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“Believe me” may be the most commonly used phrase in Donald Trump’s lexicon. Whether about building a wall or protecting the Christian heritage, the refrain is constant. And to the surprise of many, about 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-and in Believe Me he ex “Believe me” may be the most commonly used phrase in Donald Trump’s lexicon. Whether about building a wall or protecting the Christian heritage, the refrain is constant. And to the surprise of many, about 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-and in Believe Me 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. In the process, Fea challenges his fellow believers to replace fear with hope, the pursuit of power with humility, and nostalgia with history.


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“Believe me” may be the most commonly used phrase in Donald Trump’s lexicon. Whether about building a wall or protecting the Christian heritage, the refrain is constant. And to the surprise of many, about 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-and in Believe Me he ex “Believe me” may be the most commonly used phrase in Donald Trump’s lexicon. Whether about building a wall or protecting the Christian heritage, the refrain is constant. And to the surprise of many, about 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-and in Believe Me 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. In the process, Fea challenges his fellow believers to replace fear with hope, the pursuit of power with humility, and nostalgia with history.

30 review for Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump

  1. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    I am not sure what surprised me more during the 2016 presidential campaign: Donald Trump’s electoral college victory or the overwhelming and unqualified support he received from so many self-professed Evangelicals. I did not understand how a person possessing as blatantly a disreputable character as Trump displays, who rejoiced in speech, actions, and attitudes that could only be defined as anti-Christian, could evoke such fawning admiration from people who I know genuinely love the Lord and lo I am not sure what surprised me more during the 2016 presidential campaign: Donald Trump’s electoral college victory or the overwhelming and unqualified support he received from so many self-professed Evangelicals. I did not understand how a person possessing as blatantly a disreputable character as Trump displays, who rejoiced in speech, actions, and attitudes that could only be defined as anti-Christian, could evoke such fawning admiration from people who I know genuinely love the Lord and love their neighbors. John Fea’s extensively supported answer to why Donald Trump won the vote (and hearts) of so many Evangelicals is summarized in three words: Fear, Power, and Nostalgia. In "Believe Me," Fea examines the perennial influence of fear on American Christian political engagement by working backwards from the 2016 GOP primary (where Trump defeated multiple traditional Christian right candidates); to the rapidly evolving ethics of Barack Obama and 20+-year hate affair with Hilary Clinton, to the rise and prominence of the Christian right in the 1970s; to the emergence of post-war Fundamentalism; to Protestant American rejection of Catholics, blacks, natives, and immigrants of color; all the way back to the Puritan origins of the American “city on a hill.” In Trump, Fea sees an opportunist who played on the most persistent influence of conservative Christian political engagement (fear), using the tried and true playbook perfected by the Moral Majority of the 1970s and 80s. Fear should not receive all the credit for Trump’s usurping of the Evangelical political cause. Fea sees both the lure of political power and nostalgia for some bygone golden past as essential factors. Fea identifies three categories of “court evangelicals”: “The New Old Religious Right” (Jeffress, Fallwell, Jr., Dobson); The “Independent Network Charismatics” (Bickle, Jacobs, Wallnau); and “The Prosperity Gospel” purveyors (White, Burns, Franklin). Political power grabs sure seem to make for strange bedfellows. However, it would be a mistake to give all the credit for Trump’s success to fear and desire for power, ignoring the role of nostalgia in a campaign marked by a slogan as backward-focused as “Make America Great Again.” You would be forgiven if you are incapable of identifying this nebulous era of Edenic America since the Trump campaign never specified to which exceptional time America was returning and since this pristine period never actually existed. But while it is not possible to know which historical scene we are seeking to immortalize, it is important to recognize the impact of that nostalgic desire. I wish that this book didn’t exist. I wish the influence of fear, power, and nostalgia didn’t dominate so much of our political discourse and engagement, but it does. So, while I wish I lived in a world where Fea would be incapable of outlining such a history of politics where the ethos of Evangelicalism has been so thoroughly exposed as foreign to much of what Christ taught, I am glad that he did. I better understand the thoughts and actions of those with whom I agree with on so much who not only voted for Donald Trump as the lesser of two evils but actually supported him as a moral, upright, and viably Christian presidential candidate. I still disagree with them, but I better see the currents of history that led them to where they landed. ARC provided

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jared Wilson

    I've struggled to understand for two years now the (white) evangelical turnabout -- or apparent turnabout, I suppose -- on matters of character, ethics, and witness in relation to the overwhelming support for now-President Donald Trump. As a child of the 80's I recall how adamantly it was ground into us that "character matters," that principle trumps party (pardon the pun). Well, John Fea's book is an accessible, thoughtful, and deft analysis of the deep, deep roots of nationalism, racism, and m I've struggled to understand for two years now the (white) evangelical turnabout -- or apparent turnabout, I suppose -- on matters of character, ethics, and witness in relation to the overwhelming support for now-President Donald Trump. As a child of the 80's I recall how adamantly it was ground into us that "character matters," that principle trumps party (pardon the pun). Well, John Fea's book is an accessible, thoughtful, and deft analysis of the deep, deep roots of nationalism, racism, and misunderstandings both exegetical and historical that have plagued American evangelicalism from the very beginning. If you have trouble making sense of how we got here, this book -- mostly an American history lesson from a solid (conservative) scholar and partly a journalistic expose of the Trump campaign to election success -- this book will help. As it comes from an evangelical, it's an insider's perspective on why so many of us insiders feel like outsiders at the moment. (It is to some extent also a shorter and more specific version of what one might find in the recent book on The Evangelicals from Frances Fitzgerald.) Recommended, although Fea is not afraid to criticize (without rancor) some figures close to home.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Shereen Lee

    An interesting take on evangelical Christian culture in the U.S., this was a book that presented questions, answers, and yet more questions about the past and future of American religious and political identity. Fea's perspective as an anti-Trump evangelical provides a nuanced analysis of racial politics and how evangelism intersects with culture, which I found enlightening. Unfortunately, this book had a lot of issues with accuracy. Fea refers to the Trail of Tears as a "removal campaign" inste An interesting take on evangelical Christian culture in the U.S., this was a book that presented questions, answers, and yet more questions about the past and future of American religious and political identity. Fea's perspective as an anti-Trump evangelical provides a nuanced analysis of racial politics and how evangelism intersects with culture, which I found enlightening. Unfortunately, this book had a lot of issues with accuracy. Fea refers to the Trail of Tears as a "removal campaign" instead of characterizing the event as it is (a genocide), and commits many factual inaccuracies statistically. It also failed to be fully objective, spending a lot of time with references to Fea's own religious background instead of relying on factual information. This isn't a serious academic book with any degree of rigor, but it's a book that is fine enough to read if you're looking for a less-common perspective on Trump politics.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peter Kerry Powers

