Christofascism, Trumpism Reviews & Misc

JESUS AND JOHN WAYNE by Kristin Kobes du Mez. 2 Saviors, NOT the Same. Choose Wisely.

JESUS and JOHN WAYNE by Kristin Kobes du Mez says Trump is the FULFILLMENT of white evangelical values. Evangelicalism is not Bible-based nor theology-driven. It’s a domineering, power-hungry, exclusivist, religiously-flavored cultural movement.

They “know,” as Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes du Mez clarifies, what Jesus, or a Christian man, is really like.

“What does a Christian man look like? Well we know – John Wayne”- “a good guy with a gun.” Or even worse, maybe like DJ Trump.

Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes du MezThey are sure God wants them to support any vile “leader” (e.g. DJ Trump) who is “tough” and reckless, without respect for persons or laws, and who will promise to help and protect THEM and their style of “Christianity” – a bully who will use “any means necessary”. It’s the classic ends-justify-the-means amoral scenario. (See a list below from du Mez of how DJT represents their values.1)

So, they have deliberately chosen to trust that he will keep his promises to them – which contradicts everything we know about him. This could turn out to be a COLOSSAL disaster for so-called “conservative” American Christianity. It already is.

Who Is This Professor du Mez?

Kristin Kobes du Mez (ko-bez du may), a history professor at Calvin University (was Calvin College) in Michigan, has a PhD from Notre Dame, and is the best-selling author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. (How’s that for a direct subtitle?!) She grew up evangelical in northwest Iowa.

From Amazon: “NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The “paradigm-influencing” book (Christianity Today) that is fundamentally transforming our understanding of white evangelicalism in America.”

The obsequious cowardice of evangelical leaders in late 2016 in the face of Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tapes – about his freedom to commit sexual assaults – really rattled Prof du Mez! It showed the depth of the evangelical moral crisis. She had not wanted to write about these things – but here we are.

I “read” the book over a year ago (on Audible), and have recently been visiting her on Youtube, watching videos like these:

DogShirtTV – 80m interview, late 2023 (quite helpful)
“Why I’m Still a Christian” – 40m interview, Sep 2023
Lecture with QnA interactions at Univ of Colorado, Co Sprgs – 90m, spring 2023 (bad audio, but has subtitles and good Q and A.)
Amanpour and Co – 19m interview, spring 2023 (a good introduction)
Lecture at U of Virginia School of Law – 52m, 2022

Caveat: Some of what I say here she does not explicitly say in the material I’ve read or listened to. I’m explaining how I understand her, and sometimes adding my own comments. But I’ve listened carefully and think this gets the general content and the flavor of her facts and her concerns.

Here are some themes I see:

Mysogyny and Toxic Masculinity

She sometimes calls it “reckless masculinity.” She summarizes at one point that these groups foster a “unity around patriarchal authority” with two key emphases, depending on the group. a) Complementarianism (a new big word to justify an old doctrine of male control), and b) inerrancy, by which they claim that the Bible has no errors. This matter of mysogyny and toxic masculinity is pretty important to du Mez.

Feeding Christian Militarism in Promotion of Christian Nationalism

So: they release reckless masculinity to control their members (women first) in order to violently pursue a “Christian nation.”

[ See Also on PublicChristian:
Christofascism – It’s Real, It’s Deadly, And It Intends to Dominate Us All
What is Christian Nationalism? It Wears Christian Words & Symbols Like Sheep’s Clothing. ]

What kind of “Christian nation” are they pursuing?

A Racist, Patriarchal, Authoritarian “Christian” Nation. That is,
  • a domination by religious authorities (who care much more about power than about Jesus or Biblical values),
  • a domination violently enforced against its own citizens (and sub-citizens, or residents denied citizenship)
What kind of international involvement do they want? Imperialism.

The domestic domination would be exported through militarism, police states, economic domination – any and all available means of imperial expansion.

What kind of Jesus?

“We know what Jesus is like.” “He is like John Wayne” — racist, gun-toting, a white savior/protector-by-violence, willing to work outside the law …

Of course, all this becomes quite secular

(as against their professed Christian committments) when it stoops to obeying DJ Trump and his ilk.

