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S4:E4 The Johnson County War

S4:E4 The Johnson County War

How a group of wealthy cattle barons murdered with impunity and the help of a sitting president.

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The myth of the American cowboy features a lone man who makes his fortune on the open plains. He doesn’t need the government, and he doesn’t need some big corporation telling him what to do. But that myth is far from the reality in the west. Many cowboys worked for large corporate cattle operations. And when those operations were in danger, he relied on the government for help.

The Johnson County War started when the Homestead Act of 1862 brought new people to central Wyoming. The area just west of the Big Horn Mountains had been free-range grassland where anyone could let their cattle run free. The large cattle operations loved this setup because it saved them an immense amount of money and infrastructure. The new homesteads threatened their empires because they divided up the land and restricted their access. So the Wyoming Stock Growers Association banded together to send a message: get off our land. They send a murder squad to Johnson County, Wyoming to scare the people of Buffalo with a series of brutal murders.

What followed was one of the darkest chapters in Wyoming history. Where big businesses murdered with impunity, aided by the governor and sitting president.

Helpful links:

Discussion Questions:

  • What role did the Homestead Act play in stirring up trouble in central Wyoming?
  • Is there a character in the story that you identify with?
  • Is there any part of you that sympathizes with the WSGA?
  • How does this story challenge your concept of the American cowboy?
  • What role does the government have in protecting an industry?
  • How do you feel about the government’s failure to punish the invaders?
S4:E3 Jesus and John Wayne

S4:E3 Jesus and John Wayne

How the myth of the cowboy encouraged Christians to vote for Donald Trump and changed Christian masculinity

What do you think of when you picture a cowboy? A rugged, handsome individual? A lover? Someone who doesn’t need the government’s help? Evangelicalism has long pushed this as the ideal model for the Christian man. What is the impact of that set of ideas?

John Wayne and Ronald Reagan have both become popular figures in American men’s ministries. Their names come up often, they both played cowboys in Hollywood. But they are unlikely heroes. Both men were divorced. Wayne wasn’t an evangelical, and Reagan had once been a democrat. But both men were instrumental in whipping up anti-communist sentiment in the US, building credibility with a religion focused on individualism.

You can draw a line from them straight to former president Donald J. Trump. All three had questionable public morals but were seen as strong, uncompromising figures. They are seen in many men’s books as the epitome of masculinity. That idea, though, comes in contrast with Jesus’ own words about turning the other cheek, forgiving our enemies, and loving our enemies.

In this episode, Chris talks with Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of “Jesus and John Wayne: How Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation“.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think of when you picture a cowboy?
  • How have you heard cowboys, soldiers, and fighters discussed in evangelical circles?
  • What books have you read that stressed the importance of tough men?
  • What do you picture when you think of a Christian man? How has that been shaped?
  • What do you picture when you think of a Christian woman? How has that been shaped?
  • What is your idea of Jesus like? Is He a warrior, a gentle savior, or both?
  • Can you see the link between the cowboy image and Donald Trump?
S4:E2 Kaitlyn Sheiss and Our Four False Gospels

S4:E2 Kaitlyn Sheiss and Our Four False Gospels

Can Christianity and politics mix?

Christians throughout history have responded to politics in different ways. In our modern era, it can seem like Christianity and Republican politics are one and the same. But what do we do when the Bible clashes with our political party? What if our economic model leaves no room for the poor?

Author and theologian Kaitlyn Schiess joins us to talk about her book, “The Liturgy of Politics“, as well as how we can heal as a church. Can Christianity and politics mix? The answer depends on how we see that pairing.

Discussion Questions

  • How have you seen politics and Christianity mixing in the US?
  • Is there are healthy way for Christians to engage in politics?
  • How have your politics informed your ideas of the poor?
  • Do you think that all poor people are lazy?
  • How can your local church reach out to people who look/speak/act differently that you do?
  • How have you see Kaitlyn’s four false gospels play out in your life and church?
  • Prosperity
  • Patriotism
  • Security
  • Supremacy
S4:E1 Jemar Tisby and How to Fight Racism

S4:E1 Jemar Tisby and How to Fight Racism

Christians have long been responsible for racism. Here is how we can resist it.

Do systems really keep minorities down? Even asking the questions sound socialistic to some. But we need to go through our society to root out systems that breed inequality. But how? Sometimes discussions of racism can make us feel helplessly lost.

That’s why I called in an expert.

Jemar Tisby is a Christian speaker, author of “The Color of Compromise” and “How to Fight Racism”. He’s also an important voice in modern America. Even if you don’t agree with everything he writes in his books, it’s important to hear what he’s saying here. What are the systems that separate black and white people? How can we learn to grieve as a people, as a local church, and as a community?

Discussion Questions:

  • How can you organize an event at your church (online) to discuss the history of racism in your church, community, schools, and hearts?
  • Have you ever stopped to do a racial autobiography? (my questions, not Jemar’s)
  • When was the first time you met someone of a different race?
  • What did your parents teach you, consciously or unconsciously, about race?
  • Have you ever used a racial slur? Why? How did you feel about it then? How do you feel about it now? What is the power of those words?
  • Have you ever been afraid of someone from another race? Why? When?
  • Do you regularly come in contact with people of a different race?
  • How do you feel when you see a police officer? Why might someone else have a different reaction? How did you come to feel that way?
  • Are there distinct, racially divided neighborhoods in your area? How did they get there? Do you ever go to a different neighborhood? Why or why not?
  • Are discussions of race inherently socialistic?
  • Are discussions of class inherently socialistic?

Helpful links:

E3:S46 Takeaway 5: It’s Easier to Call People to a Heritage than to a Saving Faith

E3:S46 Takeaway 5: It’s Easier to Call People to a Heritage than to a Saving Faith

Is the United States a Christian nation? And is that notion worth pursuing?

Some of the most common feedback I heard about season 3 of Truce is that I didn’t give the Christian America camp enough time to back their opinion. In this mini-episode, I discuss my reason for leaving people like David Barton of Wall Builders off of the show.

I also play a short clip from Gregg L. Frazer who was on our Christian America episodes. His book is “The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders“.