    Beginning with the obligatory notice that I’m friends with and work with the author, I will say I found John’s historical analysis of fear at the root of much evangelical politics to be compelling and useful. Although he doesn’t go there, for those of us who either grew up in or continue in that tradition it raises the uncomfortable question of how deeply fear is tangled in evangelical, or even just Christian, forms of faith and practice as such, a question beyond the scope of John’s interest he Beginning with the obligatory notice that I’m friends with and work with the author, I will say I found John’s historical analysis of fear at the root of much evangelical politics to be compelling and useful. Although he doesn’t go there, for those of us who either grew up in or continue in that tradition it raises the uncomfortable question of how deeply fear is tangled in evangelical, or even just Christian, forms of faith and practice as such, a question beyond the scope of John’s interest here. I particularly enjoyed the last chapter in which John reflected on his experience of the Civil Rights Journey we attended last summer, holding up the African American Civil Rights Movement experience apposite the example of Trumpian Christianity to emphasize the possibility of a Christianity characterized by hope rather than fear. He points as well, without fully fleshing out, to the possibility of a different kind of usable past than the one that white Christians normally invoke. I think alongside the African American Civil Rights stalwarts John rightly focuses on, such a history might recall different possibilities of white action drawn from those few who managed to see and thus participate in the future of the common good being enacted in the struggle for justice by African Americans at the time. The question for those white brothers and sisters was “Where will you stand?” It is a question that is asked with equal urgency of us now.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    On November 8, 2016, Donald J. Trump won the American presidency. The next day, I heard someone singing. I recognized the tune as the late 19th Century hymn “Jesus Saves”, but the words sounded off. What should have been “We have heard the joyful sound / Jesus Saves! Jesus Saves!” was now “We have heard the election news / Trump Saves! Trump Saves!” It was that moment (after long months of other similar moments) that finally brought me to tears. I suppose I had previously been in denial, but I p On November 8, 2016, Donald J. Trump won the American presidency. The next day, I heard someone singing. I recognized the tune as the late 19th Century hymn “Jesus Saves”, but the words sounded off. What should have been “We have heard the joyful sound / Jesus Saves! Jesus Saves!” was now “We have heard the election news / Trump Saves! Trump Saves!” It was that moment (after long months of other similar moments) that finally brought me to tears. I suppose I had previously been in denial, but I proceeded to seriously question how people who claimed to be fellow Christians saw Donald Trump as one of their own. Historian John Fea asks himself the same question. In this short book, Fea seeks to understand why self-defined conservative, evangelical Christians seemingly sacrificed everything they claim to hold dear in order to elect Donald J. Trump president of the United States. First, Fea examines the history of fear in American conservatives. Fea writes, “Political fear is so dangerous because it usually stems from legitimate concerns shared by a significant portion of the voting population.” What is it conservatives fear? Fear of change, fear of liberalism, fear of progressivism, fear of irrelevancy, fear of “the other” – American conservatives prove adept at playing the victim, viewing rights and privileges as a zero-sum game where others’ success must correlate to their own failures. I witnessed this fear firsthand in my community: fear of ISIS, immigrants, and immorality. I saw one person liken Hillary Clinton to the mythical Greek gorgon Medusa. They prominently displayed a picture portraying Trump as the hero Jason holding Medusa/Clinton’s severed head. I was told if Clinton were elected we’d be forced to house refugees in our homes, lose our right to self-defense, be forced to submit to government censorship of worship services, and suffer greater government interference in our everyday lives as we moved ever closer to a socialist tyranny. There is no debating paranoia, and pointing out that any political leader can become a dictator given the right circumstances doesn’t make one many friends, either. Second, Fea claims that, to alleviate these fears, American evangelicals looked for a strongman and found one in Donald J. Trump. Willing to overlook severe character flaws that would have made nearly any other candidate unacceptable, Trump’s Christian supporters cast him in the light of an Old Testament heathen king raised up by God for some divine purpose, often favorably comparing Trump to Cyrus the Great. Ingratiating themselves to Trump, they failed to act as a voice of Biblical conscience, instead satisfying themselves with photo opportunities and the appearance of access. As I was reading this section I thought of comic conventions offering photographs, autographs, and a few seconds with a celebrity – all for a price, of course. The higher in status the celebrity, the more one will pay for that brief encounter. But those who purchase photo ops at a convention know exactly what they’re getting. They are under no illusions that they are now friends or influencers of their chosen celebrities. It seems to me that conservative evangelicals have sacrificed their convictions, morals, and reputations for mere baubles. Third, Fea examines the conservative penchant for nostalgia, or as then-candidate Trump put it, the desire to “Make America Great Again.” Like Fea, I cringe at the word “again”. When was America great? Many English settlers came to the New World for religious freedom: their religious freedom. When it came to other faiths or even other branches of Christianity, those settlers often proved just as intolerant as the oppressors from whom they sought escape. Was America great as our founders created a “new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” even as they continued to enslave their fellow man? Was America great as it spread from sea to shining sea in its Manifest Destiny to overspread and possess the whole of the continent at the cost of broken treaties and genocide against the Native Peoples? Was America great under the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the customs of “No Irish Need Apply”, Jim Crow, or Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066? No one I have asked can tell me exactly when America was great; instead, they often hint at some vague notion of a past (and passed) ideal. Since the election, there have been numerous articles and news features on Trump voters and supporters. While many may be burned out from such coverage, I hope they will give this short book a chance as it provides much needed context often missing from other publications. Sadly, those who need to read this book the most – the 81% of conservative evangelicals who voted for Trump - will likely ignore it. Even to this day, Trump supporters still stand by their man despite the scandals, conflicts of interest, poor policy, and likely human rights abuse. Trump might have thought he was being hyperbolic when he said he could shoot a man in broad daylight on 5th Avenue and not lose support, but he wasn’t off the mark. Nonetheless, Fea offers an outline for moving forward. He reminds us to focus on hope rather than fear, to desire humility over power, and to reckon with history rather than rely on nostalgia. Worthy goals, to be sure, but will the 81% listen to the advice? If the current political landscape is any indication, the answer is “no”. I pray I’m wrong. __ While the book is engaging, thoughtful, and provocative, there are several issues I’d like to address. First, in the second chapter Fea spends a great deal of time talking about the aims of evangelicals without naming the movement often encompassing those aims: Seven Mountain Dominionism. The movement makes an appearance by name in the last few pages of the book, but its motives and prescribed actions really form the bedrock of much of political Christianity in America. Second, Fea leaves out an important court evangelical from the early pages of his book: pseudo-historian David Barton. While Fea spends a great deal of time on the religious leaders with access to Trump, he almost completely ignores Barton’s mass appeal to the quasi-intellectuals of conservative evangelical Christianity. Barton has built an empire stoking fears that America’s “Christian heritage” (as Barton calls it) is being erased and has become one of the leading proponents of a past American greatness. This near omission is almost unthinkable, given that Fea has had much to say about Barton in the past. Third, Fea fails to mention conservative Christians who would not self-identify as “evangelical”. There are several denominations classified as “fundamental” or “independent” that see “evangelical” as something to be avoided for being too liberal. However, these conservative Christians were also swayed by the same arguments and motives Fea discusses in these pages. Even a passing paragraph or two would suffice. Fourth, I would hope that future editions of this book contain an index. Admittedly, several names would have quite long entries. Finally, and most minor in my opinion, was a single sentence regarding DACA where Fea implied the law covered children born in the United States to parents here illegally. It is my understanding that to this point in American history, those children have been protected by the 14th Amendment. Instead, DACA applied to children born outside the United States, brought here before they were sixteen years of age, and who applied for “deferred action” before they reached age thirty. I know it’s a relatively small issue, but small issues have a way of detracting from a larger idea. __ For those desiring additional reading, might I suggest • One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin Kruse • Blinded By Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? by Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson • In Praise of Forgetting by David Rieff __ And now, lastly, a few necessary disclaimers: • I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review on Goodsreads, Amazon, and my personal blog no later than June 30, 2018. • John Fea and I follow each other on both Twitter and Facebook. • I have interviewed Fea for a podcast on which I am often a guest host, and I financially support Fea’s own podcast: The Way of Improvement Leads Home. • I participated in certain online discussions on Fea’s blog, some of which influenced this book. • I am tangentially included in Fea’s dedication, which reads “To the 19%”, in that I consider myself a conservative Christian (I do not know if I would classify myself as “evangelical”) who did not vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This was a book I was looking forward to for months. I follow John Fea on Twitter and read his blog. His perspective as an evangelical AND historian is one that gives me hope as an evangelical who is tempted to chuck the term "evangelical" altogether. Fea gives a very fast sketch of the politics of fear, along with the theology of fear, that has formed the evangelical movement and brings us to WHY 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016. But Fea also offers some ideas for a way This was a book I was looking forward to for months. I follow John Fea on Twitter and read his blog. His perspective as an evangelical AND historian is one that gives me hope as an evangelical who is tempted to chuck the term "evangelical" altogether. Fea gives a very fast sketch of the politics of fear, along with the theology of fear, that has formed the evangelical movement and brings us to WHY 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016. But Fea also offers some ideas for a way forward. Things to DISCUSS. (It's hopeful that discussion could ensue, though doubtful.) We need to move from fear to hope, from power grabbing to humility, and from nostalgia to a true sense of history. These past two years have left me with a bad taste in my mouth over what has happened to the American conservative church. Fea sets some context for us and tries to wake us up to some harsh realities. This is good analysis and then a prescription for a possible way forward... believe me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    D.L. Mayfield

