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The Immoral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power Over Christian Values

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Now a National Bestseller. Evangelicals are losing the culture war. What if it’s their fault? In 2016, writer and filmmaker Ben Howe found himself disillusioned with the religious movement he’d always called home. In the pursuit of electoral victory, many American evangelicals embraced moral relativism and toxic partisanship. Whatever happened to the Moral Majority, who heade Now a National Bestseller. Evangelicals are losing the culture war. What if it’s their fault? In 2016, writer and filmmaker Ben Howe found himself disillusioned with the religious movement he’d always called home. In the pursuit of electoral victory, many American evangelicals embraced moral relativism and toxic partisanship. Whatever 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. As long as evangelicals prioritize power over persuasion, Howe argues, their pews will be empty and their national influence will dwindle. If evangelicals hope to avoid cultural irrelevance going forward, it will mean valuing the eternal over the ephemeral, humility over ego, and resisting the seduction of political power, no matter the cost. The Immoral Majority demonstrates how the Religious Right is choosing the profits of this world at the cost of its soul—and why it’s not too late to change course.


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Now a National Bestseller. Evangelicals are losing the culture war. What if it’s their fault? In 2016, writer and filmmaker Ben Howe found himself disillusioned with the religious movement he’d always called home. In the pursuit of electoral victory, many American evangelicals embraced moral relativism and toxic partisanship. Whatever happened to the Moral Majority, who heade Now a National Bestseller. Evangelicals are losing the culture war. What if it’s their fault? In 2016, writer and filmmaker Ben Howe found himself disillusioned with the religious movement he’d always called home. In the pursuit of electoral victory, many American evangelicals embraced moral relativism and toxic partisanship. Whatever 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. As long as evangelicals prioritize power over persuasion, Howe argues, their pews will be empty and their national influence will dwindle. If evangelicals hope to avoid cultural irrelevance going forward, it will mean valuing the eternal over the ephemeral, humility over ego, and resisting the seduction of political power, no matter the cost. The Immoral Majority demonstrates how the Religious Right is choosing the profits of this world at the cost of its soul—and why it’s not too late to change course.

30 review for The Immoral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power Over Christian Values

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jessaka

    Unfinished Conversations (The following conversations were made between an ex friend and myself. Since then I read a review of the new book, Jesus and John Wayne. It has changed my view of why the evangelicals voted for Trump. They made up an excue as to why, which was, because God choses a bad man to get what he needs done. It isn't that at all. They like the man because they think like he does.) The Immoral Majority Unfinished Conversations “What did you think of what Mitt Romney did? I asked a Mo Unfinished Conversations (The following conversations were made between an ex friend and myself. Since then I read a review of the new book, Jesus and John Wayne. It has changed my view of why the evangelicals voted for Trump. They made up an excue as to why, which was, because God choses a bad man to get what he needs done. It isn't that at all. They like the man because they think like he does.) The Immoral Majority Unfinished Conversations “What did you think of what Mitt Romney did? I asked a Mormon woman who used to be my friend. “I was against it. What he did was wrong, and the Mormon church didn’t like it either, so he will get into trouble with them now,” was her reply. And Romney did get into trouble, but the news said little about it. “He voted with his conscience, what he believed was right,” I replied in shock. She was silent. She then answered after a moment, “Let me read you an article that I have on my computer.” She began reading. It to me. It went like this: “God chose a salty president to do what he needs done.” “Salty,” I thought. It means cruel and mean. “He is draining the swamp,” she continued. I quickly stepped in, “I know what the author is saying. The evangelicals believe this. I have read it in the book, ‘The Immoral Majority.’” I had said this without thinking that it implied that she was immoral. “Then do you wish me to quit reading it?” “Yes.” She ended our conversation. Company is coming. How much I had wished that I had said: My God would not use a cruel person that harms others, that ruins lives, that allows people to separate children from their mothers, or allows them to die in cages from ill health. Your God of the bible is evil. But what is more, I believe that some Christians voted for that man only because they were against abortion, against immigrants, and yet now that they have him and realize how cruel he is, they have to blame it on God, and not themselves for making such a bad decision. And now they believe this so much that they will cling to it with all their might, and they won’t allow their minds to touch on the suffering that this man has caused and will cause. This makes them just as cruel as the man in office. I am sickened by such thinking. I don’t care what religion you are in, it no longer works for me, and it never will again. Their hell fire frightens people, their karma causes believers to not help others, and their meditation causes them to go inward instead of helping others. Now I understand why these evangelicals had chosen that man instead of one that cared for others. And don’t tell me that saving the lives of the unborn is better than saving the lives of those that are already born. Last of all, thank you again for letting me know who you are so I can stay away from you. Update, May 26th She and I got into it just before Trump came into office. At that time, she wanted to read me an article about Blacks and asked me what I thought of it. I told her: “It is a White Supremacist article.” I asked her what she thought of it, and she said that she agreed with it. It said things like Blacks are lazy, they have low IQs, so they can’t learn, they are violent, and and they were better off as slaves. Then I told her that she was a racist. We got into it then. She was upset that I called her a racist, but not a White Supremacist. She said that the Mormon Church had forgiven the blacks, that she loved them, and that she works with them daily at her Mormon. Church. As if Blacks go to the Moron church. I ended our friendship. A few years later, and her husband had died, so she called to tell me. Months later she called again and that is when the first conversation had taken place. Yesterday, she called and began praising Trump, saying that she wished that she could take that malaria drug.to prevent Covid-19 I told her that it was dangerous, and she denied it, and then she found an excuse to hang up when I asked a question about Trump. Her calls left me agitated each time we talked. So, I talked to her today and told her that I didn’t wish to be her friend. She laughed. I went on.to tell her that her racist views bothered me, and that Trump is a racist and is dangerous. She said that I should be forgiving. I went off about Trump, and she told me that those were my own views. I told her that they weren\t, that there is a book out, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” that several psychiatrists and psychologists had written to warn us about the dangers he presents. She quickly interjected, “What about Nancy Pelosi?” I hung up. It is amazing how she didn’t deny this time about being a racist, and it is also amazing how Republicans quickly change the subject.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    An evangelical takes evangelicalism to task for surrendering it's theology in order to win, and in so winning, evangelicalism has lost its soul, its ability to witness to Christ, and to truly influence the world. Rather than trusting God, evangelicals decided to take over the government to further their own vision for America, and have done so with a president highly unqualified to lead, a man of reprehensible character and malicious intent. Howe's analysis is clear and to the point: there's a wh An evangelical takes evangelicalism to task for surrendering it's theology in order to win, and in so winning, evangelicalism has lost its soul, its ability to witness to Christ, and to truly influence the world. Rather than trusting God, evangelicals decided to take over the government to further their own vision for America, and have done so with a president highly unqualified to lead, a man of reprehensible character and malicious intent. Howe's analysis is clear and to the point: there's a whole lot wrong with evangelicalism, and Howe doesn't shy away from probing all of it. I certainly hope evangelicals read with care, though, as Howe says, evangelicals will, by and large, hate this book. Having for so long feasted on their diet of "righteousness" and endless justification for aligning themselves with deeply flawed politicians to further God's agenda, as they see it; ironically now, after excoriating Bill Clinton for his "lack of moral character," and claiming that "character counts," it's now nearly impossible for evangelicals to consider the idea that they may be mistaken. Wining at all costs has ensnared evangelicals and the GOP, and such a morality only leads to darkness. The outlook is not promising.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mark Lawry

