What was your family like?
We know our families shape and mold us—often in hidden ways. In fact, sometimes we don’t even know those ways until we are exposed to other families and how they do life. At other times it is only when we get a balcony view of our family with the help of someone that we get a good picture of how we have been shaped.
In her book Jesus and John Wayne, Kristin Kobes Du Mez takes us on an Evangelical family journey letting us see the family from the balcony. For many of us who lived during the years she recounts, it is a wild and yet familiar ride. We hear of Promise Keepers, Wild at Heart, the National Association of Evangelicals, and more. But what lies at the heart of Du Mez’ work is the evangelical desire to have Jesus look a lot like John Wayne. From this flows an evangelicalism that is deeply committed to the military, to Americanism, and to having men be “real” men.
This way of seeing the world means that evangelicals have been and are more concerned about having strong leaders than godly leaders (or that evangelicals equate strong and godly). The one time divinity student George McGovern is rejected in favor of Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter is let go for Ronald Reagan.
Dr. Du Mez also has us look at powerful evangelical figures like Mark Driscoll and James Dobson. She teases out their views and how they’ve impacted the evangelical world.
Many will struggle with Du Mez’ taking us to the evangelical balcony and showing us the family. Some will undoubtedly take issue with her balcony view. But the reality is that from a church renewal perspective Du Mez’ book is pure gold. She shows us how many people in North America who we are trying to reach with God’s good news of forgiveness, hope, reconciliation, and renewal see evangelicals. She helps us unmask possible evangelical idols that block people from seeing God’s good news.
This book is an important read for pastors and church leaders who want to get a balcony view of how our family looks to a lot of people in North America. It also moves us to ask about how we can best represent God’s good news when people see the family from this balcony.