This is a post I have avoided, processed independently and with others, put off and now it is time. Though, to be honest, I would rather be playing with my feisty pups, resting in cozy blankets, walking outside amongst the bright fall leaves or watching a fun-loving movie with the family. I do not love controversy, or to be in the middle of it, but a renewing lunch conversation reminded me why, “Steadfast Truth Ministries”. It is to share and speak truths that many are not speaking; truths that I, myself, have struggled with and sat upon.
Before I give my thoughts on the following book, note that all humans are in need of a Savior. We are all sinful.
This leads to an earthly church which will never be perfect because it is made of fallen people. And, if we want to focus on those failings, there are many. While history is important, it is more important to look at the message of Scripture, from the God of the universe. He is perfect, all powerful and forgiving. He is still at work and He is no less the answer when we as humans fail to exemplify Him well.
That being said, this is not a message to excuse sin and wrong doing. As believers, we are to live a life that honors and reflects Him and His teachings.
A RESPONSE TO, “JESUS & JOHN WAYNE: HOW WHITE EVANGELICALS CORRUPTED A FAITH AND FRACTURED A NATION”
WHAT TRUTHS CAN CHRISTIANS TAKE AWAY FROM THIS BOOK?
Critical Social Justice and Critical Race Theory focus on history. History is important; especially for these Theories; it is what defines systemic problems and supports their view of society. I believe history is important, too. It reminds humans of things we have done well and things we have not done well, so that we can make better decisions moving forward.
Kristin Kobes Du Mez is a Historian and speaks from a historical perspective. I am not a Historian.
First, we must recognize that Christians are not perfect and, like all humans, they make mistakes. Inevitably, the church and societies will see Christians and Christian institutions that do not always model Christ well.
This is one account of Christian evangelicals. I do not try to counter facts.
This perspective is from an “egalitarian” perspective rather than a “complementarian” perspective. I do not prefer to focus on this discussion, but her view is seen as the more “inclusive”. Both see all humans as equal in value. Complementarians says that both genders have differing roles in the private and public square, versus egalitarian saying that genders have equality in all roles.
Many believers hold to “egalitarian” views. I would note Kristin says one of her influences is a female who REWRITES scripture to support this “egalitarian” view. That is a side note that raises a legitimate flag for me. Also note that feminists played a very influential role in founding Critical Race Theory.
Kobes Du Mez does not say anything about her view on gender and sex outside of male and female. However, her questions, focus on “power and sex” as the driving force for the evangelical church failures, and many implications of her writings drive me to ask how far her idea of inclusion goes.
Kristin Kobes Du Mez is thoughtful, she is a wonderful communicator and her work is well written. I believe she cares about others and genuinely wants to see good done, as many do. However, it is at this point that Kristin and I part ways.
HOW DOES THIS WORK CONFLICT WITH SCRIPTURE?
To start, the title gives a very precise picture of how Kristin Kobes Du Mez has interpreted the history of white evangelicals in America, “How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.” This account could be written from they angle of God at work and titled completely different.
I believe it is Kobes Du Mez’s personal interpretation of the Theories and evangelical culture that are being shared, rather than a clearly historical piece. She implies that evangelical leaders all hold certain intent, but this is a very blanket assessment placed on many.
Again, the title, itself, clearly states that “white evangelicals” are the ones in the wrong. What are those wrongs?
The focus seems intent to disparage, vilify, criticize and demonize a few very key concepts; the “traditional/historical patriarchal family unit”, “masculinity”, “Christians as militant”, “white evangelicals being the problem”, “the evangelical church’s approach to sexuality and purity culture”. It is important to note that these concepts fall right in line with the CSJ and CRT.
I cannot speak on Kristin’s views or intent, but the book clearly has pieces of those Theories woven through it. It is with that perspective that the “white evangelical church history” has been presented in this academic work.
I noticed a few terms, “patriarchal” and “fundamentalism”. Those ideas create a big array of views in Christianity, many on the fringes only understand them as an overtly harsh means of strict biblical teaching that strip many of worth, dignity and value. The Bible teaches a patriarchal family and two separate genders. Truth will create division.
Understandably, the church has done much wrong, but need the entire evangelical church be demonized? I do not believe so.
It is important to note that Christians I have met with this perspective, often genuinely love God and want to serve Him well. They truly believe these wrongs mentioned by Kristin are the sins of the mentioned generations. But, are Christians asking the right questions in processing these concepts through a biblical lens?
Kristin is presenting an evangelical history, she seems to try stay neutral on big topics in Christianity, evangelicalism and her perspective. However, without pushing specific views as a Historian, I believe she does so inadvertently through the lens by which she writes.
Hope, in response to this book, is that “white evangelicals” can change their path moving forward.
