Believe Me

John Fea. Eerdmans, $24.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-8028-7641-6
Fea (Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?), professor of American history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., unpacks the historical roots of Trump’s support among evangelical Christians in this clear, concise, and convincing work. A self-identified evangelical who was appalled by the 2016 election, Fea attempts to explain the overwhelming evangelical support for a president who seems antithetical to traditional Christian values. Fea uses his training as a historian to trace a chronology of the evangelical attraction to political power and locates three historical appeals to evangelicals that Trump exploits: fear of perceived threats (both foreign and domestic), desired access to political power, and nostalgia for a perceived American golden age. Fea looks for connections between Trump’s nostalgic rhetoric and particular historical events such as the racist Andrew Jackson presidency and the “America First” movement that strove to keep the U.S. out of WWII. He also provides a frightening portrait of outspoken evangelical leaders with direct access to Trump (including Baptist writer Robert Jeffress and Christian Zionist Mike Evans), and offers an alternative way (relying on hope and humility) for evangelical leaders to think about their relation to power. Although Fea downplays the mythic side of Trump’s appeal, that does little to undermine this important title, which brings to the surface the recurring fear tactics that underpin American evangelical politics. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/23/2018
Release date: 06/28/2018
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