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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?
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