On Thursday, Feb. 23, professor and author Kristin Kobes Du Mez is giving a talk on her book “Jesus and John Wayne” at The Ent Center for the Arts, Chapman Auditorium from 6-7:30 p.m.
The book — which not only garnered attention from the scholarly community following its release in 2020, but from the public at large — became a “surprise bestseller,” according to The Washington Post.
Recently, the Scribe reviewed Kobes Du Mez’s book as a historical and cultural guide to the “religious right” and the gradual shift of evangelicals to more conservative ideals over the past 70 years.
Jeffrey Scholes, the organizer of the event and a UCCS associate professor of philosophy, explained via email how the event exemplifies the importance of studying religious culture and its history.
“Dr. Du Mez will summarize her book, ‘Jesus and John Wayne,’ and then connect her findings to the rise in the expression of Christian nationalism in the U.S,” he said.
The core reason behind Kobes Du Mez’s book and what her findings have shown is that the shift in values on behalf of American evangelicals is substantial. The book and the talk will attempt to explain the impact the 2016 election had on the finalization of this cultural shift, which is argued to have been decades in the making.
“Many have wondered why 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016. Du Mez says that this should surprise no one who knows the history of evangelicalism in the U.S,” Scholes said. “For decades, white evangelicals have been looking for a protector of their cultural values — ones that they feel are slipping away.”
Unlike works similar to “Jesus and John Wayne,” Scholes emphasizes that Kobes Du Mez organizes her book with an emphasis on historical evidence rather than cultural or political observations to explain the shift in these values.
“It’s historical, meaning that she peers farther back into history for her evidence than most. What she finds is that the seeds of the rise of the religious right in the mid to late 1970s had been sown decades earlier,” he said.
While the talk is mostly motivated by religious study, the event, according to Scholes, is important for any student, faculty or staff member interested in understanding more about American culture.
“One cannot comprehend American culture without understanding the role that religion has played in shaping it,” Scholes said.
Although attendees are not required to have read Kobes Du Mez’s book, the event will focus heavily on her work. Scholes recommends arriving early, even for those who have pre-registered.
“Arrive early for a seat. Registration, which is not necessary to attend, is already at capacity. Just show up and come on in,” he said.
Students, staff and faculty can learn more about “Jesus and John Wayne” on Kobes Du Mez’s website.
Photo from bostonglobe.com.