When Otoma Edje approached me a few months ago and asked if I'd like to join an interview with Kristin Kobes du Mez (Calvin University), I declined. My slate was full, and besides, I didn't know who she is. (My bad!) The interview was to zero in on her latest book, Jesus & John Wayne, which had just come out digitally. A few days later, and after a few moments online, I changed my mind. I ordered the Kindle version, and was enthralled. (The paperback was released yesterday.)
Wow! Du Mez certainly gives us a lot to think about—although small minds seeking confirmation of their assumptions may not learn anything, and might even be rankled. But if you love history, are willing to reflect critically on the church, are puzzled as to how the American evangelicals could put a man in high office who flouted the teaching of Jesus, or are distressed by the persistent pattern of sexual abuse / cover-up / denial / protection of the guilty among prominent Christian leaders, then Jesus & John Wayne may be an eye-opener. For me, the author connected the dots clearly and fairly—and courageously. This is an important volume.
Many evangelicals have welcomed her observations; others have been offended—which is hardly surprising considering the book's subtitle: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.
Who Is John Wayne?
Now I realize that many in the younger generation may not know the significance of John Wayne (apart from the Orange County, California airport named after him). A few words of introduction may be in order.
The iconic Wayne (1907-1979) starred in numerous westerns and war films—a tall, lean and tough, hard drinking, hard riding, thrice-married, no-nonsense man's man. And he became the darling of many Americans, along with (white) evangelicals, even though he was not an evangelical himself, and some aspects of his life ran counter to basic evangelical tenets.
Joining the interview were Becky Castle Miller, Sheila Gregoire, and Shari Simpson, all prominent influencers in the Christian world. Otoma Edje is an able host, with a gift of connecting with a wide range of people. (You may want to subscribe to Edje's thought-provoking YouTube channel, Image Bearers.)
Enough said. For our interview, CLICK HERE.