“a historian at an evangelical college and a consistent critic of Trump”

Trump bioI’ll take it!  At least I am “consistent.”

Last weekend someone messaged to tell me that I was quoted in David Brody and Scott Lamb’s book The Faith of Donald Trump: A Spiritual Biography.

Here is what they wrote:

p.307:  Nevertheless, cynical criticism erupted.  William Barber, a North Carolina minister and political leader, said the Oval Office camaraderie and prayer amounted to “theological malpractice that borders on heresy.”  John Fea, a historian at an evangelical college and a consistent critic of Trump, wrote that “Trump  has forced them [evangelicals] to embrace pragmatism that could change the gospel around the world, and force many Christians to rethink their religious identities and affiliations.”

p.311: So, even while understanding that Trump did not “come from us,” the way explicitly evangelical candidates like Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson did, leaders like Jeffress can state, “We thank God every day that he gave us a leader like Donald Trump.”  And Donald Trump returns the love with his own public affirmation: “You fought hard for me, and now I am fighting hard for all of you.”

Now, such language causes some evangelicals concern; Rob Schenk wrote that Believe Me JPEG“Evangelicals are a tool of Donald Trump.  This could be the undoing of American evangelicalism.  We could just become a political operation in the guise of a church.”  And John Fea wrote that “Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity.”

That seems a bit over the top to say the least….

Of course I have a lot more to say about Trump in my forthcoming Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Randall Balmer on the Christian Right’s Changing Code of Ethics

Trump court evangelicals

Randall Balmer, a lifelong observer of American evangelicalism, reflects on the “flexible” values of the Christian Right.

Here is a summary of Balmer’s sense of the “new” Christian Right ethical code:

  1. “Lying is all right as long as it serves a higher purpose.”
  2. “It’s no problem to married more than, well, twice.”
  3. “Immigrants are scum”
  4. “Vulgarity is a sign of strength and resolve”
  5. “White live matter (much more than others)”
  6. “There’s no harm in spending time with porn stars”
  7. “It’s all right for adults to date children”
  8. “The end justifies the means”

See how Balmer develops this points here.

Episode 32: The Politics of Sex

uploads_2F1517801018608-g7jadvnppfm-49f71c59cada623d3fc8cd64f18ad36b_2FwoiHost John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling continue to explore the many facets of the Culture Wars. Today, they tackle the often taboo subject of sex and politics. John discusses how sex was politicized in colonial America. They are joined by R. Marie Griffith (@RMarieGriffith), author of Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics.

Trump Evangelicals and “Legitimate Concerns”

Over at my Facebook page some very good historians and scholars who I respect have been critical of Mark Noll‘s blurb for my forthcoming (June) book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Here is the blurb:

Noll Fea quote

I tried to capture some of this last night in a series of tweets:

John Wilson, the editor of the now defunct Books & Culture, responded to these veiled tweets:

I even had one friend tell me on Facebook that I should get Eerdmans to edit Noll’s blurb to remove the word “legitimate.”

Frankly, I think Noll’s blurb nails it.  (After all, he read the book.  None of the critics have seen it).  Evangelicals do have “legitimate” concerns. They have also responded to those concerns, as Noll writes, in very unhealthy ways.

I thought about all of this again this morning as I read Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column.  She writes:

We discuss motives, but isn’t it always the same motive? “I have murder in my heart.” Why do so many Americans have murder in their hearts?

That is my question after the St. Valentine’s Day shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. We all know it is part of a continuing cultural catastrophe. A terrible aspect of the catastrophe is that so many central thoughts about it, and questions, have been flattened by time into clichés. People stop hearing when you mention them. “We talked about that during Columbine, didn’t we? That couldn’t be it.”

So we immediately revert to discussions of gun law, and only gun law. There is much to be improved in that area—I offer a suggestion at the end—but it is not the only part of the story. The story is also who we are now and what shape we’re in.

A way to look at the question is: What has happened the past 40 years or so to produce a society so ill at ease with itself, so prone to violence?

