Jesus and John Wayne

Submitted by Peter on

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This bookstudy will begin January 7, 2024 only on Zoom.

Jesus and John Wayne is a sweeping account of the last seventy-five years of white evangelicalism, showing how American evangelicals have worked for decades to replace the Jesus of the Gospels with an idol of rugged masculinity and Christian nationalism, or in the words of one modern chaplain, with “a spiritual badass.” As Du Mez explains, the key to understanding this transformation is to recognize the role of culture in modern American evangelicalism. Many of today’s evangelicals may not be theologically astute, but they know their VeggieTales, they’ve read John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, and they learned about purity before they learned about sex—and they have a silver ring to prove it. Evangelical books, films, music, clothing, and merchandise shape the beliefs of millions. And evangelical popular culture is teeming with muscular heroes—mythical warriors and rugged soldiers, men like Oliver North, Ronald Reagan, Mel Gibson, and the Duck Dynasty clan, who assert white masculine power in defense of “Christian America.” Chief among these evangelical legends is John Wayne, an icon of a lost time when men were uncowed by political correctness, unafraid to tell it like it was, and did what needed to be done.   (from goodreads.com)

Comments

1 – What do you think “religious liberty” means to the evangelicals our author is talking about?  253
2 – Should a church lose it’s tax exempt status when the pastor endorses a political candidate?  258
3 – Why do you think early anti-Trump people changed their minds and started endorsing him?  261
4 – Do you think humanity is making progress in terms of moral development?  Comments?  266
5 – How would you describe the difference between Amoral and Immoral?  274
6 – How would (did?) you ‘ensure instant and “joyful “ submission to authority’?  281
7 – What would a defense of patriarchy look like?  282
8 – Is it getting easier for women to win sexual cases in court?  285
9 – Do you think complementarianism is slavery?  293
10 – Compare the “takeover” of US evangelicalism by the men listed on pg. 301 with the Roman Empire takeover of the church of Jesus. 

1 - What’s the difference between world domination by Islam and world domination by Christianity?  220
2 – “Allah is not Jehovah.”  Comments?  221
3 – Many people change religions.  What do you think are the most and least difficult conversions?  224
4 – How do you know whether your God is the same as someone else’s God?  226
5 – George W. Bush was a Methodist.  Do you know of any other Methodists who are as militaristic as he was?  Have they all gone over to the GMC?  231
6 – Are you proud of your country?  Have you ever been more OR less proud?  234
7 – Over your voting history, do you find yourself voting more “for” your candidate or “against” the other?  238
8 – Doe the issue of masculinity, whatever that means, influence your voting?  240
9 – How would you describe “cultural Christianity”?  246
10 – Where, in the Bible, do you find most of the war vocabulary?  How do you account for this distribution?  247
11 – What are your views of the Christian bakery fined for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding?  247

  1. What’s the difference between world domination by Islam and world domination by  Christianity? (p.220)

             Domination, of any sort and by anyone, is totally unacceptable.  It is because it’s an oppressive and assumed superiority over someone else – in this case, a religion.  This is true whether it comes from the self-centered “leadership” of a dictator or from self-righteous members of any religious group.

2.  “Allah is not Jehovah.”  Comments? (p.221)

            It really means that you’re saying to someone, “I don’t think that your image of God is as good as mine.”  And yet, you might be surprised to discover just how different people’s images for their God are – even among members of the same mosque, synagogue or church.  That should never mean, however, that one person’s concept of God is better or more accurate than another’s.  Terrorism, in the name of God, has been perpetrated by members of every religion throughout human history.

3.  Many people change religions.  What do you think are the most and least difficult conversions? (p.224)

            I think that the most difficult change must come if you were to turn your back on the religion of your childhood and/or the one still revered by your biological family.  The least difficult, probably, would be between those religions that share much of the same history, beliefs or organizational structures – Judaism and Christianity would be a logical example because, in a very real sense, the former is the parent of the other.

            That reminds me of what I always shared with the children of our confirmation classes:  “You know, Jesus was not a Christian.”  Once they got over their initial shock or surprise, we had some very interesting and, I hope, helpful conversations.

4.  How do you know whether your God is the same as someone else’s God? (p.226)

            I would be very surprised if you’d ever reach unanimity with anyone about just who or what God is.  But you’ll never know until you at least engage that person in a friendly and open-minded conversation – a true dialogue of give-and-take.  What’s most important, though, the emphasis should be upon carefully listening to one another and asking questions – often, a lot of them – while looking for clarification.  But, again, I doubt that you’d find anyone who has exactly the same concept of God as you have.  

            It’s still worth trying.  At most, you should understand and appreciate the areas of your disagreement, but at no time should you insist that the other person is wrong and you are right – that’s what fundamentalists always do; so, it never should devolve into attempts at such proselytizing.  Again, try to find ways to appreciate each other’s beliefs or, at the very least, reject them only after a clear understanding of how each of you has come to your own conclusions.  

5.  George W. Bush was a Methodist.  Do you know of any other Methodists who are as militaristic as he was?  Have they all gone over to the GMC? (p.231)

            I do not know of any other such a Methodist; but it’s probably because I hang out with a different kind of people:  progressives, agnostics, spiritual-but-not-religious people – people like me.

6.  Are you proud of your country?  Have you ever been more OR less proud? (p.234)

            Your question reminds me of my reading of Proverbs 16: 19, “Pride leads to destruction and a proud attitude brings ruination.”  In that sense I do not have an inordinately high opinion of my country’s importance or superiority in comparison to others.  If we truly followed the teachings of Jesus – or even the precepts of our own Constitution – I might take some satisfaction in being a citizen of these United States of America.  But we don’t.

            I am proud of the kind of people that my children and grandchildren have become.  But, as it is with everybody, we’re all “a work in progress.”  Some just try harder than others; and some assume that they no longer have any work to do at all – they are the most dangerous. 

