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Listening In: Kristin Du Mez

WORLD Radio - Listening In: Kristin Du Mez

WARREN SMITH, HOST:  I’m Warren Smith and today you’re listening in on my conversation with writer and Calvin University professor Kristin Du Mez.

In the 1990s, when Bill Clinton’s sexual promiscuity created a constitutional crisis for the country, evangelicals were virtually unanimous in their position that “character matters” even in the lives of our secular and political leaders.  

Fast-forward 15 years, to 2010, and many of those same evangelical leaders had the same cry on their lips– “character matters” – when Donald Trump began to talk about running for president.  

So, fast-forward yet a few more years to 2016 and you’ve got to ask the question: how did 81 percent of evangelicals vote for Donald Trump for president?

Answering that question is one of the driving forces behind Kristin du Mez’s new book, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.

Kristin du Mez says Donald Trump is not the first flashy celebrity to capture the imagination of Evangelical Christians. She traces the history of evangelicalism from the rise of “muscular Christianity” in the early 20th century until today. She devotes time to Billy Graham, of course, but also to Promise Keepers, Phyllis Schafly, Mark Driscoll, Eric Metaxas, and a whole lot more. As you will hear in our discussion, I don’t agree with many of her conclusions, and I think she intentionally leaves out much important information about evangelicalism that would undercut her basic arguments.

But her book is emerging as a much talked-about history of 20th century evangelicalism, worthy of serious consideration.

Because of COVID restrictions, I had this conversation with Kristin Du Mez remotely.  I was in my home studio in Charlotte, North Carolina. She spoke to me from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she teaches history at Calvin University.

Well, Kristin Du Mez, welcome to the program. And thank you for your book Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. I’d like to start just by asking you, why did you write this book? Why do you think we need a book like this now?

KRISTIN DU MEZ, GUEST: Sure. Thank you for having me. So, the idea for this book started a long time ago, more than 15 years ago, actually. I was teaching an intro course on U.S. history at Calvin College, then, now University. And I just wanted to show my students how gender worked in history, especially masculinity. It’s not just a personal thing, but it’s connected to the rest of history, to ideas of American power, empire, things like that. And so I had a lesson on Teddy Roosevelt. At the end of that lecture, a couple of guys from my class came up to me and said, Professor Du Mez, there is a book you need to read. And that book was John Eldridge’s Wild at Heart. And so I listened to them. I picked up the book and I saw exactly what they were talking about. Eldridge opens his book with a quote from Teddy Roosevelt and goes on to sketch a very militant, militaristic conception of what he calls Christian masculinity. And that was very interesting to me at the time. 

I was struck by a couple of things. One, he didn’t use a lot of Bible verses to construct this vision. He looked to Hollywood heroes, to mythical warriors and soldiers. And I was also struck by the fact that this was back in 2005 or six and the early years of the Iraq War. And we were seeing how white evangelicals were far and away more enthusiastic about war, about pre-emptive war, about torture. And so I just asked the question, What might one of these things have to do with the other? 

And for a time I ended up setting the project aside. I was busy with other things. And I had this nagging question. What I was uncovering was really disturbing. It was often deeply misogynistic, violent even. And I wasn’t sure if I was looking at mainstream evangelicalism, or some fringe movement. This was the time of Mark Driscoll, right? I knew it was popular, but still wasn’t quite sure. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to shine this bright light on maybe the darkest underbelly of American Christianity. So, I put it aside. And it was in the fall of 2016 after the release of the Access Hollywood tape and looking at growing support for Trump among white evangelicals that I decided to take out that research again and ended up writing this book.

SMITH: Well, that’s a great history of the book. I did want to press on a couple of ideas and words, even, that you mentioned in your little introduction there. One is this idea of white evangelicalism. And you also talk a great deal in the book about white nationalism. Can you, first of all, just define those terms for me? What is an evangelical? And what is white nationalism?

