Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez

How do I start? Where do I start? There is so much in this book, and it got more and more infuriating with every page.

In Jesus and John Wayne, Kristin Kobes Du Mez outlines exactly what brought white American evangelicalism to the profound state of corruption we see today, and why it’s so easy for people to be carried along with it.

A heads up: This book may be intensely triggering if you have past church trauma or you’ve been on the receiving end of religious hate.

Du Mez takes us through the past 75 years of American history, culture, and politics to help us understand what brought us to this point and why. Get ready for a nauseating look into Christian consumer culture, patriarchal gender traditionalism, militarism and fear-mongering, militant white masculinity, submissive femininity, Christian nationalism, and political power plays, all forged along the path of American imperialism.

What I found especially terrifying was how easy it was for evangelicals to take legitimate fears Americans had due to world events, and stoke that anxiety so that they could dive in and be the protector. James Dobson had an enormous influence on inserting evangelicalism into the American military, resulting in the dominionist ideals we see in many politicians today.

She covers the close ties between fundamentalism and evangelicalism, which explains why it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the two. She helps us see how evangelicals played the long game through their branding, “replacing traditional denominational authorities with the authority of the market and the power of consumer choice.” This helped them appeal to a wide audience, winning people over and gaining more followers. This is why you see members of mainline (or even progressive) denominations consuming, for example, books by evangelical authors.

So yeah, Jesus and John Wayne is a difficult book to read, content-wise. I felt sick to my stomach most of the time. But it’s an important read, and if you’ve ever wondered why there are people who are okay with all of this, you’ll gain a whole lot of insight.