Can acknowledging the wounds of white evangelicalism actually bring healing? Kristin Du Mez, author of Jesus and John Wayne, talks with Amy Julia about the harm of militant masculinity and Christian nationalism found within white evangelicalism and the hope for healing by exposing and addressing those wounds.
Kristin Kobes Du Mez is professor of History and Gender Studies at Calvin University and the author of Jesus and John Wayne. She holds a PhD from the University of Notre Dame, and her research focuses on the intersection of gender, religion, and politics.
Connect with Kristin online:
On the Podcast:
“The closer I looked, the more I saw John Wayne popping up in very unexpected places as the icon of American masculinity and Christian masculinity.”
“We have seen this before. We have seen this so many times before—evangelicals finding reasons to support abusers of power, to support men who they thought would protect the faith, protect Christianity—and at great costs to women, to children, and to their communities.”
“It doesn’t take a lot always to slip from metaphorical battles to actual battles.”
“How did we get to where we are now? There were many choices, active choices, that individuals made at different junctures, often for the purpose of enhancing their own power, and we can start to see how all of this came together...Then we are freer to ask, “Is this where we want to be? Is this how evangelicals—how Christians—ought to engage our neighbors?”
“What is the Good News? And what should that look like? And how much should it actually entail building walls and drawing stark divisions and excluding people from our communities?”
Thank you to Breaking Ground, the co-host for this podcast.
Head, Heart, Hands, Season 4 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast, is based on my e-book Head, Heart, Hands, which accompanies White Picket Fences. Check out free RESOURCES that are designed to help you respond to the harm of privilege and join in the work of healing. Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
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Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
My friends I'm Amy Julia Becker and this is love is stronger than Fear a podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of social division. In this season, we are talking about how we can respond to the brokenness in our own lives and in our society with our heads, hearts and hands. And you can check out my ebook head, heart hands, if you want a better framework for these conversations, Today we get to jump into a conversation about White Evangelicalism and that brings up questions of political and racial divisions. And those are particularly pertinent. Given our historical moment. My guest is a history professor Kristin Du Mez, and I'll introduce you to her and a second, but just as a brief introduction, she has really helped me and her recent book Jesus and John Wayne has helped me to understand the cultural forces of Evangelicalism and how those forces have played in the recent political events.
I am someone who grew up as a Christian and as a Christian within Evangelicalism. So I got to be honest. This was all somewhat scary conversation for me to have, and it was a somewhat hard book for me to read, but I'm really grateful because I feel like I know have a better understanding of the History and the social forces that have contributed too many of our current national divisions. I do believe that understanding how those divisions arose will help me will help us participate in Healing those same division's. So, in today's episode, we get to talk about the events at the Capitol on January 6th, we talk about everyone from John Wayne to Phyllis Schlafly, to Jonathan,
0 (1m 39s):
And we talk about what it might look like to move forward.
1 (1m 45s):
My guest today is Kristen Du, may she she's a professor of history at Calvin college and the author of a book that came out last June, but it is already in its third printing for reasons that I think are going to become clear. It's called Jesus and John Wayne How Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation Kristin thank you for joining us. Oh, thank you for having me. All right. So I'd been hearing about your books for a couple of months now, by friends who grew up in and around Evangelicalism in America. And then it came up again, especially after the event on January 6th, with the insurrection that happened at the U S capital.
1 (2m 25s):
And knowing that that event had a lot of people who described themselves as Evangelicals, who either have participated or who were present for the March on the Capitol, even if they weren't actually inside the building or storming in the Capitol. And so it just brought my attention back to your book, and I'm really glad that I then took the time to read it and get a chance to talk to you today. And I have a lot of questions for you, but I wanted to start off by just like framing or a conversation because I, no, we don't have hours to talk. And I'd like to do, you know, kind of a Roundup of the history of in America, you know, in five minutes or less. I mean, maybe not quite that, but you know, to do some sort of like, okay, big picture, historical overview, and then obviously try to understand the implications of all of that for our present moment.
1 (3m 13s):
And especially as we start to reflect on a, the Trump presidency and all of it represents, but then I'd like to conclude by talking about what it might look like to heal from some of the divisions that we are really facing right now. But I thought before we got in to all of that, I would love to hear just a little bit about you personally, if you'd be willing to just tell us a little bit about yourself and your own faith tradition and how writing this book relates to who you are and where you come from. SHOW
2 (3m 41s):
Sure. So I grew up in Sioux center, Iowa, a very small town in Northwest Iowa in a, a conservative Christian community. A lot of people ask you, how are you? Evangelicals where are you? Evangelicals and then that's, it all depends on definitions. I grew up in a, an ethnic sub-culture. So Dutch reformed. I am a member of the Christian reform church. My mom was a Dutch immigrant. And so I always kind of had one foot in one foot out. I never identified as an evangelical people in my tradition tended to identify over against Evangelicals, but looking back, I can also see that I was deeply influenced by Evangelicalism through the popular culture.