DU MEZ: Those are little questions with long answers. So, let’s start with evangelicalism. What is an evangelical? The kind of standard idea is that evangelicals themselves will say it’s a theological category. So an evangelical is somebody who believes, upholds the authority of the Scriptures, is like crucis centric. So, the centrality of the cross, Christ’s atonement, conversion, being born again, and activist is acting out of that faith. That’s what I was assuming when I started this project. And then the further I looked, the more I realized that the phenomenon that I was looking at, evangelicalism as a historical and cultural movement in the last half century, cannot really be reduced to or defined by narrowly theological doctrines, constructs. 

SMITH: Kristin, let me interrupt you there just for a second because what if it can and should? In other words, what if what you’re really describing that you are calling evangelicalism is not, in fact, something else?

DU MEZ: Well, so that’s a question: Who gets to define that? That’s the question. Is it my job to say they are or are not evangelicals? So, theologians could say I am drawing a line in the sand and I define evangelical according to a theological rubric and you guys are not evangelicals. As a cultural historian, I’m interested in a movement that I am observing that goes by the name of evangelical. And I’m looking at people who self identify as evangelicals today, because I think that that matters. So we can talk about a theological rubric and decide who fits into that and who doesn’t and it will be a very diverse group. But then we can also start saying that what does this theological rubric actually define? Some of these concepts: What kind of a Jesus is at the heart of this crucis centrism? What kind of activism is actually a part of this faith? And if so, does it make sense to lump global Christians, black Protestants, conservative white evangelicals all in one bucket? It might, for some purposes. If we are looking at a historical movement, then I’m very interested in who is attending church with whom, who was reading books written by whom. I came to see evangelicalism as a series of networks and alliances, and as a consumer culture. So, did you grow up listening to James Dobson on the radio? Did you shop at Christian bookstores? What books are your pastors reading? Right? Where are your ideas coming from? And I end up mapping out evangelicalism as a network and as this cultural identity largely. And I think that really is connecting with readers who can identify the places in which their own story intersects with this larger movement.

SMITH: Well, I get that and I appreciate your kind of clarifying your definition. But you can also I think maybe you can appreciate, Kristin, that it’s problematic whenever you go on to use that definition to, you know, impute pretty bad behavior to the group, right? I mean, you basically say they, in your book title, they corrupted a faith and fractured a nation. Well, what if they didn’t? What if it’s just those evangelicals that you idiosyncratically define as evangelicals because they fit that definition that you just gave, but they might, in fact, not share evangelical theological distinctives at all.

DU MEZ: So, I think I’m pretty clear who I’m talking about. I name a lot of names. And so I think we could ask, is James Dobson an evangelical? Should we consider him an evangelical? You know, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Jerry Falwell, Sr. For a lot of people, these are very influential figures who defined their religious culture. If we don’t call them evangelicals and, again, I’m calling them white evangelicals. That’s very important. And throughout the book, I’m often also labeling them conservative white evangelicals. I say there’s an evangelical left. I say there are evangelicals who are dissenting. But if we’re looking at where the central power to kind of dictate the boundaries of evangelicalism, and particularly these political alliances, then we are talking about, I think, conservative white evangelicals. And if you have a better name for the group that I’m looking at, I’m open to that. But this is largely how people are self identifying. 

SMITH: Right. Well, I certainly wouldn’t question or doubt that James Dobson is an evangelical, but I would also say that, you know, so is Ron Sider. So is Hank Hannegraaff. So is David French. So is Tim Keller. So is Rick Warren, people that are mentioned almost not at all, and in some cases, not at all in your book. And so I guess, here’s the real question that I’m getting at, Kristin: At what point—sort of defend the accusation or the charge, if I may put it this way—and I’m not trying to be confrontational, but just want to ask your defense of it—that you’re doing a little bit of, you know, selective picking here. I don’t want to say nut picking because the ones you’ve chosen are certainly in the mainstream, but there are a whole lot of others as well. 