Fear-based, fear-driven.

Du Mez calls the evangelical cultural enclave “awfully fear-based.”

But that’s not Jesus talking. Jesus rejected fearfulness head on, telling his hearers to not be afraid, as in Mk 4:40: “He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” And when angels appear in the Gospels they always say, “Do not be afraid.”

“Why are you so afraid?” Because evangelical (and Trumpist) leaders WANT US to be afraid, they TELL US to be afraid.

Jesus and a Conspiracy Theory:

Conspiracy theories live on fear. But Jesus? When religious leaders tried to frighten Jesus himself with a conspiracy theory (possibly even the truth) he bluntly refused to be afraid.

31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’  Luke 13

Not very supportive of or responsive to their fear-mongering, eh? Maybe we should jettison evangelical (and right wing) fear mongering and be more like Jesus.

An Institutionalized SubCulture Very Resistant to Change

People thank her for her book, and are leaving (cf ExVangelicals – on Wikipedia, or this book endorsed by du Mez). She gets emails every day thanking her. But I see almost no institutional change.” Those who cross the line (e.g. criticize Trump, or promote gender respect and equality, or oppose anti-LGBTQ persecution, or question the teaching on “inerrancy”) are silenced or forced out or find they just have to leave. So the domination-flavor of evangelicalism only gets stronger within that subculture. That’s a decades-long trend.

Evangelicalism is Cultural, NOT Bible-based or even Theology-based

Which is not to say they don’t create some theological arguments to support their very selective inerrancy practice. But they don’t actually live and do ministry based on the Bible they exalt or the Jesus they talk about. They minimize or completely ignore the moral priorities of Jesus and the prophets.

They like certain verses or passages that seem to support persecution of lgbtq, and, especially, male domination of females and children and of everyone in all their churches (which seems directly connected to rampant sexual and other forms of abuse – situations in which, of course, they always blame the victim (the wife, the “other woman”, the boy or girl ). They don’t do much theologically to justify their racism, nor do they talk often about it (except in regard to immigrants or other countries), but their blatant and rampant racist practices, accompanied by faux-wounded denials, are not slowed down by that fact.

[ See Also on PublicChristian:
Secular Worldview vs Christian Worldview. OR Maybe Christ’s Worldview? Part 1
Can Christians Recognize a Christian Worldview? A Local Church’s Answers. (Part 2) ]

One Of The Key Problems With Biblical Inerrancy – They’re Serious About Ignoring The Bible

du Mez says their doctrine of inerrancy is a fig leaf – meaning it’s a flimsy cover for their real agenda, which is (white male) domination.

All the teaching verses / passages they use to support their oppressive “theologies” don’t add up to much more than the last part of Matthew 25, where Jesus repeatedly emphasizes what his true moral priorities are. They ignore that passage or explain it away. Or Isaiah chapters 1 and 58 etc., which are wonderfully clear, and wonderfully dismissed. Inerrancy eh?

So “inerrant” really only means “Will you submit to our ‘God-ordained’ domination” – which of course includes pretending to believe in inerrancy.

It’s all so transparent!

  • THEM: Do you AGREE WITH US that the Bible is inerrant?
  • US: But that’s hard to believe, plus YOU don’t ACT like it’s inerrant!
  • THEM: Quit changing the subject! Are you WITH US or not? (Which is always the real question.)

Problems with biblical inerrancy are significant. But the hypocritical enforcement of the idea is even worse.  They emphasize a certain few passages they can use (or misuse) to bludgeon other people into submission. They avoid as much as possible, and pretty effectively, the many and sometimes extensive passages that speak of

  • economic justice / injustice,
  • social justice more generally, which covers EVERYbody,
  • welcome for immigrants,
  • humility and kindness, gentleness,
  • love of neighbors,
  • love of strangers and immigrants,
  • love of enemies.

So, du Mez argues and I completely agree, they are not inerrantists. They only use that as a tool to exclude people who resist their domination.

They have a problem with the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion.