2 (4m 23s):
So I grew up listening only to Christian contemporary music, and we had one book store in my town and it was a Christian bookstore, right. And so, you know, he listened to the James Dobson on the radio in my home. And so, ah, I think that that really influenced the approach that I took to the history of Evangelicalism understanding the Evangelicalism is not purely a set of theological beliefs. It's not based even on church attendance where you go to the church it's I came to see it as how deeply you are emersed in the evangelical subculture in this evangelical consumer culture, how much your, your religious, cultural and political values are shaped by, by this, this broader culture.
1 (5m 11s):
So, and at some point you decided, and I'm going to actually do the research to link all those things together, going back really about a a hundred years.
2 (5m 21s):
Yeah. Yeah. So the, the book itself. So the idea for this research that goes back a long time, more than 15 years, and I wasn't primarily interested in writing a history of Evangelicalism, but my attention was drawn to ideas of evangelical masculinity. And so this was back in around 2005, 2006, and I had been lecturing at Calvin in a class on U S history and Teddy Roosevelt than I was telling my students how masculinity works in history, how it can be linked to American power, to empire, to religion, to economic shifts and all sorts of things. After that class, a couple of male students came up to me and said, professor to me, there's this book you have to read.
2 (6m 4s):
And it was John Eldridge as wild at heart. And I listened to them. I opened it. And the book opens with this quote from Teddy Roosevelt's and it goes on to, scatch a very militaristic consumption of Christian manhood. This was at the time of the Iraq war. And we are seeing all this survey data about how Evangelicals embrace the war preemptive or in general can down the use of torture. And a, and so I just started to ask as, as a historian trade in Gender what might we have to have to do with the other? And so that was a long time ago and I ended up starting the project aside for us for various reasons. And I, and I picked it up again in the fall of 2016.
2 (6m 46s):
And it, it was at that point when I went to pick the research up again, that I realized I, I was really backing into these broader questions of what is Evangelicalism, how does Evangelicalism work? How has the authority structured and, and what does this look like really at the popular level? So this is a History of evangelical popular culture and really kind of the consumer side of things. What does it look like for ordinary people?
1 (7m 11s):
Well, and that kind of brings us to your title. And I'll say, when I first heard this title Jesus and John Wayne, I was confused because I didn't actually understand with some implicit or automatic response why those two figures would be held together in a book about American Evangelicalism. And honestly, I was a little skeptical. I was like, okay, what shortcuts is she taking me? And why? I mean, I just don't, I don't buy it. And so, first of all, I'm going to apologize for the skepticism because you did convince me, I do think it's a bit of a shortcut, but a helpful one, like a way to actually frame in a very short way, what you're talking about when it comes to both the masculinity and the militant TISM and of Evangelicalism as it has developed in the United States.
1 (7m 57s):
So I'm wondering if you can do a little bit of a history lesson for us, maybe using John Wayne as a touchpoint over the course of, you know, what, what did, what did you learn about Jesus and John Wayne specifically as you looked at this History.
2 (8m 12s):
Yeah. And so I did not set out to write a book about John Wayne. No, not at all. I I'm as surprised as, as you are. So, and it is a bit of a short title has to do a lot of things, and this is also a trade book. So I've always considered this, my book about white evangelical masculinity in militarism, early on in the titling process on the publisher made clear that as a trade book, we were not allowed to use the words, masculinity or militarism in the title because they were too long. So you can see the dilemma So yeah. So we ended up having to get a little creative. I mean, I had already kind of landed on Jesus and John Wayne and, and the, the way that that happened is that, you know, when I looked at John elder book, and then I looked at all of the other literature on Evangelicals masculinity, that was just bubbling up at the time, right?
2 (9m 2s):
Eldridge his book sold more than 4 million copies. So it really spawned this cottage industry. And, and I was really startled 'cause, you know, I had kind of taken Evangelicals at their word. They tend to define themselves as Bible-believing Christians and these books didn't have a lot of Bible verses and the men went and the one's that they had were really kind of ripped out of context. And instead they looked to Hollywood heroes for models of quote, unquote Christian masculinity, So, you know, an elder, I just didn't cite John Wayne, but he loved Mel Gibson's William Wallace from the movie, Braveheart and random soldier's and Cole boys, and just a mythical heroes warriors in so many of these other books did the same.