We know. We all say it privately, but it’s so obvious it’s hardly worth saying. We have been swept by social, technological and cultural revolution. The family blew up—divorce, unwed childbearing. Fatherless sons. Fatherless daughters, too. Poor children with no one to love them. The internet flourished. Porn proliferated. Drugs, legal and illegal. Violent videogames, in which nameless people are eliminated and spattered all over the screen. (The Columbine shooters loved and might have been addicted to “Doom.”) The abortion regime settled in, with its fierce, endless yet somehow casual talk about the right to end a life. An increasingly violent entertainment culture—low, hypersexualized, full of anomie and weirdness, allergic to meaning and depth. The old longing for integration gave way to a culture of accusation—you are a supremacist, a misogynist, you are guilty of privilege and defined by your color and class, we don’t let your sort speak here.

So much change, so much of it un-gentle. Throughout, was anyone looking to children and what they need? That wasn’t really a salient aim or feature of all the revolutions, was it? The adults were seeing to what they believed were their rights. Kids were a side thought.

At this moment we are in the middle of a reckoning about how disturbed our sexual landscape has become. This past week we turned to violence within marriages. We recently looked at the international sex trade, a phrase that sounds so 18th-century but refers to a real and profitable business.

All this change, compressed into 40 years, has produced some good things, even miraculous ones. But it does not feel accidental that America is experiencing what appears to be a mental-health crisis, especially among the young. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported as many as 20% of children 3 to 17 have, in any given year, a mental or emotional illness. There is research indicating depression among teenagers is worsening. National Public Radio recently quoted a 2005 report asserting the percentage of prison inmates with serious mental illness rose from less than 1% in 1880 to 21% in 2005. Deinstitutionalization swept health care and the psychiatric profession starting in the 1960s, and has continued since. The sick now go to the emergency room or stay among us untreated. In the society we have created the past 40 years, you know we are not making fewer emotionally ill young people, but more.

Not everyone will agree with me, but I do think Noonan addresses “legitimate concerns.”  The issue, as I see it, is less about the diagnosis of the problem and more about how to respond to it.  As I argue in Believe Me, Trump is not the answer.   Read the book and decide whether I am right–both about the “legitimate concerns” and about Trump as the answer.  And don’t forget to pre-order here.  🙂

Believe Me JPEG

“Evangelicals Fell For It”

Trump bioI will confess that I had never heard of conservative pundit Erick Erickson until he started speaking out against Trump. Yesterday The Weekly Standard published Erickson’s scathing review of David Brody’s and Scott Lamb’s The Faith of Donald Trump.  It is brutal.

Here is a taste:

President Trump relishes his reputation as a savvy dealmaker. “Deals are my art form,” he once tweeted. “Other people paint beautifully or write poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals.” He promised during the 2016 campaign that if elected, he would work with politicians and foreign leaders to make “smart deals for the country.” But since he took office there has been precious little evidence of Trump’s vaunted dealmaking prowess. Such successes as his administration has been able to claim have generally been accomplished without his direct involvement—and sometimes in spite of it.

There is, though, one obvious piece of evidence from the president’s political career that suggests his dealmaking reputation might be deserved after all: the relationship he has with evangelical political leaders. He has lavished them with attention and let them bask in his celebrity star-power, things that they, long feeling like outsiders in American culture and politics, have badly craved. In exchange, they have thrown him their support—unconditional support, by all appearances—and with it, the backing of a political constituency vital to his success at the polls.

In The Faith of Donald J. Trump, authors David Brody and Scott Lamb provide an in-depth look at the relationship between the president and American evangelicals. Brody and Lamb—respectively a newscaster with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network and a vice president at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University—have written what they dub a “spiritual biography,” even though they come right out and say they have no intention of answering the question of whether Trump is a Christian. Instead, they hope to convey his faith through his actions.

In the process, though, Brody and Lamb inadvertently expose the corruption and moral vacuity of the political evangelical movement in the United States.