7.  Over your voting history, do you find yourself voting more “for” your candidate or “against”  the other? (p.238)

            It’s a toss-up.  Sometimes (as with Barack Obama) it’s been a clear “for.”  Regrettably, more often it’s been “against” – even, as they say, between “the lesser of two evils.”  Don’t ask me to name just who that was.

8.  Does the issue of masculinity, whatever that means, influence your voting? (p.240)

            I’m reminded of the question often put to us men, “What kind of a man are you?”  It does make a difference.  But, it’s the quality of the person that is more important to me – whatever their gender or opinions about masculinity or femininity might be.  

9.  How would you describe “cultural Christianity”? (p.246)

            It depends upon which culture you’re talking about.  As it’s used here, Phil Robertson’s Duck Dynasty is just one “redneck” version – “a God-and-country religiosity that championed white rural and working-class values” while denigrating all of the “outsiders and elites.”  And yet even those within the “more authentic form of American evangelicalism” had their own version.  So, there’s a lot more diversity of opinions about just what it means to be a Christian than you might think – even within our own “culture” of Progressive Christianity!

10.  Where, in the Bible, do you find most of the war vocabulary?  How do you account for this  distribution? (p.247)

            It’s everywhere, of course, but especially in the apocalyptic literature of the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew scriptures and in the Book of Revelation at the close of the New Testament.  They’re the same type of literature.  The 20th chapter of Deuteronomy also might be a candidate, because it purports to outline God’s laws by which Israel is to wage war – that there are enemies and some cities, supposedly, that will have to be fully destroyed.  But, again, that’s just the opinion of its author or authors (and it wasn’t Moses).  It’s their own version of what’s necessary for the nation’s survival and of just who’s supposed to be punished for their sin – and, of course, it’s never Israel.

            In the end, I think that Jesus, however, would side with Isaiah’s prophecy that God’s way of settling all international disputes would be to “hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” so that “nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2: 4).  May it finally happen – some day.

11.  What are your views of the Christian bakery fined for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex  wedding? (p.247)

            No public business licensed in the United States of America should have the right to choose whom they will serve or not serve based solely upon a customer’s gender, sexuality, race or religious belief.  If the owners and operators of this so-called “Christian bakery” want to only serve “their kind of people,” let them do it privately or out of their own homes.

            What’s a “public business” you might ask?  It’s one that has sold a portion of itself to the public (via an Initial Public Offering – or IPO), meaning shareholders have a claim to part of the company’s assets and profits.  This bakery was public, so that’s why it was fined -- and rightly so!

1 – What were you feeling after reading the first paragraph on pg. 187?
2 – How do you think we might reduce the divide between public schooling and home schooling?  Or do you think we should?  191
3 – Do you know of any stories of Jesus doing any “hard labor” type of work, so as to produce “calluses on his hands and muscles on his frame”?  194
4 – What do you think is a reasonable defense against the likes of Mark Driscoll?  How successful might that defense be?  198
5 – Read Acts 29.  Where did the name of Acts 29 come from?  200
6 – What is new Calvinism?  202
7 – Do you know of any progressive Christian organizations that are attempting to influence government in the ways our author describes the White Christian Nationalists as doing?  206  Comments?
8 – Do you (or did you) see any difference between evangelizing and proselytizing?  What do you see as the difference?  Have you engaged in either?  213
9 – Do you think there should be women in the military?  How?  Comments?  214
10 – “Jesus … would have made an outstanding NCO.”  Comments?  217

  1. What were you feeling after reading the first paragraph on pg. 187?

            I was astonished, offended – even shaking my head in disbelief – that such a mindset could even generate this kind of language and then claim that it was Christian.

2.  How do you think we might reduce the divide between public schooling and home schooling? Or do you think we should? (p.191)

            Given the current political environment, I don’t think that reducing that divide is possible.  However, I do think that – at the very least – some basic educational standards ought to be established by law.  And they ought to be based upon scientific truth, not religiously based fiction.  That many evangelical or fundamentalist-centric schools are even eliminating the discipline of Social Science, doesn’t bode well toward reducing this divide.

3.  Do you know of any stories of Jesus doing any “hard labor” type of work, so as to produce “calluses on his hands and muscles on his frame”? (p.194)

            We know at least two things about the historical Jesus:  he was a peasant and he was a carpenter’s son.  It stands to reason, then, that during some part of his life he was engaged in “hard labor” of some sort.  How that affected him – either his physique or his mentality – we have no way of knowing.

4.  What do you think is a reasonable defense against the likes of Mark Driscoll?  How successful  might that defense be? (p.198)

            If these people claim to believe in the Bible as “the Word of God,” I’d have such evangelicals carefully re-read their Bible – which actually does reveal just who Jesus was.

            I’d have them begin with his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6 & 7) and its teachings around the themes of love, forgiveness, and humility, alongside the need for justice and equality.  Those words, alone, are a powerful reminder of the importance of compassion and integrity in our lives.  It has nothing at all to do with our own self-centered desires and goals.

            I’d also have them re-read and take time to ponder the meanings of the parables of Jesus.  He’s trying to teach his followers just exactly what the Kingdom of God ought to look like – in the face of the only other kingdom being presented to them day-in-and-day-out which, back then, was the imperial rule of Rome.  These parables are not fairy tales.  They are meant to reveal reality and a deeper truth of how we ought to live alongside one another – not one above another.  They are not only profound in their themes, but profoundly important.

            It’s important for everyone to know that Jesus didn’t always just make this stuff up; he was trying to reveal and reform his own religion of Judaism.  A case in point, his phrase “Whoever has ears, let them hear” (Matthew11: 15) is an echo of Isaiah (32: 3):  “Then the eyes of those who see will not be blinded, and the ears of those who hear will listen.”