2 (9m 45s):
And the closer I looked, the more I saw John Wayne just popping up in very unexpected places as the icon of American masculinity and Christian masculinity. And so I became really curious about that. And I, I traced back through history and, and came to see how in the post-World war II era, as Evangelicalism were really consolidating their power uniting in the national association of evangelicals. And, and they were, they were kind of coalescing around a set of issues, Christian nationalism, as the cold war context, Gender traditionalism. So the stark difference between men and women and, and for men that looked like being a masculine protectors and for women, it meant being vulnerable and submissive and race was a part of this too.
2 (10m 37s):
This was always a kind of white patriarchy. And I saw these issues come together in the 1940s, fifties, and sixties. And it was at that time that a John Wayne was also at the height of his popularity. And he came to stand for, this is kind of quote, unquote, traditional American masculinity, much the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt himself. So Don Wade as a cowboy, a hero and, and that's, you know, his early stardom. And then he started in the world war II movies, where he was fighting the good war and, and, you know, fighting against the Japanese. And then he started in the green Berets where he, he, he brought that heroic, American manhood to the battlefields in Vietnam.
2 (11m 23s):
And he really did come to symbolize for American conservatives. This is kind of a retro grade masculinity, the throwback masculinity that came to be a symbol of conservatism and increasingly a symbol of white evangelical masculinity as well. And so what I ended up doing is just kind of tracing this History through, through the decades from the 1940s up to the present. And we can see consistent patterns where men like John Wayne men like Donald Trump to jump ahead of time. And in many in between ended up kind of serving as models of this, a quote unquote Christian masculinity, this, this warrior masculinity, this protector for Christians precisely because they have not been formed by traditional Christian virtue.
2 (12m 16s):
They were unrestrained by a certain biblical pronouncements. Like I love your enemy or the fruit of the spirit. And for that reason, they were able to fight for Christianity and to defend, to protect the interests of American Evangelicals.
1 (12m 34s):
Yeah. I remember even thinking once I was convinced that John Wayne was the right symbol for what you were talking about, then being so struck, as you did quote, multiple different sources of these popular Christian books in which there was a direct reference to John Wayne specifically, not just someone who might be like John Wayne, but actually John Wayne and then, yeah, there's a photograph in the book of John Wayne's daughter with the president. Trump has that, right. Am I remembering that correctly? You know, so again, I was like, Oh yeah, she, she did a good job. She got me I'm so thank you. Thank you for that. I do want to, also, before we move on to stop and define our terms a little bit, because I have, you know, been to seminary and I've taken church history classes.
1 (13m 17s):
And I think that sometimes a kind of a theological definition of evangelicalism is different from what you're talking about, which is a more sociological definition of maybe Evangelicalism. And then there's also this idea of fundamentalism, which again, in like a church history class, where are those were differentiated for me? And I felt like you put them back together in this book for reasons you spell it out. But I'm wondering before we continue, can you explain what you're talking about with the word Evangelicalism?
2 (13m 49s):
Yeah. So I'm, I'm really kind of pushing back in this book against other scholars and many evangelical leaders themselves who insist on a theological definition. So the theological definition, usually it goes something along the lines of the Bebbington quadrilateral as History nerds tend to call it So. So this is a kind of a It approach, a sketched out by a historian David Bevington long ago, British historian. And he, so we were talking about the authority of the Bible as is, is, is central to understanding Evangelicalism emphasis on conversion as I'm a born again, Crusoe the centrism, meaning the centrality of the cross and Christ's atonement, and then evangelism and activism.
2 (14m 37s):
So acting out a, on these beliefs. So that's the kind of technical definition. I fully intended to use that when I started this book, that's kind of what historians do you say? Here's the definition. And then you go, right, you're your book. But what I came to see is a way that your personal observation, and there are my sources that theology traditionally defined did not seem to be at the core of evangelical identity. In fact, survey data suggest that Evangelicals tend to have high levels of theological illiteracy, many hold Vuse that have traditionally been defined as heresy. And so if that's the case, you know, I wanted to start to think about what does it, why do people self identify as Evangelicals?
2 (15m 21s):
What does that mean? And I, I also came to see that if you use a kind of theological Rubrik, you end up at a really having a, a, a really large bucket that you were putting people into. So the majority of black Protestants, for example, would check off those boxes. So are they Evangelicals, I mean, you can argue such if you use that definition, the majority of global Christians are as well as global Protestants. So I'm, which is fine. If you want to define it that way, and you can ask them interesting questions. But when I looked at History, when I looked at kind of lived experience, when I looked at who was actually in community with him, that's when it didn't make so much sense, too, a pile of black Protestants who are largely attended a separate churches, participated in In as a separate tradition and had vastly different understandings of a activism of a, you know, political M the political outgrowth of their theological beliefs.