DU MEZ: Well, let me answer that a minute by saying I want to be very clear. This is not a history of American evangelicalism. This is a history of white evangelical masculinity and militarism as they are intertwined. That is the story that I’m telling. So that is the thread that I’m pulling through. So, I want to look at dominant constructions of this ideal of Christian manhood as it has evolved over the last half century or so. That’s the thread I’m pulling. And the people who are speaking into that most clearly, for whom that is most important, are conservative white evangelicals. So somebody like Ron Sider, I could have, in fact, I originally proposed what if I had a chapter on alternate Christian or evangelical masculinities that are more fringe. Yeah, sure. Look at their book sales, and they may be sold 5,000 books instead of 4 million books, but they’re really great examples. Or let’s look at somebody like Ron Sider. Many people haven’t heard of him. I was influenced by him myself growing up. We could look at that. But then let’s also look at relative influence, relative significance within this larger movement. And that’s where I had to make some choices and that’s where to tell the story of evangelical masculinity and militarism as it evolves over time, this is how I told that story.

SMITH: Well, I get that but once again, I would ask the question, are they truly representative of evangelicalism? I mean, they are representative of a branch of evangelicalism that embraces, you know, masculinity and militarism as you defined it. But, you know, Rick Warren’s book sold 50 million copies. So if this were a poker game, I see your five million copies, but I raise you 45 million for a Rick Warren or a Tim Keller. Are they not also representative of evangelicalism? 

DU MEZ: They absolutely are. So, I’d say is there anything in Rick Warren that undermines this? So, can you read Rick Warren and this side by side? Absolutely. So, Rick Warren is great. Rick Warren is not speaking into this particular issue and changing people or diverting people. Rick Warren can come alongside of this brand of evangelicalism, of another brand of evangelicalism, of prosperity gospel of all sorts, right? So we can talk Rick Warren. He wasn’t central to this story, but I don’t think he undermines this story. Although surely there are evangelicals who love Rick Warren and who don’t like James Dobson, perhaps. Or Wild at Heart. But, so, let me see. Is this representative? What I can say is that this book published seven months ago, and I have received hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of messages, probably close to 1,000 by now by evangelical readers who say some version of the same thing. This is the story of my life. This describes my upbringing. This describes my faith formation, like nothing else I’ve ever seen. And so the question is, are they fringe? Or is this book tapping into something that many people recognize, whether they ended up agreeing with it or disagreeing with it. So, let’s take somebody like Tim Keller, where does he fit into this story? He could have been in here more. He’s, you know, founder of The Gospel Coalition. He’s participated in this. He’s not constrained by this narrative. But he absolutely participated in the culture that produced this. Even if he’s dissenting now, even if somebody like David French is saying not all the way, they are still part of this story. And so what I would like to look at is power dynamics within the movement. Does somebody like David French feel like he is at the center of evangelicalism right now? Does he feel like he is a leader and has a lot of followers? Or does he feel like he’s just kind of shouting into the dark right now and frustrated and wondering what has happened to the evangelicalism he thought he knew. And I think he’s probably more on that end than feeling like he’s pretty much at the center of things.


I’m Warren Smith. Welcome back to the program. You’re listening in on my interview with Kristin Du Mez. Her new book is Jesus and John Wayne. Kristin Du Mez has written for The Washington Post, Christianity Today, and other publications.

Let’s get right back to our conversation.

A couple of more definitions, Kristin, if I could get you to sort of unpack for me a little bit. One would be kind of a distinction between evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Are you lumping them together? Are you trying to separate them?