            Isn’t it long past time that we finally begin to do both?

5.  Read Acts 29.  Where did the name of Acts 29 come from? (p.200)

            Of course, the Book of Acts in our Bible has only 28 chapters.  This “next chapter” was supposed to be a global way of planting churches that will adhere to new Calvinist theology.

6.  What is new Calvinism? (p.202)

            If there really is such a thing, I’d invite our resident Presbyterians to help us understand just how it differs from Jean Calvin’s original theological system – i.e., which accepted Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone, emphasized the grace of God, but added the doctrine of predestination.  As I understand it, Calvinism taught that the sovereignty of God should come first in all things, so only God can lead “His” Church – in preaching, worship, and government.

            As our author points out on pp.200-201, however, “New Calvinists” emphasize positions such as these:

  • “the existence of hell and the wrath of God”
  • which then required the bloody substitutionary atonement by Jesus “to atone for humanity’s sins”
  • “strict gender complementarianism” made it clear that “patriarchal power was at the core of gospel Christianity”
  • “aggressively mission-driven” it then began to bring together “men across generations and denominations”

...and it’s probably since morphed into positions that are much worse than just these four.

7.  Do you know of any progressive Christian organizations that are attempting to influence government in the ways our author describes the White Christian Nationalists as doing?  (p.206)  Comments?

           To begin with, I resent the ways White Christian Nationalists “are attempting to influence government.”  So, I’m not surprised that there are no “progressive Christian organizations that are attempting to influence government” in the same way.  I think that most of us agree with the framers of our Constitution who wanted there to be a clear division between the Church and the State.  We can already see what a mess of things can be made when fundamentalists want to break that divide.

8.  Do you (or did you) see any difference between evangelizing and proselytizing?  What do you  see as the difference?  Have you engaged in either? (p.213)

             Originally, to be an evangelist meant to be someone who shared the good news of God as it was revealed by Jesus – i.e., his way of living and relating to the human community.  I tried to do it in every sermon that I ever preached.  But, lay members as well, do it when they share with others what they believe is good and important about the churches to which they, too, belong.  All of this came from the Greek εὐαγγελίζω (euanggelizó) – which simply means “to announce good news” – cf. Matthew 11: 5 as well as Luke 4: 18, et al.).  So, being an evangelist in this way can and always should be a “good” thing!  Unfortunately, the fundamentalists use of this term has turned it into something else, entirely – they end up defining what’s good and what isn’t, not Jesus.

            To proselytize has historically had a bit more of an edge to it.  It was meant to actually convert or attempt to convert someone from one religion, belief, or opinion to another or different one – i.e., to the beliefs or positions held by the proselytizer.  In its most innocent function it just meant to be an advocate or promoter of what that person believed or thought that we should do.  It’s taken on a very negative edge, however, when such a person begins to tell you that “You’re going to Hell” if you don’t believe as they do.  So, I never would use such a label to describe what I do.

9.  Do you think there should be women in the military?  How?  Comments? (p.214)

            If any woman desires to serve in the military, she should be able to do so.  While there may be some physical restrictions due to a woman’s lack of physical strength, compared to most men, we’ve been able to deal with the same differences between men themselves, so that should never be the disqualifying reason.  Women have been serving in the military since the inception of organized warfare – in both combat and non-combat roles.

            I only know the Marine Corps (having completed the Infantry Officer Course, myself).  I believe that it became gender-integrated for a couple of years – simply for research purposes – but the final two women participants failed the Combat Endurance Test.  What’s happened since then I do not know.  Regrettably, I think that sexual assault also remains to be a significant problem in many such integrated units – and not just in the Marine Corps, but across the entire military services within the Department of Defense.

10.  “Jesus … would have made an outstanding NCO.”  Comments? (p.217)

           The two most important responsibilities of a Non-Commissioned Officer in our military are these:  one, the accomplishment of the mission given to them by their commanding officers, and two, the welfare of the soldiers under their command.  NCOs are responsible to see that the standards, training and performance of the troops under their guidance meet the needs required on any battlefield – and if they do not, there would be (as they say) “hell to pay.”

            As I see it, the teachings and ways of Jesus have absolutely nothing in common with the ways in which our military engages in modern warfare – and I should know, because I’ve held positions of command and responsibility now in both “theaters” of operation.

1 – Do you think benevolent patriarchy, like benevolent dictatorship, can actually work? Comments? 156
2 – Is “the warrior spirit … intrinsic to males”? Comments? 161
3 – How much do you think fairy tales and mythology affect our culture? 161
3.5 – What do you think is the main difference between the mythology of the Bible and the mythology of modern science? (added extra question)
4 – What characteristics do you think Jesus manifested that allowed him to go about the countryside collecting disciples? 161
5 – What is Vietnam syndrome? 161
6 – Do you think “soft patriarchy” is a step in the right direction, or something else indeed? 165
7 – What’s wrong with complementarianism? 169
8 – Comment n the difference between Mt. 11:12 in our book and “The Five Gospels” (Westar) translation: “From the time of John the Baptist until now Heaven’s imperial rule has been breaking in violently, and violent men are attempting to gain it by force.” 174
9 – “every man required his own beauty to rescue.” AND”Women wanted to be pursued, delighted in, fought for:” Does this fit any of us? 175
10 – Do you watch Mel Gibson movies? 183
11 – What’s wrong with: “the Book of Revelation showed the suffering Messiah turned into the conquering Messiah;”? 185

  1. Do you think benevolent patriarchy, like benevolent dictatorship, can actually work? Comments? (p.156)

            You’d have to ask the woman in that relationship.  If it works well for her, and she’s happy, who am I to say that she’s diminished herself?  It seems to me, however, that patriarchy – of any sort – borders on misogyny, at worst, or sexism, at best, and we shouldn’t accept either of them.