    I am not a Christian. Howe is a Christian and speaking to his fellow Christians so take my rating with a grain of salt. The book is filled with Christian scriptures and his ideas on what are Christian values. Any new republican (those who are republicans after the nomination of President Trump) will call him an educated elitist, liptard, snowflake for his quaint backward ideas from the Bible. I feel his pain. My own education is in economics and being an ardent supply-side market capitalist I'm I am not a Christian. Howe is a Christian and speaking to his fellow Christians so take my rating with a grain of salt. The book is filled with Christian scriptures and his ideas on what are Christian values. Any new republican (those who are republicans after the nomination of President Trump) will call him an educated elitist, liptard, snowflake for his quaint backward ideas from the Bible. I feel his pain. My own education is in economics and being an ardent supply-side market capitalist I'm for open borders. I acquired such ideas from growing up listening to Reagan and Milton Friedman. I know, few new Republicans know who Friedman was. I therefore always get a kick out of being called a libtard socialist by new Republicans because of my bias for market economics over a planned economy. So, I get his frustration. Civil discussion on any topics that matter is dead. Keeping relationships between friends means keeping conversation to the best flavor of coffee and cat photos. I often see you members of that small little minority of Christians like Howe who claim that the vast majority of Chistians don't get Christian values and just aren't reading their Bibles correctly. It would seem the vast majority of Christians don't agree with you. Many of them surely know the scriptures forward and backward and they want to build a wall around themselves. They don't share your values, or mine. There is a reason I'm not a Christian. Welcome aboard.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Since Evangelicals were a key group to elect Donald Trump and have steadily remained among his supporters, it seemed like this would be a good pick up. I was curious to learn more about it, beyond what I had read in news. What on earth drew these people to someone like Trump, who had 3 marriages, 5 children and is known to be unfaithful (and worse!). As someone who is not at all religious, I was just...confused. Howe is talking to other Christians. So comments from people saying that it has that Since Evangelicals were a key group to elect Donald Trump and have steadily remained among his supporters, it seemed like this would be a good pick up. I was curious to learn more about it, beyond what I had read in news. What on earth drew these people to someone like Trump, who had 3 marriages, 5 children and is known to be unfaithful (and worse!). As someone who is not at all religious, I was just...confused. Howe is talking to other Christians. So comments from people saying that it has that feel of observing a conversation as an outsider were on the mark for me. A book filled with religious talk, scripture, etc. was tough for me to read, just unrelatable. It makes my eyes glaze over, sorry. Overall I did agree with his arguments: that they had sacrificed what will be an eventual long-term loss for a more earthly, short term one. Not everyone will agree and it does, at times, seem like this is not so. But given what I've seen this just seems unsustainable, even if it ends with half the planet blown away in a nuclear explosion. Perhaps not necessarily the lesson the author intended but I can understand the basic themes of his arguments, even if I don't care for his methods. Also wasn't a fan of him claiming Merry Christmas could be said freely and openly again because really only a small group of people care that much. Library borrow for me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    It's important to know that I am a professing born-again, career-homeschooling Christian. Lest you assume the author is a "left-wing, Christian-hating atheist" (or any other prejudiced assumption), it's also important to know that the author, Ben Howe, is a died-in-the-wool Christian too. So Howe's motivation for blowing the lid off of the former Moral Majority becomes not another bashing from the left, but a cry from the Wilderness to believers who have blindly put their trust in their leaders It's important to know that I am a professing born-again, career-homeschooling Christian. Lest you assume the author is a "left-wing, Christian-hating atheist" (or any other prejudiced assumption), it's also important to know that the author, Ben Howe, is a died-in-the-wool Christian too. So Howe's motivation for blowing the lid off of the former Moral Majority becomes not another bashing from the left, but a cry from the Wilderness to believers who have blindly put their trust in their leaders' guidance on present-day politics, specifically the Trump presidency. It was dismaying that many Christian influencers' names that I have held dear to my heart--who spoke truth during the Clinton years about the importance of our president's character---took a convenient, compromising about-face regarding Mr. Trump during the 2016 election, choosing any means, even setting aside Biblical principles (and their own), to convince their followers to vote for him. As a homeschooler, I was gladdened to read that at least Michael Farris, chairman of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, stood firm against a Trump presidency, here quoted from his FB page on July 25, 2015: "I will never support Donald Trump. Republicans would never again be able to say that we value moral character or family values if we support Donald Trump. If it comes down to Donald and Hillary, I will run as an independent." It would do well for the others who have strayed from the Truth--that is to reflect Christ and to be examples to their flock--, to remember that God's Word is clear about the greater condemnation on leaders. Perhaps the 2020 election will give them an opportunity to humbly return to the fold. In any case, Mr. Howe can at least rest knowing that he wasn't afraid to be a Gospel witness. In conclusion, my review of this book is not meant to sway readers one way or another about their vote. It's about following the example of the Berean church who the Apostle Paul praised for not even taking his word on the Scriptures, but who studied them for themselves before believing. Listen, read, then hold everything up to the Light of Truth. Be a Berean. This book was given to me as a gift.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rick Lee Lee James

    The best review I think I can give are the words that the author himself uses in the introduction. “This is a book about what happens when the people who believe they have the moral high ground find themselves on the low road.” Terrific book in helping us understand that the Moral Majority was always a fiction. The Moral Minority is one man, and he is Jesus. The rest of us must follow him and never compromise our faith for the sake of political expediency.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joelle

    This book is everything that Conservatives need to hear, both those who are for and against Trump. This book is everything that Progressive Christians and those who are simply on the left should read as well, but mainly those who identify as Progressive. I voted for Trump in 2016, with no illusions in mind. I voted for economic reasons, and because it didn't occur to me to vote third party. Looking back, I wish I would have voted third party like I did this year. However, I don't believe the vas This book is everything that Conservatives need to hear, both those who are for and against Trump. This book is everything that Progressive Christians and those who are simply on the left should read as well, but mainly those who identify as Progressive. I voted for Trump in 2016, with no illusions in mind. I voted for economic reasons, and because it didn't occur to me to vote third party. Looking back, I wish I would have voted third party like I did this year. However, I don't believe the vast majority of Conservative are evil, like the they are being painted. I know several Trump voters who are actually much more "liberal" than would be assumed. This book does a great job of differentiating between the "Trumpers", and the Conservatives. It also reminds us of our Biblical duties to all, which supersede any political labels. And that is what makes this book so relevant: it strips away all the political mess, and reminds us of our first love. Our first duty. Our first job here on earth. It is a call to compassion, and a reminder that we are all exactly the same, even if we desperately try to hide it by throwing pejoratives faster than the other side.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Matt Barcalow