DU MEZ: I’m definitely doing more lumping than separating, although historically, you know, it really matters what point in time are we asking this question? So, if we go back to the 1940s, I think it’d be easier to separate fundamentalists from evangelicals, although I would never fully separate them. And I think it’s a mistake to take somebody, a group like the National Association of Evangelicals, as they are defining themselves against fundamentalists, right. And they were outward-facing and were this kind of new movement. And we are not those really militant, reactionary fundamentalists who have their own organization over there. But you take somebody like Billy Graham and you’re gonna see that, even though he’s outward facing, he’s way too ecumenical for the fundamentalists, hardcore fundamentalists when it comes to basic religious beliefs and cultural dispositions. There are a lot of affinities between fundamentalists and evangelicals. And the way I would say it is, over time, they’re never completely separate. They partner together, even if they might have some theological infighting when it comes increasingly to cultural and political values. They’re found on the same side. And I would say that fundamentalism will over time kind of reinject itself into conservative evangelicalism around issues of gender, sexuality, and an array of political issues as well. And also, I think, a mentality of a kind of culture wars militarism, where we don’t see a huge divide between fundamentalism and evangelicalism. Of course, we could say, well, the fundamentalists are over in the independent fundamental Baptist network and evangelicals are at the megachurch in suburbia. But when we are looking at the values, and particularly politics, we’re gonna see a lot of affinities there. So it’s complicated. 

SMITH: Well, it is complicated. And I guess one of the things that I think complicates it is the issue of abortion. In other words, it’s one thing to say that these two groups of fundamentalists and evangelicals are aligned because of their common allegiance to patriarchy, or to militarism, or to John Wayne, or to Donald Trump. But I find precious little conversation in your book, and I’m just wondering if you could respond to this, about issues like abortion and same sex marriage? In other words, there are really some important issues that if I made the case that they were more important—abortion in particular—than patriarchy or militarism, what would your response to that be? 

DU MEZ: Yeah, I’d say that they can’t always be fully separated. I certainly went into this thinking abortion was absolutely central. I grew up in a conservative Christian community and understood it to be. As a historian, the historical record complicates that just a bit. Which doesn’t mean abortion is not a critically important issue individually to many Christians. It absolutely is and I want to affirm that. Historically speaking, when we’re looking at the kind of the partisan political mobilization of evangelicals in the 1960s and 1970s, the roots of the religious right, abortion is not what you might expect it to be. So in the 1960s, you can see that evangelicals, conservative evangelicals actually held a wide array of beliefs on abortion. Is it right? Is it wrong? I mean, it’s not ideal. It’s not great. It’s a sin. But it’s also a complicated moral issue. And it’s something that really needs to be struggled with through a woman, a man, a pastor. You know, Christianity Today in 1968 has this really interesting special issue devoted to abortion, you know, Abortion: Right or Wrong. And, really, the conclusion is it’s very complicated, biblically, socially, politically. So that’s in the late 60s. Roe v. Wade happens. Even by that point, you have folks in the SBC, you have evangelicals saying, abortion: not great, but it needs to be an option. 

DU MEZ: Kristin, let me interrupt you there for just a second because, listen, I get all of that. I know that history and I think you’ve recounted it accurately. But I think Roe v. Wade really was a line in the sand and, you know, there was a big difference. The moral question changed after Roe v. Wade. When abortion became not safe, legal and rare, or, or safe, illegal and rare. In other words, it became, you know, what I think many evangelicals came to see and it was a dawning. I mean, it was something that didn’t happen, I concede, right away for a lot of evangelicals. But I think when abortion numbers started hitting 6-7-8-900,000 a year, a million a year, 1.1 million a year, I think people began to see it as a moral question of a different scale. 

