John Wayne is an outsized figure in this book. Both the real John Wayne and the symbol. Whereas Bad Faith centered white evangelicalism’s turn to partisan politics in race, Du Mez centers it in gender and patriarchy and finds its origins much earlier in the twentieth century.
While she rarely uses the phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ (actually, I can’t remember her using it all, but I don’t want to bet the farm on that), that concept is at the heart of the book. The white evangelical embrace of violence and its struggle with leaders engaging on sexual predation and violence is rooted, she argues, in its embrace of an extreme vision of patriarchy.
Unlike Randall Baker, she seems more okay being outside the movement, whereas Baker is more the ‘more in sadness than in anger’ type who seems to long for this movement to reform so that he can return.
On page 109, she briefly notes a fact nugget that came to my attention recently: evangelicals have the least knowledge of Scripture of any Christian group in America. This both blew me away, but, in retrospect, seems completely obvious, especially in my own limited experience attending white evangelical services.
I admire her hope in the conclusion that evangelical Christianity will find its way out of the darkness. For myself, I wonder if the name won’t need to be dropped, at least for a while, to remove its deep political affiliations, in order to return to a more spiritual place.