A good book can turn your life around. I just finished Jesus and John Wayne by my fellow Anxious Bench blogger Kristin Kobes Du Mez. It was a revelation.
I’ve been around for a while. I grew up in the subculture of American evangelicalism. If I grew a beard, it would have at least as much gray as Willie Robertson’s. But until reading Jesus and John Wayne, I did not realize the full extent of my evangelical masculine insufficiency.
Where to begin? Let’s face it. Being a professional historian and a Professor of Religious Studies is not exactly airborne ranger, wild at heart, spiritual badass stuff. This may be an insurmountable problem. But I’ve got to give it a try. Maybe I could rebrand myself as a scholarly warrior. Go into the classroom with a camo tie or jacket? Maybe a camo tie and jacket? At least a camo mask for this fall? There is hope. It’s not impossible to be a manly evangelical scholar. See Eric Metaxas, who also has way better hair than I do.
My out-of-the-classroom hobbies need retooling. Things I currently like include tennis, watching The Great British Baking Show (gulp), and birding (double gulp). Time for some born-again masculinity. Baking is out, MMA is in, though I don’t know what the acronym stands for. Birding is fine, as long as it’s shooting birds. For that, I will need a gun, or at least a crossbow, which might actually be cooler. I’ve never been a gun guy anyway.
After reading about the evangelical heroes of the last fifty years, I also need to loosen up a bit. I had a phase back in middle school when I used bad language to try to sound cooler in front of other boys, but in recent years, I’ve only used naughty words when quoting Brigham Young sermons. Otherwise, I’ve sounded like Mitt Romney instead of Mark Driscoll. I need to pepper my lectures and tweets with expletives. It’s the age of crass, badass, militant Christianity.
No more Christian nice guy. No more servant leadership. Soft patriarchy is out. With all due respect to Brad Wilcox, real Christian men need to do more than simply spend more time with their wives and children than average American husbands. And they need to do less. Real Christian men don’t do the dishes. Seriously. I’ve done a lot of dishes over the last two decades and now I’m done with doing the dishes. Until now, I worried that if I didn’t do the dishes they might not get done. But then I found this nugget in Jesus and John Wayne: “If a wife was not properly submissive, it was a husband’s duty to correct her. For instance, if dirty dishes lingered in the sink, he must immediately sit her down and remind her of her duty; if she rebelled, he was to call the elders of the church to intervene.” I had never thought of the threat to call the elders! That’ll do the trick.
After many years in the ivory tower surrounded by leftist radicals, my transformation into a Christian warrior-scholar probably will take some time. But I’ve got time for spiritual reeducation during this pandemic. I’m watching The Green Berets and Braveheart and The Passion. Why can’t Mel Gibson star in and make movies nowadays? I spent five hundred bucks buying all the episodes of Duke Dynasty on Amazon. I’ve updated my reading material. Marsden is out; Metaxas is in. I couldn’t talk my church into hosting a Smoking Barrel event until COVID-19 subsides, but I’m eating all the smoked meat I can find at the grocery. By the time we can resume our normal lives, I’m going to be ready to put out fires, fight in combat, and save damsels in distress.
And politics. I’ve been in the wilderness. Back in 2016, I couldn’t stomach Donald Trump. True, Hillary Clinton apparently had no qualms about late-term abortion, and that did give me some pause. But when Donald Trump called Mexicans rapists, talked about grabbing women by the (I still need to work on that crassness), and seemed to have no qualifications whatsoever to hold the highest office the land, I had to hold my nose and vote for a Democrat. What I didn’t realize at the time is that Trump was acting precisely the way an evangelical leader should act. Mark Driscoll. C.J. Mahaney. Doug Phillips. Bill Gothard. Now I’m ready to keep America great.
What I can’t understand is why Trump doesn’t replace Mike Pence! He’s way too nice, painfully faithful to his wife and even polite to folks on the other side of the political aisle. The perfect running mate for Trump is someone cut more from the same cloth. What about Jerry Falwell Jr.? He’s available.
I’m sure there are lots of other evangelical men out there who would benefit from this book. Maybe you think women can hold positions of leadership in anything other than homeschooling pods and craft fairs. Maybe you wonder whether Muslims, Democrats, or public health experts are the greatest threat to God and country. Maybe you don’t know whether Joe Biden is demonic or just demented. Maybe you can’t decide whether to buy your smokin’ hot wife some leather pants or a pioneer-style dress for Christmas. Actually, that last point is a little fuzzy in the book. Maybe both? For the most part, though, Jesus and John Wayne is the perfect guide to biblical manhood.
Wait a minute! The author is a woman? And I misunderstood the book? Gosh darn it. Well, at least the last sentence is perfect: “What was once done might also be undone.”