Things have been sort of quiet since my last installment in this series, what with our mass media consumed 24/7 by Trump, Russians, Mueller, Manafort, and Michael Cohen. However there were a few items that might have slipped your notice.
A historian had a book tour. Eerdmans Publishing hooked John Fea up with a tour to promote Believe Me: The Evangelical Road To Donald Trump. This got a mild round of approving articles in the usual spaces. The book is evidently pretty dry, because if it had any juice he would have been treated to a higher-profile tour.
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. As insightful as it is timely, Fea’s Believe Me challenges Christians to replace fear with hope, the pursuit of power with humility, and nostalgia with history.
The book is loaded with all the old slanders against traditionalist Christians from the 18th century as well as more recent slanders. I can tell this from reviews, comments and an interview with the author; I have not read the book. It has become tedium that mass media like to pass along repetitive instances of liberal “Christians” criticizing traditionalist Christians using Bible passages.
Along that same line there was a book by a liberal Evangelical pastor named Rob Schenck, who told his personal testimony about how he converted from pro-life to pro-abortion. SSDD.
I saw a few new articles from some of my favorites about the press’s general ignorance of religion and religious issues. They are clueless and it shows. Sometimes their ignorance is good for a laugh.
The most recent instance of note was a long feature in the Washington Post. It is a profile of the Trump voters in a Baptist church in Alabama.
“The presidency of Donald Trump has created unavoidable moral dilemmas not just for the members of First Baptist in Luverne but for a distinct subset of Christians who are overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly evangelical and more uniformly pro-Trump than any other part of the American electorate.”
Gee, well, I suppose we can guess where this one is headed, can’t we?
So of course it is larded with the buzzwords you would expect. “Awkwardness” “predicament,” “self-reflection” and “compromising” give way to “whiffing on the big moral questions.” Problematic race history issues in the Southern Baptist Church are dredged up, just to whip up the outragey feels of this mess. Along the way is mixed in a journalism smattering of local color quotes of country Baptist people saying Christian things and saying country things and commenting on President Trump.
In a really nice turn, the reporter (Stephanie McCrummen) gave some space to a member who gave a great statement that is perhaps representative:
There was Terry Drew, who sat in the seventh pew on the left side, who knew and agreed with Trump’s position, and knew that supporting him involved a blatant moral compromise.
“I hate it,” he said. “My wife and I talk about it all the time. We rationalize the immoral things away. We don’t like it, but we look at the alternative, and think it could be worse than this.”
The only way to understand how a Christian like him could support a man who boasted about grabbing women’s crotches, Terry said, was to understand how he felt about the person Trump was still constantly bringing up in his speeches and who loomed large in Terry’s thoughts: Hillary Clinton, whom Terry saw as “sinister” and “evil” and “I’d say, of Satan.”
“She hates me,” Terry said, sitting in [Pastor] Crum’s office one day. “She has contempt for people like me, … and people who love God and believe in the Second Amendment. I think if she had her way it would be a dangerous country for the likes of me.”
Way to go, Washington Post. Him who has ears, let him hear. You may mock and scoff at these rubes all you like, but they see clearly what the Nevers on the Coast missed by a mile.
This long feature has a sub-plot about Pastor Crum preaching a series on the Ten Commandments, with a buildup to his sermon on Adultery. In the end the reporter was disappointed, as her readers will be, that Pastor Crum did not preach about President Trump. But in the end I think this feature is worth reading, with a very uneven mix of quotes from parishioners. In the early going I thought it was going to be simply another hit job, but it is better than that. You can still tell that the viewpoint of these simple Christians is foreign to the reporter and her organization.
I will put links in the comments. One link will be to media criticism of a Frank Bruni editorial in the New York Times, in which he describes what a dangerous ogre the theocrat Mike Pence is, on account of he believes things that traditionalist Christians always believed. Typical.