“Crucicentrism” is one of D. W. Bebbington’s four basic characteristics of “evangelicalism” (1989) – see footnote2. That means evangelicals’ theology and practice are centered on Christ’s death on the cross. It’s necessary and nice that Jesus died for our sins – and you’d better believe that happened or you are out!

But you know, the submissiveness is a problem. The Divine strategy of Jesus submitting to state violence clearly is one thing we see in the cross. Nietzsche criticized Jesus, his values and strategy, and Christianity generally, for being weak and ineffective, not what the world needs. Today’s evangelicals argue explicitly that Jesus’ weakness, and his weakening values and teachings, are not what we actually need to defend and advance our faith.

[ See Also on PublicChristian:
What If Christians Don’t Listen to Jesus? See 5 Very Short, Very Important Stories from Matthew 7  (for a recent news item about Jesus’s “weak” teachings) ]

You kind of have to wonder – if your “Christian” faith excludes Jesus Christ, then what is your faith really in? What do you believe in? What do you hope in, really, now?

Ignoring Jesus

So of course they are not willing to prioritize the teachings or character of Jesus. In fact, we probably don’t really need Jesus. Except for dead Jesus – dead for our sins. But not the living Jesus who has such weak, cowardly, “feminine” values. Jesus’s character, life-style, and teachings are a real problem for those who’d rather follow their orange anti-Christ, DJT. After all, “anti-Christ” means the opposite of Christ; and that’s what too many want, really, right now.

Conversion, or Life-change is another evangelical emphasis.

You have to be converted, changed, repentant, embarking on a new life. But they take it away from Jesus’ actual life, character, teachings, and reduce it to

  • a functionally meaningless “receiving” of a Jesus whom they don’t really respect or trust,
  • minimal church involvement,
  • extensive submission to the evangelical subculture,
  • and, they fervently desire, political activism, especially on behalf of their new anti-Messiah.

Thus: They don’t follow the Bible, or Jesus, but they DO HAVE Definite political and cultural commitments, strongly emphasized and enforced.

How to End Patriarchy, Which They Love – OR, What is Complementarian Theology?

They put great emphasis on (white) male authority, hierarchy over all non-male (& in practice non-white) persons. It is undisguised white male domination, and as du Mez says, it’s “awfully fear-based.”

[This list on the right is from the theframelab.com, twelve comparisons so we know who should dominate whom.]

The fairly recent faddish emphasis on ”Complementarianism” (links) serves them well. Women complement, or complete, men, or rather, wives complement husbands (not “compliment”, though they’d better do that too!).  And wives need to focus on that work as their ultimate calling from God. It’s a big word for old ideas with a tiny kernel of truth, grotesquely twisted to justify their practice of male domination based on religious principles.

This domination, as expected, opens the door to all kinds of abuse. And that is in contempt of clear Biblical priorities – of love, respect, kindness, recognition of diversity of “gifts”, etc. But it does seem directly connected to rampant – yes, I think “rampant” is legitimate here — sexual and other forms of abuse – situations in which, of course, they usually blame the victim (the wife, the “other woman”, the boy or girl).

Perhaps if we are concerned about how to end patriarchy in Christian circles, we should just look to the actual teaching and behavior of Jesus of Nazareth, and the prophets he learned from.

Deference, silence, best foot forward

This is the important control principle of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” If you see things, and say out loud what you see – or even raise questions for clarification – you are of doubtful loyalty, and are likely on your way out. This is cultivated as an inner feeling of respect, getting along, not making waves, not making things hard for other (white, male, dominating) “good people”. It can make for a comfortable, though dishonest, social environment. But sometimes those “good people” prove to be not so very good. This “good heart” of deference is enforced; if someone doesn’t get the point it will be clarified, then if necessary enforced.

This is a strongly domination-enabling practice, performed on behalf of those who already have more clout than is healthy.

Dishonesty in service of their dominance

She tells about the former Islamic jihadists, terrorists, allegedly converted (to American evangelicalism, of course). There have been a number of these guys on speaking tours. They were frauds, and their promoters (like “Focus on the Family”) knew they were frauds. But they served a valuable purpose

  • making their hearers feel superior, feel like they are on the right and winning side,
  • AND simultaneously increasing the fear they were living in.