    This is a book that can be read by the vast majority of evangelicals I know--which makes it perfectly suited to ask the question I wish we had been asking all along. What if we replaced fear with hope? The lust for power with the quest for humility? Nostalgia with accurate history? These are deep questions with incredible theological and ethical implications, the likes of which we need to see teased out more in the public sector. But I was very impressed at Fea's ability to look evangelicalism's This is a book that can be read by the vast majority of evangelicals I know--which makes it perfectly suited to ask the question I wish we had been asking all along. What if we replaced fear with hope? The lust for power with the quest for humility? Nostalgia with accurate history? These are deep questions with incredible theological and ethical implications, the likes of which we need to see teased out more in the public sector. But I was very impressed at Fea's ability to look evangelicalism's problems in the face without losing the gaze of love.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    I read this book in my continuing quest to understand the 2016 US presidential election. Fea is an evangelical Christian historian. His book helped me understand how Trump convinced evangelicals he was a Christian, despite his many blunders and reports of sexual assault. Trump's immorality was ignored because he had the right policy proposals. Evangelicals were grasping political power and Trump seemed to be the answer. This action was not something new. Fea says the election was “the latest mani I read this book in my continuing quest to understand the 2016 US presidential election. Fea is an evangelical Christian historian. His book helped me understand how Trump convinced evangelicals he was a Christian, despite his many blunders and reports of sexual assault. Trump's immorality was ignored because he had the right policy proposals. Evangelicals were grasping political power and Trump seemed to be the answer. This action was not something new. Fea says the election was “the latest manifestation of a long-standing evangelical approach to public life.” (6) He says the idea to “win back” and “restore the culture” was based on a faulty foundation, longing for something that did not exist in the first place. Fear is what was driving the evangelicals, Fea argues. “The various fears that combined to drive white evangelical Christians into the arms of Donald Trump have deep roots in American history.” (112-113) He explains why evangelical Christians were so afraid, reviewing the social and cultural changes that have occurred from the Puritans to the Obama administration. He introduces readers to the many religious leaders who were seeking political power and entered Trump's inner circle. Fea also writes about Christian nostalgia and Christians trying to reclaim something that will never come back. I really appreciated Fea's insights into what seems to be a last-ditch attempt to win the culture wars. (180) Fea wonders what might happen if evangelicals replace fear with hope. He wonders how evangelical politics might change if the pursuit of power is replaced with the cultivation of humility. He also wonders what might happen if evangelicals replace nostalgia with history. (182) This book is a good one for evangelicals to read to understand what happened in the last several years and why. I know God has promised that He will work His purposes to good. I find hope and trust in that promise.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Johanna

    In John Fea’s new book Believe Me, he argues that the issues of fear, power, and nostalgia have been present throughout the history of white evangelicals in America and thus have contributed to the rise of Donald Trump as president. I first became acquainted with Dr. Fea’s work while I was pursuing my master’s in the history of Christianity, and I especially appreciated his book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? over the course of my studies in American Christianity. This new book conti In John Fea’s new book Believe Me, he argues that the issues of fear, power, and nostalgia have been present throughout the history of white evangelicals in America and thus have contributed to the rise of Donald Trump as president. I first became acquainted with Dr. Fea’s work while I was pursuing my master’s in the history of Christianity, and I especially appreciated his book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? over the course of my studies in American Christianity. This new book continues discussing these issues, as he relates what has happened throughout the history of white American evangelicalism to current events. He grapples with these issues well as a historian, and he examines both the good and the bad of how the Bible has been used by white evangelicals to justify political or social changes and movements. His arguments about how white evangelicals have been moved by fear and power throughout American history were especially effective, and it helped place current events into a broader historical context. I felt that this book could have better defined what an evangelical is, since “the evangelical road to Donald Trump” is the subtitle of the book. I understand that this is a complex issue, since there is no one set definition of what an evangelical actually is in our culture, but I thought that Fea could have explained that more clearly in his introduction. However, he did distinguish between white evangelicals and black evangelicals, which is an important distinction when discussing the rise of Donald Trump. Finally, I appreciated how Fea concluded his book by using the example of the Civil Rights movement as a guide to how evangelicals can act in the future. As a historian, I understand how difficult it can be to write about current events when we don’t know what the ultimate impact of these decisions will be, so I thought that Fea did well to simply offer guides and attitudes for the future. Overall, I highly recommend this book as a way to better appreciate how Donald Trump’s election took place in a larger historical context while considering how we as evangelicals should respond.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jared Deame

    A fascinating look at the fear and nostalgia that drove the support of Trump by white Evangelicals. Fea does well to include the history of the Evangelical movement and does so more succinctly, and perhaps more effectively, than Fitzgerald’s volume on American Evangelical history. This is certainly a worthwhile read for anyone wanting more background on the theology and political worldview of many conservative Evangelicals.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Reyes

    I received ‘Believe Me’ by John Fea as an advanced reading copy from NetGalley. The thing I love most about this book is that it was written by a self-proclaimed evangelical who also happens to be a historian. I love that John Fea used history to back his claims. I found some parts of history to be a bit boring, but interesting at the same time because it all tied together in the end. What was so shocking to me was to find out that 81% of white evangelicals actually voted for Donald Trump. That I received ‘Believe Me’ by John Fea as an advanced reading copy from NetGalley. The thing I love most about this book is that it was written by a self-proclaimed evangelical who also happens to be a historian. I love that John Fea used history to back his claims. I found some parts of history to be a bit boring, but interesting at the same time because it all tied together in the end. What was so shocking to me was to find out that 81% of white evangelicals actually voted for Donald Trump. That is mind boggling but after reading ‘Believe Me’ it makes so much sense! People do stupid things out of fear. John Fea claims that there are three reasons that this group of people voted for Trump; Fear, Power, and Nostalgia. Apparently Trump tapped into all three of these. He succeeded in invoking fear, giving them a false sense of power, all while creating a sense of nostalgia by using the slogan ‘Make America Great Again.’ (As if America had ever stopped being great). I found it interesting to hear a narrative from the conservative right that differentiates from what I typically see or hear on conservative news networks. This book was a breath of fresh air. Regardless of political party, left or right, conservative or liberal, I think there’s always something to be learned from someone. This book does a great job of explaining why Donald Trump was so popular among these voters and will hopefully help us see where we fell short as a people when we elected this guy. (I did not vote for him FYI).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Caleb