2 (16m 23s):
Yeah. It, it didn't make sense to, to lump them together in terms of describing a phenomenon that I wanted to describe. And so that's why the actual for the subtitle, my book is how White Evangelicals Corrupted and Faith, and Fractured, and Nation, 'cause, I'm talking specifically about White Evangelicalism, and, and, and that, that's a really important distinction as a historical movement. And in terms of cultural identity, White Evangelicals, I think I need to be examined, not completely separate from a other quote, unquote Evangelicals, but as a, as a fairly distinct to movement. And so it was, so that's one of the things in terms of defining Evangelicalism.
2 (17m 6s):
So then how do I define it? I just said to her how I don't define it according to a theological rubric, I, I think of it as a series of networks and alliances and as a consumer culture. So a guy who is Evangelicalism, a guy came up with a list early on. You might be Evangelicals. If you grew up listening to James, Dobson's focus on the family, you grew up watching, VeggieTales, you know, you listened to Christian contemporary music, you know, this is a whole list of, or did you participate in this culture where you formed by these values? You know, maybe you attended a mega church. Did you grew up reading John Piper, those sorts of things.
2 (17m 47s):
And I came to kind of map out Evangelicalism as this as a network. And so I actually had three amazing research students who helped me with this, and we had big sheets of butcher paper in my office, and tons of sticky notes and a sticky notes identifying in a John Piper, desiring God council and biblical manhood and womanhood, and the gospel coalition, the SBC Lifeway, Christian publishing, like all of these things, and then lines and individuals and lines connecting them and just mapping out. And to me, that really is alcoholism it's relationships, it's distribution networks. And then, and then we can start to look at what are the ideas that flow along these lines?
2 (18m 29s):
What are the ideas that will lead to your inclusion in these networks? And what are the ideas that will lead to you being defined out of the fault? And that's really the way that I understand Evangelicalism as a cultural historian.
1 (18m 42s):
Yeah. Thank you for that. That's really helpful. And I find I'm finding it so interesting that with this book sitting in front of me, I did not include the word white in the subtitle. So when I was saying it earlier, because I think they're is even for me having grown up with the word Evangelicalism and wanting, I remember learning that it comes from the Greek Iwan Gelien, which means bearer of good news or bringing the good news. And I have wanted to think about it if I'm going to be a, if I am an evangelical is because I want to bring good news and the goodness of the gospel, but there is, I think this very deep and often dark truth about White Evangelicalism that you are really getting at in this book that apparently I am I'm even now, I'm trying to shy away from a little bit in recognizing the racial undertones of the movement among evangelicals.
1 (19m 37s):
The, again, you've talked about the masculinity aspects of things, as well as the militarism, or do you do a great job of tracing all of those different threads in your book, but I, for me, one of the most compelling ways to recognize that Evangelicalism is not just a theological movement, is exactly what you just said. That if we look at the theological beliefs of white evangelicals and black Protestants, they line up more than other sets of groupings, right. That would be compared to one another in terms of theological beliefs. And yet they don't line up in terms of how they understand society and politics. And certainly in terms of who is actually worshiping with whom on a Sunday morning or sharing life together, and a church or community contexts.
1 (20m 25s):
So, Oh, that is to say, I just appreciate the distinction. And I think I have become convinced that a to simply define Evangelicalism in theological terms is not only false. Like, it's just not true to what is happening, but actually can be a really unhelpful in addressing some of these problems and trying to figure out what it might mean to you, you know, rectify some of them. So thank you for that. All right. So there's so much more we could talk about in historical terms, but I want to jump over much of that. Interesting and important Ground to talk about are, you know, the past couple of years and Donald Trump in specifically in particular, excuse me, do you begin in the book with a speech that president Trump gave before he was the president at a small Christian college in Iowa, and then you end by returning to president Trump's election and the overwhelming support that he carried both in the primaries, and then throughout his time as president and to this day among self-described white evangelicals.
1 (21m 33s):
And so there are many people in the media, and I would add that included the people who would call themselves Evangelicals. I think you would distinguish them as Evangelicalism elites. That phrase comes up a few times in the book, and many people in those segments of the Christian movement were really confused by the 80% of white evangelicals who were voting for president Trump, because from their perspective, wait a second, this is a group of people who are known for family values. They are known for taking the Bible seriously. How can they overwhelmingly support a man who has been married three times and who speaks crassly about women and who speaks in racist terms about people trying to immigrate to this country?
