Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation

MON, SEP 20, 2021 (59:51)

In her unexpected NYT best-seller, Kristin Du Mez traces how a militant ideal of white, Christian manhood has come to pervade evangelical popular culture in America.

Hollywood’s strong men icon, portrayed by actors like John Wayne and Mel Gibson, have coopted core biblical teachings such as loving one’s neighbors and enemies, adding a militant battle cry. Mainstream evangelical leaders preach a “mutually reinforcing vision of Christian masculinity – of patriarchy and submission, sex and power.” DuMez argues this culminated in the hero worship of Donald Trump, who embodies the ideal of militant masculinity, protector and warrior.

Du Mez examines the disconnect between purported Christian ethics and the rise of sexual abuse, corruption and scandal within the evangelical church. She argues that the current brand of Christian nationalism which has come to dominate national politics and family values in recent times, is “more John Wayne than Jesus”.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Forum’s THE SEARCH FOR MEANING, a 3 part series looking at the benefits and failures of organized religion in the U.S.

+ BIO: Jon Butler

Jon Butler is Howard R. Lamar Professor Emeritus of American Studies, History, and Religious Studies at Yale University and has served as the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, 2004-2010, Chair of the Department of History, 1999-2004, and Chair of the American Studies Program, 1988-1993. In 2010 he received the Byrnes-Sewall Prize for Teaching Excellence in Yale College and the Edward Bouchet Leadership Award for Diversity and Equal Opportunity. He grew up in rural Minnesota and earned his B.A. (1964) and Ph.D. (1972) from the University of Minnesota. His books include Power, Authority, and the Origins of American Denominational Order (Am Phil Soc, 1978; new ed. U of Ala Press, 2009), The Huguenots in America: A Refugee People in New World Society (Harvard UP, 1983; Soloutos Prize and Chinard Prize); Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (Harvard UP, 1990; Outler Prize, the AHA Beveridge Award for Best Book in American History); Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776 (Harvard UP, 2000), and Religion in American Life: A Short History, co-authored with Grant Wacker and Randall Balmer (Oxford UP, 2003), as well as many articles and reviews. In 2006 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causis, from the University of Minnesota. He is writing a book, God in Gotham, about religion in Manhattan from the Gilded Age to the Kennedy election.

+ BIO: Jemar Tisby

Dr. Jemar Tisby is a historian, author, and speaker. He wrote the New York Times bestselling book, The Color of Compromise and his second book, How to Fight Racism, came out in 2021, the day before the January 6 Insurrection. He is the founder of The Witness, Inc., co-host of the Pass The Mic podcast, and you can keep up with his latest musings via his newsletter, Footnotes.

+ BIO: Kristin Du Mez

Author and historian who teaches at Calvin University. Longtime member of a Christian Reformed Church and although raised as a “cultural evangelical” with Christian music and sexual abstinence, she belongs to a progressive branch of the church.

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