But, what if the “Christian church” moved away from biblical and historical family, men and women being made distinctly different by God, sex and gender move away from biblical definitions, we no longer encouraged a purity culture and sex within marriage? We would no longer be functioning according to God’s Word or as believers.
Even if the intent of Kobes Du Mez is for there to be more grace in our Christian lives, when we start to strip away the differences of man vs. woman and “patriarchal” family units that God created, we start to play with fire.
The initial account that grieves my heart is the portrayal given of Billy Graham. The Graham family is not perfect, but they love God. I have worked at, “The Billy Graham Training Center” and have experienced the presence of God there, on a daily basis, first hand. I can only imagine that God might say the same thing about Billy that he said about David in the Bible, “a man after is own heart”.
(Note, I currently do not work at The Cove and I speak for myself.)
As are all humans, Billy was a sinner but I do not believe that God looks at his life and testimony as a failure within the American church. Billy was a masculine, white evangelical, as noted in this book but God did not fault him or look down on him because of these specifics. Many came to know Jesus Christ because of this man that God raised up!
I have seen more than one source trying to demonize past evangelical leaders, like Billy Graham. This breaks my heart. I believe these Christians are doing more harm than good. This is focusing on division, differences, and their interpretation of his intent. They do not know his heart. But the fact is, that many Christians adopting the Theories as part of their worldview, now see many past and current evangelical leaders as the problem, not just Billy Graham.
In regards to “white evangelicals”, this is another work that will be used by Christians to blend CSJ and CRT in with the Gospel. Remember that “white” and “Christian” fall on the oppressor side of the CSJ/CRT diagrams. The oppressors are the ones that need to change as they are the problem. This is a common sentiment I have both heard and read many times. Whether intended or not by each individual, it is demonizing the church as a whole.
In all honesty, this does make me angered. I spent a good period where I could not worship, read my Bible, often prayed God would take my life since there was no hope and tormented years in really questioning what the answer was, since Christians were believing ideologies that led to God no longer being enough. I pushed through, researching, until I found godly leaders able to explain Theory that have really been emerging in the public square, as a different worldview.
Kobes du Mez clearly distinguishes “white” and “evangelical” as the problem.
This is dangerous as I could provide numerous quotes about the hopelessness of “white” people according to CRT. If there is only a cycle of endless works to try to alleviate guilt and move me further down the antiracism spectrum, where is hope? Why are we placing all “whites” in a wrong, hopeless category as Christians, if we believe our identity is sinner vs. saved, that God made us in His image and that He already conquered death?
If we take away hope and becoming a new creation in Christ, we have changed the Gospel.
And yet, many are trying to justify merging Theory with the Gospel.
Not to mention the idea that all of “evangelicalism” has been labeled as wrong. Churches have been and will continue to be filled with sinful humans who have not done everything right. But the entirety of “evangelicalism” has not done wrong. Many are trying to help culture feel less offended, but the Gospel will simply offend. That does not mean we cannot treat others with love and kindness, but trying to make sinners feel more comfortable is not the message of the Gospel.
As for “sexuality”, the book goes on to demean many aspects of the Christian culture; the 90’s purity culture, female modesty, and by stating “…wives served to gratify male desire, men only needed to wait until marriage to be rewarded.” (p.170)
“In tandem with efforts to promote ‘biblical manhood and womanhood,’ an elaborate ‘purity culture’ was taking hold across American evangelicalism.” (p.169)
Here Josh McDowell, the evangelist, is mocked. “It was an odd pairing, the middle-aged father figure who appeared onstage at rock concerts mixing in dad jokes with frank talk of sex and venreal disease.” (p.170)
MASCULINITY & TRADITIONAL FAMILY
Masculinity” and the “traditional/biblical family unit” are supposedly wrong because they widen the gender divide. “The already mature market for resources on Christian masculinity…works that would further orient American evangelicalism around the gender divide.” (p.169)
James Dobson is spoken of as the next big Christian influence after Billy Graham, as he founded “Focus on the Family” and brought great focus to building a stronger patriarchal family unity. Dobson’s genuine pursuit as a follower of Christ is also questioned, “Even his appearance suggested a friendly, harmless demeanor. With his blond hair, blue eyes, gentle smile, and lanky figure -and his California address-Dobson coated his patriarchal teachings with a modern veneer.” (p.84)
“As evangelicals began to mobilize as a partisan political force, they did so by rallying to defend ‘family values.’ But family values politics was never about protecting the well-being of families generally. Fundamentally, evangelical ‘family values’ entailed the reassertion of patriarchal authority. At its most basic level, family values politics was about sex and power.” (p.88)
When reading the end of that quote, one has to start to question, is the concern really with “white evangelicals” or the Bible’s teachings? Are the “family values” of a patriarchal family that offensive to Kobes Du Mez? Or does she believe she is knowledgeable enough to know the intent and heart all “white evangelical” leaders?