Trump only started paying attention to evangelicals once he began to consider running for president—some five or more years before the 2016 campaign. He made a show of cozying up to evangelical pastors who write books that usually don’t sell well outside their own congregations. He reached out to the prosperity-gospel heretic Paula White and flattered her. He asked questions of other religious leaders.

As his ambitions grew, Trump cannily cultivated relationships with evangelicals, and they convinced themselves that those relationships must be sincere since they began before he openly started campaigning for the presidency. Once he did start openly campaigning, the outreach only became more intensive. As Brody and Lamb report, Trump would seek out the preachers to sit next to at events. He would bring his mother’s Bible to meetings to show it off. Evangelicals fell for it. So deluded and distracted are they by the trappings of power, they do not even see what Brody and Lamb see. “He’s the P. T. Barnum of the 21st century,” an anonymous banker in the book says of Donald Trump. These evangelical leaders have yet to realize that they are the suckers.

Read the entire review here.

In case you haven’t heard, we take a different approach to Trump in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Believe Me JPEG

#Evangelicalism vs. #Evangelicals

latin evangelicals

This quick post is for Twitter users.  I have noticed that the #evangelicalism hashtag often tends to produce tweets with links and commentary that I find useful–both as a scholar and an evangelical.  Many of these tweets are written by evangelicals themselves and tend to focus on everything from theology to politics to sociology.

The #evangelicals hashtag seems more focused on trashing evangelicals in largely political terms.

I am not sure this point is worth developing, but I throw it out there for your consideration.

Linker: Evangelicals are “Dreaming Small”

President Donald Trump attends the Liberty University Commencement Ceremony

American evangelicals, according to Damon Linker at The Week, are on the defensive.  Here is a taste of his piece “The Dwindling Ambition of the Religious Right“:

The conservative evangelical Protestants who have long been the foot soldiers of the religious right may be thrilled with President Trump’s judicial appointments (and so willing to overlook his mountain of personal moral failings), but that excitement has nothing to do with ambitions to take back the country in the name of traditional moral values. On the contrary, evangelicals and their conservative Catholic allies today engage in politics from the position of a defensive crouch, anxiously hoping sympathetic judges will protect them from bullying at the hands of an administrative state empowered by anti-discrimination law to stamp out various forms of religiously grounded “bigotry.”

To see the change, ask yourself when you can last recall hearing a major figure on the religious right propose a major reform of American public life. (And no, restrictions on abortion don’t count, because supporting the placement of limits on abortion-on-demand doesn’t require affirming traditional religious views; one need only believe in the existence of human rights and recognize that a fetus on a sonogram is a human being.) Since Bush’s failure to reverse the rapid advance of gay marriage in the United States, the religious right has been playing defense and even entertaining withdrawal from active engagement in politics at the national level.

 

Read the rest here.  This is what happens when evangelicals are motivated less by hope than by fear.

 

Another Convening of the Court (Evangelicals)

This is from court evangelical Greg Laurie‘s Twitter feed:

I don’t recognize everyone in the picture, but I do see Franklin Graham, Paula White, Tim Clinton, and Robert Jeffress.

After looking at this photo-op I am reminded of former court evangelical A.R. Bernard’s line.

By the way, Chapter Four of my forthcoming Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump is entitled “Power Brokers: The Court Evangelicals.”  The good folks at Eerdmans Publishing tell me that pre-orders help them get the message of the book to the maximum number of people.

Believe Me JPEG

 

3 Books (So Far) on God and Donald Trump

Believe Me JPEGCheck out the recent piece at Religion News Service on three new books on Trump and Christian faith.  They are:

Stephen Mansfield, Choosing Donald Trump.  I have read it.  It is a straightforward narrative of Trump’s history with evangelicals.  Mansfield is a conservative evangelical, but he is not much a Trump supporter.

Steven Strang, God and Donald Trump.  I have read it.  Strang’s book can be summarized in one sentence:  Trump is God’s anointed one. I have blogged about it here.