    For several years, I’ve become more and more restless with evangelicals and their increasing willingness to overlook various moral issues so that their political agenda could be advanced. I was never able to clearly articulate why I was feeling that way. I’m now over halfway through this book and am already thankful that Ben took the time and effort to write it. He has put into words many of my concerns and laid out how they have come to be. Using biblical truths, historical events, numerous sou For several years, I’ve become more and more restless with evangelicals and their increasing willingness to overlook various moral issues so that their political agenda could be advanced. I was never able to clearly articulate why I was feeling that way. I’m now over halfway through this book and am already thankful that Ben took the time and effort to write it. He has put into words many of my concerns and laid out how they have come to be. Using biblical truths, historical events, numerous sources on both sides of the aisle, and personal stories, Ben has done a great job of clearly articulating what I, and so many others, have been feeling. He lays out the path that has led so many who once called for ‘compassionate conservatism’ to the current ‘win at any cost’ climate that is a far cry from the teaching of Jesus. This is not an anti-Trump book, or a declarations that Christians shouldn’t be a part of the GOP, or a bashing of Christians in the GOP. It is a call to evangelicals to stop and reconsider their current course of action and its longterm effects, regardless of the candidate. I appreciate the fact that it is written from an ‘insiders’ perspective (he grew up in a Christian household, continues in his faith, and has several years working in the republican Party), not an ‘outsider’ simply throwing stones, attempting to discredit a religion or political party. In my opinion, makes this book more of an honest look into the issues that are addressed. For those of you who consider yourself an evangelical republican: I encourage you to buy this book and read it with an open mind. A conservative evangelical himself, Ben does a great job of asking questions that need to be considered and speaking truth into places that many have been unwilling to go. For those of you who, like me, have long struggled with how the religious right’s values/methods don’t seem to line up with the teachings of Jesus, and are interested in healthy, civil dialogue: I believe this book does a great job of giving specific examples and scenarios that allow for more educated questions and answers. For those who aren’t of the Christian faith and feel like public figures such as Jerry Falwell Jr. and Robert Jeffress represent the stereotypical Christian and, therefore, an accurate representation of who Christ calls us to be, please read this book. Ben lays out a good basic foundation of some of the key characteristics of who Jesus calls us to be: humble, compassionate, loving, etc. Is this book the final answer to the issues that evangelicals must wrestle through? Of course not. But I do believe it is a great step towards more civil dialogue; something that is greatly lacking in today’s political climate.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    Wow! Finally someone who is saying what I've been thinking for a long time. However Ben is saying it far better than I ever would or could have. Ever since Obama became president I'd chosen to stop listening to conservative radio and television. This was because I noticed what seemed to me a different level of vitriol on the attacks against him that I didn't want to take personally, being a black conservative. While I didn't agree with Obama's policies, I was extremely proud that he was my presi Wow! Finally someone who is saying what I've been thinking for a long time. However Ben is saying it far better than I ever would or could have. Ever since Obama became president I'd chosen to stop listening to conservative radio and television. This was because I noticed what seemed to me a different level of vitriol on the attacks against him that I didn't want to take personally, being a black conservative. While I didn't agree with Obama's policies, I was extremely proud that he was my president and I was extremely proud of my country for overcoming a legacy of prejudice in electing him. I was proud of the evangelicals who rejoiced that our nation had overcome this legacy to vote for him as president and even prayed for him. However this all changed in 2016 when Trump won the Republican nomination for president. I wasn't surprised that many evangelicals voted for him because I assumed that they were voting for the lesser of two evils. But I was not prepared for the amount of love and support they lavish on him! Reading THE IMMORAL MAJORITY has shed a lot of light on what has been going on behind the scenes that explains the love for our current President. It is shocking and sad! There are Christians whom I have respected who have now changed long-held beliefs to confirm Trump's behavior and words for political advantage to the detriment of more eternal advantages. This all very sad to me and is documented throughout THE IMMORAL MAJORITY. I wish that everyone could read it with an open mind but sadly I think that it's more likely that people will retreat to their respective political camps. However if you are open and want to really examine your own political agenda (especially as a Christian) please give this a read. It won't disappoint.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ethan Demme

    This was a fascinating read for me because it was like watching a movie that I was an extra in. The Author and I were in the same circles and we've interacted several times in the last 14 years. I was a state-level political blogger, I spoke on panels at political events and trained activists. I traveled to CPAC multiple times as a credentialed blogger and interacted with many of the people in this book. As Howe weaves his narrative of his new realizations about the nature of religion in politic This was a fascinating read for me because it was like watching a movie that I was an extra in. The Author and I were in the same circles and we've interacted several times in the last 14 years. I was a state-level political blogger, I spoke on panels at political events and trained activists. I traveled to CPAC multiple times as a credentialed blogger and interacted with many of the people in this book. As Howe weaves his narrative of his new realizations about the nature of religion in politics I was following a similar journey and we both ended up with similar conclusions. So the book was engaging and nostalgic for me. If you didn't have the context his arguments and statements may come across as disjointed and would be difficult to follow. It is a book that needed to be written and Howe was a good one to write it. Ultimately this book is about the deep struggle of conscience that one should have when engaging with politics, which it seems that many voters don't undertake. It is a messy business with no clearly defined answers, but, as William F. Buckley said, "Decent people should ignore politics, if only they could be confident that politics would ignore them."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joe Keefhaver

    I am a white male Republican Christian evangelical. Sadly, Ben Howe quite accurately explains how the Trump evangelicals came to be and how they think about the issues. It is deeply disappointing what has happened to both the Republican Party and the evangelical movement.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Frankly, a hard to read book that I struggled with rating. I didn't want to read it because it reminded me of things I would prefer not to think about and in the process depresses me. But it is a fairly straightforward outlining of the ways self-professed evangelical Christians have given up the "Character Matters" perspective and instead embraced the using power for the right things is what matters approach. The challenge is understanding just how prevalent this viewpoint is within evangelicali Frankly, a hard to read book that I struggled with rating. I didn't want to read it because it reminded me of things I would prefer not to think about and in the process depresses me. But it is a fairly straightforward outlining of the ways self-professed evangelical Christians have given up the "Character Matters" perspective and instead embraced the using power for the right things is what matters approach. The challenge is understanding just how prevalent this viewpoint is within evangelicalism at large. Howe illustrates how at the very least, vocal and prominent leaders with millions of followers have taken this approach and uses polling data to argue that the people in the pews have embraced or take on this view as well; maybe even to a deeper degree than their leaders. What I think is clear is that this faustian bargain has done serious damage to the perception of both Christianity and conservatism in ways that we will only begin to understand in the coming years. This book outlines the various arguments and rhetorical devices used to make this turn and how it is not based on faith, Christian values or scripture but on insecurity, self-interest, and a desire to "help God" by winning.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Austin Steelman

    As a PhD student studying the history of the religious right, I have read a lot of books on this general topic. This is certainly the worst. It is a quixotic fantasy from the perspective of a conservative evangelical, not a historically-informed or analytically plausible account of the religious right's support of Donald Trump. Committed a priori to an evangelical worldview and moral both-sidesism, Howe paints the election of Donald Trump as far more discontinuous from the prior work of the evan As a PhD student studying the history of the religious right, I have read a lot of books on this general topic. This is certainly the worst. It is a quixotic fantasy from the perspective of a conservative evangelical, not a historically-informed or analytically plausible account of the religious right's support of Donald Trump. Committed a priori to an evangelical worldview and moral both-sidesism, Howe paints the election of Donald Trump as far more discontinuous from the prior work of the evangelical right than it is. Evangelical politics prior to the 70s are ignored entirely, and Howe gives short shrift to racism, sexism, evangelical biblicism, anti-intellectualism, and the political dynamics of the conservative coalition while employing an unrigorous "self-interest" explanation to a complex situation. If you are looking to get inside the mind of Howe and other NeverTrump evangelicals like Russel Moore, you could give this a read, but there are scores of better books if you want to understand the religious right and even better (if still flawed) books about 2016 by evangelical moderates and conservatives.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Boyd