    (From an Advanced Reading Copy) John Fea has accomplished what too few historians can do: he has skillfully combined an overview history of his subject with modern events and commentary. Fea truthfully and importantly recognizes that this book took him "beyond history and into social criticism," but this makes the book all the more powerful in the post-2016 election world. Readers who are familiar with his blog or his other books will recognize Fea's other specialties woven throughout the book, (From an Advanced Reading Copy) John Fea has accomplished what too few historians can do: he has skillfully combined an overview history of his subject with modern events and commentary. Fea truthfully and importantly recognizes that this book took him "beyond history and into social criticism," but this makes the book all the more powerful in the post-2016 election world. Readers who are familiar with his blog or his other books will recognize Fea's other specialties woven throughout the book, but he does not over-dwell on the America-as-Christian-Nation question or the American Bible Society; rather, those are two excellent and salient sub-points within his overall argument. The story becomes an insular (and perhaps a bit granular) conversation in chapter 4, "The Court Evangelicals," but Fea explains many of the movements in such a way as to not turn off his non-evangelical or even non-Christian audience. He is at his best when charting the role of Fear in Evangelical history, and even the social commentary that brackets his argument has merit. One might disagree with Fea's embrace of James Davison Hunter's idea of "faithful presence" as the antidote to the Trump movement, but this book provides the necessary groundwork for Christians to have informed conversations about the role of Christians in the public square. In summary, while not overreaching with sweeping declarations about the importance of his subject--Fea's explanation of White Evangelicals' reasons for their embrace of Trump in the 2016 election--Fea add an important dimension to the conversation in a way that few others could. This is a must-read for Christians, Evangelicals, political wonks, historians, and all other readers interested in exploring another important side of the 2016 election.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    This book bills itself as a book about the way evangelicals received Trump, by an evangelical; speaking their language, interpreting from the inside, as it were. It was definitely interesting to hear from someone not outright rejecting the evangelical premise, though little of it was revelatory to me as someone with more than a cursory knowledge of both American politics and right-wing zealots. However, I found that ultimately, whether because of his evangelical roots, blindspots due to his part This book bills itself as a book about the way evangelicals received Trump, by an evangelical; speaking their language, interpreting from the inside, as it were. It was definitely interesting to hear from someone not outright rejecting the evangelical premise, though little of it was revelatory to me as someone with more than a cursory knowledge of both American politics and right-wing zealots. However, I found that ultimately, whether because of his evangelical roots, blindspots due to his particular specialization, his writing style, or some combination of the three, this wasn't a good book and didn't even do a particularly good job addressing the issue.  He begins with an exploration of the evangelical role in politics from an evangelical’s point of view - while interesting academically, I didn't find the amount of time spent on the subject particularly rewarding in light of the structure of the rest of the book. An idea I found politically interesting if not especially useful at the moment was that historically,  separation of church and state was a sticking point for Christians not to protect the state from Christian interference but to preserve the church from the concerns of politics or the “temptations of worldly power”, a subject he delves into at length later. Usefully, he spends time discussing the Independent Network Charismatic Movement (INC), a branch of Christian theology I was completely unfamiliar with but that seems, by his telling, to drive a lot of the evangelical right today.  The book is organized into three sections that describe modern American evangelical politics, by Fea's account: fear, “court evangelicals” (a section much less clear in its theme) or the pursuit of power, and nostalgia, though that section is blink- and-you-miss-it brief compared to the others. 'Fear' took up the vast majority of the book; combined with the introduction, it was about 50% according to Goodread's calculations. The section on court evangelicals felt like an appendix to 'fear' or a detour through the who's who of evangelical conservatives today. I actually legitimately thought the section on nostalgia was a section of the 'pursuit of power' chapters until I got to the conclusion. It was also a remarkably quick read, in all honesty. I thought I'd have to work harder to get through it, but in about three or four hours of reading, I was done. I had a couple of issues that cropped up again and again throughout the text. He lumps Jewish people in with evangelicals and Christians in a myriad of ways, most frequently through the phrase "Judeo-Christian", despite the fact that many if not most Jews protest the use of the phrase; their objections stem from the fact that any common ground between the two religions is minimal, and in fact doctrinally there are colossal key differences, such that to use the phrase is to speak so broadly as to be effectively nonsense, and to lump Jewish people in with their frequent oppressors as well. This phrase is often used by people temporarily co-opting Judaism to make their conservatism or outright bigotry seem less Christianity-centered, in my experience. "Look, someone else hates gay people too!", etc. Fea even speaks of “Judeo-Christian influences [shaping]” the anti-Semitic violence of Charlottesville, which is inherently ahistorical and factually incorrect; if he did not use the phrase so automatically and thoughtlessly, this is certainly one place it would have been edited out. That brings me to another major issue with the book as a whole, which I would hope was fixed before ARCs were distributed. It contains instances of both factual inaccuracies (including basic facts such as who is covered by DACA) and writing that is so unclear as to create a lack of certainty as to the facts in question. In some places, Fea whitewashes some unpleasant moments of American history, mentioning the Trail of Tears but describing it as merely a removal campaign rather than more accurately as the genocidal act it incontrovertibly was, when such an inclusion would have strengthened his case, not been an unnecessary sidebar. Fea, throughout, seems like he's constructing a particularly well-sourced sermon rather than a historical or sociological text. He often ventures into prescriptivism, blithely ignoring his professed purpose of describing and explaining the past behavior of evangelicals. In places, it seems like Fea thought he had to defend his evangelical bona fides from critics who would be wary of his (at best) moderate take. Though the book is less likely to be taken seriously by the wider public given his constant references to his own religious opinions and background, the fact that it’s written from an evangelical Christian POV and that it’s absolutely inextricable from its theological background means evangelicals, who arguably need to hear it most, are more likely to listen.