2.  Is “the warrior spirit … intrinsic to males”?  Comments? (p.161)

            If you were to define a “warrior” as someone who shows great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness – in areas such as politics or athletics – then, no.  A woman could exhibit the same strength of spirit equally as well or even as excessively as any man.  Most cultures, however, have frowned upon such dynamism exhibited in a woman, but they would be wrong in doing so.

3.  How much do you think fairy tales and mythology affect our culture? (p.161)

            The two are not the same, of course.  Fairy tales are simply made-up stories intended to entertain children and teach moral lessons.  Myths are conjectures that attempt to explain the origins of creation itself.  In that sense, mythology is closely tied to a culture’s religion.  Fairy tales may or may not have any such connection.  Both, however, can illuminate a deeper truth.

            The very word, “mythology,” of course, comes from the Greek mythos, loosely meaning “story-of-the-people,” plus logos, literally meaning “word” or “speech.”  Mythology, then, is actually the study and interpretation of sacred stories from a culture – i.e., myths – or the collection of such stories which most often deal with all aspects of the human condition:  from birth to death, the presence and source of good and evil, the nature of being, and the very meaning of life itself.  But, again, it’s all conjecture:  an opinion or theory without sufficient scientific evidence for proof.

            By the way, “The Epic of Gilgamesh” – an ancient Mesopotamian myth – is considered to be the oldest known piece of such literature in the world (circa 2003-1595 BCE).  Most legitimate biblical scholars believe it was used by the author(s) of the two creation stories that we find in the Book of Genesis.  Both the Epic of Gilgamesh and Genesis describe a paradise that is beautiful and bountiful, but then lost when human beings make a mess of things.  And, if in slightly different ways, both stories tell about a huge flood that almost destroys humanity.  Both also talk about a similar character who happens to be a serpent and of a boat that survives the flood. What’s more, they both have a God or Gods who ultimately are in control of whatever happens.

            How about that for a piece of well-traveled fiction?

3.5.  What do you think is the main difference between the mythology of the Bible and the mythology of modern science?  (added extra question)

            Okay, Peter, your question here is a non sequitur.  If you trust and accept “modern science,” you can’t have anything like “the mythology of modern science.”  Mythology has no relation to science.  Both history and science are meant to be objective and factual disciplines; if done well, both give us information based upon facts, not fiction.  Mythology is sheer speculation, so, fiction.

4.  What characteristics do you think Jesus manifested that allowed him to go about the countryside collecting disciples? (p.161)

            He would’ve had to have been a very intelligent and charismatic individual.  While he knew his Hebrew Bible, to then be able to explain and reinterpret it well enough to have quite a following, must mean that he was an extraordinary human being.

            We should be careful, however, to conclude that by simply having a measure of intelligence and charisma, that leading a dedicated group of followers is always a good thing.  Both Adolph Hitler and Donald Trump are examples how such gifts can be twisted into the manifestation of true evil.

5.  What is Vietnam syndrome? (p.161)

            As I understand it, the “Vietnam syndrome” is the phrase that politicians used referring to the public’s aversion to our military getting involved in any such overseas conflicts ever again.

            It seems that didn’t last very long.  We sent Marines into Lebanon (1980-1982), invaded Grenada (1983), bombed Libya (1986), began the Iran-Iraq war (1987), invaded Panama (1989-1990), immersed ourselves in the Gulf War (1990-1991), intervened in the Somali Civil War (1992-1995), had our troops involved in the Bosnian and Croatian War (1992-1995), sent in the Marines, again, to Haiti (1994-1995), got involved in the Kosovo War with air strikes in Serbia (1998-1999), then went to war in Afghanistan (2001-2021); and we’re at it again, intervening in the Middle East: Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, as well as the entire Indian Ocean (2002-to the present day).

            I’m sure that I’ve left out some of our other, less known, incursions.  So, apparently, the Vietnam syndrome didn’t last for very long – or, worse, people have just stopped caring.

6.  Do you think “soft patriarchy” is a step in the right direction, or something else [is needed]?  (p.165) 

            Ask the women involved; then, listen to them.  We still could do a whole lot better.  It’s called egalitarianism – with a healthy addition, finally, of “liberty and justice for all.”

7.  What’s wrong with complementarianism? (p.169)

            The problem is the way in which evangelicals define it.  Their version is the viewpoint that “God” restricted women from serving in certain leadership roles and, instead, called them to serve in “equally important, but complementary roles.”  Thinking only of such roles in the institutional Church, for centuries that has been the position of the Roman Catholic Church.

            Yes, there is a better way; it’s called egalitarianism.  There should be no gender-based restrictions on any person.  Never mind 1 Timothy 2: 9-15, 3: 1-13 or Titus 1: 6-9 (none of which is Paul anyway) or 1 Corinthians 14: 34 (which were, most likely, added to Paul’s words by somebody else).  It’s why Stephen Patterson (in his book The Forgotten Creed: Christianity’s Original Struggle against Bigotry, Slavery, & Sexism) has lifted up Paul’s very clear words in Galatians 3: 28:

                        “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, 

                        there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ.”

But, we’ve never yet, really, tried that.  Wouldn’t you agree that it’s long overdue?

8.  Comment on the difference between Mt. 11: 12 in our book and “The Five Gospels” (Westar) translation: “From the time of John the Baptist until now Heaven’s imperial rule has been breaking in violently, and violent men are attempting to gain it by force.” (p.174)

            As you’ve often heard me say, “Every translation is an interpretation.”  To my mind, Westar got it right – especially in that final phrasing.