    This is a book about what happens when the people who believe they have the moral high ground find themselves on the low road. Christians in America increasingly face powerful opponents. We are surrounded by atheism and hedonism, yet we keep finding no greater enemy than ourselves. the author tells us. I would qualify that. This is a book about one man figuring out that he had been sold a set of lies and his subsequent need to advise everyone else that they were being sold that too. Like a book This is a book about what happens when the people who believe they have the moral high ground find themselves on the low road. Christians in America increasingly face powerful opponents. We are surrounded by atheism and hedonism, yet we keep finding no greater enemy than ourselves. the author tells us. I would qualify that. This is a book about one man figuring out that he had been sold a set of lies and his subsequent need to advise everyone else that they were being sold that too. Like a book about leaving Scientology, the story is personal rather than a deep historical dive filled with facts. Ben Howe was an agent provocateur for Republican politics and involved in several of the mean spirited debates that ranged around the formation of the Tea Party. As a Conservative Christian, he felt he was entitled to provoking anger from the left because the left had made false accusations against the right. They were tired of being called racist, intolerant, homophobic, and misogynistic. (In fairness, I read numerous left leaning blogs that spoke of regret in using these words against politicians like Romney and Bush because they had nothing left to say that had not already been said when it came to the blatant racism, misogyny, and intolerance of Trump.) Anger had become a currency. Gone was compassionate conservatism, and here, poised to replace it: the new era of anger. Howe tells us. Christians were in no way immune to the rage. They wallowedin acrimony and wounded pride" eschewed "that the Bible also says to “delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” Instead, in the modern evangelical movement the active and vocal members seem to embrace bile and uncontainable outrage over America’s apparent cultural decline. Not to mention in no small part resentment over the decline of their own personal status in the world. It wasn't long before This theme of heartlessness as the only way to combat lawlessness permeated the entire movement, and by 2015, the self-righteous bitterness that ruled the right took us into a campaign season prepared for only one outcome, though many of us who should have known couldn’t see it coming. Broadly speaking, we have taken to confronting immorality by becoming immoral Howe admits. But because our immorality is intended to stop an objectively worse immorality, we reason that it is not immoral.In other words, almost anything these days that you would expect Christians to condemn or oppose is not condemned or opposed because, as they see it, there is a greater moral consideration that takes precedence. In 2016, Howe had his eyes opened to the problems with that moral equation.As he tells us, Coming around to the idea that many Christians weren’t self-aware sinners who were striving to be Christ-like was something that I obviously took a long time to acknowledge. Recognizing that evangelicals had gone a step further, into the realm of self-delusion and moral superiority, took even longer. The moment for him was seeing Jerry Falwell Jr. pose with Trump in front of a Playboy Magazine cover Trump was on. The photo "triggered a very vivid memory. That of me as a small child living in Dallas, Texas, in 1984 and being taken to a protest by my evangelical parents. A protest of roughly five thousand anti-pornography demonstrators who objected to the sale of Playboy in 7-Eleven convenience stores. A protest led by Falwell Jr.'s more famous father, Jerry Falwell Sr." In that instant he realized that, "The Moral Majority did not bring Christ to Washington over these past thirty years. Rather than Christians dramatically influence politics . . . Today, we see politics fully influencing a thousand Christian leaders. . . . If the movement had now embraced a leader who was a living repudiation of the moral expectations they’d founded the movement to pursue, what would that say about the movement? That it is, was, and had always been about power. Howe quickly learned that to leaders like Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress Trump's promise to represent Christians in the culture war meant more to them than the teachings of Christ. After years of espousing the myth that America was a nation founded on Christian principles, Christian leaders were quick to point out that "the Sermon on the Mount was not given as a governing principle for this nation.” It was chilling to Howe to read the words of prominent evangelical leaders, "flippantly abandoning the teachings of the Bible in favor of a political figure and it didn't take him long to realize it is an increasingly common occurrence. He watched in dismay as separation of church and state came to mean that "there are areas of life where the Bible’s moral standard simply “doesn’t apply.” There is this underlying belief that the biblical simply isn’t applicable in day-to-day concerns. As though it is nothing more than a self-help book that is to be consulted when that makes sense and ignored when it’s advantageous to do so. . . . What this line of argument does is claim that politics is a morally neutral sphere, like a supermarket, where choices between candidates have no more moral dimension than a decision between apples and oranges. With Trump he saw, " Theology and practicality were placed into different boxes and, alarmingly, practicality outweighed any biblical considerations. Trump evangelicals are tasked with putting God in one compartment and their voting and political conscience in another. " The tool box they use to perform these mental gymnastics is four fold: Vessel Theology: God used the harlots and He used Cyrus to achieve His good ends, and like them He can use Trump to fulfill the evangelical policy agenda, which is itself a godly agenda and thus a good end. Ergo, do not question the vessel, or you are questioning the limits of God’s influence. God can use anyone! (Except Hillary Clinton.) The King Cyrus Argument: Do not worry about whether or not He can use Trump this way. He will use Trump this way. It has, after all, been prophesied. Compartmentalization: But even if you don’t believe those prophecies, and you still find yourself concerned that Trump seems at times to be untrustworthy or of low personal character, have no fear! All those principles Jesus spoke of at the Sermon on the Mount are actually things we shouldn’t want in a leader; in fact, we should want the opposite in a leader! Literally, being like Jesus would be super-bad in this scenario. Lesser of Two Evils: Still not convinced? No problem. There’s always the “lesser evil” argument to consider. And given that anyone who is running against the Republican candidate is literally Satan, the moral calculus is always easy. If all this still fails, go to the old standby and use "whataboutism”: the tactic of drawing attention away from one wrongdoing by pointing to another. All of this has resulted in the creation of a new faith Howe tells us. The New Good News stated that our nation’s divine purpose was so vital that there was essentially no violation of God’s moral laws that superseded it. God has divine purpose. America’s role in fulfilling that purpose is uniquely important. The Republican Party is the only party in our divine nation that is aligned with that purpose. The Republican Party can only carry out that purpose if it wins elections. The result of all this maneuvering is that evangelicals no longer saw themselves as witnesses. They saw themselves as righteous. And armed with their self-righteousness and certainty, they sought to grow the kingdom, not through emulating Christ but through moral welfare.(I would call it warfare). Howe argues that the government elected to mandate Christian values as law, would not serve to foster a Christian culture. It would incite rebellion and cultural decline. In other words, what the Christian Right has tried to foster through their partnership with the Republican party won't work. It was never our Christ ordained mission to save the culture but to save the people. Where this book will fail for many people is that it doesn't do a full expose of just how corrupt the Religious Right/Moral Majority is. As one man's account of what he saw/sees, it works but it doesn't contain the history of racism, the lies told by Falwell Sr. to inflate his influence, and doesn't show how abortion has been the cover for the passing of some truly heinous policies. This is more memoir than historical treatise. I would add that the author's own adherence to the fiscal principles of conservatism make it hard for him to address the financial motivators driving the Christian right. Additionally, I don't know that the author truly agrees with what he preaches here. As a Lincoln Project member he continues to embrace outrage culture. As a Vanity Fair article put it, "One reason for the (Lincoln Project's) rapid rise is their weaponization of Trump’s own language against him—a willingness to get down in the kind of dirt that many Democratic ads won’t touch. " Additionally, Howe had a "personal mission to have him (Trump) call me a loser someday. " This is a far cry from the "gentle answer turns away wrath" that the bible espouses. For me this was a confirmation bias read. It espoused much of what I think and feel. I believe the author's hope is that it would reach some who perhaps feel ambivalent about Trump and this book would serve as the kind of trigger the Playboy picture did for him. I'm not sure, given that just months after publication he is back to playing in the muddy waters of political attack ads, that his call to moral righteousness will resonate with many. As he himself said, we are called to be witnesses. To be exemplifiers of the higher road. The question remains if such a path exists in 21st Century American politics.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cooper Renner