  14. 5 out of 5

    J.K. Turner

    My Rating - Must Read Level - Short, easy read Summary The subtitle kind of says it all. How did Evangelicals so overwhelmingly support Trump (more than any other candidate in history)? He received 81% of self identified Evangelicals. There are people who dispute the support, due to the self identified label and have found that people who attend among those who attend church weekly, the support drops to 40's. However, Fea is a historian, and clearly knows that we as Evangelicals are now tied to Tru My Rating - Must Read Level - Short, easy read Summary The subtitle kind of says it all. How did Evangelicals so overwhelmingly support Trump (more than any other candidate in history)? He received 81% of self identified Evangelicals. There are people who dispute the support, due to the self identified label and have found that people who attend among those who attend church weekly, the support drops to 40's. However, Fea is a historian, and clearly knows that we as Evangelicals are now tied to Trump, whether we like it or not. The book isn't necessarily a critique of Trump or his policies, but just an explorations as to why this man, of all people, would be considered the 'Christian candidate.' Excluding the intro and conclusion, the book is broken into five chapters: Evangelicals Politics of Fear, how people have used fear to drum up support; The Playbook, how Christians have used fear over the past 70 years or so to affect politics in certain ways; Short History of Evangelical fear, from the Puritans to today Christians; Court Evangelicals, those famous Christians today who seek power and influence the ways courtiers once did with kings; and Make American Great Again, what exactly does Trump mean by this, when was it great, and for whom? My Thoughts I'm pretty sure the first time I came across Fea's blog The Way of Improvement Leads Home was during the 2016 elections. He very clearly, as was I, seemed confused as to how Trump had the Evangelical vote. Many Christians now, including some of the most vocals supporters, say they chose Trump because he was better than Clinton, but many of them were supporters in the Primary. Fea points out in the book, that prior to Trump jumping in the race, Carson lead the Evangelical vote, but shortly after, Trump took it over, lost it briefly a few months later, and after recovery always lead. To some people, this made sense, to others it is absolutely confounding. A twice divorced billionaire, who brags about infidelity, believes if you are rich you can grab random women 'by the pussy,' doesn't believe in asking for forgiveness (a pillar of Christian beliefs), and is so ostentatious that he seems to be the physical embodiment of avarice seems to be an odd choice for the so-called Evangelical vote. This book is essentially Fea trying to understand what happened. If Court Evangelical is a new term to you, it will likely be the most interesting chapter. The most striking to me was chapter five, Make America Great Again. As Christians, we need to seriously consider the 'great again' part and it's implications. It might be great for me, a Protestant white guy, but what about basically everyone else that exists? And how serious is he about getting back to the 'good ol' days'? There's a lot more I could write about this topic, and if you are interested, the book is a must read. It is a great intro into how to think about Evangelical support for Trump. Even if you are supporter, especially if you are a 'supreme court' supporter, you should really read this book. I do have two brief criticisms and then a final thought before this gets too long. First, a theological issue. Fea must come from an Arminian branch of Protestantism, as he misunderstands a few things about Puritan thought as well as Calvinism. It doesn't necessarily change anything in the book, but if you come from a Reformed or Lutheran background, you'll see some theological and hermeneutical errors. Second, he is a little too quick to say someone in not a Christian. While I agree that Trump shows not a single 'fruit of the Spirit' nor any 'good works', I'm hesitant to ever doubt someone's profession of faith. Finally, I really appreciate the intro and concluding chapters in this book. I'm told some people do not read these, but you really should. I am sure Fea will be attached as a 'liberal' or people will say he is not a Christian for writing this book, but the intro makes it pretty clear what he is trying to do. Even more, the conclusion is a great piece of writing on the confusion about the support for Trump. He wrote so much of what I've felt or wondered. It's not that voting for Trump is wrong, it's that the fact he is viewed as the Evangelical leader just makes no sense. If you are rich, or think the most dangerous think in America is Mexicans picking our fruit, or if you want to ban Muslims, or if you are just a party line Republican, then Trump makes the most sense. And all of that is fine, but to tie him up in religious language and say he is the best candidate for Christians is just confounding. This vote will follow Evangelicals for all of American history. If you are curious as to how we go her, this book is a must read. *I received a free copy of this book from Eerdman's Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jason Kanz

    I had seen John Fea's book, Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump (2018), featured on Eerdman's Facebook and Twitter feeds. I had never heard of him, but there was enough present in those short social media posts to intrigue me. Fea is an evangelical and chair of the history department at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, a historian who writes about "the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life" (from his blog), no doubt appropriate preparation for writi I had seen John Fea's book, Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump (2018), featured on Eerdman's Facebook and Twitter feeds. I had never heard of him, but there was enough present in those short social media posts to intrigue me. Fea is an evangelical and chair of the history department at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, a historian who writes about "the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life" (from his blog), no doubt appropriate preparation for writing a book of this sort. In Believe Me, Fea explores Donald Trump's popularity among American evangelicals--81% of them anyway. Along the way, he addresses the inconsistencies that many conservative religious leaders have demonstrated over time in their responses to different presidents, Clinton and Trump, for example, giving an unlimited pass to one while wanting to burn the other at the stake. Fea shared this example from a 1998 letter from James Dobson (a Trump supporter) questioning Clinton's morality: "As it turns out character DOES matter. You can't run a family, let alone a country, without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world! Nevertheless, our people continue to say that the President is doing a good job even if they don't respect him personally. Those two positions are fundamentally incompatible. In the book of James, the question is posed 'Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?' (James 3:11, NIV). The answer is no." In my opinion, those who fail to see the hypocrisy in this statement are blind. When Fea wrote of "the evangelical politics of fear," I resonated with the phrase. I think he is right when he suggests that fear drives many of the political viewpoints and voting practices among evangelicals. We place our hope not in God, the All-Sovereign, but in compromised earthly powers, especially those who tell us what to be afraid of and how they are the only ones who can fix it. The fear-mongering is reminiscent of Richard Dreyfuss's Senator Rumson in 1995's The American President. I was grateful that Fea is a historian; he was able to trace the roots of these fears to the 17th century up into the 21st century, with particular attention to the civil rights movement. His thoughts on Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again," were also beneficial. He commented that as a historian, he was less interested in the definition of great than what Trump means by the word again. To what era is Trump referring? And from whose perspective? It remains nebulous. Fea rightly draws the distinction between history and nostalgia, noting that "nostalgia is closely related to fear." Fea writes, "Sometimes evangelicals will seek refuge from change in a Christian past that never existed in the first place. At other times they will try to travel back to a Christian past that did exist--but, like the present, was compromised by sin." In his conclusion, Fea calls evangelicals to three things: hope, not fear; humilty, not power; and history, not nostaligia. I found Believe Me to be an insightful, timely book and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Unfortunately, I suspect most of the 81% will not even consider reading it; it's something that Trump would quickly dismiss as "fake news." As Americans, we tend to prefer political propaganda propagated by Twitter, Facebook, and our preferred news networks than actually digging in, with humility, to consider what might be true. As Christians, whose primary citizenship is in an eternal kingdom, we cannot afford to do this any longer. I cannot think of a better way to conclude this book than with the quote that first intrigued me: "The Court Evangelicals have decided that what Donald Trump can give them is more valuable than the damage their Christian witness will suffer because of their association with the president." This is a really important book. Believe me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bob H