1 (22m 14s):
And there's misogynistic language, they're more militaristic language and practice M and many people myself included said, well, that's antithetical to a Christian values and specifically to Evangelicalism values. And so what, what do we do with that? And I think many people, and again, myself included said, okay, well, this is just about the fact that white evangelicals are. So pro-life like, they just want to put pro-life Supreme court justices on the bench, and it is just a deal breaker unless that's what's happening. But I think you say, yeah, that's not the whole story. And misogyny and militarism has been a really strong current within Evangelicalism for decades.
1 (22m 58s):
That is mirrored in the way in which Donald Trump approached his campaign and then his presidency. So I'm wondering if you can just speak again, you said a little bit about this, but connecting those dots specifically about the masculinity, but really the dominant male who is a militaristic voice and, and the racism aspect of that as well, as far as the History of Evangelicalism and why, why white evangelical supported Donald Trump really as a way that I think you're a history would have suggested your research would have suggested that that was predictable, not surprising. Yeah. So I'd love for you to speak to that a bit.
2 (23m 37s):
Yeah, sure. So yes, many with, as, as, as white evangelical support for Trump became visible and It, it started to manifest already in 2015. And I think that's important because yes, Trump embraced pro-life views, but so did every other Republican candidate during the primary Season and yet Evangelicals were critical to, to elevating Trump above those other Evangelicalism. And so that's part of it. And then the, the overwhelming refrain was a, how could Evangelicals betray their values or, you know, clearly this was just transactional support.
2 (24m 19s):
They were holding their noses and Jesus, and John, Wayne really pushes back against all of those explanations. And it does by, by looking at this History and by, by interrogating, what was actually meant and is actually meant by something like family values, politics. And so let me step back a minute, because I said, I have more than 15 years ago, I started researching evangelical masculinity and militarism. And then I set it aside, partly because what I was finding was so distressing, it was crass, it was misogynistic, it was deeply disturbing. And related to that, I couldn't tell is this fringe, or as this mainstream, right, I'm going to spend two years of my life looking at this really depressing material to what end.
2 (25m 4s):
And, and, and then I had other projects going on and I had to finish a book. I had three children and I kept meaning to come back to it, but it was in the weeks after the access Hollywood tape released, ah, when we saw Evangelicals a few, a handful of slightly waver in their support. So this was, you know, an October of 2016 and then write back, you know, in supporting him despite everything. And that's when it dawned on me, because in, in, in the ensuing decade, from when I saw that the project aside, I still kept track of some of these guys who were the proponents of this militant Christian masculinity. And one after another, I saw them become embroiled in scandal, abusive power and sexual abuse.
2 (25m 47s):
And, and so in those days after the access Hollywood tape released it, it dawned on me. I thought, ah, we saw Evangelicals continue to back jump. And I thought that we have seen this before. We have seen this so many times before. Evangelicalism of finding reasons to support a abusers of power, to support men who they thought would be, you know, protect the Faith, protect Christianity and at great costs to women, to children and to their communities. And so that was the first thing that kind of connected this for me. And then I started paying attention to the rhetoric I was hearing from Evangelicalism to explain their support for Trump.
2 (26m 30s):
There was a little bit of nose holding, not very much, actually, either at the top or, or through the grassroots supporters. I heard a lot of talk about he's our strong man. He is our protector. He, he positioned himself as such, he's in the man who God has appointed for this time for this, our, he will fight for us. And when I heard that rhetoric, it did bring me back to this History that I had started to trace. I'm a History that revealed to me that even something like family values Evangelicalism, which sounds quite lovely when you, when I looked at it historically and saw how, how it was really pieced together.
2 (27m 11s):
I came to see that really at the core of family values, politics was white, patriarchy, white patriarchal authority. The whiteness was often invisible unless you look to History and it becomes a very visible and at the core of this assertion of white patriarchal power. And if that's what we place at the core of family values Evangelicalism, then it suddenly becomes, you know, not a puzzle and not a betrayal of evangelical values, but in many ways, kind of the gist, the next step.
1 (27m 43s):
Yeah. Almost even a fulfillment of it. In light of all of that. I'm curious, you've done all this research and in light of that, how do you understand what happened on January 6th?