    3.5 stars. While I sharply disagree with some of his contentions and assumptions about what American “culture” in general and the “left” in particular have done “to” evangelicals, his central thesis is, I believe, correct and well-argued: that too many evangelicals have surrendered their eternal values for temporal gain.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    I think I agree with everything Howe has to say in this book, but I don’t think it offers the full picture. Howe gives us a good look at the about-face evangelical leadership made during the months ahead of the 2016 election and a painful and embarrassing catalog of the excuses and rationalizations they’ve offered both for Trump himself and their support for him in the years since. He argues, I think rightly, that conservative evangelical leaders joined a race to the bottom with their progressiv I think I agree with everything Howe has to say in this book, but I don’t think it offers the full picture. Howe gives us a good look at the about-face evangelical leadership made during the months ahead of the 2016 election and a painful and embarrassing catalog of the excuses and rationalizations they’ve offered both for Trump himself and their support for him in the years since. He argues, I think rightly, that conservative evangelical leaders joined a race to the bottom with their progressive critics, sacrificing consistency and the seriousness with which outsiders could take their public platform for the sake of short-term gains, political influence, and the chance to “own” their opponents. He also makes a good case that this set of circumstances is not new but has been built into the organized political wing of evangelical culture from its beginning in the Carter administration. The explanatory factors for evangelical support for Trump, then, are shortsightedness, a sense of aggrieved victimhood, and a lack of trust in God to solve America’s problems. These factors led to a dereliction of their own principles and an unbecoming quest for political power and all the hypocrisy that goes with it. What I think is missing is some view of the people in the pews (or stackable seats, pews being as rare in evangelical churches now as skinny jeans on the worship leader are common) and their motivations. Howe uses a handful of surveys to note a mismatch between the professed political and cultural priorities of evangelical pastors and their congregants, and he includes some tweets and comments from the internet as evidence of where evangelical voters are, but the most consistently offered evidence is the behavior of a few major evangelical leaders, which can only offer a partial picture. By coincidence, as I read this I was also reading the chapter on the Roaring Twenties in Wilfred McClay’s Land of Hope. McClay notes in passing that much of our perspective on the 1920s and the supposed moral transformations that took place during that decade is still shaped by one book that came out on the early 1930s and focused primarily on high-profile urban elites, high culture literary types, and celebrities—the kind of people it is easy to gather information on in newspapers. This skewed that writer’s perspective. I think the same syndrome is at work here. Howe is a journalist and political commentator and he approaches the subject from an angle natural to that line of work. The work of other journalists, opinion polls, and Twitter loom large in the story he tells. But Twitter is not real life, and without digging much, much deeper I don’t think this approach can really tell much of the story at the ground level. (And, as a historian, I don’t think we can really know all that much of the story as it’s still unfolding. There’s a lot going on right now that only people living two hundred years from now will fully grasp the implications of.) That’s not a damning problem, but it is a problem. Others are that the book is written in a sometimes discursive blog/op-ed style that could have stood serious trimming. It’s also very repetitive, especially in the final two chapters. It’s brisk and very readable but overstayed its welcome by about fifty pages. But like I said, I think I agree with everything in the book. I just wish Howe had gone deeper, and really probed for the root causes of ordinary evangelicals’ sacrifice of principle for expediency. The theme I kept wishing he would explore, an issue expressed by one biblical word, only turns up once, in an aside near the very end of the book—idolatry. I hope Howe will return to it in greater depth in the future A short but worthwhile read with those things in mind.

  17. 5 out of 5

    11811 (Eleven)

    An enlightening explanation of 2016 followed by a fifty page sermon.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    This book was difficult to read because I could relate to so much of it, and reading it stressed me out. I had to put the book down for a minute when school started, and I just didn't have the energy or motivation to finish it. I (barely) skimmed through the sermon-like final chapter. Perhaps I shouldn't even count this as one for my reading challenge, but I'm going to anyway. Howe manages to convey my thoughts on the debacle that was 2016 (and the mess that followed) almost exactly. As a conser This book was difficult to read because I could relate to so much of it, and reading it stressed me out. I had to put the book down for a minute when school started, and I just didn't have the energy or motivation to finish it. I (barely) skimmed through the sermon-like final chapter. Perhaps I shouldn't even count this as one for my reading challenge, but I'm going to anyway. Howe manages to convey my thoughts on the debacle that was 2016 (and the mess that followed) almost exactly. As a conservative Christian, he offers an honest and unflinching critique of the state of the church and the evangelical movement. Those who are neither conservative nor religious probably won't enjoy this book as it's written from the perspective of both of those groups. I can't bring myself to give this over 3 stars, because I didn't enjoy reading it at all, and the subject matter is so headache-inducing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Pratley

    This is an important book but for those who not used to reading one sprinkled liberally with biblical quotes it could be an off putting one. Ben Howe is an evangelical & this book is about why the vast majority of them in the USA have got into bed, politically, with Donald Trump. They know he is a bad person but for them it is a case of needs must. The author states clearly that they have prostituted themselves for the worst reasons.It is a indictment of much of today's evangelical America. I fo This is an important book but for those who not used to reading one sprinkled liberally with biblical quotes it could be an off putting one. Ben Howe is an evangelical & this book is about why the vast majority of them in the USA have got into bed, politically, with Donald Trump. They know he is a bad person but for them it is a case of needs must. The author states clearly that they have prostituted themselves for the worst reasons.It is a indictment of much of today's evangelical America. I found it fascinating. I can hope that this book is widely read & thought about so that our evangelical friends can get back onto the right track.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jason Payne