    With his background as a professor of U.S. history and as an Evangelical Christian himself, John Fea is well-placed to explain a central paradox: how U.S. Evangelicals could embrace this vulgar, Scripturally-illiterate ("Two Corinthians"? Really?), womanizing, latter-day Emperor Nero, and put him in the White House ahead of genuinely-fervent politicians like Ted Cruz or Mike Huckabee. Indeed, he speaks more of Evangelical Christianity in the U.S. than he does about Trump, about this faith's root With his background as a professor of U.S. history and as an Evangelical Christian himself, John Fea is well-placed to explain a central paradox: how U.S. Evangelicals could embrace this vulgar, Scripturally-illiterate ("Two Corinthians"? Really?), womanizing, latter-day Emperor Nero, and put him in the White House ahead of genuinely-fervent politicians like Ted Cruz or Mike Huckabee. Indeed, he speaks more of Evangelical Christianity in the U.S. than he does about Trump, about this faith's roots in belief and its past. Fea traces the Evangelical church from Colonial days, and its development in U.S. expansion. He talks of their faith being rooted in fear: fear of God, of course; fear of Native peoples in the beginning; fear of Catholicism as it expanded in the 19th Century; fear of slave uprisings. (Fea is talking about white Evangelical Christianity, and distinguishes it from African-American history, to whom making "America Great Again" evokes a past that wasn't great for them). In the 20th Century, he notes, more fear: fear of evolutionists and secularism generally; fear of racial equality; fear of feminism (abortion in particular); fear of nonwhite (and more and more, Islamic) immigrants. Trump's xenophobia would rhyme with that. Fea talks about the strands of the Evangelical movement, especially the megapreachers among them, in three categories: the prosperity gospel, which would see this New York tycoon's acquisitiveness and flaunted wealth as virtues; the "Independent Charismatic Network" preachers, who sought political and legal dominion; and the more traditional Religious Right. All of them would develop an opportunistic relationship with Trump, who would deliver much of the hybrid political/religious policy they wanted, from Supreme Court nominees who might end abortion and roll back social progress, to Trump's embrace of Israel and the embassy in Jerusalem (something that, in biblical terms, brings Armageddon closer in a number of ways). That Evangelicals chose him over religiously-zealous politicians like Mike Huckabee or Ted Cruz suggests, says Fea, that they saw a "toughness" or practical ruthlessness in Trump that could deliver for them. Fea talks about the "court evangelicals", the megapreachers who developed a symbiotic relationship with Trump. This time, it seems to be something more than being photographed with the president, but garnering power and policy. It comes with risks, as Billy Graham's experiences a generation ago should have taught, but it seems to have gotten Evangelicals into a kind of leveraged power. The public nostalgia for a past "great" America, the dislike of outsiders and social change, which did fuel Trump's success, seems not as important in Fea's telling to Evangelicals as this power attainment. He notes that they are taking a risk by linking their fortunes, their future, and Christ to this volatile Caesar, but it may be their last chance, given, he says, the racial and religious demographics; this may be, he says, their Pickett's Charge. Whether the Evangelicals have sold their faith for a mess of pottage and a transient political moment remains to be seen. But as it says in Psalms 146:3, "Put not your trust in princes."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    A staggering 81% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump! How are we to explain this? Fea, an astute historian from Messiah College, identifies an unholy trinity of fear, power and nostalgia as being at the roots of this bizarre voting pattern. As he explains: ‘I approach this subject not as a political scientist, pollster, or pundit, but as a historian who identifies as an evangelical Christian. For too long, white evangelical Christians have engaged in public life through a strategy define A staggering 81% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump! How are we to explain this? Fea, an astute historian from Messiah College, identifies an unholy trinity of fear, power and nostalgia as being at the roots of this bizarre voting pattern. As he explains: ‘I approach this subject not as a political scientist, pollster, or pundit, but as a historian who identifies as an evangelical Christian. For too long, white evangelical Christians have engaged in public life through a strategy defined by the politics of fear, the pursuit of worldly power, and a nostalgic longing for a national past that may have never existed in the first place.’ (6) As one would expect from a professional historian the book is well documented - there are over 20 pages of endnotes. The book then is no knee-jerk response to a strange event. Fea carefully analyses the background to Trump’s victory. He examines why Trump was chosen by evangelicals over Cruz, Rubio and Walker - all had strong Christian leanings - they perceived Trump to be a strong man who would protect them from the cultural shifts of the Obama legacy. Fea shows how Trump followed the playbook written by the Christian right such as those that comprised the Moral Majority. A playbook that that tapped into fear and anxiety. Fear of communism, of immigrants, of non-whites, and more recently of Islam — and fear of big-government interference. In Chapter 3 he examines the history of this fear, tracing it back to the Puritans and their fear of a spiritual and moral decline, and with creating a moral panic against witchcraft and Catholics. As Fea rightly observes: ‘Nearly all the anxieties evangelicals faced in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries carried over into the fundamentalist movement of the twentieth century.’ (90). All this shows to understand the present we must understand the past. Chapter 4 examines those that Fea has labelled the ‘court evangelicals’: ‘The roster of court evangelicals includes Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., Southern Baptist pastor and Fox News commentator Robert Jeffress, radio host and “family values” advocate James Dobson, evangelist Franklin Graham, Christian public relations guru Johnnie Moore (who claims to be a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer”), longtime Christian Right political operative Ralph Reed, culture warrior Paula White, former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, and megachurch pastor Mark Burns.’ (57) Paula White is allegedly the person who ‘led’ him to Christ. These evangelicals it seems have endorsed Trump in return for political influence, for power (albeit illusory); they see Trump, as a ‘baby Christian’, and as a strong man who will save the USA from secularisation. Some even have described Trump as a Cyrus figure! The final chapter examines possible meanings behind Trump’s phrase ‘Make America Great Again’. What exactly does ‘again’ mean? Fea with his great historical insight shows that there hasn’t been a time when America was great! All that Trump has done with that phrase is tap into a sense of nostalgia for an illusionary vision of America as a Christian nation. The book probably won’t convince all the 81% of evangelicals of the error of their ways— not least because the majority won’t read it. But, for those that do, it will give them pause for thought and hopefully help them to see that in supporting Trump they have colluded with the spirt(s) of the age and have bought the term evangelical into disrepute. As Fea has shown it is more fear, power and nostalgia rather than the lordship of Christ that caused them to support Trump. This book should be required reading for all US evangelicals. Contents Aknowledgments ix Introduction 1 1. The Evangelical Politics of Fear 11 2. The Playbook 37 3. A Short History of Evangelical Fear 65 4. The Court Evangelicals 99 5. Make America Great Again 133 Conclusion 155 Notes 167

  18. 5 out of 5

    Samuel P.

    As someone who grew up steeped in the conservative political world of the Evangelical Christian movement in the US, I was continually stunned by the ability (and willingness) of Evangelicals to continue to make excuses for the seemingly un-Christian behavior, attitudes, and rhetoric of Donald Trump. In his book, Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, John Fea (my colleague at Messiah College) shows how Trump successfully played into what he calls "the playbook of the Christian right". As someone who grew up steeped in the conservative political world of the Evangelical Christian movement in the US, I was continually stunned by the ability (and willingness) of Evangelicals to continue to make excuses for the seemingly un-Christian behavior, attitudes, and rhetoric of Donald Trump. In his book, Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, John Fea (my colleague at Messiah College) shows how Trump successfully played into what he calls "the playbook of the Christian right". Fea traces the history of the Christian right, as well as the long history of the interaction of Christians with politics in our country. He traces how Trump came from an afterthought in the Republican primaries to the widely endorsed "obvious" choice for many Evangelical Christians. For those who wondered how the same Christian leaders who decried Bill Clinton's immorality as proof of his unfitness for the office of President came to say that Trump's moral shortcomings didn't preclude his fitness for office, Fea's work helps to connect the dots hiding in plain sight. He lays out three key dichotomies that will affect our political mindset: Do we vote out of fear or out of hope? Christians are called to be people of hope. How can we as Christians justify a politics based on fear of those we deem "other" in light of a faith which says we are to love even our enemies and that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek? Do we value power or humility? Christ lauded the humble and attacked the powerful. Should Christians support and value candidates that lack humility and seem eager to garner personal power which they can use to impose their ideas? Do we view history through nostalgia or do we look for the truth? As someone who is white, it is easy to view American history with nostalgia for other eras of our common history that were "great", but can I admit that people of color might not find those periods nearly as great for them? Fea is not advocating for Christians to become liberal and vote for Democrats. He spends no time attempting to show that Hillary Clinton was a good "Christian" choice. It is clear from this book that Fea is a dedicated Christian and politically conservative (he calls abortion "a horrific practice" at one point). However, he does not allow his politically conservative views to convince him that he must support Trump and ignore his short-comings. His conclusion is simple: "Evangelicals can do better than Donald Trump. ... It's time to take a long hard look at what we have become. Believe me, we have a lot of work to do." ------------------ Disclosure: I was given the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book. Page numbers may have changed before final release and are therefore not referenced in this review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adam Shields

