Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books Reviews *Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump*

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If you still need to pre-order Believe Me, let me encourage you to buy it from Hearts & Minds Books in Dallastown, Pennsylvania.  Byron Borger, the proprietor of Hearts & Minds, has written a very generous review of the book.  (I have never been described as a “pleasantly intense history professor!”).

Here is a taste of Borger’s review:

This book is without a doubt one of the most important books for 2018. Agree fully or not with his assessment of how many evangelicals got so deeply in bed with the bizarre and brazen Donald Trump, it is an expert study of the recent history of the role of conservative religion and right wing politics. Which is to say it is an important book for anyone who cares about our republic, or about the integrity of the Christian witness in the world.  Fea is a good friend, an esteemed and pleasantly intense history professor at nearby Messiah College. His book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? has won a number of awards and has appeared on our own “Best of…”list the year it came out. We stock an earlier work, too, about a colonial leader and his embrace of almost a Wendell-Berryesque agrarianism in the 18th century, The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  

That is also the name of his very popular and widely read blog where he has been offering his own historian’s take on and analysis of the role of conservative evangelicals in the 2016 Presidential primary and national election. (By the way, I just read Katy Tur’s Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History, her very spicy memoir of her front line reporting on the hot mess of that primary and the subsequent national campaign, embedded as she was with the team Trump. Wow; just wow. If you are interested in politics at all, it’s worth ordering from us. I couldn’t put it down.) Although there are many secular books coming out on the spectacle of Trump’s first years (although very partisan, I highly recommend a new one we carry called Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our County by the always interesting Steve Almond) no one has studied well the history of the rise of the evangelical movements role in the Donald Trump campaign and administration with as much insight and authority as John Fea.

I suppose that Dr. Fea’s most important credential for this project is that he is a studious, adventurous historian who has specialized for decades in the role of religion in our civic life. Not only has he published chapters and edited volumes about faith-informed historiography – as Mark Noll and George Marsden and C.T. McIntire did a generation or so ago – he has done a lovely, accessible book called Why Study History? Professionally, he has focused on Protestant and evangelical influences on our political life. Dr. Fea is very involved in his own professional guilds and scholarly associations and has been paying attention to these vital matters as a historian for years; he’s got the scholarly chops, and he’s passionate as a historian (albeit a fairly non-partisan but not far right one, it seems. For the record he finds the massive accommodation of evangelical faith to far-right power politics very troubling for the commonwealth and, as an evangelical himself, a betrayal of a Biblical-informed, theologically mature, Christianly sound, political perspective.)

Which leads me to the second large credential that sets this author apart from others reporting on this topic. John is, in fact, an evangelical. He teaches at a Christian college in the evangelical tradition. He regular attends an evangelical church that might be described as a mega. He regularly is involved in uniquely evangelical meetings and conferences with the likes of evangelical scholars like Jay Green of Covenant College and Mark Noll of Wheaton College and Eric Miller of Geneva College. That he has a dog in this fight, as they say, is clear, although he writes with considerable fairness and explains the cultures of fear and alarmism and culture warring with evangelicalism with as more charity than might be expected. He dons the role of the prophet at times and is hard-hitting in his critique, but one senses this is the cry of a wounded friend, a “lovers quarrel” as Frederick Buechner once put it.

Read the rest here.