    Incisive analysis--by an evangelical Christian--of the current state of the movement, in all its hypocritical and immoral/amoral glory. Well worth the read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    The pages turned -- at times my head nodding, at others my heart sighing. I kept wondering why I had waited the extra months to order and pick up the book, though maybe that was providential. As we head into the heart of a dark and bitter presidential election season, Howe's message remains as relevant and potent as when the book first published in 2019. In some ways, I found it even more compelling. The author's easy task was demonstrating that many white U.S. evangelical leaders and prominent v The pages turned -- at times my head nodding, at others my heart sighing. I kept wondering why I had waited the extra months to order and pick up the book, though maybe that was providential. As we head into the heart of a dark and bitter presidential election season, Howe's message remains as relevant and potent as when the book first published in 2019. In some ways, I found it even more compelling. The author's easy task was demonstrating that many white U.S. evangelical leaders and prominent voices quickly discarded and upended their principles in the short-sighted, tenuous service of political power and approbation. He responds effectively to the main arguments of biblical veneer that rationalize ardent and unapologetic support for our current president. The background story is well-outlined in a way that's eminently readable, especially as a reminder to those already familiar with its basic contours. The author's challenge was twofold: 1) delivering the message in a humble, Christlike spirit without compromising the core truth; and 2) leaving the reader with an antidote or constructive path forward. Howe accomplishes the first of these quite well, aided greatly by his own background in the church and youthful rebellious struggles. One of the biggest impressions I left with was the sincere love and strong godly character of his parents, whom he holds up as models of the kind of Christian living that should mark more of us. Nor does he hold himself spotless above the fray, transparently highlighting his own strident failings on Twitter and other online venues. A subtext of the book, his own growth and maturing in how he views the political space and conducts himself within it, shows there is hope for those who too have struggled in this area. To the second point, highlighting the positive path forward, I did enjoy the final chapter on "True Victory." There are some sound lessons in there, particularly for those of us who have swum in the sometimes refreshing, sometimes turbulent waters of cultural Christianity. He makes a compelling case that the broad and deep support for Trump -- those who are swimming downstream -- reflects in part a hesitancy to truly trust God and not confine our confidence to a handful of pre-selected options that force embracing the "lesser of two evils." That being said, I did not leave the book feeling fully satisfied that the key spiritual facets of this phenomenon had all been explored. Perhaps the author is still working through this, too, a limitation of trying to confront the challenge in real time. That small hesitation should not detract from the value of picking up and engaging with this book. It could especially be valuable for other evangelicals who struggle with the dualistic political turmoil of our times. But others would gain insights as well, including those outside the faith whom Trump-devoted Christians should be more conscious of in their short-sighted tribal zealotry. It's fair to question how much of my appreciation for this book might come from shared affinities with the author: first name, age, religious upbringing, experience as a conservative blogger, among other things. But I suspect that any conservative evangelical Christian believer who reads this book with an open, critical mind and an honest conscience will be sincerely challenged in how they approach politics and trust God with the public affairs that surround us. Perhaps they may even join us in starting to swim upstream.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    Howe does a nice job of diagnosing some of the problems within white evangelicalism that led to the overwhelming support of Donald Trump in the 2016 election that continued with his presidency. Although the focus is on Trump supporters, he holds up a mirror that should give all Christians pause about whether their political support is more about self-interest or winning at any cost to get the "good guys" (whichever side you're on) into the positions of power, rather than a reflection of one's re Howe does a nice job of diagnosing some of the problems within white evangelicalism that led to the overwhelming support of Donald Trump in the 2016 election that continued with his presidency. Although the focus is on Trump supporters, he holds up a mirror that should give all Christians pause about whether their political support is more about self-interest or winning at any cost to get the "good guys" (whichever side you're on) into the positions of power, rather than a reflection of one's religious beliefs or commitment to the common good. Where this book falls short is in the attempt to resolve these complex problems. Only the last chapter is at all devoted to wrestling with how one should engage politically as a Christian. Even then, it only really has a weak discussion of justifying doing the lesser of two evils and the calculus we might use in doing so. It would have been helpful to point to some good resources of books or examples of what it means to engage in the present political landscape in America, showing people across the partisan spectrum and even those who ignore the electoral politics, choosing to solely devote themselves to personal local investment into the people and places they live. This book might be most helpful to induce discomfort with the way one views electoral politics and government roles, especially if one is a Trump supporter, but if one is looking for a broader discussion of how to engage politically as a Christian, one should look elsewhere.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Neal Leslie

    As a liberal atheist it was interesting to get an evangelicals perspective on Trump. However, I found the book exceedingly dry as Howe delves into Christian arguments or rationalizations for Trump and his counter arguments based on his interpretation of scripture. The book would have been a little more readable had more anecdotes or interviews with evangelicals been included. I also felt that the author implicitly blames Democrats for the rise of Trump as evangelicals were so angry with 'PC cult As a liberal atheist it was interesting to get an evangelicals perspective on Trump. However, I found the book exceedingly dry as Howe delves into Christian arguments or rationalizations for Trump and his counter arguments based on his interpretation of scripture. The book would have been a little more readable had more anecdotes or interviews with evangelicals been included. I also felt that the author implicitly blames Democrats for the rise of Trump as evangelicals were so angry with 'PC culture' and being ridiculed by liberals through the Bush and Obama years. Howe also doesn't really delve into the more substantive reasons why Trump was such a horrible choice such as his deceptive business practices, Trump university scam et al. Instead he focuses more on Trump's divisive rhetoric as well as his infidelity. I wish he had delved a little bit into the more sinister elements of the administration like child separation at the border. He does touch on immigration a little bit and seems to recognize the humanity of those seeking a better life or fleeing violence in Central America. Still giving the book 3 stars since it provides a decent understanding why some evangelicals voted the way they did.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Inbetween