9.  ...“every man required his own beauty to rescue.”  AND ”Women wanted to be pursued, delighted in, fought for:”  Does this fit any of us? (p.175)

            I certainly hope not.  Appreciation of her beauty and my delight in her personality are two things that I’ve loved about my wife; rescue and fighting, however, were never part of our romantic attraction toward each other (even though, yes, I was a 1st Lt. in the Marine Corps at the time).

10.  Do you watch Mel Gibson movies? (p.183)

            One was enough, the film our author spoke about on p.174:  Braveheart.  Gibson portrayed that Scottish warrior, William Wallace, who fought against Edward the 1st, King of England, in the Middle Ages.  Most historians still think of Wallace as the resistance leader who played a significant part in that first Scottish War of Independence.

            At the time that I saw this film, however, I didn’t think Gibson was much of an actor.  In real life, I discovered that he was even worse of a person.

11.  What’s wrong with:  “the Book of Revelation showed the suffering Messiah turned into the  conquering Messiah;”? (p.185)

            It’s simply not true – but then that’s the way with most apocalyptic literature, whether it’s the Book of Revelation in the New Testament or the Book of Daniel in Hebrew Scripture.  God is made out to be a supernatural being consumed with wrathful vengeance.

            I choose to believe in a very, very different kind of creative power at work in the universe with whom we all should be in partnership – and to finally stop acting like the self-centered antagonists that we all too often are.

1 – What is a case where “the end(s) justify the means”?  Where dos it NOT?  119
2 – Who are your heros?
3 – What is the myth that North created and what’s wrong (or right?) with it?  121
4 – Does your idea of separation of church and state conflict with senior military people proselytizing those under their command?  Comments?  131
5 – What are the characteristics that make white Christian nationalism and the military so compatible?  132
6 – How important do you think it is for a group (or groups) to have a common enemy?  Is the idea helping the right or the left more?  134
7 – What do you think of a “one world government”?  Is there a theological connection for your ideas?  138
8 – How do I get “devalued by [someone’s] existence”?  140
9 – Why is it that when Democrats do bad things, they are not fit to lead, but when Republicans do (worse?), there’s no problem?  143
10 – Did you believe Anita Hill?  Has your opinion of Clarence Thomas changed any since then?  145
 

  1. What is a case where “the end(s) justify the means”?  Where does it NOT? (p.119)

            For me, if the “end” leads to justice and/or greater equality for everyone, then use whatever legal means is necessary to get there.  If it does not, then don’t do it.

2.  Who are your heroes?

            I would begin (no surprise here) with Jesus, himself.  I’ve also admired Mohandas K. Gandhi (aka, Mahatma, meaning “great soul”).  Francis of Assisi (for taking the Gospel literally!) would be on my list.  Nelson Mandela is also a hero of mine and, for much the same reason, so is The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I would also include Mother Teresa (born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, an Albanian Indian) who’s known for helping those who are most in need – the poor, the sick, and those who were dying.  In the context of America’s dark history concerning slavery, though, this list would include Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, even Abraham Lincoln.  Later, I would look to Eleanor Roosevelt as a hero (or should it still be heroine?), as well.

           I could go on, but several of my contemporaries would join this list as heroes of mine:  Robert W. Funk, for his courageous work founding the Westar Institute, as well as John Dominic Crossan, Matthew Fox and Howard Thurman – all giants in the postmodern history of Progressive Christianity.     

           Finally, I would absolutely add my own father to this list, because I believe that if there is anything good about who I’ve become as an adult, husband, clergyman, father and grandfather, it’s because of him.

3.  What is the myth that North created and what’s wrong (or right?) with it? (p.121)

            The myth is that his behavior always came out of his “love of God and for the love of country” (p.119) not just for “the greater good in terms of Christian nationalism” (p.117). That he would use “any means necessary” (loc. cit.), however, revealed how wrong that was.  More often than not, it was more about his own craving for national notoriety and political power.  Attitudes such as that have only perpetuated the dangerous conclusion of “our country, right or wrong.”  In the final analysis, the United States of America is not, nor ever has been, God’s gift to the world.  Anybody who believes that has a very twisted idea of, not only who we are, but who God actually might be.

4.  Does your idea of separation of church and state conflict with senior military people proselytizing those under their command?  Comments? (p.131)

            It absolutely does.  But then, when it comes to white male Christian Nationalists, no barrier is closed to them – no matter what the Constitution says (and, yes, you can see the irony there).

5.  What are the characteristics that make white Christian nationalism and the military so compatible? (p.132)  

          Both feed the myth of the male warrior culture that, unfortunately, has been nurtured by far too many senior officers in the military – from the Crusades of the Middle Ages to the present day.

6.  How important do you think it is for a group (or groups) to have a common enemy?  Is the  idea helping the right or the left more? (p.134)

            As someone on the Left, I would choose the term “opponent” or “competitor” over “enemy” – the temptation to obliterate those we consider to be our enemies is far too strong.  The moment you devalue another human being’s right to exist simply because you disagree with their political or theological positions, you’ve become an affront to everything that Christianity ought to stand for.

            When you view who’s currently in control of the Republican party, however, it’s clearly helping the Right more than it is us – we’re less organized and value diversity and compromise.  The Right does not.  That then makes the Republican party – as currently controlled by Donald J. Trump – all the more dangerous.

7.  What do you think of a “one world government”?  Is there a theological connection for your ideas? (p.138)

            It’s far too idealistic, on the one hand, or completely dangerous on the other.  The former doesn’t recognize the reality of the diversity of the human race.  The latter only plays into the hands of authoritarians and dangerous dictators who believe it’s “their way or the highway” – you’re either in and privileged or your out and condemned.  

            It’s far too idealistic, on the one hand, or completely dangerous on the other.  The former doesn’t recognize the reality of the diversity of the human race.  The latter only plays into the hands of authoritarians and dangerous dictators who believe it’s “their way or the highway” – you’re either in and privileged or your out and condemned.