    Short Review: I am probably primed to like this book for reasons outside of the book. I listen to Fea's history podcast, I vote democrat traditionally, so this book is not a critique of my voting or my party and I already have a very shaky relationship with the current cultural/sociological definition of Evangelicals (see my review of Still Evangelical for more of that http://bookwi.se/still-evangelical/ ) But I did still listen to the audiobook, almost in a single sitting, during a six hour solo Short Review: I am probably primed to like this book for reasons outside of the book. I listen to Fea's history podcast, I vote democrat traditionally, so this book is not a critique of my voting or my party and I already have a very shaky relationship with the current cultural/sociological definition of Evangelicals (see my review of Still Evangelical for more of that http://bookwi.se/still-evangelical/ ) But I did still listen to the audiobook, almost in a single sitting, during a six hour solo drive. The rough argument of Believe Me is that Evangelical voted for Trump for three reasons, fear, the desire for a Christian nation and the needed power to make it that way (Christian nationalism) and nostalgia. Fea then charts how these three issues are not new factors but historical ones that have impacted Evangelicals and the politics and voting throughout US history. Largely I agree with the analysis, although I think the book was probably rushed to press. There was not a enough discussion of what evangelical means today and historically and I think that impacted the historical analysis. There were some just flat mistakes that made it into the book. (For instance he says DACA is a program that gives citizenship to children of illegal immigrants born in the US instead of a program that gives legal residency to adults brought to the US illegally when they were children. Any children of illegal immigrants born in the US are already citizens). But I think there could have been more development in places. The Christianity Today Review I think rightly critiques the lack of connection made between fear and political power instead of them being development separately ( https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/... ) But largely this is a book that is helpful because it is focused historically. The end has a short section of what to do now, which is a bit unusually in a historical book. Fea says that as he tested the material with students and others he kept getting a 'so what should we do now' response. He points to the historic Black church and the civil rights movement as an example of the type of response that an Evangelical church that is descending in cultural and political power can look to as an example. And I think that response is right, although the problem of White Evangelical comes to place because this book is a discussion of the voting patterns of White Evangelicals not theological evangelicals which are about 1/3 minority. My full review (about 1500 words) is on my blog at http://bookwi.se/believe-me/

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joel Mitchell

    My earliest clear memory of American politics is of conservative Christians howling “Character counts! Bill Clinton is not morally qualified to be president and must be impeached!”. Fast forward to 2016 and many of these same voices eagerly led 81% of white Evangelical Christians to vote for a profane, lecherous bully…but it’s okay because “we’re voting for a commander in chief, not a pastor in chief and he’s going to appoint such good supreme court justices.” Major cognitive dissonance! This bo My earliest clear memory of American politics is of conservative Christians howling “Character counts! Bill Clinton is not morally qualified to be president and must be impeached!”. Fast forward to 2016 and many of these same voices eagerly led 81% of white Evangelical Christians to vote for a profane, lecherous bully…but it’s okay because “we’re voting for a commander in chief, not a pastor in chief and he’s going to appoint such good supreme court justices.” Major cognitive dissonance! This book, written by a self-identified Evangelical historian who is appalled at this pragmatic hypocrisy (I mean, inconsistency), explores how this came about. His main premise is that the evangelical “political playbook” has been driven by three factors: - Fear: “If you don’t vote for/donate toward/support [fill in the blank] you’re going to lose your religious freedom (and guns)!” - Power: “We must have people in positions of high authority who are on our side or we cannot properly influence society!” - Nostalgia: “We need to get back to ‘the good old days’ when everyone acted like Christians and things were so much better” (as long as you were white, male, and born in this country)! He seeks to demonstrate that these three factors have long been a part of the American political landscape and have caused a variety of sinful/hypocritical behavior along the way (racism, or at least calloused insensitivity toward people not just like me, being a major focus). Because he is primarily historian, the author doesn’t offer a lot of commentary and what could have been done differently. However he does suggest that rather than play power games, maybe Christians need to take the role of outsiders “speaking truth to power” with hope for the future…more like prophets than a courtiers. I greatly appreciate the main thrust of this book, and it has helped me think through some things related to the unedifying spectacle that was the 2016 election. That said, I don’t know how convincing the book would be to someone who wasn’t already inclined to agree with the author. His presentation isn’t always carefully argued/sourced, as he occasionally takes an approach that sounds like “most scholars agree on [insert interpretation of data without presenting the data itself in any detail]…”. Another issue was that along the way I spotted a couple factual errors (the worst being identifying DACA as pertaining to children born in the US!), which made me question his credibility a bit. Overall, I think that this is worth reading as a critique from someone within the Evangelical movement even if not all of his arguments are as fleshed out as they could be.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eric Manuel

    Whenever there is a presidential election, inevitably there are books published about the winner. Since 2016, this has not changed. What is significant about Donald Trump's win, however, is the support that he had, and still has, garnered from Evangelical Christians. Many within evangelicalism have scratched their heads to try to understand why this has happened, in light of many of the moral and policy decisions that have been made by Trump. John Fea’s “Believe Me : The Evangelical Road to Dona Whenever there is a presidential election, inevitably there are books published about the winner. Since 2016, this has not changed. What is significant about Donald Trump's win, however, is the support that he had, and still has, garnered from Evangelical Christians. Many within evangelicalism have scratched their heads to try to understand why this has happened, in light of many of the moral and policy decisions that have been made by Trump. John Fea’s “Believe Me : The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump” addresses the questions that many evangelicals have had about what has happened in regards to the relationship between Evangelicals and the current political atmosphere. Fea, an American historian by training and profession, is not one who writes as an uninterested outsider. Fea himself is an Evangelical, teaching at a college with an Evangelical history. This does not mean, however, that Fea is on a crusade to launch uncritical attacks at the current administration. His criticisms are fair. He approaches the subject with a historian's eye, unraveling the road that evangelicals have traveled to arrive at support for Trump, despite many of the glaring incongruities between Trump's’ personal character, policies, and actions and those beliefs of Christians. Looking at the role of fear, nostalgia, and influence, especially in regard to the “court evangelicals” (a term coined by Fea), he takes on a journey of history in trying to understand what has happened. This is by no means a dry academic history, although there is plenty of scholarly rigor and endnotes for those interested. Instead writes as an example of an evangelical public scholar, whose audience is the average reader. The writing itself is very engaging, something that one wishes all historians could do. This is an excellent treatment of the subject, very valuable to Christians who want to understand the support that Donald Trump has received from Evangelicals, but also to those outside of Christianity that want to understand the same thing.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Matt Grant

    In the struggle to understand how conservative Christian evangelicals, the same men and women who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, could not only support a morally bankrupt presidential candidate like Donald Trump but overwhelmingly vote him into office, John Fea's Believe Me is an enlightening text. A professor of history at Messiah College, Fea examines the rise of political evangelical activism in America, stretching all the way back to the nation's founding and solidified in the 1970s In the struggle to understand how conservative Christian evangelicals, the same men and women who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, could not only support a morally bankrupt presidential candidate like Donald Trump but overwhelmingly vote him into office, John Fea's Believe Me is an enlightening text. A professor of history at Messiah College, Fea examines the rise of political evangelical activism in America, stretching all the way back to the nation's founding and solidified in the 1970s. Armed with a "playbook" marked by stoking a false sense of fear over Christians constantly losing ground in a cultural and moral war, evangelical leaders throughout history have thrown their support behind the candidates they feel are best suited to push their agenda. The problem is that this often means compromising their moral or religious views in return for political power -- the very antithesis of everything Jesus taught. An evangelical himself, Fea's tract thankfully avoids sounding like condescension. Instead, it's an honest examination of what went wrong within Protestantism and led to this unique moment in American history. The book is meticulously well-researched and grounded in historical and theological contexts. At times, it veers into the personal, especially when picking apart the positions of specific evangelical leaders. The chapter "Make America Again" is particularly powerful, although it ignores a crucial point. The chapter asserts that Trump has never made clear just when he felt America was great. Yet during the campaign, the president said he believes "the late 40s and 50s" was a period of American history in which the nation was "respected by everybody." In missing this point, the end of the book feels a tad out of touch. The conclusion includes a better path forward, in which Christians are called to remember the Civil Rights Movement and lay aside fear to embrace hope. For this reason, Believe Me is an important book for anyone, Christian or otherwise, wishing to understand the 2016 election and wanting a better path forward.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    John Fea’s book, Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, is helpful because Fea is an evangelical Christian himself. He dedicates his book to the 19 percent of evangelicals who did not vote for Donald Trump, including, obviously, himself. This 19 percent have not received the publicity of the 81 percent who did, and his book provides insight from one of that minority. Fea’s book sheds light on why a man who, to many, epitomizes what a Christian isn’t, was, nevertheless, voted into the John Fea’s book, Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, is helpful because Fea is an evangelical Christian himself. He dedicates his book to the 19 percent of evangelicals who did not vote for Donald Trump, including, obviously, himself. This 19 percent have not received the publicity of the 81 percent who did, and his book provides insight from one of that minority. Fea’s book sheds light on why a man who, to many, epitomizes what a Christian isn’t, was, nevertheless, voted into the presidency by a lot of Christians. Fea believes the main reason is fear, even though, as Fea points out, Christ told his followers: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) He sees Trump masterfully using the fears of many evangelicals who had surrendered to them, which surrender Fea decries. Fea, a professor of history at Messiah College, Mechanicsburg, PA, summarizes past and present fears of American evangelicals from the Puritans’ fear of witchcraft to the current fears of cultural annihilation. Fea is contemptuous of many Christian leaders who have supported Trump, calling them “court evangelicals.” He compares them to religious leaders through the centuries who have served various rulers, unfortunately often becoming corrupted in the process. Fea finds a different hope for Christians concerned about the current cultural morass. He is inspired by the model of the civil rights movement, “a Christian approach to politics,” involving “Hope, humility, and a responsible use of American history.”

