David French and the Fear Factor

Meme-believeme 2Today I received multiple e-mails, tweets, and messages asking me if I know David French or if I have given him a copy of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  His recent piece in Time, “Evangelicals Are Supporting Trump Out of Fear, Not Faith,” sounds quite familiar.

Here is a taste:

White evangelicals are largely Republican, and they’re generally going to vote for Republicans. And proximity to power has always had its attractions for religious charlatans of all stripes. But I’d suggest the real reason for the breadth and depth of evangelical support is deeper and–perversely–even more destructive to its religious witness.

That reason is fear.

Talk to engaged evangelicals, and fear is all too often a dominant theme of their political life. The church is under siege from a hostile culture. Religious institutions are under legal attack from progressives. The left wants nuns to facilitate access to abortifacients and contraceptives, it wants Christian adoption agencies to compromise their conscience or close, and it even casts into doubt the tax exemptions of religious education institutions if they adhere to traditional Christian sexual ethics.

These issues are legally important, and there are reasons for evangelicals to be concerned. But there is no reason for evangelicals to abandon long-held principles to behave like any other political-interest group.

Instead, the evangelical church is called to be a source of light in a darkening world. It is not given the luxury of fear-based decisionmaking. Indeed, of all the groups in American life who believe they have the least to fear from American politics, Christians should top the list. The faithful should reject fear.

Read the entire piece here.

And no, I have never met French, nor, as far as I know, did Eerdmans Publishing send him a copy of Believe Me.

French also writes:

But in 2016, something snapped. I saw Christian men and women whom I’ve known and respected for years respond with raw fear at the very idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency. They believed she was going to place the church in mortal danger. The Christian writer Eric Metaxas wrote that if Hillary won, America’s chance to have a “Supreme Court that values the Constitution” will be “gone.” “Not for four years, not for eight,” he said, “but forever.”

This is true, and I write about it in Believe Me, but I go one step further by showing that 2016 was not the first time that white evangelicals have played the fear card.  In fact, it is a longstanding (three centuries!) feature of evangelical political engagement.

6 thoughts on “David French and the Fear Factor

  1. You know, I’ve never really considered that perhaps Evangelicals were driven to climate denial out of fear. Fear that the consequences of their pollution are as grave as science says. That could explain why they are so willing to go all-in on denial. They may logically be thinking they have nothing left to lose. If climate change is real than all is already lost. Their ONLY hope is that it’s a conspiracy. And so highlighting the scary stuff just drives them deeper into denial, ergo an Inconvenient Truth, which was heavy on the scary, was a precipitous event.
    I’m a little embarrassed I’ve been commenting on this blog for so long before thinking of this explination.

    Like

    • Hi Alex, based on my many years in the evangelical world, I don’t think fear is the motivator on this particular issue (or even *a* motivator). I attribute the climate change denial (or, in some cases, mere indifference) to some combination of these factors:

      (1) A general mistrust of science, at least in part originating from creation/evolution tension. For many creationist Christians of the “literal 7-day” and/or “young-earth” bent, the thinking is that science got this fundamental point very wrong, so why should they trust anything science says?

      (2) A tendency of many conservative Christians to watch and intake only very politically conservative media sources, which typically constantly attack climate science as a liberal canard, which furthers the “it’s all just a big conspiracy” mindset.

      (3) A mindset for some that we’re living in the “last days” prophesied in the Bible, and the temporal/physical earth is passing away anyway (based on a literal interpretation of Revelation as world-ending cataclysmic near-future events), so why even bother worrying about something as “trivial” as what is going to happen with the climate?

      I heartily disagree with all three of these mindsets, but they are prevalent in much of the evangelical world.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Should have prefaced that one with “PLUG:”, professor. 🙂
    (There used to be a small-time SF author in San Diego; when he was on panels he had various flash cards he’d hold up at certain points. One he used when he referred to his own works as examples read “PLUG!”)

    That said, both Wondering Eagle and I have been scratching our heads over how Born-Again Christians are the most Fanatical of Trump Fanatics. It’s like The Beast Deceiving the Very Elect in bad Christian Apocalyptic. (Real kicker when you realize their go-to Verse for anything similar was “God Shall Send Them Strong Delusion, That They Should Believe a Lie. Tsk. Tsk.”) Eagle himself had a regular troll who was a Bible-Verse-quoting Trump Fanatic (and I mean FANATIC!!!!!). I got Eagle’s OK to “counter-troll the F out of him” when he appeared “giving Donald Trump Praise and Adoration”.

    Well, our working hypothesis (from Spiritual Abuse/Church Corruption blog experiences) is that Trump acts and behaves a lot like a crooked/abusive celebrity Megapastor or Televangelist, only more so. And Christians have been conditioned and groomed by Evangelical Megaculture to see this as a sign of God’s Anointing. (“Touch Not Mine Anointed!”) And since Trump out-does the Anointed Megapastors across the board, he must be More Godly. He “hits the metrics” of what passes for Christian these days more than the Big Name Christians.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Fear is the mind-killer”
    — Frank Herbert, Dune

    “Fear has pulled more triggers than Hate.”
    — David Drake, Old Nathan

    I write about it in Believe Me, but I go one step further by showing that 2016 was not the first time that white evangelicals have played the fear card. In fact, it is a longstanding (three centuries!) feature of evangelical political engagement.

    Three Centuries? I remember Fear-based/Siege Mentality Christianity being in full swing when I was in-country in the Seventies, but going on/into the past for 300 YEARS?

    Are there any online sources you could recommend for details on this long backstory? At least a quick example or two of how this Fear Card was played in the past?

    Like

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