DU MEZ: They did and in time, in the years after Roe v. Wade, we see that changing. It also is not just because of the numbers that it becomes alarming. The numbers are a part of this story. It’s also because it came to be situated in terms of the larger set of issues that I spell out in this book—the importance of gender difference, the importance for women, their submission to male authority, and their embrace of domesticity, their rejection, open rejection of feminism, of having careers, things like that. In the 1970s, that’s when these issues really came to the floor and for many conservative evangelicals, gender difference, and really, defending supporting and reinforcing domesticity, motherhood, being a wife and a mom, for women came to be a marker of religious faithfulness and it’s that’s the context in which abortion—not just post-Roe v. Wade, but also against the backdrop of feminism, particularly their anti-feminism—also came to the fore. And so I think it’s impossible to fully separate. Now individually, you might. Historically, you cannot fully separate abortion from the gender roles, “traditional gender roles” that evangelicals also embraced in opposition to much of the rest of American culture at the time.

SMITH: Well, that’s true. I mean, let me just say, I would not argue with that. But I would also say you can’t separate it from the moral question either.

DU MEZ: No, you can’t. I mean, I think it is a moral question. And we approach that moral question with a set of values and a set of commitments that shapes how we understand that. I think we absolutely have a wide gulf today. Is this ultimately about the life of a child? When does life start? Obviously, those are moral questions. But there also continues to be the—on all sides of this issue—what is a woman’s role? What is a woman’s responsibility? What ought a woman to be doing? And so it is tangled together. So I know we want to diminish the moral facet. But the moral facet is intertwined with our broader value systems.

SMITH: I want to ask you to define another word, which you use a lot in your book, and you’ve kind of suggested, you may have even mentioned the word itself. But you certainly alluded to it, and that word is patriarchy. Would you define what you mean when you use the word patriarchy?

DU MEZ: Sure. Essentially, a system of masculine authority where authority is considered to be rightly held by a man by virtue of the fact that he is the man. Now what authority is that? So, I talked about patriarchal authority. I’ll talk about white patriarchy at times. It’s really masculine leadership, and then we can start to discuss in any given moment what that entails. So, is it simply spiritual authority? Is that that only a man can be a pastor or an elder or a deacon? That’s kind of the world I grew up in. That was the primary debate. Is it also social authority? Does masculine authority extend through society? Is all authority rightfully masculine? How does God structure society more broadly? All of these questions come into play within families, within churches, and within the broader community? So it really, it depends on what situation you’re looking at. But at its base, it’s really an understanding of power and that power, rightly, is exercised by men. 

SMITH: Well, it is at least in some venues and some contexts in exercise of power. But you know, you’re a wife, you’re a mother. Would you concede that there are differences between men and women?

DU MEZ: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I think it’s often a kind of a fallacy for conservatives to think that—I’d consider myself a feminist as well. So I’ll just identify there, if we want to deconstruct that. But that feminists are denying that there is any difference between men and women, there are biological differences, hormonal, right. There’s all kinds of differences we can explore. But then the next step is I’m a cultural historian. So what meaning is ascribed to those existing differences? Are these differences that we ought to amplify? Are these differences that we ought to just accept and live? And as Christians, how should we respond to these differences if God created men and women in distinct ways, God also created each and every one of us in fairly distinct ways. And we don’t have this stark, stark gender divide that all men are like this, all women like that are like this. If you look at traits, if you look at even biology, you’re gonna find more of a spectrum. So I think there’s a question of, you know, what meaning is ascribed to particular gender differences. And that’s probably where some of the interesting differences will emerge. 


SMITH: You’ve been listening in on my conversation with Kristin Du Mez. Her new book is Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. Let’s get right back to that conversation. 

Our time is going to come to an end, Kristin, sooner than I would like it to, because I obviously found your book fascinating and interesting and would love to spend more time with you, but we don’t have that time. So let me drill down into a couple of quick things. Donald Trump is kind of inextricably bound to a lot of the arguments in your book. You even mentioned at the beginning that he was, you know, that sort of the rise of Trump is one of the reasons that you came back to this project after having been abandoning it for a while. And I guess I’d like to, you know, just push on that a little bit and ask you about, there’s a couple of people in particular that were of great interest to me that you mentioned really towards the end of your book. One is Eric Metaxas. One is Mark Driscoll. And a person that you didn’t mention and I thought she was kind of conspicuous in her absence was Paula White. But let’s start with Mark Driscoll because I actually wrote those stories for WORLD Magazine that you quote in your book, that, you know, was the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning for Mark Driscoll. Why do you think he’s such a seminal figure? Why did you spend time on him in your book? 