David Brody and Scott Lamb, The Faith of Donald Trump: A Spiritual Biography.  I have not read it yet, but I have read Ed Kilgore’s review.  I should also add that Lamb just landed a new gig at Liberty University as “Vice President of Special Literary Projects.” Interesting.

In a few months my own book on Trump and evangelicals will appear.  I don’t need to tell readers of this blog that it will be a VERY DIFFERENT book.  Pre-order Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  I will be hitting the road with the book after the June 30 book launch at the Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  We are currently booking dates through the end of the year.

Shane Claiborne To Lead “Revival” Against “Toxic Christianity”

Red Letter

Evangelical leaders Shane Claiborne, William Barber, Lisa Sharon Harper, Tony Campolo, and of the so-called “Red Letter Christians” are going into the belly of the whale: Lynchburg, Virginia.

These progressive Christians are holding a “Red Letter Revival” in Lynchburg, Virginia on April 6-7, 2018.  It will include a worship service, music, and speakers.

Here is a taste of Jack Jenkins’s piece at Religion News Service:

A group of progressive evangelicals and other Christians are planning a “revival” this spring to protest “toxic evangelicalism” and evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr. who support President Trump.

Christian author and activist Shane Claiborne announced the event on Twitter Wednesday (Feb. 7), saying he and others plan to host a “Red Letter Revival” on April 6-7 in Lynchburg, Va. — the same city where Liberty University, a conservative Christian school led by Falwell, is located.

Claiborne, co-director of the progressive Christian group Red Letter Christians, told Religion News Service he’s heard Liberty students say they want their school “to be known for its love for Jesus (rather) than its love for Trump.”

Specifics for the event remain tentative, but he said the program would begin that Friday with a “three-hour hype-filled, fiery, beautiful worship (service with) preaching.” The next day would include “a whole bunch of different breakout sessions and music” and conclude with “another big service” Saturday evening — including a “call to action.”

Read more here.

We will see how this plays out.  While I support the spirit of this effort, I wish Claiborne would cast a larger tent.  He seems to have gathered the usual suspects–Campolo, Barber, and the rest of the so-called evangelical left. The “Red Letter Christians” have been protesting GOP presidential candidates for a long time, well before Trump took office.  If Claiborne can attract more evangelical moderates, such as those who signed the recent Washington Post ad on immigration and refugees, his “revival” might have more of an impact.  I hope he can.

Trump’s “God and Country” Language in National Prayer Breakfast Speech

Trump prayer

I offered my take on the speech here. I also contributed to Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece at The Washington Post.  Here is a taste:

In some ways, Trump’s speech fit the types of prayer breakfast speeches given by presidents in the past, said John Fea, a professor of history at Messiah College. Trump spoke about the role America has to play to create a more just world, an idea President Barack Obama would have promoted as well.

“There are Christians both on the left and the right who see America as a force for good,” Fea said.

However, Trump went a bit further, he said, where American exceptionalism was implied. “This is something that gets the Christian right … very excited,” he said.

Read the entire piece here.

Is Donald Trump a New Cyrus or a “Baby Christian?”

Believe Me JPEGDonald Trump will address the 66th annual National Prayer Breakfast today.  Last night I read a Voice of America piece on the event.  This piece triggered a few thoughts.

It seems that Trump’s evangelical supporters approach his presidency in one of two ways.

First, there is the “King Cyrus” crowd.  These are the court evangelicals who believe that God appointed Trump to deliver evangelicals from secular forces trying to undermine America’s status as God’s chosen people.  In the Old Testament, Cyrus was the Persian King who freed the Jews from captivity and allowed them to return to Jerusalem.  Cyrus was a pagan.  Yet God used him.  In this scenario, Trump does not need to be a Christian or exemplify Christian character for him to play a providential role in human history.  Those who embrace this view believe that they have a firm grasp on the will of God or else they claim that God has given them special revelation.