            And, yes, there is “a theological connection” for me.  Everyone has the right to receive the total spiritual heritage of the human community – not just a Christian version of it.

8.  How do I get “devalued by [someone’s] existence”? (p.140)

            When and wherever diversity is devalued, just being different can cause people like the white Christian nationalists to deny your very right to exist.  You either must see everything their way so, at best, you simply don’t belong; at worst, you will be expunged from the community or nation – as they define it – and over which they wish to have absolute control.

9.  Why is it that when Democrats do bad things, they are not fit to lead, but when Republicans do (worse?), there’s no problem? (p.143)

            This happens because far, far too many who are in positions of influence and leadership in the current Republican party are willing to undermine the basic principles of morality in trade for retaining their own influence and power over a largely ignorant electorate.

10. Did you believe Anita Hill?  Has your opinion of Clarence Thomas changed any since then? (p.145) 

            Yes, I did then and I still do.  Clarence Thomas – in spite of his upbringing and background – remains to be an influential snake-in-the-grass on the Supreme Court and within the Republican Party.  From my perspective, he got away with his contemptuous behavior because others, with wealth and power, found that they could use him for their own purposes.  Thomas has sold his own soul in the process.  But, then, no wonder he supports Trump; the two of them are opposite sides of the same coin.

1 – How do you think our culture would be different if the book of Revelation had been left out of the Bible?  89
2 – Did you have the feeling, during the Vietnam war, that our news was being “twisted”?  What are your thoughts on a fourth television news service?  94
3 – Do conservatives simply refuse to learn new ideas found by social science research?  Is there a good reason for this refusal?  97
4 – Another example of harm done with interpolations in Paul’s writing is Romans 13:1-7.  Without that paragraph by Paul, Falwell would not have been able to insist on God granting rights of violence to government.  Comments?  97
5 – How would you state Jesus’s definition of family (and family values)?  101
6 – Do you see the 2024 politics and election as an echo of 1980?  Comments?  106
7 – Why do women support patriarchy?  109
8 – Do you know of a “good” book that reveals the politically liberal / religiously progressive problems the way way this book does to the conservative / evangelicals?  116

  1. How do you think our culture would be different if the book of Revelation had been left out of the Bible? (p.89)

            No doubt that loss would make very little difference.  Conservative evangelicals might just choose the Book of Daniel from which to quote – it’s the same type of apocalyptic literature.  Failing that, I’m certain that they could find some other passage of scripture to proof-text, using it to fit into their fundamentalist preconceived theological positions.  Their wish is always to see that through “unprecedented violence, Christ’s enemies get what they had coming” (loc. cit.).

            Jesus would be turning over in his grave...if we really knew where his bones lay today.

2.  Did you have the feeling, during the Vietnam war, that our news was being “twisted”?  What are your thoughts on a fourth television news service? (p.94)

            It surely was; and, as an officer in the Marine Corps during that time, I was right in the middle of it all.  What’s more, that entire conflict was an horrifically unjust act of violence.  But, then, a lot of what passes for “news” today is being just as twisted – witness how Israel was portrayed (and still is in some circles) at the outset of its war against the Palestinian people.

            As far as some “fourth television news service” is concerned, I invite you all to consider https://mondoweiss.net or https://www.levernews.com or https://www.thenation.com – at least they’re all from a politically progressive point of view.

3.  Do conservatives simply refuse to learn new ideas found by social science research?  Is there  a good reason for this refusal? (p.97)

            When their understanding of “the Word of God” trumps anything – even science of any sort – that’s all the “reason” they need.  Never mind that it’s actually irrational.

4.  Another example of harm done with interpolations in Paul’s writing is Romans 13:1-7.  Without that paragraph by Paul, Falwell would not have been able to insist on God granting rights of violence to government.  Comments? (p.97)

          “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13: 1) says it all.  But then Falwell was always trying to find ways to have his views on religion and politics prevail.  This would just be another example of proof-texting scripture – finding anything in the Bible that would match whatever doctrine, belief, or principle that he already held ahead of time.

            It’s still not a good idea to assume that, at the time Paul wrote this to the Christians at Rome, it was before the government authorities were persecuting them.  At the time of his writing, Paul may simply have meant that we should commend those who do good and punish those who do wrong.  But that timeline doesn’t make much sense because, as I seem to recall, Paul had already been imprisoned by the Roman authorities at the same time that he wrote this letter.

            The Bible is actually rife with conundrums like this; that’s why you should be very careful what you choose to take literally and what you should not.

5.  How would you state Jesus’s definition of family (and family values)? (p.101)

            When love, compassion, kindness, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation are at the heart of any family’s interactions with each other, they would, necessarily, be following the values represented by the life and teachings of Jesus.

6.  Do you see the 2024 politics and election as an echo of 1980?  Comments? (p.106)

            No, it’s much worse.  Donald J. Trump is far, far more dangerous than Reagan ever was.

7.  Why do women support patriarchy? (p.109)

            Such women must think that, once you have the right evangelical man to marry, you’ll have nothing else to worry about because, of course, he’ll take care of everything – including all of your wants and needs. Inevitably (at least at some point), they will discover that they were wrong.

8.  Do you know of a “good” book that reveals the politically liberal/religiously progressive  problems the way this book does to the conservative/evangelicals?  (p.116)

            With that descriptive adjective “good” being the operative word, no, I don’t.  What’s more, if it mirrors Jesus and John Wayne, but in reverse, it would most likely be written by a conservative evangelical, anyway, who would see everything liberal or progressive as simply wrong.

            That being said, Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, is still a good one.