DU MEZ: Oh, first of all, when I kind of first discovered this topic, like I mentioned, it was John Eldridge. And then I was watching the Driscoll phenomenon unfold. I mean, first at its height, and then as it over the years came apart. And so I was just astounded by who he was, what he was saying. And yeah, this question of is he mainstream? Is he marginal? And I wanted to consider him fringe. Absolutely. And yet I saw his influence throughout evangelicalism, particularly among other evangelical pastors and among young evangelical men who looked to him, who admired him, who wanted to model their ministries after him. And so those are the figures that were really interesting to me that on the surface, you want to say, okay, fringe. This is an extremist. Who even is this guy, but then I became really interested in looking at, well, you know, who was sharing their platform with him, who was who was calling him brother in Christ, who was you know, amplifying his message, who was making excuses for him, and understanding evangelicalism as this kind of network and understanding where kind of the power was centered and who had permission to kind of embrace and amplify folks and then what would get you kind of excluded or dismissed from respectable evangelicalism. And to see how somebody like Driscoll was for so long embraced with the caveat of, okay, he might be a little rough around the edges, but, you know, he’s really preaching the gospel and we need to thank God for that. And so Mark Driscoll was actually fascinating to me, because he was a person who revealed precisely those dynamics.

SMITH: Well, I don’t disagree with that. And I think Mark Driscoll was tolerated for far too long within evangelicalism. I mean, obviously, since I wrote those stories for WORLD that I realized that my comment could be a little bit self-serving here. But I would also, you know, I could argue the other side of that coin. Yes, Mark Driscoll was tolerated for far too long evangelicalism, but it was ultimately evangelicalism that confronted him. I mean, it was WORLD Magazine, my articles. It was the Acts 29 network, ultimately, you know, caused him to, you know, they kicked him out of the leadership role. So, did we tolerate him too long? Absolutely. But, you know, did we realize that he ultimately did not come to represent what we stood for? I think the answer to that question has to be yes, too.

DU MEZ: Yes, it is. It is. But I mean, this is exactly where evangelicalism is today, too. Where these communities are, like a small scale, large scale. How did we get to this point? How did we get to the point that Mark Driscoll got to at that point, right? And it wasn’t just tolerated. It was celebrated. It was enabled, it was created, right? We created this. We embraced this figure. I’m saying we. I don’t actually identify as an evangelical, but I did grow up as a conservative Christian. So, I mean, those are the questions and at a certain point, what point goes too far? And then this isn’t just Mark Driscoll. This is a pattern. This is a pattern. The book Jesus and John Wayne is packed with names, packed with stories. I could have thrown in a lot more. Actually, the original manuscript was 60,000 words longer. So, this is almost a half of what the original book was. But so you know, I’ve tried to understand these patterns. So, Mark Driscoll is just one and then you’ve got the televangelists, sure. But then you’ve got Jerry Falwell, Sr., Jerry Falwell, Jr., you’ve got much smaller scale. Let’s talk independent fundamental Baptists. And let’s talk all of these figures. We could have added Dave Ramsey. He’d be very interesting to weave into this narrative, right? And so looking at not just one figure of, okay, took us a little too long. We got rid of him. It wasn’t just toleration. It’s what does this tell us about core values? How could this keep happening? And then why is it so hard to extricate this? Why is it so hard to uproot some of these figures? And then we turn around and there’s another one.

SMITH: I wanted to just briefly explore with you Paula White, because obviously you’ve got this narrative of white patriarchal power and the rise of Trump and yet I think it’s would be hard to, you know, I think it’d be easy to argue that Paula White was the most influential evangelical in the Donald Trump world. She’s a female, she leads, you know, multiracial churches. How does she fit into your narrative?