2 (27m 56s):
It was not a huge surprise to me at all in part because the rhetoric had just been so pervasive, really stretching back decades and certainly amping up over the last four years. And then the, the, the previous months rhetoric in evangelical circles and conservative circles of a, you know, needing to fight meeting to battle for what was right, just an enormous distrust that was spreading. And I knew that many conservative Evangelicals have been steeped in this cultural ideal of, of warriors that God appointed men to fight, to fight for a faith family.
2 (28m 39s):
And Nation, and it, it, it doesn't take a lot always to slip from metaphorical battles to actual battles. I mean, we, we saw that again in the early two thousands with the Iraq war that not every evangelical was off fighting the war, but the vast majority of evangelicals were strongly promoting the fighting of that war. And so there's always been a connection between kind of retort the rhetoric of, or your masculinity and actual battles that are being fought. And what we saw now is kind of bringing that home domestically and president Trump certainly helped kind of turn turn the discourse in that direction.
2 (29m 24s):
So I think as long as you said a lot more than most white evangelicals, we're not storming the Capitol on January six, but I'm always interested in our questions of sympathies and affinities, you know, did we see strong denouncement of that violence we did from Evangelicals predominantly Evangelicals who had been denouncing the administration over the last four years in, in various moments among kind of ordinary Evangelicals among Trump's Evangelicalism space. We actually saw very little discomfort with what was happening. And that was something that I took note of and something that, that I found a very concerning.
1 (30m 10s):
And we're in the midst of all of this, and I'm not only speaking to January 6th, but I've realized that we've talked a lot about this kind of hyper-masculine, and that's an important aspect of what we're talking about, but where do women fall in all of this? Because obviously they are, you know, I would, I don't know the demographics if 50% of Evangelicalism is women, or if it's higher than that, but we have, where do, where do women fall and why do they fall where they do in all of this?
2 (30m 41s):
Yeah, it's, it's higher than 50%, more, more women than men in, in terms of a Evangelicalism and women support for Trump is slightly lower than men support for Trump within Evangelicalism and within the larger population as well. That, that, I think it is, it is a mistake to consider that because masculinity is a as a motivating factor in the support for Trump and a particular type of masculinity, that, that means that women are somehow off the hook because women participate in patriarchy women prop up these ideals. And so I have a chapter in my book early in my book, God gifts, God's gift to man, where I look at how evangelical femininity as it is emerging and the 1960s and 1970s with people like Elizabeth Elliott and Maribel Markin.
2 (31m 35s):
And then I look at Beverly LA hay. And, you know, as some of these is a really influential women and how they develop a kind of these complimentary ideals of quote unquote biblical womanhood or Evangelicals femininity. So women are passive. Women are submissive. Women are ultra feminine and need to support the men in their lives. And I need to defer to them, need to submit to them and need to kind of build up their egos so that men can fulfill their God-given roles, which is to lead and to fight. And so, so I had that chapter and it was remarkable to me to, and I was reading the works of, of some of these women, particularly women like Phyllis Schlafly, who is a Catholic, but kind of it can be considered an honorary evangelical for these purposes.
2 (32m 24s):
And Beverly LaHaye, who is genuinely an evangelical, how often they're discussions of femininity, of sexuality, of women's roles were directly linked to the American Nation to Christian nationalism and to supporting this masculine militarism and militancy that they really do go hand in hand from the most intimate details, have sexual relations, too, you know, the, the structure of society and to making sure that you, you raise boys who are strong enough to become soldiers and fight to defend the nation. Like it really is, is, is very closely intertwined.
2 (33m 6s):
It's not just that femininity as this girl thing off to the side. This is a private matter. This is very closely linked to broader a, a broader political agenda. So, so I do that in the buck. I will say though, that, and in the book is primarily about evangelical masculinity. And so evangelical femininity does take some really interesting twists and turns it evolves alongside this masculinity. I kind of dropped that narrative because of time and space limitations, but I am excited to say that my next book will pick that up. So my next book is, is a book on the cultural history of white Christian womanhood, and it has a title and it's called live, laugh love.
1 (33m 46s):
Oh, wow. That's great. Well, how exciting will have to talk about that one once it comes out? Yeah. I, I think it is interesting for me because I'm someone who I think had one foot in Evangelicalism for all of my life as a Christian, although I was raised in mainline Protestant churches. And because I went to secular and kind of highly intellectual schools I had was not in the midst of that Christian culture. Like I knew that it was weird that I listened to Christian music on the occasions that I did. And I knew about wild at heart is because people were quoting it to me, but I didn't actually read it.
