The Alpha-Male Style in American Evangelicalism

"In her recent book, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, Calvin University historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez situates Gothard and Piper in a long line of white, alpha-male leaders whose devotion to a militant Christian patriarchy and nationalism inevitably led to..." - Christianity Today

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Andrew K's picture

I think I'd rather listen to Joan Didion explain the appeal of John Wayne. 

In a world we understand early to be characterized by venality and doubt and paralyzing ambiguities, he suggested another world, one which may or may not have existed ever, but in any case existed no more—a place where a man could move free, could make his own code and live by it; a world in which, if a man did what he had to do, he could one day take the girl and go riding through the draw and find himself there at the bend in the bright river, the cottonwoods shimmering in the sun. 

If Du Mez doesn't get John Wayne -- essentially reducing him to a negative caricature for her polemical purposes, as reviews suggest -- I'm not sure why I should assume she "gets" Jesus.

Bert Perry's picture

It's worth noting that in The Quiet Man, Wayne's character is plagued by self-doubt and guilt and needs to be persuaded by the whole town to fight his brother-in-law, and only when the town cons him into doing that, apparently with the full encouragement of the female lead, does he win the full love of his new wife.  He's clearly not living by his own code, but that of the Irish town to which he's moved.  

Put differently, John Wayne didn't have a 40 year career in Hollyweird because all his movies were that formulaic!

If you want someone who always seems to call the shots and gets the girl after minimal effort, I think you're talking more about Errol Flynn.  That's the pattern one sees in Robin Hood, Captain Blood, Santa Fe Trail, and Sea Hawk.  That noted, Flynn's behavior is....generally problematic for us fundagelicals in other ways.

Don't get me wrong; there is something of a "CEO" problem in fundagelicalism in some quarters, but it's not really easily diagnosable with a comparison to the Duke--or for that matter, even Flynn.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Andrew K's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

It's worth noting that in The Quiet Man, Wayne's character is plagued by self-doubt and guilt and needs to be persuaded by the whole town to fight his brother-in-law, and only when the town cons him into doing that, apparently with the full encouragement of the female lead, does he win the full love of his new wife.  He's clearly not living by his own code, but that of the Irish town to which he's moved.  

Put differently, John Wayne didn't have a 40 year career in Hollyweird because all his movies were that formulaic!

If you want someone who always seems to call the shots and gets the girl after minimal effort, I think you're talking more about Errol Flynn.  That's the pattern one sees in Robin Hood, Captain Blood, Santa Fe Trail, and Sea Hawk.  That noted, Flynn's behavior is....generally problematic for us fundagelicals in other ways.

Don't get me wrong; there is something of a "CEO" problem in fundagelicalism in some quarters, but it's not really easily diagnosable with a comparison to the Duke--or for that matter, even Flynn.


I've seen it, several years back.

No, I wouldn't suggest Wayne's movies were all formulaic. And I don't think Didion is either. I think what she's getting at is the powerful idea that is John Wayne, and the symbolic sort of role he played in America's dreams and aspirations.

I suggest giving the whole essay a read. Like most of Didion, it's a fantastic piece of cultural literature. 

https://web.archive.org/web/20100108020450/http://www.independent.co.uk/...

Bert Perry's picture

And yes, got it now.  

Trying to approach Du Mez's work better, um.....maybe it would make more sense if I read the whole book, but....trying to fit any of the real filmography, the public view, or the real life of John Wayne to complementarianism and then neo-conservatism....it just doesn't fit.  Like you say, the fact that Du Mez doesn't appear to understand Wayne might speak well to her understanding of Christ and the complementarianism she critiques.  Just. Wow.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.