    I liked the book for the most part. I used to be an Evangelical Christian myself, even though I was always at odds with their ideas and principles so in the end we parted ways. But I'm still quite familiar with their mind-set, with their covert dream of a theocracy and imposing their truth and values on everybody else and with their preposterous idea that they have access to what God really thinks and wants in a specific situation (e.g. the vessel theology is a good example of it). As if God is I liked the book for the most part. I used to be an Evangelical Christian myself, even though I was always at odds with their ideas and principles so in the end we parted ways. But I'm still quite familiar with their mind-set, with their covert dream of a theocracy and imposing their truth and values on everybody else and with their preposterous idea that they have access to what God really thinks and wants in a specific situation (e.g. the vessel theology is a good example of it). As if God is your buddy and lets you know at breakfast, while passing the salt to you, whom He might prefer in the presidential race or in a football game. Their lack of humility in this respect knows no boundaries. I was raised in an Evangelical household and Church so I know their strengths and I know their faults. I know firtshand their self-entitlement, their herd mentality, their far-stretched gullibility, their anti-intellectualism, their prejudices against women, against other religious denominations than their own, against sexual minorities etc. I learned what Conservatism really means from fighting their beliefs and their intellectual dishonesty. They will never admit when their views, by and large based on the Bible, are sexist, racist and intolerant. When not downright absurd, like killing someone by mob stoning for picking up sticks on the Sabbath, but that’s another story and we shouldn’t digress. For instance, according to them there's nothing wrong with how women are viewed and portrayed in the Bible and in their everyday life, so male chauvinism or misogyny, if applied to them, would be a mischaracterization. In my church women were not allowed to pray or be in charge of teaching children and providing catechesis to them, but they will never admit that that is a form of patriarchy and male supremacy! The same when it comes to discussions about systemic racism, slavery, homophobia, secularism etc. So, given all these, I had a hard time reading in Ben Howe's book how the left is responsible for Trump's rise to power, because the religious right got tired of being mischaracterized as intolerant, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, chauvinist, narrow-minded, you name it. I don’t deny that the left is guilty of misrepresenting their opponents at times. I don't deny they sometimes label people as racist or misogynist even when it's not the case. There’s a lot of that from both sides, and I do have the impression that the left indulges in it more than the right. But I also know for a fact, from my own experience, that in many cases I faced obvious misogynist, racist, homophobic remarks, while they were outraged at the thought of being described this way. So, I'm not convinced that the outrage the right felt is legitimate and well-founded to that extent. Of course it's real, because it’s how they feel but I'm not sold on the idea it is true as well. Even Howe mentions this a couple of times, when he cautiously uses the term perceived outrage but then he goes full on to condemn leftist mischaracterization of the religious right. He never explores how much of that outrage is out of place, having no sound basis in fact and so being hypocritical. Does it occur to Howe that maybe in thousands of instances those religious right people were expressing downright racist, homophobic and misogynist thoughts even though they will never see it that way so their outrage will have no real foundation? Or that there's something wrong and evil with their line of thinking, in other words they can be indeed misogynist, homophobic, racist, intolerant etc and the reason why they hated political correctness was because they could no longer express those nasty thoughts with the same ease? If you hate political correctness because you can no longer say with impunity “nigger” or “bitch” or “faggot” then your outrage and your furious rants on PC are out of place. It’s just a persecution complex you have developed. If there’s any truth that a huge chunk of the outrage felt by the religious right is exaggerated and hypocritical then this is a game changer. Because the whole argument Howe employed in his book is based around the idea that the right was reactive, that their radicalization and succumbing to darkness was a REACTION TO how the left (mis)treated them. So, if that’s not quite accurate, if the religious right does play footsie with misogyny, racism, intolerance, homophobia etc., then all that construction falls apart. Let alone that some of the horrible things we do cannot be justified in any way whatsoever and cannot be conceived as a reaction to something we may have encountered. Trivial failures can, extreme ones cannot. Exempli gratia - there's no way to say that raping someone can be a REACTION to something. There's no way to say that raping your conscience was triggered by something done to you and it’s someone else’s fault. As a Christian in the Nazi Germany, once the Final Solution became reality (deportations, ghettoes, concentration camps, shooting sites etc) you could no longer say that supporting Hitler was a reaction to something. Raping your conscience by voting for Trump cannot be on other than yourself. You should own your dereliction and descent to hell. By admitting that it’s a horrific shortcoming but at the same time seeing it as a reaction to something is just a lame excuse. There must be something wrong with you in the first place. There must be some darkness in you that you never acknowledged and so you denied it all along. 81 percent is quite telling, for goodness sake! Not 30, not 50. If 81 % doesn't tell you anything about who you really are then I don't know what it does. Your trading off morality against the intoxicating power is not a reaction to something done to you but an expression of what you were all along. It's high time you acknowledged that. https://nolongerinbetween.wordpress.c...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    I'm not a republican (I've been registered as independent my entire life) and, like Howe, I didn't vote for Trump in 2016. Also like Howe, I'm an evangelical. I was actively "Never Trump" throughout 2015-2016, arguing with friends, family members, and strangers on social media who planned to vote for Trump. I picked up this book thinking that I would agree with it and that it would, perhaps, provide extra reasons to note vote for Trump in 2020. To my surprise, I found myself disagreeing with som I'm not a republican (I've been registered as independent my entire life) and, like Howe, I didn't vote for Trump in 2016. Also like Howe, I'm an evangelical. I was actively "Never Trump" throughout 2015-2016, arguing with friends, family members, and strangers on social media who planned to vote for Trump. I picked up this book thinking that I would agree with it and that it would, perhaps, provide extra reasons to note vote for Trump in 2020. To my surprise, I found myself disagreeing with something on almost every single page. Of course, I also found myself agreeing with something on almost every page, but these were largely truisms like trusting God isn't easy, the path of the righteous isn't always obvious, don't dictate to God what he must do and how etc. This is all well and good, but doesn't directly speak to the issue of voting for Trump (unless one is making a lot of assumptions). The uncharitable and poorly reasoned aspects, unfortunately, were directly aimed at evangelicals who voted for Trump and the evangelical movement as a whole. Some of the uncharitableness has to do with mischaracterizations. Here's an example: Referring to an interview Robert Jeffress gave about Mitt Romney in 2012, and why his position changed, Howe characterizes it this way: "He proposed, albeit with little enthusiasm, that Christians must, when it comes to something as monumental as presidential elections, accept what he’d previously denounced as unacceptable and let the chips fall where they may. After all, there might be tax cuts, and that, one would assume, trumps theology." Notice the last sentence? Here is what Jeffress said in the interview Howe is referring to: “It’s not because of his tax policy or because of his healthcare policy. It’s about issues of life and religious liberty.” (I brought this issue up to Howe on social media and Howe's response was "I feel the evidence has been that he compartmentalizes faith based on perceived urgency. I felt like he not only showed that with his calculus on Romney but from listening to hours of his interviews and appearances re: Trump." Okay, maybe Jeffress does compartmentalize faith and if we listen to hours of his interviews and appearances this will be evident. But that still doesn't excuse accusing Jeffress of being motivated by tax cuts in an interview in which Jeffress explicitly denies being motivated by taxes.) To keep this review as brief as possible, I'll just quote a sampling of what I think are Howe's uncharitable characterizations: - Evangelicals are "into the realm of self-delusion and moral superiority" (12). - "The evangelical Trump voters set aside their religiosity and their moral high ground in favor of winning elections, exacting vengeance, proving a point, defying a stereotype, and protecting the culture as they saw it." (243-244) - Evangelicals were motivated by "the heated desire for vengeance." (130) - Evangelicalism "is a movement that despises little else more than a mirror." (244) - The religious right is "bitter." (155) - Evangelicals who made the case on the basis that Hillary Clinton's policy was more harmful and dangerous than Trumps were appealing to "the glaring twin fires of fear of subjugation and lust for power." (63) I wouldn't have a problem with almost any of these claims if Howe had stated that he wasn't speaking of evangelicals generally, all evangelicals who voted for Trump, or the evangelical movement as a whole. But, on the contrary, Howe indicates that he is targeting evangelicals as a group: On page 33 Howe says “the Trump evangelicals were here to stay and, effectively, had become the voice of the movement as a whole” and then on page 35: “Partisanship is the lifeblood of politics. And politics has swallowed at least the evangelical movement as a whole.” Howe uses this lens he’s created of the evangelical movement as a whole to reinterpret the entire past of evangelicalism too (even those who had nothing to do with Trump). Thus, Jerry Falwell Sr. (d. 2007) is now seen to be a moralistic, crusading, hypocrite who sought power for its own sake (pp. 36–38). For example, Falwell Sr.’s apology for some “callous” remarks regarding Sept. 11, 2001 are reframed in Howe’s post-Trump outlook along “the likes of Swaggart and Bakker and how I had viewed [those who accepted their apologies] as suckers” (p. 37). That evangelical leaders supported Trump in 2016 seems to be proof for Howe that evangelicalism “is, was, and always has been about power” (p. 38)! I could go on and on about the uncharitableness throughout the book. It extends not just to psychoanalyzing evangelicals and the movement as a whole, but to unchartiable spins on arguments or concerns - e.g., evangelicals apparently believe "God can use anyone! (Except Hillary Clinton)" (68). What about the poor reasoning? Here I will give just one example. In different portions of the book Howe addresses the lesser evil argument. But it's hard to tell what his objection to the argument ultimately boils down to, outside of mind-reading the motivations of evangelicals. Howe says: "in order to make that case that voting for Trump is, for a Christian, the fulfillment of a 'lesser evil' conundrum, and represents a choice of this higher law, there are several things that have to be established" (203). These are: (1) "is an immorality being committed by voting for or supporting Donald Trump?" (ibid) (2) "Is supporting a person of demonstrated low character who is antithetical to Christian expectations of leadership sinful?" (ibid) (3) "most important: Is the focus on the Higher Lawgiver?" (ibid) Earlier, Howe mentions the following, which should probably also be included as a prerequisite to whether or not the lesser evil argument can be legitimately used: (4) "at least some level of urgency should exist, and that urgency cannot simply be fear." (200) Let's start with (1). It would seem that there is no inherent immorality in voting for Trump because Howe says ""If you believed either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump was someone who reflected your Christian values in their character as well as their promises, then voting for either one was perfectly fine" (p. 208). And "Did your conscience tell you to vote for Donald Trump? Or for Hillary Clinton? Or not to vote at all? If you follow your conscience, you have made a righteous choice" (p. 243). So some (many?) evangelicals who voted for Trump could pass the first test. Now let's consider (2). It seems to be the crux of Howe's case that the answer to (2) is yes: supporting a person of demonstrated low character who is antithetical to Christian expectations of leadership is sinful. The problem here also points to a further problem with number one. Simply pointing to Bible verses that call for moral character of leadership wouldn't be sufficient *in a lesser evil argument* because the very nature of the lesser evil argument is contrastive: when you have two competing (or conflicting) values or principles, which one wins out? In other words, (2) can't just be answered by pointing to a moral imperative to do 'x'. Example: is stealing food sinful? Considered in the abstract, yes. But Howe acknowledges in the book that in some circumstances, a lesser evil argument makes it the case that stealing is not sinful: "the superior moral good of staying alive supersedes the lesser immoral act of stealing" (201). The question then isn't simply whether supporting a person of demonstrated low character etc... is sinful, but whether there is a superior moral good that supersedes the lesser immoral act. Howe never demonstrates that there is not, which is what he needs to do (in part) if he's going to dismiss the lesser evil argument of "Trump evangelicals". Now consider (3). Is it possible to vote for Trump while having a "focus on the Higher Lawgiver"? Howe obviously thinks the answer is no, but, he gives no reason outside of psychologizing: "Some may surely believe they are approaching this with the intent of fulfilling God’s purposes. But they are clearly doing it in a way that they must on some level be aware God would caution against" (209) and "evangelicals placed a premium on their self-interests that showed a disregard for God," (210). How does Howe know this? I'm not sure, but quoting a handful of people like Falwell Jr. or Jeffress surely isn't a firm foundation for dismissing the argument per se for evangelicals generally. Finally, let's consider (4). Was the 2016 election urgent? Like Howe, I didn't believe it was, but it seems to me that reasonable people could disagree on that urgency. Again, my primary issue is that Howe just doesn't do the work to demonstrate the non-urgency of the 2016 election. Howe says lots of true things about God being in control and accomplishing his purposes. But this is true under every conceivable circumstances, right? Does that mean that there is no conceivable circumstance that is urgent? That seems odd. The Bible (e.g., Esther) has a sense of urgency in parts, despite the fact that God is in control and will accomplish his purposes. Again, I could provide many more examples of what I thought was poor reasoning (e.g., his analysis of the president, not a preacher slogan). Again, it’s not that I disagree with Howe’s conclusions! I encountered the lesser evil argument in 2016 and didn’t find it persuasive. I encountered the “we’re electing a president, not a pastor” slogan and I argued against it. I didn’t vote for Trump and, like Howe, I appealed to Trump’s horrible character as one of my primary reasons. But painting the evangelical movement as a whole as being bitter, driven by fear and self-interest? That’s unsubstantiated and uncharitable. The lesser evil argument may have been a bad one in 2016, but was that because it violated a moral principle to not support leaders of low character or because it was impossible to vote for Trump while also being focused on the Higher Lawgiver? No….