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alexandria Fanjoy

    I received this ARC from net galley in exchange for an honest review. I thought that this book was a really interesting analysis of the evangelical right and their interest and support for Trump. I thought it was an interesting addition to the literature about the increasing divide happening in the United States and the "explain how the hell we got here" - with other books such as "Hillbilly Elegy" by JD Vance. That said, I think other books are better. This has some writing issues, and doesn't I received this ARC from net galley in exchange for an honest review. I thought that this book was a really interesting analysis of the evangelical right and their interest and support for Trump. I thought it was an interesting addition to the literature about the increasing divide happening in the United States and the "explain how the hell we got here" - with other books such as "Hillbilly Elegy" by JD Vance. That said, I think other books are better. This has some writing issues, and doesn't always read as the most compulsively readable book. However, especially for those who are interested in more academic-style books, this is a fantastic analysis of not only the Evangelical's relationship to Trump, but also the complexities and growth of the movement itself. 3.5 stars. More reviews: www.askhermionegranger.com

  25. 4 out of 5

    Deanna

    In "Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump" John Fea traces the history of Evangelicalism to attempt to figure out how it was possible for such a large percentage of Evangelical voters to cast their votes for someone like Trump, whose character flaws were disqualifying in any candidate before him. Fea concludes that fear was the main factor in Evangelicals voting the way they did. In and of itself, that isn't a new idea, but where Fea shines is in his analysis of how fear has influence In "Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump" John Fea traces the history of Evangelicalism to attempt to figure out how it was possible for such a large percentage of Evangelical voters to cast their votes for someone like Trump, whose character flaws were disqualifying in any candidate before him. Fea concludes that fear was the main factor in Evangelicals voting the way they did. In and of itself, that isn't a new idea, but where Fea shines is in his analysis of how fear has influenced Evangelicals' engagement with others throughout their history. I also appreciated Fea's discussion of the 3 separate movements that make up Trump's "Court Evangelicals" I found that section to be thorough and fair. Fea ends the book on a challenging but positive note, calling Evangelicals to a more counter-cultural and Christlike way of engagement by focusing on hope, humility and history.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brandon G. Smith

    A fine look at how it came to be that 81% of evangelicals, people who claim to follow the way of Jesus, voted for a man who does not seem to have any of Jesus’ attributes. But, it is also more than that, it is also a look at the history of evangelicalism and the flaws that have always been apart of the American version of the movement. I think this book as a companion to Frances Fitzgerald’s “The Evangelicals” (my favorite book of last year), gives the best understanding of evangelicalism that o A fine look at how it came to be that 81% of evangelicals, people who claim to follow the way of Jesus, voted for a man who does not seem to have any of Jesus’ attributes. But, it is also more than that, it is also a look at the history of evangelicalism and the flaws that have always been apart of the American version of the movement. I think this book as a companion to Frances Fitzgerald’s “The Evangelicals” (my favorite book of last year), gives the best understanding of evangelicalism that one can have. It reveals the flaws, with hope that we can do better in the future. Believe me, we can do better.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kristy

    Excellent and thoughtful What an intelligent, well-researched book. I am so pleased to see a historical viewpoint and faith-based consideration of the current American circumstance that is so balanced and considered. I was not a Trump voter. It completely shocked me that evangelicals would ever get behind him. Aren't they supposed to stand for "family values??" This book was great in responding to that question. The author and I don't share the same vision of spirituality, and clearly disagree on Excellent and thoughtful What an intelligent, well-researched book. I am so pleased to see a historical viewpoint and faith-based consideration of the current American circumstance that is so balanced and considered. I was not a Trump voter. It completely shocked me that evangelicals would ever get behind him. Aren't they supposed to stand for "family values??" This book was great in responding to that question. The author and I don't share the same vision of spirituality, and clearly disagree on many issues, but that doesn't matter - good writing and analysis is good writing and analysis.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jdetrick

    I only hope that Christians will read this book and actually absorb some of what it is saying, as the author makes numerous good points regarding the horror of Christians supporting Donald Trump. The author uses history and the essence of Christianity to make the case that Christians can do much better than Trump, and perhaps should stop trying to change the world through political power and instead focus on trying to change the world through living pious lives and working within their communiti I only hope that Christians will read this book and actually absorb some of what it is saying, as the author makes numerous good points regarding the horror of Christians supporting Donald Trump. The author uses history and the essence of Christianity to make the case that Christians can do much better than Trump, and perhaps should stop trying to change the world through political power and instead focus on trying to change the world through living pious lives and working within their communities.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tara Brabazon

    Absolutely, stunningly, surprisingly brilliant. Written by an historian, professor and evangelical christian, this book is excellent. It demonstrates how Trump created wedge politics to leverage white evangelicals to vote for him. The consequences of nostalgia - MAGA - rather than history is clearly revealed. Well argued. Well referenced. Well written. Well presented. This is a powerful and convincing argument about how nostalgia - or indeed an imagined Christian American past that never existed - Absolutely, stunningly, surprisingly brilliant. Written by an historian, professor and evangelical christian, this book is excellent. It demonstrates how Trump created wedge politics to leverage white evangelicals to vote for him. The consequences of nostalgia - MAGA - rather than history is clearly revealed. Well argued. Well referenced. Well written. Well presented. This is a powerful and convincing argument about how nostalgia - or indeed an imagined Christian American past that never existed - has been summoned (probably for the last time) by Donald Trump.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Fea, an evangelical himself, takes a historian's view of evangelical American history (Is the United States a Christian nation? It's much more complex than a yes or no answer) and peeks beneath the hood of the social, political, and religious forces that fueled Donald Trump's election. He doesn't like what he finds. On the subject of making America great again, Fea hits the nail on the head: "[N]ostalgia is inherently selfish because it focuses entirely on our own experience of the past ... It's Fea, an evangelical himself, takes a historian's view of evangelical American history (Is the United States a Christian nation? It's much more complex than a yes or no answer) and peeks beneath the hood of the social, political, and religious forces that fueled Donald Trump's election. He doesn't like what he finds. On the subject of making America great again, Fea hits the nail on the head: "[N]ostalgia is inherently selfish because it focuses entirely on our own experience of the past ... It's selective use of the past fails to recognize the complexity and breadth of human experience."

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