1 – “Goldwater … refusing to compromise.”  When is compromise good, and bad?  40
2 – Do you recall when you first noticed religion in politics?  How did it appear?  48
X – Mark Hatfield was my college commencement speaker.  I have no recollection of what he said.  Six months later I was drafted.
3 – Why do you think “the evangelical Left” was so ineffective?  51
4 – How many different things are wrong with “children must learn obedience or end up in hell.”?  54
5 – What is the appeal of a crass person?  58
6 – What would you include in a compromise between “The Total Woman” and “The Feminine Mystique”?  65
7 – Do American Liberals/Progressives have a “lingua franca” and if so, what is it?  Or how do we go about getting one/it?  73
8 – “democracy [is] antithetical to God ordained governing structures.”  Comments?  75
9 – Compare the ideas in chap. 4 with figures 12-2,3,4 in Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”.  Comments?
 

  1. “Goldwater … refusing to compromise.”  When is compromise good, and bad? (p.40)

            If compromise can lead us to a greater good, then it should be considered.  If, however, it leads to injustice, shows no compassion or empathy, and causes more harm, then it’s a bad idea.

2.  Do you recall when you first noticed religion in politics?  How did it appear? (p.48)

            It came to me at some point when I was very young as we were required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance when we gathered at Elementary School.  It was the “under God” insertion that I soon found problematic.  So, I came to ending my own recitation by muttering (more to myself than those who stood close by and might hear me) that final phrase this way “...with liberty and justice for all – some day!”  It was clear to me, even then, that not everybody had either of those.  I also began to wonder, “What’s God got to do with all of this, anyway?”

3.  Why do you think “the evangelical Left” was so ineffective? (p.51)

            Well, if you absolutely knew you were Right in all things, you wouldn’t be Left with anything.

4.  How many different things are wrong with “children must learn obedience or end up in hell.”? (p.54)

            Who gets to define just what “obedience” means or should be?  Children have little power or recourse if such a requirement is unfair or unjust; this then simply justifies child abuse.  And “hell” is just a metaphor that, unfortunately, has come to be taken literally for far, far too many people.  What’s more, we’re probably experiencing more of hell in this life than we ever will after we’re dead.  Besides, no one really knows what any kind of afterlife might be like – or if it exists at all.  More than likely, we have only this one life to live, so why not make the best of it while we still have it?

5.  What is the appeal of a crass person? (p.58)

            Absolutely nothing.  It just means that such a person is not only obtuse and insensitive, but gross – even stupid.

6.  What would you include in a compromise between “The Total Woman” and “The Feminine Mystique”? (p.65)

            It was Marabel Morgan who defined The Total Woman in her 1973 book of that title which was, supposedly, some kind of evangelical marriage manual.  In it she claims that a woman should cater to “her man’s” special quirks – whether it was in the salad that he most liked, in sex or sports.  She’s best remembered for instructing wives to greet “their man” at the front door wearing sexy outfits (two of her suggestions being “a cowgirl or a showgirl”). She wrote, “It’s only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him and is willing to serve him, that she becomes really beautiful to him.”  I find that very disturbing in so many ways.

            It was Betty Friedan who coined the phrase “feminine mystique” as an almost direct critique of Morgan’s assumptions that women might be fulfilled in a number of different ways, but primarily it should be in their housework, marriage, sexual experiences and being mothers to their children.  Friedan criticized that evangelical claim that the truly feminine woman shouldn’t want to work, or get an education, or have any political opinions.  For Friedan, that point of view was a “silent problem.” I’d say it was just crazy.  In fact, she wrote in her book The Feminine Mystique, “Why should women accept this picture of a half-life, instead of a share in the whole of human destiny?”  Why, indeed.

            If there’s any compromise between these two it would be giving women the full freedom to be whatever they wanted to be, not living lives that were only chosen by the men in their lives – in fact, true love would be giving women the encouragement and freedom to do exactly that.

7.  Do American Liberals/Progressives have a “lingua franca” and if so, what is it?  Or how do we  go about getting one/it? (p.73)

            Ironically enough, I think such a “lingua franca” is encapsulated in that final phrase of the Pledge of Allegiance:  “...with liberty and justice for all.”  Why not keep it just that simple?

            Some might not know that its original format was written in 1892 by the socialist minister, Francis Bellamy, and he hoped that it would be used by the citizens of any country, not just the U.S.A.  His version also made no reference to a deity, at all, but simply said, 

                        “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Regrettably, just as soon as God was inserted into the mix, it created arguments over just who this God was and what, exactly, did “He” want?

            In 1954, it was President Eisenhower who encouraged Congress to add the phrase “under God” which gave us the pledge we stumble through today.  And, by the way, Bellamy’s daughter vehemently objected to this alteration.  Good for her.  Isn’t that “just like a woman?”

8.  “...democracy [is] antithetical to God ordained governing structures.”  Comments? (p.75)

            First of all, let’s be clear, God has not “ordained governing structures” other than what science can prove exists in all of creation.  What’s more, we still don’t know who or what God really is. If you want to follow anyone’s teachings (democratic or otherwise), try following Jesus.  Read his Sermon on the Mount again (Matthew, chapters 5-7), which is really his critique of what was currently going on in his own country.  Ponder his parables.  Consider how comparable they are to similar situations we’re experiencing in the contexts of our own lives. If we’re paying attention, at all, we may begin to see and understand just what kinds of “governing structures” he’s talking about – most of which need at least as much restructuring now as they did in his own day and time!

9.  Compare the ideas in chap. 4 with figures 12-2,3,4 in Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind.” Comments?

                       Okay, I finally found Figure 12.2 on p.297 of Haidt’s book – what he’s labeled “The Liberal Moral Matrix” and that its most “sacred value” is “Care for victims of oppression.”  From there, in descending order, are the values of “Liberty,” “Fairness,” and (to lesser degrees) “Loyalty,” “Authority,” and “Sanctity.”  Oddly enough, I think that Conservatives (even white Christian Nationalists) value those last three as well – just in their own unique way of defining them.

