanced moral equivalencies to Vietnam, minimized violence — pivotal to forming identity, believed that absence of american power leads to catastrophe
  • nationalism, militarism, gender traditionalism defined identity and ideological allies
  • fills and politics, Wayne was the embodiment of a rugged, all american masculinity — white men battling nonwhite populations, good against evil, red white and blue, modeled masculine strength, aggression, redemptive violence — string of broken marriages and abuse allegations, was a crazy racist as well
  • 70’s books and beliefs of submission of wives to husbands, treat your husband like a king, revere and cater to him
  • no gays, no gayrights, no same sex relationships, distinct gender roles
  • Phyllis Schlafly — Women’s rights were achieved through family structure and ensured through men’s chivalry
  • they linked abortion to feminism — assault on women’s god given role, on the family and on christian america itself
  • defend place in the world, protect way of life that depended on gender difference, protection from god
  • the language of critics of the ERA was the same used by segregationists — white fears of imagined black male aggression
  • Schlaffly helped unite white christians around a rigid and deeply conservative vision of family and nation
  • James Dobson — parents should reassert authority over unruly children; children were sinful and unruly creatures, inclined towards defiance and rebellion
  • Focus on the Family — defend the institution of family — Dobson was a fixture in the homes of millions of americans
  • enforcement of women’s sexual and social subordination in the home and promotion of militarism nationally
  • Jerry Falwell — brazen militancy and militarism; the family was in peril, america was failing to protect families
  • Moral Majority — political organization with the purpose of training, mobilizing and electrifying the religious right, christian nationalism
  • in Reagan, the Right found it’s leader — strong, masculine leadership the country needed, not a wuss like Jimmy Carter
  • tough on crime — but domestic abuse, sexual assault and child abuse didn’t register
  • Reagan was adept at using racially coded rhetoric — states rights, law and oder, forced busing
  • southern baptists began to unite with evangelicals based on patriarchal authority
  • Reagan believed in a strong military and aggressive foreign policy, just like evangelicals
  • Oliver North became a hero to the christian right, post Iran Contra — invented Rambo before Rambo, created his own myth
  • myriad of scandals in the church in the 80’s — North was a hero to rally around, and raise money around
  • they hated Hilary in the 90’s — triggered fear, resentment, disdain among many conservative women, some of whom felt devalued by her very existence — especially after she tried to push health care
  • Clinton administration threatened parental authority, orderly society and american sovereignty, with gays in the military and peace keeping missions
  • women did not belong in the field of battle
  • saw Anita Hill as representative of the corrupt and conniving influence of modern feminism, stood behind Thomas
  • Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Fox — throwback masculinity was at the heart of their appeal
  • Fox News = nostalgic vision where white men still dominated, liberals demonized, militant masculinity sexualized femininity offered a vision for the way things ought to be
  • into the 90’s, books and other media came out — differences with men and women, father needed to protect sons from feminization, homo’s were made, not born, boys will be boys, men as warriors
  • also female sexual purity culture — men had to protect women and their chastity
  • women were judged for not upholding the ideal, needed to wait until marriage
  • evangelicals didn’t seem to mind abstinence based groups getting federal funding — government intrusion into most intimate matters
  • into 2000’s — men must be hero’s, warriors, too much feminization of men by culture and churches, emasculation of boys
  • 9/11 — call for manly heroes resonated — widely supported Bush going to war in Iraq
  • difficult to distinguish militant masculinity with those closer to the center, margins from the mainstream
  • christian homeschooling became rampant — reinforcing biblical patriarchy
  • exclusion of alternative views would contribute to radicalization of evangelicalism in post 9/11 america
  • Colorado Springs emerged as evangelicals raided the US military growth in the area
  • spiritual gettysburg — female submission, male authority, abuse was rampant
  • evangelicals fucking love Mel Gibson — Braveheart, We Were Soldiers, The Patriot, Passion of the Christ
  • increasingly, evangelicalism was the religion of the majority in the armed forces — tons of sexual assault
  • 9/11 — Islam replaced communism as the enemy of america and all that was good
  • embraced militant interpretation of Islamic faith and their positions of power to advance religious agenda, saw as wholly fused with their military mission
  • Jerry Boykin worked directly with Rumsfeld “global free fire zone” — Gitmo, Abu Ghraib
  • invasion of Iraq = neoconservative agenda and perpetual war they longed for, warrior president as well
  • Obama presidency would strengthen evangelicals sense of embattlement and embolden the more militant voices within the movement — stronger with a clear enemy to fight
  • Walmart became the nations largest supplier of christian merchandise, selling over 1B annually
  • hated Hillary, obviously — looking for a protector, an aggressive, heroic man man, someone who wasn’t restrained by political correctness or feminine virtues, someone who would break the rules for the right cause
  • Trump = aggressive militant masculinity, ultimate fighting champion for evangelicals
  • knew how to get attention, knew how to tap into anger and resentment
  • Trump and Wayne represented white manhood, swaggering glory, strength, power
  • testosterone and recklessness was all part of the deal, Trump would fight for them
  • embodied american strength, on the global stage as well
  • the more bombastic and unconventional he became, the more evangelicals rallied to his side
  • fears about culture displacement far outweighed economic concerns — threatened loss of status
  • support for Trump was strongest among white christian men — not decided by those “left behind”, decided by dominant groups anxious about their future status
  • character flaws would be overlooked in the interest of defending religious freedom and the unborn
  • right and wrong, good and evil, black and white world
  • Trump was the culmination of a half century long pursuit of militant christian masculinity
  • evangelicals tendency to deny and dismiss allegations of abuse were nothing new — endemic to the movement
  • assumptions about sex and power — patriarchal power to masculine aggression and sexual desire — submissive femininity
  • women and children ripe for abuse
  • victims pressured to forgive abusers and avoid involving law enforcement
  • the more an evangelical leader emphasized male authority and female submission, the more twisted his justifications for any personal scandal
  • non chalante about the dangers of unchecked power when that power was in the hands of a patriarch
  • promised protection for women but left women without defense, worshipped power and turned a blind eye to justice, transformed Jesus of the gospels into an image of their own making
  • guns cultivate authentic, god given masculinity
  • common sense of embattlement links rhetoric of NRA to evangelicals — bunker mentality strengthens identity, loyalty, fuels militancy
  • guns carry a symbolic weight in the context of militancy
  • america is vulnerable — tough, aggressive, militant men must defend her
  • building walls to keep immigrants out
  • masculine authority, militarism, sexual and spiritual subordination
  • written by and for white men, largely, creation of white evangelicals, this cult of masculinity
  • without christian nationalism, evangelical militarism makes little sense

I love books, I have a ton of them, and I take notes on all of them. I wanted to share all that I have learned and will continue to learn. I hope you enjoy.

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