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Jesus and John Wayne

Pastor’s Bookshelf - Welcome to my bookshelf! Each month I will discuss a recent book that I’ve finished. *disclaimer; I don’t always have time to sit and read physical books, but I do quite a bit of my reading through audiobooks these days.*

This month I’d like to talk about Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes du Mez

Jesus and John Wayne offers a comprehensive and incredibly well researched analysis of the evolution of masculinity in connection with Evangelical faith over the last 120 years or so. Drawing from political heroes such as Ronald Regan, Bill Clinton or Donald Trump, movie stars such as John Wayne or Mel Gibson, and famous preachers and evangelical speakers such as Billy Graham, Mark Driscoll, and Jimmy Swigart – Kristin offers an eye opening look at how we understand what it means to be a man of God, and how that definition has changed over the years.

The author, Kristin Kobes du Mez, is actually a professor at my alma-mater, Calvin College (which is now Calvin University). She does an amazing job telling a story where all the characters are familiar, but the plot is completely unknown. I had heard of Ronald Regan, of course – and I knew who John Wayne was – but to hear of the evolution of the term “biblical masculinity” and how that affected everything from political movements to church policy was fascinating.

It was not always an easy read, as Kristin offers a history full of behind-the-scenes stories where many of the heroes of old fail to measure up to their reputations. I learned a lot about understanding where we get our picture of masculinity – and how that picture holds up to the Jesus we find in the bible. As one reviewer wrote, Jesus and John Wayne is “a much-needed reexamination of perhaps the most influential subculture in this country.” It might be a hard look in the mirror for some, but it was a fascinating read.


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