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How White Evangelicals Came to Power: 6 Books That Offer Insight on Trump’s Biggest Base

With the impending 2020 presidential election on the minds of many, curiosity persists about President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters–White Evangelicals.

About 80 percent of White Evangelicals helped put Trump in office in 2016 and, though their support has waned some, he has managed to keep these conservative Christians close.

Trump knows their support will make a difference come November 2020.

But have White Evangelicals always been a force on the political landscape? How did this particular group gain such influence? How do they square particular teachings about their faith with a controversial figure like Trump?

With those questions in mind, we’ve rounded up six books that we think might help with finding answers.

They are ordered in terms of publication date and feature descriptions from the publishers.

1. Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump

By Sarah Posner (May 2020, Random House)

unholy alliance sarah posner

In this taut and meticulously reported inquiry, Posner digs deep into the radical history of the religious right to reveal how issues of race and xenophobia have always been at the movement’s core, and how religion has been used to cloak anxieties about perceived threats to a white, Christian America. Fueled by an anti-democratic impulse, and united by this narrative of reverse victimization, the religious right and the alt-right support a common agenda–and are actively using the erosion of democratic norms to roll back civil rights advances, stock the judiciary with hard-right judges, defang and deregulate federal agencies, and undermine the credibility of the free press. Increasingly, this formidable bloc is also forging ties with European far right groups, giving momentum to a truly global movement forecasted to last long after the Trump era. (Details)

2. The Immoral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power over Christian Values

By Ben Howe (August 2019, Broadside Books)

immoral majority ben howe faithfully magazineWhatever happened to the Moral Majority, who headed to Washington in the ’80s to plant the flag of Christian values? Where were the Christian leaders that emerged from that movement and led the charge against Bill Clinton for his deception and unfaithfulness? Was all that a sham? Or have they just lost sight of why they wanted to win in the first place? From the 1980s scandals till today, evangelicals have often been caricatured as a congregation of judgmental and prudish rubes taken in by thundering pastors consumed with greed and lust for power. Did the critics have a point?

In The Immoral Majority, Howe—still a believer and still deeply conservative—analyzes and debunks the intellectual dishonesty and manipulative rhetoric which evangelical leaders use to convince Christians to toe the Republican Party line. He walks us through the history of the Christian Right, as well as the events of the last three decades which led to the current state of the conservative movement at large. (Details)

3. Red State Christians: Understanding the Voters Who Elected Donald Trump

By Angela Denker (August 2019, Fortress Press)

red state christians angela denkerIn Red State Christians, readers will get an honest look at the Christians who gave the presidency to the unlikeliest candidate of all time. From booming, wealthy Orange County megachurches to libertarian farmers in Missouri to a church in Florida where the pastors carry guns to an Evangelical Arab American church in Houston to conservative Catholics on the East Coast–the picture she paints of them is enlightening, at times disturbing, but always empathetic. A must-read for those hoping to truly understand how Donald Trump became president. (Details)

4. The Case for Trump

By Victor Davis Hanson (March 2019, Basic Books)

case for trump victor hanson“Hanson is shrewd and insightful on Trump’s appeal… one of the smartest conservative defenses of Trump yet published.”―Publishers Weekly

In The Case for Trump, award-winning historian and political commentator Victor Davis Hanson explains how a celebrity businessman with no political or military experience triumphed over sixteen well-qualified Republican rivals, a Democrat with a quarter-billion-dollar war chest, and a hostile media and Washington establishment to become president of the United States — and an extremely successful president. (Details)

5. Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump

By John Fea (June 2018, Eerdmans)

believe me john fea“Believe me” may be the most commonly used phrase in Donald Trump’s lexicon. Whether about building a wall or protecting a Christian heritage, the refrain has been constant. And to the surprise of many, a good 80 percent of white evangelicals have believed Trump—at least enough to help propel him into the White House.

Historian John Fea is not surprised, however—and in these pages he explains how we have arrived at this unprecedented moment in American politics. An evangelical Christian himself, Fea argues that the embrace of Donald Trump is the logical outcome of a long-standing evangelical approach to public life defined by the politics of fear, the pursuit of worldly power, and a nostalgic longing for an American past. (Details)

6. The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

By Frances FitzGerald (April 2018, Simon & Schuster)

Evangelicals now constitute twenty-five percent of the American population, but they are no longer monolithic in their politics. They range from Tea Party supporters to social reformers. Still, with the decline of religious faith generally, FitzGerald suggests that evangelical churches must embrace ethnic minorities if they are to survive. “A well-written, thought-provoking, and deeply researched history that is impressive for its scope and level of detail” (The Wall Street Journal). Her “brilliant book could not have been more timely, more well-researched, more well-written, or more necessary” (The American Scholar). (Details)


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