When I first read historian John Fea’s Believe Me, I thought he made a smart case. After interviewing him, I saw more of his concern for his community (understood as you like, as it expands outward). As 2018 rolled on, ideas from the book kept coming to mind; a week rarely passed in which I didn’t connect something in the news to Fea’s work. While it seems to be an unlikely proposition, a historical work on the motives on one slice of the voting population has turned out to be an essential read for understanding contemporary US culture.
While the country faces its vitriolic political divides, the American church faces its own internal fights, and the political and religious battles are not unrelated. Fea puts the current evangelical crisis into an accessible historical framework, leading him to a few key discoveries about why white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. To quickly state some of the findings – largely the importance fear and nostalgia played in the election – misses the force of his work as well as his desire to think through what comes next. Fea’s scope and clarity provide immediate insight for own time, but they also serve as a personal encouragement for a more thoughtful approach to our religious and political era. Those thoughts may be targeted to a certain demographic, but they serve a much wider audience.