*The Guardian* and *Salon* Cover *Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump*

Believe Me 3dHere is Tom McCarthy at The Guardian:

Meanwhile, Trump has addressed a central concern for white evangelicals that they are losing influence as a group and that the sun is setting on the United States they dream of – a nation that is white and Christian in its majority and in its essence.

“They’ll look away from the moral indiscretion in order to get their political agenda in place… they want to reclaim, renew, restore what they believe was a Christian culture, a Christian America that has been lost,” said John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and the author of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Trump’s perceived delivery on that dream overwhelms qualms that many religious voters might have about sexual assault allegations against Trump, or about his multiple marriages or worship of mammon, Fea said.

“They don’t see this at all as hypocrisy,” Fea said. “They believe that Trump is appointed by God for a moment such as this. They believe that God uses corrupt people – there are examples in the Bible of this, so they’ll call upon these verses.

“They truly believe that ‘God works in mysterious ways. He uses even someone like Donald Trump to accomplish His will.’”

Read the entire piece here.

And here is Paul Rosenberg at Salon:

Clarkson’s reporting was his latest on Project Blitz — a Christian right stealth state legislative campaign first exposed by him early last year, and reported here at Salon. As I wrote then, its guiding vision is heavily influenced by pseudo-historian David Barton, who “has been discredited by every American historian I know,” according to evangelical historian John Fea. (See Fea’s latest on Barton here.) The myth of America’s founding as a Christian nation, and our supposed need to restore what’s been lost, are its guiding lights, with three proposed tiers of legislation.

Also this:

There are different schools of dominionism, and as Julie Ingersoll explained in “Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction” (Salon interview here), their ideas have had enormous influence on the religious right, even among many Christians who overtly disavow them. Barton and many others involved with Project Blitz subscribe to what is called “Seven Mountains” dominionism, devoted to infiltrating and taking over the “seven mountains of culture”: government, education, media, arts and entertainment, religion, family and business. Coming out of the “New Apostolic Reformation,” styling themselves as “apostles” and “prophets,” those folks have an exalted opinion of themselves. Secretive, extremist means to a “holy” end often find favor with them. 

Clarkson points to the case of state legislation in Minnesota, which he sees as “a harbinger of a more profoundly theocratic politics on the horizon.” Project Blitz works through a network of state-level legislative prayer caucuses, and in Minnesota, the state director, Rev. Dale Witherington, also runs an explicit Seven Mountains organization, RestoreMN, devoted to the “restoration of Biblical values in our nation” and “Biblical citizenship.” 

This year provided a taste of what he has in mind. The story begins with an attempt to slash the budget of the Minnesota Historical Society by $4 million (possibly resulting in a 25% staff cuts) for failing to conform to Christian nationalist ideology. 

When the cuts were first proposed by State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, a Republican, she refused to explain why, beyond saying it was because of an unspecified “controversy.” State Sen. John Marty, a Twin Cities Democrat, eventually got the scoop from another Republican member, who explained that it had to do with “what he called ‘revisionist history’ at the 200-year-old Historic Fort Snelling.

This “revisionist history” involved the fort expanding its educational mission to include the Dakota name for the area, Bdote, and a 10,000-year history that included “Native peoples, trade, soldiers and veterans, enslaved people, immigrants, and the changing landscape.” That history happens to be true. But as Marty told me, religious conservatives “wanted the history that they were taught 4th grade, and think that that’s all there is to it. Anything else is ‘revisionist history.’” 

Those proposed cuts restored by Democrats, who control the state House and the governor’s office. But the story doesn’t end there. In the May issue of Americans United’s Church and State magazine, historian Steven Greene blew the whistle on what’s probably the real story — a behind-the-scenes threat from the Minnesota Prayer Caucus, to slash the Historical Society funding in retaliation for scheduling two lectures based on his 2015 book, “Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of the Religious Founding.

Greene’s book was published by Oxford University Press, arguably the world’s leading academic publisher, and was praised by evangelical historian John Fea, himself the author of “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.” Fea called it “the most thorough critique of Christian nationalism available today,” and said, “Anyone interested in this subject must read this book.” (Fea and Greene both took part in a 2015 CNN forum on the subject here.) 

But the Minnesota Prayer Caucus was not impressed, and accused the Historical Society of “promoting a narrative about our nation’s history and founding that is patently false.” (Mind you, its members had not seen the book, let alone read it.) After an exchange of letters, the caucus eventually made a veiled threat, requesting “that our side of the story be presented with your support and promotion through the Minnesota Historical Society,” and saying that it should be scheduled and promoted by May 1 of this year, “when committees begin to meet to review appropriations to various organizations and groups.”

Read the entire piece here.

6 thoughts on “*The Guardian* and *Salon* Cover *Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump*

  1. Wait a minute. Is it possible the scars we leave on the Earth might be permanent, the same way the scars we left on Jesus are permanent?

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  2. This “it’s all going to burn” mentality has been part of American fundamentalism and evangelicalism for a long time. This is why so many evangelicals are scared to death of anything having to do with social justice or care for creation. Read N.T. Wright’s *Surprised by Hope.” He draws a direct connection between this world (including the natural world) and the “new heavens and new earth” promised in the New Testament. Wright’s work completely changed my thinking about what the New Testament means by “heaven.”

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  3. “the degradation of our culture is having a far more immediately deleterious effect upon the lives and souls of me”

    I’m pretty sure we can call this a Freudian typo, because it reveals where your real priority is–you and yourself.

    But even if we took it as a statement about the lives and souls of ‘men’ (and included women), it still really displays a major problem with evangelical culture, which is so lost in its own fantastical vision about the collective moral purity of some arbitrary national ‘culture’–measured nostalgically according to some legalistic/literalistic reading of a collection of ancient mystical texts–that actual physical consequences for the world and its inhabitants don’t really matter.

    Which is to say, the majority of evangelicals don’t care about the real future of the world because they don’t think it’s as real as some hypothetical afterlife or imaginary End Times resolution. They think God will wave the equivalent of a magical wand and rescue the beleaguered good guys at the end, so why worry about the problems they create or exacerbate in the meantime?

    Which means there is this odd disconnect, like Alex mentioned, between what they believe is necessary for their own preservation (accepting Donald Trump as their cultural savior) and their underlying belief that it is all temporary and going to burn away in the end. It’s a major cognitive dissonance that produces huge gaps in rational functioning–like voting for Donald Trump and trusting in the mechanisms of the Republican Party to “save” the nation, while simultaneously lamenting the deterioration of our collective morality. They are literally making the moral compromises which they are simultaneously lamenting. (For God so loved the United States that He anointed his only begotten Trump, that whosoever voteth for him would not perish, but would have everlasting religious rights….)

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  4. Alex,

    Even if environmental alarmism were justified, the degradation of our culture is having a far more immediately deleterious effect upon the lives and souls of me.

    James

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  5. “they want to reclaim, renew, restore what they believe was a Christian culture, a Christian America that has been lost,”
    There seems to be a disconnect between how White Evangelicals treat culture care and creation care. A study I read recently found that a major reason for apathy for creation among Christians is the mentality that ‘it’s all going to burn anyway’. Which is also true for culture and, dare I say, America. Why the disconnect?

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