1 (34m 29s):
It was so funny reading your book because I'm like, I recognized so many of these. And like I did go to a church where like James Dobson's little, you know, advice for the week was that one of the bulletin inserts, but my parents were not listening to him on the radio. So it was like this in and out thing. And I think I am, I'm sure I'm not alone in that. And I'm sure I'm not alone in many people who grew up with any connection to the Christian subculture in America for the past, you know, 20 to 50 years could pick up this book and say, Oh yeah, I knew those people. And there is a lot of Americans who've never heard of them. Like they're, you know, they was this celebrity celebrity status to somebody like John Eldrige and yet, you know, for a million people who read the book and yet a whole swath of American culture who has never heard of the man.
1 (35m 16s):
And I'm curious looking, so we've talked a bit about the History, we've talked about how this has led in some not surprising to you at least ways to whether it's a president Trump's election or even to January six, but I want to turn just for the end of our time to talk about how people can, well, I guess let's say this, the first thing is to name that all of those has amounted to a fair amount of a social division and political division, like increasing polarization, as opposed to bridge-building right within our culture.
1 (35m 56s):
And one of the things I am most concerned about is asking what does it mean to identify the Harm that is inherent within social division? And I think you've spoken to that both the harm within the church itself, as we think about just this divorce that it ha you know, in terms of segregated Sunday mornings, or The even a more mainline and more liberal strands of Christianity and the more conservative, and, you know, we can talk about division's all day long, it within the church itself, but then there are the divisions and politicization and polarization of our Nation more generally, and the ways in which Evangelicalism have participate in the air contributed to that.
1 (36m 43s):
So I'm thinking about all of those divisions and about what it might mean to actually respond to them with hope and with Healing to participate in that. And I think honestly, as much as your book in lots of ways, it pokes the bear, right? I mean, it's, it's saying there is a big smelly thing over there where you've got to go pay attention to it. But I think that acknowledging Harm is the first step towards Healing. And I think that's what your book begins to do. So I would love to end by talking about Healing, but I wanted to just read the final paragraph of your book, because I think it points in that direction. So you are right. Although the evangelical cult of masculinity stretches back decades, its emergence was never inevitable.
1 (37m 29s):
Over the years, it has been embraced, amplified, challenged, and resisted evangelical men themselves have promoted alternative models, elevating gentleness, and self-control a commitment to piece and a divestment of power as expressions of authentic Christian manhood yet understanding the catalyzing role in militant, Christian militant and Christian masculinity has played over the past half century is critical to understanding American Evangelicalism Today and the nations Fractured the political landscape appreciating how this ideology developed over time is also essential for those who wish to dismantle it. What was once done might also be undone.
1 (38m 12s):
I would love to hear you just think a little bit about that undoing and what that might look like, especially under this heading of Evangelicalism good. News of bringing in and do something new and life-giving and yeah. Redemptive into the world. So yeah. How do you think about on doing some of that Harm yeah, so the
2 (38m 36s):
Book itself, as, as you've kind of hinted at it from its subtitle chapter titles to the, the tone of the book is not a gentle book. It's, it's been described by one reviewer as urgent and sharp elbowed. And I think that gets it exactly right. And at the same time, or because of that, despite that, I don't know, it's been remarkably popular with Evangelicals themselves with conservative white Evangelicals, which is not necessarily something that we anticipated when we released the book. And I've been so heartened by the responses have so many, the humility with which people are receiving this book and the people who have absolutely lived and breathed this, this cultural Evangelicalism.
2 (39m 23s):
I mean, the week at released, I started getting letters. I still have several a day from readers. Most of whom are Evangelicals or former Evangelicals who say some version of this is a story of my life. And then they go out and sketch like how their own life has mapped onto this History. And, and at the same time, they say, and thank you for this for finally giving me eyes to see, write they participated in this. Sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly, usually some combination of, of the two. And never fully understood that the one man wrote, I bumped into so many of these trees, but I never saw the forest until now. And so I think that one of the things this book does is it just, it helps people understand what they themselves have participated in what they have been complicit in.
2 (40m 11s):
And, and again, the humility with which people are receiving, this has been really astonishing to me. And, and so one of the things is simply, it's just the power of history and that's what that last sentence kind of points to once. You've see how things came to be. I mean, the first part of that is understanding that things didn't always look this way. A, there were times when conservative Evangelicals thought masculinity looked quite different from this. There were times when conservative Protestants were not militaristic, a, there were conservative Protestants who are a pacifist in the first world war. There were of a conservative Protestants who did not embrace, who actively rejected Christian nationalism, right?
