Wild at Heart?

In Donald Trump and Militant Evangelical MasculinityKristin du  Mez points to the obvious connection of the Evangelical church to a militant masculinity.

a masculinity that has enshrined patriarchal authority, condoned a callous display of power at home and abroad, and functioned as a linchpin in the political and social worldviews of conservative white evangelicals. In the end, many evangelicals did not vote for Trump despite their beliefs, but because of them.

She notes the usual players, James Dobson, Promise Keepers, and of course John Eldredge’s Wild at HeartPerhaps what is missing however are the external cultural trends (Evangelicals are nothing if  not culturally alert). Culturally, the early turn to masculine narratives follows two other important trends. First, there was the emergence of families among the Baby Boomers — this is what fuels Dobson’s initial impact, why he gained such a voice across the church (we forget how big the early Focus on the Family programs really were, how they were even used by non-evangelical churches). Second, there is the role of Robert Bly and “mythopoetic men’s movement” (ah, drum circles!).

What is striking about the Evangelical-Trump alliance which she details.

Trump’s testosterone-fueled masculinity, … aligns remarkably well with that long championed by evangelicals. What makes a strong leader? A virile (white) man. And what of his vulgarity? Infidelity? Bombast? Even sexual assault? Well, boys will be boys.

However the longing for a strong leader represents something of an idealization. It is not the pursuit of masculinity, of being a guy doing guy things, but of an ideal. Trump then represents more the absence of something than the thing itself, what we “want” or we miss rather than as an exemplar. This is the hidden ambiguity, of masculine identity as ideal over against the reality of the day-to-day life in cubicle land; Mark Driscoll v. Rick Warren.


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