My Rating – Must read
Level – Quick and easy, short book
The subtitle of the the book pretty much sums up what it is about. Conservative Christians were angry and put there hope a man Mansfield calls ‘an unlikely champion’. If fact that is the first section of the four sections of the book.
This first section has two short chapters about the (then) current political situation and how Trump fit into it. The second section, called ‘the backstory’, is basically a 65 page biography of Trump. The third section, ‘the appeal’, get to why Christians would even be interested in someone like Trump. This is probably the most informative section, with chapters on the Johnson Amendment, Obama, Hilary Clinton, and voters who felt like the found a political voice only in him. The final section, ‘Prophets and Presidents’, where Mansfield dives into the interaction of prophets with kings in the Old Testament and then contrast that with the pastors around Trump today.
The book also includes a short intro and epilogue and an interesting ‘Trump in his own words’ section which is a collection of a few of Trump’s speeches about religion.
I wasn’t sure what his book was going to be when I saw it on the list from Baker*. I don’t know who Mansfield is or whether he is a supporter or not, and I thought the book might be a bit apologetic for Evangelicals. Instead, it really is just a straight look at the situation. He doesn’t try to paint Trump as the terrible person, nor does he try to portray him in this great light that would explain why Evangelicals could vote for him.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book was the detailing of Trump’s admiration of Evangelicals, or at least preachers. He is somewhat famous now for staying up late and watching cable news, but apparently 20 years ago he stayed up late watching TV preachers. He seems infatuated with their charisma and influence on people. You get the impression that his outreach to Evangelicals maybe wasn’t just a political move, but him actually trying to ‘do good’ so to speak. It was almost like his pushes for ‘religious liberty’ and repeal of the Johnson Amendment are his good works, his attempt to earn some salvation. Honestly, I felt like had Trump met a different strain of American Christianity first, he could just as easily gone a completely different way.
That is actually a really disappointing idea, as this particular charismatic/Pentecostal/fundamentalist strain doesn’t necessarily line up with what he personally believes, but they are on the TV the most, so he sought them. He asked them what he needed to do, and they laid out, at least, the religious wing of his agenda. I really believe that had it been the liberal side, he’d be pushing refugee resettlement and environmentalism, or the reformed side, maybe sex-trafficking and racial reconciliation. He might not have even run as a republican. Anyway, for now that is just an interesting exercise in alternative history.
The biographical part of the book was fascinating. Mansfield did a great job distilling 70 years of this man’s life into just why/how he reacted to the religious vote the way he did and how he doesn’t really fit. The early chapter about Trump’s speech at Liberty University and his commentary on that are great insights.
Finally, I enjoyed the last part of the book where he delves into the famous pastors who supported Trump, their hypocrisy as it came to his morality versus their previous statements about Bill Clinton, and then how the tripped all over themselves to either excuse his behavior or explain why it didn’t matter. There was an interesting survey of all the Old Testament and historical figures different pastors have compare with Trump.
If you are a huge Trump supporter and think he was chosen by God to be the perfect leader of the United States, this book may not be for you; unless you want to be challenged in your thinking. However, if you are opposed to Trump, or politically left, or maybe not opposed but just confused, like me, as to how he garnered so much Evangelical support, this book is a must read.
*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.