2 (40m 55s):
That you have all of these different narratives and that's a starting place. And then we can start to see, well, how did we get to where we are now? And what we see as There were many choices, active choices that individuals made at different junctures often for the purpose of enhancing their own power. And we can start to see how all of this came together. Then I think we, we are in a place where we can, we can, we are free to ask, is this where we want to be? Is this how evangelicals, how Christians ought to engage. Our neighbors ought to engage the other. However, we define the other, what has this militancy, this militant posture of Christian manhood does not just to Christian men, but what has that done to Christianity?
2 (41m 43s):
One of the things that I saw, which, which it gets at the, the, Corrupted a fake part of the subtitle, which is actually, it's a theological claim, not a historical claim. And I'm talking directly to the Bible, believing Christians it through that and saying, okay, you know, let's look at the Jesus of the gospels. So we see how this, this ideology transforms Jesus into a bloody sword, wielding warrior with tattoos down his leg charging into battle, right? And so we see the explicit rejection of pretty clear biblical passages, like turn the other cheek. Nope. Thrown away. Doesn't apply in this situation. Right? We see this, I think distortion of biblical Christianity.
2 (42m 28s):
And once, once we see how that came to be, I think it frees us to maybe an a or disconnect our own identity from this ideology disconnect our own faith from all of this baggage. 'cause for the longest time, these values have been packaged and sold as just plain Christianity. This is what Bible believing Christians Du. This is who we are. This is what we value, and this is how we act. And I think the History hear helps us to see if there's a lot of cultural baggage here. And we, we are, we can be faithful Christians, more faithful Christians.
2 (43m 9s):
If we are able to identify that And and address that I would say in terms of divisions, and this book does, does shed a light on how Evangelicals have increased the polarization through this militancy, through this us versus them mentality. I've also been fascinated to see how the reception of this book has been. I've seen the redrawing have lines, I've seen many conservatives Evangelicals, again, I wouldn't have expected to embrace this book and embrace it and promote it. And I see the active rethinking of the boundaries that had long ago been drawn of who is inside Orthodox Christianity and who is outside our long, you know, divisions of race of racism, gender, sexuality, that I think there's an openness now to thinking What is the Good News and what should that look like?
2 (44m 8s):
And, and how much should it actually entail building walls and drawings, stark divisions, and excluding people from our communities. And, and so, I mean, it's early to early to tell perhaps, but that's something that's been fascinating for me to watch play out.
1 (44m 25s):
Well, thank you for the contribution. Cause I believe it is. And I can tell just from what you've described about the, there is a healing that happens even in acknowledging the wounds, right? I mean that, and as with so many things where if we are looking for power and control, that ends up causing a lot of Harm just socially would like for whoever is actually doing the power grabbing, but also for everyone who is around them. And we see that on these micro levels, whenever another church scandal erupts, but we also see it in a family system and we see it in a broader sense in our culture.
1 (45m 4s):
But at the same time that I think about, I have been teaching a Bible study at my church about the Healing stories in the gospel of Luke. And just this past week, we were looking at Jesus healing on the Sabbath, a man with a shriveled hand. And he insists that the man hold his hand out, like, there's this sense of make it visible and then Jesus heals. And I just think about that in terms of making so much visible that honestly, even as a reader, there is a part of me that's like, Oh, did you have to bring up Billy Graham? Did you have to bring up, you know, I don't want to know that they are right. Like there's some part of me that feels really protective of, of this history.
1 (45m 45s):
And, and certainly you're not doing it in order to condemn all the people. It's just in order to say, guys, let's look at this because if we don't understand how we got here, then we're just going to keep going in this direction. And I do believe there's like a great hope for healing and restoration and change. That is more true to bearing faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus and not too the gospel of Jesus and John Wayne, you know, and I think is at least that would be, my desire would be to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus, not to any other gospels. So thank you for the work that you've done to make that more possible.
1 (46m 25s):
Thank you so much. What we're really glad you have had you here today. And I know you're heading into a busy semester as a teacher, and you've obviously got another book to right. So best of luck with all of that. And I hope we'll get to talk again. I don't know whenever that's coming out, but we will look forward to that. Thank you. I really appreciate you and work too. And it's been a delight to get to talk with you today. Thanks again, for listening to love is stronger than Fear. You can reference the SHOW NOTES for a transcript of this conversation, and I would love for you to share subscribe, rate, review this podcast so that more people can join our listening community. I always want to thank our cohost breaking ground.
1 (47m 8s):
My editor, Jake Hansen, my social media coordinator, Amber Beery. They all make this happen and I'm really grateful to them. And I'm thankful for you, the listener as you go into your day to day, I hope you will carry with you in the peace that comes from believing that love is stronger than fear.
3 (47m 28s):