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

Liveright: Norton. Jun. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781631495731. $28.95. HIST
Historian Du Mez (history, Calvin Univ.; A New Gospel for Women) offers an insightful examination of white Christian masculinities from the era of Billy Graham and John Wayne to Mark Driscoll and Donald Trump. In response to mid-20th century social movements that challenged white supremacy, patriarchal authority, and American imperialism, Du Mez argues, conservative white evangelicals wholeheartedly embraced the figure of a heroic white man who defended America as a (conservative evangelical) Christian nation against a wide range of perceived internal and external threats, from secular humanism, feminism, and communism to antiwar activists, immigrants, and the Islamic world. While approved scripts for white Christian manhood since the 1960s have always been multiple, they have nevertheless all required a commitment to fervent nationalism, aggressive militarism, and an uncompromising view of gender that is both essentialist and complementarian. Du Mez covers a lot of cultural ground and at times the narrative feels rushed; readers unfamiliar with the many different movements will likely finish with a list of topics for further investigation.
VERDICT This timely exploration helps readers place President Trump and his supporters in the context of white Christian America’s reaction to mid-20th-century social justice activism.
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