            I found Figure 12.3 of Haidt’s on p.302 – what he’s labeled “The Libertarian Moral Matrix” with its most “sacred value” being “Individual Liberty.”  Once, again, both liberals and libertarians may highly value liberty, but at whose expense?  If it leads to injustice and harm, liberals would reject such liberty, while libertarians would be more concerned about being harmed, themselves, not so much others – especially if those others are not part of the libertarian’s “tribe.”  Much the same is true with all of those other values Libertarians hold sacred.

            Finally, Figure 12.4 is on p.306 and purports to be “The Social Conservative Moral Matrix.”  Uniquely enough, their “most sacred values” seem to be equal in the importance of preserving “the institutions and traditions that sustain a moral community.”  As Haidt initially points out, most conservatives are all about the “party of order and stability” while “(p)reserving those institutions and traditions” that they value most highly (p.305).  I believe that most liberals, however, would claim that if those institutions and traditions (e.g. the magisterium and dogma of the Church) are both antiquated and dangerous, they should be done away with – or, at the very least, redefined on the basis of “liberty and justice for all,” and not just for those who hold wealth and power.

            Chapter 4 of Jesus and John Wayne seems to be all about claiming how “freedom was found not in individual autonomy, but in proper submission to authority” (p.75) – and that would be “God-ordained authorities” as the white male Christian Nationalists narrowly define them.  And, yes, it always has been about “strict enforcement of patriarchal authority” (p.86).

            Give me a break.

1 – At this point (before reading the book, although I know some of you already have) how would you answer the first paragraph on pg. 3?
2 – I there one particular characteristic of white evangelicalism that you find to be the worst?  What is it?  5
3 – List some items you think make up “standards of traditional Christian virtue”.  10
4 – How often do you see self-denial as a characteristic of your life?  15
5 – What’s wrong with the idea of “a war to end (all) wars”?  20
6 – Why don’t you like Billy Graham?  23
7 – How close are you to the Christian publication industry?  Do you read, listen to, sing … material with “Christian” content?  Do you even recognize such material when you see it?  30
8 – Why are sexual attitudes the number on “family value”?  30
9 – Do you recall seeing any John Wayne movies, and if so, what was your impress
ion at the time?  31
10 – What’s the difference between politics and religion, particularly in this book?  38

Week 1 Questions

  1. At this point, how would you answer the first paragraph on pg. 3?

                The “Moral Majority” – along with all white male evangelicals – saw Trump as a way for them to get back the power and influence that they thought once was theirs but now have felt that it was slipping away from them.  They didn’t want to share any of their “rights” to authority with anyone else who was not at all like them – especially not with feminists, people of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, or those who didn’t accept their brand of evangelical Christianity.

  2. Is there one particular characteristic of white evangelicalism that you find to be the worst? 
    What is it?  (p.5)

                As far as I’m concerned, their worst characteristic is the insistence that the entire United States of America should completely reflect – and therefore be ruled by – their version of Christianity.  Our author names it here; it’s called “Christian nationalism.”

  3. List some items you think make up “standards of traditional Christian virtue.” (p.10)

                Consider these:  love, empathy, forgiveness, reconciliation, justice, compassion, hospitality, humility, peace, true goodness, and – as much as possible – nurturing all of these in yourself.  In the midst of it all, this is what we must realize:  “We are all emerging beings, blessed to be a blessing, and bearing special responsibility toward the creation in which we live and move and have our being.” (from Living the Questions, p.137).

  4. How often do you see self-denial as a characteristic of your life? (p.15)

                Not as often as I’d like, but (as the term is understood) it comes whenever I put the needs of others above my own – most often that happens for my wife and for my family.

  5. What’s wrong with the idea of “a war to end (all) wars”? (p.20)

                As it’s often been noted – and now proven throughout history – any such war only creates an environment for another one.  As the renowned philosopher, George Santayana, has pointed out, “Those who fail to learn the lessons of history will be condemned to repeat them.”  So, we do.  As the cartoonist, Walt Kelly, had his character, Pogo, remind us:  “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  Until we learn to resolve our differences without resorting to violence, wars will continue to be one tragic aspect of our way of life.

  6. Why don’t you like Billy Graham? (p.23)

                Interestingly enough, the question assumes that I don’t but, in this case, you’re correct.  His son, Franklin Graham (who’s followed in his father’s footsteps) is even worse.  Without compromise, they have both sought to impose their religious beliefs on the politics and educational systems of our nation.

  7. How close are you to the Christian publication industry?  Do you read, listen to, sing material with “Christian” content?  Do you even recognize such material when you see it? (p.30)

                Along with almost everyone else in this Lutz Book Group, I think I am very close to it – just not at all to the evangelical white nationalist expressions of it.  As most of us within this group would attest, we fervently support the positions of Progressive Christianity – not its antithesis like the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) reported on here by the author.

  8. Why are sexual attitudes the number one “family value”? (p.30)

                I don’t know that anyone makes that claim.  For decades now, though, ultra-conservative evangelicals have just honed in on LGBTQ people because "those kinds of people" undermine what evangelicals believe God intended for the human family.

  9. Do you recall seeing any John Wayne movies, and if so, what was your impression at the 
    time? (p.31)

                At the moment, I can’t think of any single one, but all of Wayne’s movies always seem to have him playing characters that are always getting into fights, drinking too much, and objectifying women.  And if it’s just a war movie, he’s always portrayed as the tough hero who vanquishes the evil enemy.  What’s more, Wayne is always portrayed as being on the side of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way!”

  10. What’s the difference between politics and religion, particularly in this book? (p.38)

             When Christian nationalists talk about the two, it's civil religion.  As our author point out here, it would be “the idea of America as a ‘Christian nation...”  With them, there would be no separation between the two; the government would be guided by their religious beliefs – every step of the way.