Second, there is the “baby Christian” crowd.  These are court evangelicals who believe that Donald Trump had a born-again experience.  He is a “baby Christian” who is still growing in his faith.  We should thus understand his blunders and anti-Christian statements and policies as part of this spiritual growth.  Moreover, his past sins have been forgiven and we should now give him a second chance–a “mulligan‘ if you will–because God offers sinners “second chances” through the Gospel.

Here is a third option:  Trump is not a new Cyrus or a “baby Christian.”  He is a political opportunist who is using the court evangelicals to sustain power.

I have done my best to interpret the evangelical support of Trump in my forthcoming book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

 

*USA Today* Calls Out Evangelical Leaders

Trump court evangelicals

The editors of the USA Today just wrote: “Trump squanders moral authority–for evangelical leaders.”

Here is a taste:

Born-again Christians “have a long record of being highly pragmatic, rather than purist, in (using) the tools of the federal government to protect their own authority and advance a moral agenda,” Molly Worthen, assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, has written.

Between Trump and Hillary Clinton, if evangelicals saw the former as the better vessel — albeit a morally flawed one — for overturning Roe v. Wade or safeguarding religious freedom, why not support him? After all, the Lord works in mysterious ways and through imperfect vessels. 

What’s more puzzling is that leaders of the religious right feel it’s somehow necessary to shoehorn the president’s character into some kind of born-again template, a mold he has never fit and never will.

By the accounts of more than a dozen women, Trump is a serial sexual predator. On the infamous Access Hollywood tape, he boasted of grabbing women’s genitals. And in the 2006 encounter with Stormy Daniels, he allegedly betrayed his marriage vows to Melania shortly after the birth of his youngest son.

To this day, he bears false witness an average of several times a day and uses vulgarities to denigrate entire nations of people.  

Yet Graham and Falwell say they believe Trump has morally changed over the years. “He’s not the same person now that he was back then,” Falwell told CNN. “That’s why evangelicals are so quick to forgive Donald Trump when he asked for forgiveness for things that happened 10, 15 years ago.”

Except he never really did. The Access Hollywood tape is about the only thing Trump has publicly apologized for. But The New York Times reported he has since questioned the tape’s authenticity.

Read the entire editorial here.

Evangelicals Urge Congress and Trump to Act on Immigration

Immigration

Evangelical leaders took out an ad in tomorrow’s Washington Post urging Congress and Trump to allow more refugees into the United States and keep the DACA program.  The letter was signed by Max Lucado, Beth Moore, and Jen Hatmaker, among others.  According to the Washington Post‘s Sarah Pulliam Bailey, none of the court evangelicals signed the ad.

Here is a taste of Bailey’s piece about the ad:

A diverse group of evangelical leaders have put their names on a full-page advertisement in Wednesday’s Washington Post urging President Trump and Congress to act on immigration and refugee policy, issues that have become especially divisive among conservative evangelicals.

Last year, a similar group took out an ad denouncing Trump’s attempt to ban certain refugees, a controversial executive order that has been caught up in legal battles during the past year. This year’s ad also includes controversial immigration issues that have been tied up in recent congressional battles.

It has some of the same signatures, including popular authors like Max Lucado and Ann Voskamp,  who have long focused on the welcoming part of immigration. However, it also adds some interesting names, including Bible teacher Beth Moore and popular author Jen Hatmaker, two women who have become increasingly vocal in the Trump era. Some of these leaders focus mostly on the Bible and spirituality and don’t typically get too involved in political issues.

Read the entire piece here.

