*Salon* Reviews *Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump*

Believe Me BannerI am grateful to Salon for publishing Paul Rosenberg’s lengthy review of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Here is a taste:

Fea’s first chapter is especially riveting for the light it sheds on how evangelicals came to support Trump when they had so many other superficially better-looking options to choose from. He argues convincingly that other GOP candidates did a superior job of courting evangelical voters by traditional means, after eight years of Obama had brought more change than they could handle — Marco Rubio with an impressive advisory council, Mike Huckabee with a track record and issue positions, Ben Carson with an appealing personal story, but most of all Ted Cruz, who “turned fear-mongering into an art form,” which should have trumped everyone else, especially given his father’s history as a popular apocalyptic preacher.

But collectively, Fea writes, they succeeded too well.

Between the summer of 2015 and start of the primary season in early 2016, they were able to diagnose the crisis that the United States was facing in a way that brought great anxiety and concern to American evangelicals. But their strategy backfired. … The evangelical candidates stoked fears of a world they seemed unfit to train. Desperate times call for a strongman, and if a strongman was needed, only Donald Trump would fit the bill.

 

It’s a powerful, convincing explanation — though incomplete, as I’ll return to below. But Fea is not content just reflecting on what has been. “I want to explore alternatives to the fear, the search for power, and in nostalgia,” Fea writes. “How do we reconcile the white evangelical politics of fear with the scriptural command to ‘fear not’?”  he asks.

“What would it take to replace fear with Christian hope?” The answer he at least prepares the way for comes from an unlikely source — the black church, as reflected in the history, spirit, and legacy of the civil rights movement, which he turns to in the book’s concluding chapter. They model a contrasting triad of hope, humility and history that Fea highlights as providing a powerful alternative model, a road not taken by white evangelicals.

But because the preceding five chapters have been so insular, concerned with the white evangelical world, this solution has the feeling of deus ex machina. Fea himself provides no model for what it might mean or how it might work, until his seemingly belated epiphany. It’s an effective cri de coeur, though as serious sociological and theological critique, much less so. 

Read the entire review here.

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