When you receive an advanced reading copy to review, you are supposed to have the review out before the book is published, something I rarely do. However, today is one of the days I’ve done it correctly. This book will be available for purchase starting tomorrow, June 28.
My Rating – Must Read
Level – Short, easy read
The subtitle kind of says it all. How did Evangelicals so overwhelmingly support Trump (more than any other candidate in history)? He received 81% of self identified Evangelicals. There are people who dispute the support, due to the self identified label and have found that people who attend among those who attend church weekly, the support drops to 40’s. However, Fea is a historian, and clearly knows that we as Evangelicals are now tied to Trump, whether we like it or not.
The book isn’t necessarily a critique of Trump or his policies, but just an explorations as to why this man, of all people, would be considered the ‘Christian candidate.’ Excluding the intro and conclusion, the book is broken into five chapters: Evangelicals Politics of Fear, how people have used fear to drum up support; The Playbook, how Christians have used fear over the past 70 years or so to affect politics in certain ways; Short History of Evangelical fear, from the Puritans to today Christians; Court Evangelicals, those famous Christians today who seek power and influence the ways courtiers once did with kings; and Make American Great Again, what exactly does Trump mean by this, when was it great, and for whom?
I’m pretty sure the first time I came across Fea’s blog The Way of Improvement Leads Home was during the 2016 elections. He very clearly, as was I, seemed confused as to how Trump had the Evangelical vote. Many Christians now, including some of the most vocals supporters, say they chose Trump because he was better than Clinton, but many of them were supporters in the Primary. Fea points out in the book, that prior to Trump jumping in the race, Carson lead the Evangelical vote, but shortly after, Trump took it over, lost it briefly a few months later, and after recovery always lead. To some people, this made sense, to others it is absolutely confounding.
A twice divorced billionaire, who brags about infidelity, believes if you are rich you can grab random women ‘by the pussy,’ doesn’t believe in asking for forgiveness (a pillar of Christian beliefs), and is so ostentatious that he seems to be the physical embodiment of avarice seems to be an odd choice for the so-called Evangelical vote. This book is essentially Fea trying to understand what happened.
If Court Evangelical is a new term to you, it will likely be the most interesting chapter. The most striking to me was chapter five, Make America Great Again. As Christians, we need to seriously consider the ‘great again’ part and it’s implications. It might be great for me, a Protestant white guy, but what about basically everyone else that exists? And how serious is he about getting back to the ‘good ol’ days’?
There’s a lot more I could write about this topic, and if you are interested, the book is a must read. It is a great intro into how to think about Evangelical support for Trump. Even if you are supporter, especially if you are a ‘supreme court’ supporter, you should really read this book. I do have two brief criticisms and then a final thought before this gets too long.
First, a theological issue. Fea must come from an Arminian branch of Protestantism, as he misunderstands a few things about Puritan thought as well as Calvinism. It doesn’t necessarily change anything in the book, but if you come from a Reformed or Lutheran background, you’ll see some theological and hermeneutical errors. Second, he is a little too quick to say someone in not a Christian. While I agree that Trump shows not a single ‘fruit of the Spirit’ nor any ‘good works’, I’m hesitant to ever doubt someone’s profession of faith.
Finally, I really appreciate the intro and concluding chapters in this book. I’m told some people do not read these, but you really should. I am sure Fea will be attached as a ‘liberal’ or people will say he is not a Christian for writing this book, but the intro makes it pretty clear what he is trying to do. Even more, the conclusion is a great piece of writing on the confusion about the support for Trump. He wrote so much of what I’ve felt or wondered. It’s not that voting for Trump is wrong, it’s that the fact he is viewed as the Evangelical leader just makes no sense. If you are rich, or think the most dangerous think in America is Mexicans picking our fruit, or if you want to ban Muslims, or if you are just a party line Republican, then Trump makes the most sense. And all of that is fine, but to tie him up in religious language and say he is the best candidate for Christians is just confounding.
This vote will follow Evangelicals for all of American history. If you are curious as to how we go her, this book is a must read.
*I received a free copy of this book from Eerdman’s Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This is my first review for Eerdman’s and the first time I’ve received a galley proof in hardcopy.