Christian Humanist Profiles, Episode 200: Jesus and John Wayne

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Since the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States in 2016, there have been countless thinkpieces seeking to explain the cause of a political shift that, to many, seemed to come out of nowhere. Many such thinkpieces focused on the apparent hypocrisy inherent in the fact that 81% of white Evangelical voters supported Trump despite the fact that his brash, vulgar public persona and his attitudes toward women and marriage contradicted their publicly held values. In her book Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, Calvin College historian Kristin DuMez ultimately argues that Evangelical Trump supporters hold this position not in spite of his demeanor, but because of it. DuMez expertly traces the development of autocratic militant Evangelical masculinity over more than a century, from the valorization of man’s man Teddy Roosevelt to preachers like Billy Graham and James Dobson framing men as divinely ordained leaders of family and country, and culminating in the widespread commercial marketing of so-called Biblical gender roles in the twentieth century, in niche bookstores as well as on radio and television. Importantly, she also notes the connections between the popularizing of such gender roles with the ideology of Christian nationalism. It is this connection between the small scale dominance of the home and the large-scale dominance of global politics, all in the name of a hyper-masculine Jesus, that brought the United States to the current moment. Those who were surprised at that moment’s arrival just weren’t paying attention to the right patterns.

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