“Me, John Wayne, and Jesus”
(My guest column in the Daily Post)
Several decades ago, as I was heading inside a small shop in Puerta Vallarta, I bumped squarely into the chest of a very tall, large person.
Looking up, I began stammering words like — ‘oh!’ and ‘uh!’ — and nodding and smiling slightly, John Wayne, in that distinctive western drawl of his, asked me… “How’re you doing?”
And now, all these years later, I’m reading, in CNN, about a New York Times bestselling book, ‘Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation’, written by Kristin Kobes Du Mez.
“Republicans have long equated a rugged masculine strength with successful political leadership,” noted the author, in a CNN interview. This “can be traced back to the 1960s when conservatives accused feminists and antiwar activists of redefining traditional manhood in a way that left families and the nation at risk.”
This masculine ideal was both personal and political. Men needed to be good fathers and strong fighters, and in this way, ‘traditional’ masculinity ensured both order and security,” added Professor Du Mez, who teaches history at Calvin University, an affiliate of the U.S. Christian Reformed Church.
“Within American conservatism, rugged White men are often seen to embody this masculine ideal, but Black men who support Republican social and political values can also be seen as champions of traditional American manhood.”
And thus, we’re hearing, in the news, about former pro football running back Herschel Walker, who’s running for a U.S Senate seat in Georgia. While Mr. Walker has “talked frequently about the problem of absentee fathers,” according to CNN, his campaign has acknowledged that he “has three children by women he was not married to in addition to his son by his former wife.”
But long before Senate candidate Walker entered the political arena, White evangelicals were showing their support for Donald Trump. “How could family values evangelicals support a man who seemed the very antithesis of the values they held dear?”
Professor Du Mez goes on to explain that “God filled men with testosterone so that they could fulfill their God-ordained role as leaders, as protectors and providers. Testosterone made them aggressive, and it gave them a God-given sex drive.”
Well, what do you know??
She also notes, in the interview, that “John Wayne was not an evangelical, but by the 1970s, he had become an icon of conservative American manhood,” adding that “he also came to represent an idealized vision of ‘Christian manhood.’”
It’s complicated… that’s for sure.
Things were so much simpler, long ago in Puerta Vallarta, when John Wayne and I bumped into each other.