Journalist Ed Kilgore Reviews Brody and Lamb’s *The Faith of Donald Trump: A Spiritual Biography*

Trump bioIt is not pretty.  Kilgore says that the book should actually be titled Our Faith in Donald Trump.  Here is a taste of his review at New York Magazine:

But ultimately, as the increasingly hagiographic tone of the book shows, Brody and Lamb and the conservative Evangelical thought-leaders they represent are working hard to overcome any doubts about Trump. The more the president outrages the Americans who aren’t pining for a return to the 1950s, the more these proud reactionaries cling to him like a Rock of Ages. Here’s conservative Evangelical radio host Eric Metaxas, who also wrote the foreword for this book, reacting to the furor over Trump’s comments defending the honorable intentions of the white rioters of Charlottesville:

We’re going to stand up for Trump a hundred times more. It’s been unbelievably despicable the way he’s been treated. And I think there’s some kind of demonic deception. I mean I’ve never seen anything like it begin to compare it to in my lifetime.

If faith is indeed (as Paul suggested in his Epistle to the Hebrews) “the evidence of things unseen,” then the passionate faith that conservative Evangelicals are placing in “their” president needs little sustenance from the man himself. And that’s a good thing for him and for them, if not for our country and all of the Americans who worship a God who’s not necessarily Republican.

Read the entire review here.

John Stackhouse on the Label “Evangelical”

stackhouse_john_web

John Stackhouse

Over at Religion News Service, Jonathan Merritt interviews John Stackhouse, a scholar of American and Canadian evangelicalism.  Stackhouse argues that “evangelical” simply means “of the gospel” and adds: “only in the United States does ‘evangelical’ primarily mean ‘white Protestants descended from fundamentalists who want to re-convert America and then use its influence to convert the rest of the world.'” (I love it!).

Stackhouse still identifies as an “evangelical.”  Here is a taste of the interview:

RNS: You’ve chosen to hang onto the label. Why?

JS: It helps to be Canadian. Canadian evangelicalism experienced a bit of fundamentalism, but fundamentalism hasn’t overshadowed the whole tradition as it has in the U.S. International evangelicalism, as seen in bodies like the World Evangelical Alliance (until recently, led by a Canadian), the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, and the Lausanne Committee do have to deal with massive American influence. But, on the whole, they maintain a healthier balance: one that retains the focus on personal piety and friendly evangelism typical of the eighteenth-century roots of the movement in people like John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards.

RNS: But what is wrong with someone rejecting the label because of what it has come to mean?

JS: Labels are just tools: If it works for you, use it. If not, then don’t. I don’t use it when I’m pretty sure it’s going to misrepresent me in this or that conversation or group. But it’s a pretty good label for a genuine phenomenon: this distinctive kind of Protestantism that emerges out of Puritanism (in Britain) and Pietism (on the Continent), blossoms in the trans-Atlantic revivals of the eighteenth century, and carries on to this day in varied but related streams. If we drop “evangelical” as a descriptive term because of political poisoning, okay, but we’ll have to find another one, because there is something there that needs a label.

RNS: It seems to me that the meaning of a word is comprised of both a definition and connotation. You seem to value the definition, but some people are reacting against the connotation. That is, the negative associations that have been strapped to this word. Are you talking about different things?

JS: Identifying a movement by what strikes you as most interesting (most admirable, most terrifying, most ugly) is one way to pick it out, but another is to see it on its own terms, calming down one’s emotional reaction to analyze what’s actually there. So, yes, I’m using the term as one does in the quiet of the historian’s study. But I sympathize with those are triggered by it to blast off in rage about the excesses of the prosperity gospel, racist and sexist elements in evangelicalism, and, of course, the current U. S. president.

I’m reminded of a scholar of John Calvin, who taught at a Calvinist school and belonged to a Calvinist church, finishing a public lecture once and fielding this question from the audience: “So are you a Calvinist?”

He wisely paused, and then replied, “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean someone who enjoys worshiping a God who delights in damning babies to hell.”

“Oh. Well, then, no. I’m not a Calvinist. And neither was John Calvin.”

Read the rest here.

