Published by Cascade Books on June 1, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Politics
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What should Christians think about Donald Trump? His policies, his style, his personal life? Thirty evangelical Christians wrestle with these tough questions. They are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. They don't all agree, but they seek to let Christ be the Lord of their political views. They seek to apply biblical standards to difficult debates about our current political situation. Vast numbers of white evangelicals enthusiastically support Donald Trump. Do biblical standards on truth, justice, life, freedom, and personal integrity warrant or challenge that support? How does that support of President Trump affect the image of Christianity in the larger culture? Around the world? Many younger evangelicals today are rejecting evangelical Christianity, even Christianity itself. To what extent is that because of widespread evangelical support for Donald Trump? Don't read this book to find support for your views. Read it to be challenged--with facts, reason, and biblical principles.
When the 2016 presidential election kicked off, I was cautiously optimistic. After having slowly grown to appreciate some aspects of Obama’s presidency, while being critical of others, I thought that both parties had an opportunity to present solid and qualified leadership. I followed the Republican primary with rabid interest. The Democratic primary—despite Bernie Sanders’ candidacy—already seemed a foregone conclusion. When the dust from the primaries settled, I was left with two options: one, the most likely choice; the other, the least likely. And I felt that I could vote for either.
I wrote a series of opinion pieces in the aftermath of the 2016 election that got its share of pushback from strangers, friends, and family. One of those pieces simply said:
“What scares me most about this is the perspective of the unbeliever. Christians elected a man who many minority, immigrant, women, LGBT, and non-Christian communities perceive as being against them. Therefore, they perceive the Church and Christianity as being against them. What are we going to do about it?”
Four years later and the question remains unanswered. Or, rather, it has been definitively answered. Four years later the unknown quantity of Donald Trump is a very well-known quantity. Every conservative who told me that they would call out the President when he did something wrong has worn themselves moving the goalposts as they shifted from begrudging support as a perceived lesser of two evils to full-fledged sycophancy.
Over four years, I—an evangelical pastor—have felt less and less connected to my church tradition because my church tradition suddenly became more and more about Donald Trump. I have felt alone. Very alone. But as it turns out, I’m not.
The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump is a collection of twenty-five essays written by thirty different evangelical Christians. The authors range from seminary professors to singer-songwriters, from psychiatrists to lawyers, and everyone in between. These are men and women with firm evangelical backgrounds. Some of them are registered Republicans. Not all of them agree with everything the others have said. But all are in agreement that Donald Trump—his person, his policies, and his idolization—is harmful to the nation and to the church.
I doubt this book will move the needle on evangelical Trump support much. There’re no new arguments here that haven’t already been brought up in the past four years. In part one, the authors discuss the person of Donald Trump and his moral character—or lack thereof. Mark Galli writes about why the President’s tweets matter. Chris Thurman pens an essay on why lying is bad. Vicki Courtney excoriates Trump for his view of women. Michael Austin writes on Trump’s incurable pride.
The key takeaway from this section is best summed by Vicki Courtney:
No one will see our Jesus if they can’t see past our blind allegiance to a man who is nothing like him.
The second part deals with evangelical support of Trump, trying to understand why and how the Donald grabbed the support of evangelicals. Randall Balmer, in particular, pens a very insightful essay on the history of evangelicalism to show how the goals and policies of the evangelical church have shifted over two centuries. Ron Sider asks if the evangelical center will remain silent in this election cycle. J. Samuel Escobar, David S. Lim, and D Zac Niringiye offer a global evangelical perspective. Chris Thurman evocatively shows how Trump’s tone and name-calling has become part of evangelical culture.
It’s summarized best by Randall Balmer:
The death of evangelicalism is not irreversible. Evangelicals, after all, believe in the power of conversion. They also believe that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
On Theology, History, and the Constitution
The third part is intensely practical, ranging from essays on how theology should affect public policy to what we should be able to learn from history so as not to repeat it again. Reid Ribble pens an excellent essay that shows how unChristlike our current immigration system is. John Fea calls us to learn from the Civil Rights Movement. Christopher Hutchinson asks us to rise above partisanship. Steven Meyer’s essay Quo Vadis, America? (trans: Where are you going, America?) is stunning from beginning to end. And then Ron Sider concludes the entire book with an exposition of how to move forward and return out of the empire and into the Kingdom.
Sider’s overall conclusion: We need to listen to one another. I don’t know if we’re going to take his advice. I sat down with him a while back and listened for over an hour. It was a transformative conversation you can listen to here. As you prayerfully consider the upcoming election, no matter your affiliation, consider listening to what those in The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump have to say.