DU MEZ: Yeah, no, that’s a totally legitimate critique and it’s something that bothered me as I was finishing the book. And it’s not just Paula White, but really, prosperity preachers and the Pentecostal movement more generally is not featured prominently at all in this book. And what I ran into there is limits of time and space. I would have loved another six months to do that research and to add it to the book because she really emerged, you know, quite kind of late in this story in terms of her influence, clearly around Trump. So, not in the leading up to it. But also it gets very complicated. I’ve talked with folks in Pentecostal circles about this question, and there are divisions within Pentecostalism, and prosperity teachings. Some are very patriarchal. Many, there still is a strong tradition of hey, the Holy Spirit calls you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, you can preach. And that’s the Paula White and there’s a long history of that as well. But what I’m also hearing is that the more evangelical, fundamentalist patriarchy has also absolutely seeped into patriarchal circles so that women who are preaching in support of this larger ideology are the ones who are really empowered right now. And women who are preaching against it are not and so that’s what I’m hearing from those circles. But you’re right, it is an absence in this book, and the book would be stronger with a thorough analysis of that.

SMITH: One final person before we try to land this airplane, Kristin. And that’s Eric Metaxas. I’ve known Eric, personally, for 10 years. I worked at the Colson Center for four years. And Eric was kind of an erstwhile colleague of mine. So I’m, you know, very familiar with his story. But you included him, in some ways, as an object lesson, someone who was opposed to Trump early on 2010, 2011, 2012. And in fact I heard Eric give a speech at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, in which he said, if Donald Trump was a conservative, then I’m not sure I am. But he came around, as you say in your book later. Say a little bit more about Eric Metaxas.

DU MEZ: Eric Metaxas is a very difficult person to say just a little bit. He’s very slippery. He’ll say one thing, and then he’ll turn around, he’ll say another thing, and he changes his position. And to be honest, I would love a really good study of Eric Metaxas as a person. Sometimes I feel like he’s a performer, and he’s taking on one role and then he places that aside. And he’s a masterful performer. And so he played the role of the, you know, New York intellectual evangelical beautifully, until he set that role aside and picked up this populist one, which is an odd fit, but it seems to be working for him, kind of. And so he’s very Mercurial. I included him because he wrote a book on Christian masculinity. But because he was–

SMITH: Let me pause you there. You think his Seven Men is a book on Christian masculinity?

DU MEZ: No, Seven Men.

SMITH: Yeah, that’s what I mean. Is that what you’re saying? That book is a book on Christian masculinity?

DU MEZ: Well, it’s one of them. And it’s—

SMITH: But he also wrote Seven Women as well. So is that does that make him a feminist just because he wrote a book called Seven Women?

DU MEZ: No. Just because you talk about women doesn’t make you a feminist. 

SMITH: Well, I guess my point is just because he talked about men, does that make him a symbol of white male patriarchy?

DU MEZ: No, no. I didn’t say he was. I said, he wrote a book on Christian masculinity. And a book on Christian masculinity that opens with the claim that, you know, we all know that John Wayne is the icon of American manhood. And so I thought that was really quite interesting. But I thought Metaxas was important to include because he is a prominent figure in American evangelicalism. He certainly was a prominent respectable leader. And the role that he plays in my narrative is demonstrating how an array of evangelicals from kind of different corners of the evangelical subculture came together to not just support Trump, but to also kind of support Trump with the same kind of rhetoric. And looking to Trump as this powerful man, as the strong man who was going to protect Christianity. And so I really liked pairing Eric Metaxas with Duck Dynasty, because, you know, on the surface they appear to be very different, but they’re demonstrating this kind of common commitment to a rugged, if need be militant masculinity that makes a lot of sense of support for Donald Trump. You know, he’s gonna fight for us. He will protect us. That’s exactly what he said. And that’s exactly what evangelicals were saying about him. So Eric Metaxas was simply an example of an evangelical who came around. One that you might not expect to. And, frankly, a fascinating figure in his own right. 