Hart: “If Not for Politics, Would Anyone Care about Evangelicalism?”

year-of-evangelicalGreat question.  As Darryl Hart know better than most, “evangelicalism” did not really become a big thing in post-war America until it graced the cover of Newsweek in 1976.  Granted, evangelicalism had been around for a long time, but its re-emergence in the public mind was directly linked to politics.  If conservative evangelicals did not emerge with force during this period I wonder what the state of evangelical historiography would look like today.  Much of the best scholarly work on American evangelicalism was written with the rise of the Christian Right as a backdrop.

Here is Hart:

…the entire enterprise of evangelical studies grew up in the setting of born-again Protestant support for Ronald Reagan. In other words, scholars started trying to figure out what evangelicalism and fundamentalism were precisely when those Protestants started influencing electoral politics. Just go to the library and do a search for books on evangelicals and you will see a dramatic uptick in the 1980s.

This means that the universities that held conferences, the editors who read book proposals and offered contracts, the foundation officers who underwrote grants for the study of evangelicalism — none of these things would have happened if evangelicalism had not been primarily a topic that bore directly on national politics. See if you can persuade a professional academic society to devote several sessions of one of its annual meetings to the Amish or even to Lutherans, simply to understand these persons’ religious beliefs. But tie those believers to a political or social development of some national import, and you will likely make a better case.

The study of evangelicalism did follow David Bebbington and ignored the political circumstances that made the study of born-again Protestantism appealing. Historians generally tried to understand the religion. But the only reason why anyone who wasn’t an evangelical cared was because folks like Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson were showing up on the radar of national politics.

Read the entire post at Hart’s blog “Putting the ‘Protest’ in Protestantism”

The “I am no longer an evangelical because of Donald Trump” genre

evangelicalism-580x308

A new genre is emerging in popular religious writing in America.  Let’s call it the “I am no longer an evangelical because of Donald Trump” genre.  I have flirted with this genre many times here and elsewhere, but never to the degree of Illiff School of Theology profressor Miguel De La Torre.  In a scathing and strangely titled piece “The death of Christianity in the U.S.,” De La Torre writes:

As a young man, I walked down the sawdust aisle at a Southern Baptist church and gave my heart to Jesus. Besides offering my broken heart, I also gave my mind to understanding God, and my arm to procuring God’s call for justice. I have always considered myself to be an evangelical, but I can no longer allow my name to be tarnished by that political party masquerading as Christian. Like many women and men of good will who still struggle to believe, but not in the evangelical political agenda, I too no longer want or wish to be associated with an ideology responsible for tearing humanity apart. But if you, dear reader, still cling to a hate-mongering ideology, may I humbly suggest you get saved.

OK professor De La Torre, why don’t you tell us what you really think! 🙂

De La Torre anticipates that some readers may think that he is being too harsh:

You might wonder if my condemnation is too harsh. It is not, for the Spirit of the Lord has convicted me to shout from the mountaintop how God’s precious children are being devoured by the hatred and bigotry of those who have positioned themselves as the voice of God in America.

Read the entire piece here.

De La Torre’s understanding of evangelicalism draws from some of the movement’s darkest corners.  He paints with a very broad brush.  Not all evangelicals embrace the Prosperity Gospel, blame the coming of hurricane Harvey on homosexuality, fall into the “court evangelical” category, supported Trump’s comments on Charlottesville, or believe in a Jesus who is “satanic.”

Even the 81% of evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump would not fall into most of these categories.  I spent the last four Sundays with mostly white evangelicals in central Pennsylvania–Trump country–who were in search of resources to help them be more faithful Christians in the political arena.  Many of them voted for Trump, but I don’t think that they would recognize themselves in De La Torre’s piece.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have strong disagreements with the 81%.  I even wrote a forthcoming book about it.  But I would argue that De La Torre’s prophetic word fails to understand the diversity of American evangelicals, even among the 81%.  The piece tells us more about De La Torre than it does American evangelicalism.  Moreover, his “shout from the mountaintop” style will do little to reach the conservative evangelical who may have voted for Trump and just might be convinced be convinced that it was a bad move.

De La Torre’s post is even too strong for this anti-Trumper.