I read Jesus and John Wayne, but I do not recommend it. It is well-written, but it is misleading and is a mischaracterization of evangelicalism. But, my fear is that if we aren’t careful, this book could become a work of prophecy instead of an attempt at history. Without careful course correction, evangelicals could become so consumed with political power, Supreme Court influence, and fear of a leftward-lurching culture that we could lose sight of the marching orders of Jesus.
I recently read Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez with every intention of writing a thorough book review. Du Mez is a good writer and has carefully sourced the book. In fact, I know it is well written because I actually enjoyed reading it, even though I disagreed with so much in the book.
As I said, I had every intention of writing a book review, but this isn’t it, and I’m not sure I can write a thorough review. The author has sought to address her concerns with evangelicalism since the turn of the twentieth century. In so doing, she has created false narratives by condensing long strands of historical events into small chapters and conflating disparate evangelical movements into a [supposedly] carefully orchestrated stream of political activism. Du Mez’s evangelicalism did not exist throughout the twentieth century and does not exist today. A thorough review would require far more time than I am willing to give.
However, I will take time to address one of her conclusions. On page 297 she writes,
Despite evangelical’s 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. Evangelical views on any given issue are facets of this larger cultural identity, and no numbers of Bible verses will dislodge the greater truths at the heart of it.
This is quite a statement and is built primarily off of her belief that evangelicals have conflated Jesus with John Wayne and as a result put Donald Trump in the White House.
First, I want to point out that her position on Jesus and John Wayne is foreign to me. I have spent all of my nearly 40 years of life in evangelical Southern Baptist churches. I have attended youth camps, men’s conferences, and a combined 8 years of seminary education. Never, not one time, have I ever heard anyone even suggest that John Wayne is a good example of what a Christian man should be.