Or does intent not matter? According to CRT, I have personally heard, “intent does not matter”.
Notice that CSJ and CRT would try to focus on the fault of “sex and power”. James Dobson is a sinner saved by grace, serving his Savior, as are most believers. The focus for Christians is not “sex and power”, trying to appear “harmless” and “coat patriarchal teachings”.
And Kobes seems to twist the message of all the white evangelical men to fit the CSJ/CRT narrative of oppressed versus oppressor. Christians, whites, men are all oppressors, as are hetero-sexual individuals. Is this really a historical work, or one use to fit a desired narrative?
Why are Christians eating this up as informative, directional and biblical when it is clearly a tainted perspective that is presented through a counter Christian worldview?
If Billy Graham was at fault for being too masculine, God made a mistake creating him as a man.
If James Dobson was wrong to emphasis and strengthen the family, then God was wrong to state, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
The only logical conclusion is to be open to CSJ and a world of inclusivity so others can choose their gender and pronouns. We are not believing God’s plan is sufficient and if we think He was wrong in His creation; creating us as “man” and “woman”.
If Josh McDowell is mocked for promoting a culture of “purity”, what is the new sexual standard that needs to be replaced?
The question is not whether or not we have made mistakes as Christian humans; the Bible states this is true.
Another view moves passed sinners vs. saved to the narrative of Theory and books like, “Jesus & John Wayne,” that say evangelical Christians are at fault for essentially being white, promoting masculinity even though God made man and woman different, wrongly teaching historical/biblical family values, a Christian approach to sexual purity and a view on sexuality that has supposedly fractured the nation.
This worldview and narrative are different than the Gospel.
Kristin Kobes Du Mez says, “For conservative white evangelicals steeped in this ideology, it can be difficulty to extricate their faith, and their identity, from this larger cultural movement.” (p.301-302)
So is the church now encouraged to “extricate their faith and identity” from biblical concepts because this cultural movement is offensive to counter cultural movements?
We see white evangelicals placed at fault, the church demonized, and yet Critical Social Justice ideology is an acceptable means by which Christian history should be assessed and changed? So is it now considered best to assess Christian culture through the lens of CSJ/CRT; groups, systems, collective group sin as the problem, power and sex being the major concern of discussion rather than biblical concepts?
Ironically, this attributes the focus of power and sex as the pursuit of white evangelicals for the last number of decades. Again, white evangelicals are sinners and full of flaws. But Kristin cannot group all white evangelicals together as one. She cannot assume that all white evangelicals are about power and sex, though that is what she does. I truly believe that the heart intent of these men is far from the image she portrays.
Kobes Du Mez’s last paragraph claims, “the evangelical cult of masculinity stretches back decades, its emergence was never inevitable…Appreciating how this ideology developed over time is also essential for those who wish to dismantle it.” (p.304)
And Theory turns to activism.
If this historical account were assessed through a biblical lens, considering the weakness of humans, forgiveness and grace, this would be a very different book. If it were written through a neutral lens, it would still be a very different book.
This is one book, but a very common narrative in society.
However, I believe God has been at work since the beginning of creation and He is STILL at work. He is greater than our sin and He has already conquered death! We have hope. Do not let these new ideologies make you doubt His goodness, your worth, or if He IS enough.
It will continue to be more common to see more believers starting to accept these ideologies as many have not been taught how they conflict with the Gospel. So study up and know your convictions! Don’t stop asking questions, even if you are the only one holding to uneasiness that something is veering from Truth.
God would you speak hope, confidence and Truth to those reading this.
I have been there and I did not give up. I went from praying that God would take my life, as I doubted His power through these lies, to sharing Truth and that He has ALREADY conquered death!
He will have the final victory!
Where does this leave Christians that are accepting Kobes Du Mez’s perspective of history and using it’s flawed assessments to now process how the church should change and move forward?
Do Christians stop emphasizing the biblical family unity, a sexual purity culture, the difference between male and female, and any other means by which culture tells us to deviate?
Or, do we remain steadfast in Truth and the Gospel?
If we remain steadfast, do we ignore our wrongs as humans? No. When we sin, we return humbly to the Savior, like King David after he committed adultery and murder. Do we still keep our brothers and sisters in Christ accountable? Yes. Do we forgive when we are wronged? Yes. And we remain steadfast in living out our faith in Christ.
Through what lens are you viewing the the church and society? Are you creating your own definitions, works, and using societal labels Christ did not give?
Do you truly believe that God is THE solution? Or, do you believe there are additional works, requirements needed for hope and reconciliation, not outlined in the Bible?
Are you buying into the world’s view of oppressed vs. oppressor categories that are acceptable? Or the Bible’s views? If the Bible, have you gone back to the scripture to make sure context and the exegesis was as intended? Or are you adding Scripture to your narrative, as you understand it?
Are you compromising your faith?