A Christian college in Michigan recently hosted an event blaming “white evangelicals” for a notably anti-faith act: the 2016 election of Donald J. Trump.
As reported by The Daily Wire, “Jesus and John Wayne” was hosted by Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a history and gender studies professor.
It was based on Kristin’s book, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.
A notable notion delivered in the Calvin University presentation: White Christians put into power American history’s “least Christian president.”
From the official description:
Challenging the commonly held assumption that the “moral majority” backed Donald Trump for purely pragmatic reasons, “Jesus and John Wayne” reveals that Donald Trump in fact represents the fulfillment, rather than the betrayal, of white evangelicals’ most deeply held values.
Evidently, Christians have royally messed up America:
This cultural history of American evangelicalism explains why evangelicals rallied behind the least-Christian president in American history and how they have transformed their faith in the process, with enduring consequences for all of us.
As noted by the Wire, Kristin’s “lecture was the third in a series of seminars on the theme of ‘religion, racism, and white supremacy.’”
TDW dissects her message:
The crux of Kobes Du Mez’s argument is that “militaristic Christian manhood” created a “patriarchal” “authority” that led to the rise of strong, conservative leaders such as Ronald Reagan, Billy Graham, and Donald Trump. She claims that the embodiment of “Christian masculinity” began with Teddy Roosevelt and white evangelicals’ support of wars.
According to Kobes Du Mez’s lecture, Christianity became about militarism and manhood during the Cold War. The author claims that Communists threatened the freedoms and liberties espoused in Christian teachings, so Christians militarized as a defense mechanism.
She further blamed the late Billy Graham for introducing what she calls “Christian nationalism” and “gender traditionalism” into Christianity. According to Kobes Du Mez, Graham played an outsized role in promoting the gender roles that males are masculine and females and feminine.
From Kristin’s speech:
“Billy Graham is also at the heart of kind of establishing this new ‘evangelical identity’ that resonates widely. Billy Graham embraces Christian nationalism. That’s right at the heart of this evangelism and gender traditionalism. The very distinct gender roles that celebrate [the] masculine role of provider and protector and a feminine role of being protected and being submissive and very, very feminine.”
She told students she had to stop work on her book at one point.
The reason: Christianity’s emphasis on masculinity was “extreme” and “incredibly disturbing.”
For Christians to vote for Trump, she’d initially surmised, was to “betray their values.”
Eventually Kristin corrected herself.
She elaborated on that realization in a 2020 interview with National Public Radio:
“I think that the last four years have been clarifying for many evangelicals, for many observers of evangelicalism. When Donald Trump was elected, white evangelicals were absolutely critical to his victory. And for a lot of observers and for some evangelicals themselves, this seemed contradictory. It seemed like evangelicals had betrayed their values. But if you look at this longer history of evangelical masculinity and militarism, then you see that this wasn’t a betrayal. This isn’t just hypocrisy that we’re seeing; this is consistent with the sort of values that evangelicals have long held to.”
As explained to Calvin students, she chose John Wayne as a reference in her book because he was an emblem of “Christian masculinity.”
The professor put it this way to NPR:
“There are millions of copies of books that have been sold within evangelical circles on what does it mean to be a Christian man. And when I started reading these books, what struck me was there were only a few Bible verses kind of sprinkled here and there. But when they were looking for models of Christian manhood, they really looked to kind of secular heroes or mythical heroes — so warriors or soldiers or cowboys.”
As indicated during Kristin’s address, the infamous Access Hollywood clip didn’t help her impression of the church and its priorities:
“In the wake of the Access Hollywood tape, it suddenly dawned on me: We’ve seen this before, we’ve seen this so many times before. I had files on it of evangelicals who embraced and supported abusive leaders, who embraced strong men, who are rugged, who are following this Warrior Christ, who would fight to protect Christianity, to protect their interests.”
It seems surprising she’d want to affiliate with such a group. And at a school named after a man, no less.
Perhaps the instructor’s there to make a difference.
With any luck, she will.
Either way, hopefully she’s happy: According to her thesis, America elected a more Christian guy this time around.
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