The Believe Me book tour visited Harrisonburg, Virginia last week. Student reporters Jake Meyers and Allie Weaver of The Weather Vane report:
Dr. John Fea had three main targets when he wrote his book “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump”: white evangelicals who voted for the current president, white evangelicals who did not, and everyone else. A history professor at Messiah College, Fea presented at the University Colloquium in the MainStage Theater on Wednesday, Jan. 16. He began by describing Election Night 2016 from his point of view, reliving the shock and defeat he felt as the results rolled in. What happened? The point of this book was to explain how 81 percent of evangelicals arrived at the conclusion that shaped their voting decision.
Fea, a self-identified evangelical Christian, based his argument on three contrasts found in that community: fear over hope, power over humility, and nostalgia over history.
“Fear is not a good place for Christians to be dwelling,” he said. Going back as far as the 17th century, fear in the U.S. has been associated with political or social change. Americans decided that their country was the greatest and “baptized” it as a Christian nation. Any change to this narrative induced fear and a strong backlash. In the South during the 1800s, white evangelicals built a “Christian” society on the backs of slavery and white supremacy, and when this way of life was threatened, there were two responses: the Civil War and a complex theological defense of their way of life. “Both of these were driven by fear,” he argued.
The pattern continued; things changed and evangelicals grew fearful. Immigrants arrived and the Supreme Court overturned segregation and legalized abortion. The “Christian” nation was falling apart, and the election of President Obama only intensified this “perfect storm.” Here, Fea invited the gathering to empathize with evangelicals. Under the Obama administration, gay marriage went from illegal to legalized. When fearful, people turn to political strongmen to lead them. Enter Donald Trump.
Fea pointed out how Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” played off the nostalgia and fear that many of his supporters felt about the past. Associate Professor Ji Eun Kim said, “Depending on who you are and what you advocate, America in the past was either great or far from being great. Paying close attention to the foundations, underlying values, or any prejudice and biases that shape our view of history, would be much needed to address any concerns.” Because many of Trump’s evangelical supporters felt nostalgia for the past, their fear led them to turn to Trump and his promise to, “Make America Great Again.”
Read the rest here.
This student newspaper was generally sympathetic. This was not the case with a writer for the student newspaper at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.