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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?
S3:E13 Godless Utopia

S3:E13 Godless Utopia

In Russia during the Soviet era, hundred of posters and magazine covers were printed to encourage people to abandon their faith. They were state-sponsored and designed to be interpreted even by people who could not read. This propaganda clearly tied anti-Christian sentiment to the United States.

In his new book, Godless Utopia, Roland Elliott Brown collected a number of these images and provided commentary on their meaning.

What does it mean that we call the United States a Christian nation? What does it mean when presidents like Ronald Reagan merge their faith with the US? How does that impact our witness? These are questions we’ll continue exploring throughout this series.

Helpful links:

  • You can view images from the book here. Please note that some of these images may not be appropriate for all eyes.
  • Watch the whole “evil empire” speech here.
  • Article about Ruth Snyder, the first woman to be sent to the electric chair
  • Rolland’s article about Soviet propaganda (see page 18)
  • Mobituaries podcast episode about lynching and D.W. Griffith’s film “Birth of a Nation”

Topics covered:

  • What did Soviet propaganda look like?
  • How did Stalin use the Orthodox church to fight in WWII?
  • What was Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” speech?
  • Is it okay for US Presidents to speak at Christian events?