SMITH: Yeah, no, I completely agree with that. Well, Kristin, let me let me just kind of close our conversation by positing a different theory. That it’s not sort of white nationalism or commitment to patriarchy that’s the real problem here. But really, and I hate to be so simplistic about this, but a love of money. That, you know, Eric Metaxas converted to being pro-Trumpian whenever he got a radio program on the Salem Broadcasting Network. And Salem was all in for Donald Trump. And some of the questions that I ask that appear to be skeptical about your theory about, for example, what about Paula White, what about pentecostalism, what about the prosperity gospel preachers that were all in for Donald Trump. I just find it a lot more plausible to sort of, you know, apply Occam’s Razor here. That it’s either you’ve got these folks that have figured out how to make money and those that haven’t is a kind of a much easier dividing line here. Critique that theory.

DU MEZ: Well, I guess, there’s a lot of ways that you can be making money. These are particular ways that people are making money and choosing to make money and that might make sense of Paula White. Maybe it makes sense of Eric Metaxas. But I point you to the longer history that I sketched out here. There is a history that it is about money. Let’s look at Jerry Falwell, Sr., Jr. There’s a lot of money that changes hands. That’s something that I try to point out over and over in this narrative. 

SMITH: I think it explains Driscoll, as well. And I think it also explains why you would choose to leave out people like Tim Keller and Hank Hanegraaff, Michael Horton and David Wells, and Russell Moore and David French. They’re — 

DU MEZ: Well, I mean, yeah. Russell Moore and David French are in the book and as kind of models of, you know, not going along with this necessarily. But also implicated in this, right? Also implicated in this in different ways. But I think Russell Mark comes out looking quite good, actually. So, if you’re just looking at the Trump snapshot, you could you could you could look perhaps at money and power. If you look at the longer history of evangelicalism, if you are a woman who has lived this longer history of evangelicalism, you know it is not just about money and power. It is also about patriarchal authority. And look at the politics of white evangelicals, right? Can we explain the politics of the religious right and reduce it to, hey, it’s about money and power. It is absolutely about money and power, but it’s not just about money and power. So I would say, let’s look at this longer history and test your theory and see how well it holds up explaining what we know is true of the cultural and political identities of conservative white evangelicals over the last 75 years.

SMITH: Well, Kristin, I’ll give you the last word on that. Listen, thank you so much for writing this book. I actually found it to be fascinating. Because I’ve been in this world for a long time, I know a lot of the people that you mentioned in the book, so that made it maybe doubly interesting and I really appreciate the spirited discussion today. Thank you so much.

DU MEZ: Thank you.

(Photo/Kristin Du Mez)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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I finished the podcast, and my only real issue is that I left not really understanding the author’s position, beyond the title/subtitle. I’d have liked to hear more about her understanding of where she places the Biblical implications of patriarchy, and how it compares to the people mentioned by her in the interview. I’m sure that the book covers it in detail, but I’d have liked to hear more of the summary of what the book actually covers. Thanks for having Ms. Du Mez on the program, however.


I am currently listening to this podcast (I always run late, sometimes very late), and appreciate that the guest is being challenged, and it seems, politely. But where I am now is in the discussion regarding abortion….and find myself in a place different than both “when lots of them began to happen” and the guest apparently dealing with “women saw this as a patriarchal manner”. For me, I never gave it a thought before I came to Christ in 1974, and would not have thought of it afterward until the issue came close to my own life experience – and for me I found the Bible clear on the matter, but as an engineer, the science was even more clear. The Court might have said they could not decide when human life begins….but even a short time later it was much much less murky. It had nothing to do with “hundreds of thousands/year”.