Several birds with one stone.  It’s like Fox “News” does, give them what they want to hear, which simultaneously makes you more money and sucks them more deeply into your domination system.

James Dobson (founder of Focus on the Family) and Bill Gothard

(if you’re old enough to remember) taught the same domination. Gothard was very blunt and iron-clad (and hypocritical). Dobson (Focus on the Family) taught the same authoritarian value system but more “gently” more acceptably. Both approaches are still at work.

Complicity

Du Mez complains that prominent leaders who have left – or been shoved out of – this domination-based, religiously decorated sub-culture have generally not made public any awareness of how they personally were complicit in the fraudulent and destructive practices.

On the other hand, she singles out Beth Moore (of great fame among Southern Baptists and other evangelicals as a Bible teacher) as one of the few who have publicly dealt with that.

About Beth Moore Leaving Southern Baptist Ministry and Membership

“We were in the middle of the biggest sexual abuse scandal that has ever hit our denomination,” she said. “And suddenly, the most important thing to talk about was whether or not a woman could stand at the pulpit and give a message.”
… Critics of Moore will find it easier to dismiss her as “woke” or “liberal” than to deal with the substance of her critique, said [Anthea] Butler. But Moore’s concerns and the ongoing conflicts in the SBC about racism and sexism aren’t going away, Butler said. [Anthea Butler, professor at U of Pennsylvania, and author of White Evangelical Racism]
The religion professor believes Moore will be better off leaving the SBC, despite the pain of breaking away. I applaud this move and support her because I know how soul-crushing the SBC is for women,” Butler said. “She will be far better off without them, doing the ministry God calls her to do.”  [from an article at Religious News Service, March 9, 2021]

An example of Moore’s admission of complicity:

Thus much I know: I helped prop up misogyny in the denomination and helped build up trust in some systems and some leaders that were not worthy of our trust though I did not realize that was what I was doing. I do indeed owe some people I’ve served a long time an apology for any harm I brought them. It was never my intention. My desire was to do good. My desire was to be godly. [Beth Moore on X, Dec 29, 2023, long paragraph in the middle]

Beth Moore leaving Southern Baptist fellowship is truly a big deal. (Here’s a short, fun piece by Moore about finding another (non-evangelical) church.)

[ See Also on PublicChristian:
“Emergent Evangelical” – Can I Be Both? (from back when “Evangelical” was not such an odious term nor so uniformly tied to such destructive practices)
Can We Love Our Problem Nation – Like Jeremiah Did? ]

Is This All Too Judgmental? Well, Two Things:

  1. It’s what Jesus told us to do (Matthew 7:16,20). “By their fruit you will recognize them;” you can tell what they really are (notice: not by their professions and statements). This requires looking at both their behaviors and the consequences.
  2. If you don’t want your behaviors talked about openly, honestly, and therefore negatively – well, duh, come along, change your behavior. It has been done. Yes, you can do it, though it will no doubt be costly.  Is the Bible, or Jesus, or integrity worth it?

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Please add your comments below. (Personal info optional.)
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FOOTNOTES:

1 du Mez insists that Trump represents their values:

  • white patriarchal authority
  • masculinity / warrior / everything is a battle
  • restore “order”
  • the ends justify the means
  • the more brutality the better
  • “he would not be constrained by traditional Christian virtue — and that is why he was God’s anointed one”

2The Bebbington Evangelical Quadrilateral. Here are the four characteristic emphases of evangelicalism as set forth by D. W. Bebbington in 1989 (quotations are from ligonier.org):
BIBLE.

It is characteristic of Evangelicalism that they are committed to the Bible, they are committed to the authority of the Bible, they’re committed to the distribution of the Bible, and they’re committed to the teaching of the Bible.

CROSS.

Evangelicals are cross-centered.

CONVERSION.

That’s a great passion of evangelicals, to see conversions, to see people brought to faith.

ACTIVISM.

Characteristic of Evangelicalism is a kind of activism.
[for further information see this Wikipedia article, or this book from Baylor University Press.]

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