  26. 5 out of 5

    Charles Wagner

    Do not go to Howe’s twitter feed Conservative political values Think about it. Christianity, as shattered into cults as it is, did not become the most popular religion (2 billion adherents?) by saying pretty please. The success of the two largest world religions is built upon a foundation, of blood, theft, and subjection. This is a book about people who think they have the high ground but find themselves on the low road, says the author. ( P. xix) However, winners win and losers lose. But, th Do not go to Howe’s twitter feed Conservative political values Think about it. Christianity, as shattered into cults as it is, did not become the most popular religion (2 billion adherents?) by saying pretty please. The success of the two largest world religions is built upon a foundation, of blood, theft, and subjection. This is a book about people who think they have the high ground but find themselves on the low road, says the author. ( P. xix) However, winners win and losers lose. But, they are no worse than their predecessors. Howe did not realize how evangelicals could rally behind Trump. Jerry Falwell, Jr. had endorsed Trump. Of course, Jr.’s father had cursed the day he had to integrate his Christian college. Son of super Christians, Howe was a dopey teenager dropping from high school and dealing drugs. Many of his dopey friends did so likewise. Of course, since their parents were important white Christians , and were not black, the charges were dropped. Howe grew up to be a media teabagger and then some. Evangelicals had gone further into the realm of self-delusion and moral superiority. Major, and minor evangelicals proclaimed that a vote for Trump was a vote for Christian values. (p. 158-159) I had the same experience at the county fair when I was wearing a Democrat t-shirt when a local asked me if I wasn’t ashamed of being a Christian and wearing the shirt. I replied that, after considering all the evil things Christians had done, I was ashamed to be a Christian. Trump was considered amoral but would probably guard “religious freedom.” Freedom is not exactly the term which should be used- perhaps establish a regulated religious kingdom run by white right wing protestants. The believed, at least in public, we would have been thrust into a thousand years of darkness had Hilary won. No matter Trumps morality or lack of it, Clinton represented anti-Christian ways. Falwell and Pat Robertson believed 911 was a punishment by God. Some nut believed a hurricane was punishment because a city tolerated homosexuals. It is a theologically sound premise that God can use anyone to accomplish His will. Carrot top was merely a vessel of God. Evangelicals comprise 26 percent of all voters, but they come out and vote instead of staying home smoking, drinking beer and watching television as do the rest of the potential voters. So, the minority who actually votes can really kick butt. Jim Bakker and Franklin Graham viewed Trump’s election as part of God’s plan. Jerry Falwell, Jr. politically pimped for him before the election. It is the author’s contention that, in actuality, Pentecostals’ main concern in order were terrorism, economy, and immigration, which may be true. Abortion placed last. However number one around here is abortion, and whining about praying in school. Basing conclusions upon polls is, at best, inaccurate. The author becomes more and more annoying as the reader reads further into the book. He is a correct Christian. They are not. Scary people: Jerry Falwell, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Bob Jones, Peter Popoff, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Mike Huckabee, Roy Moore, Ann Coulter, Mark Hannah, Steve Bannon, Ben Howe, Donald Trump, and Donald Trump.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Persis

    This book is written primarily to a Christian audience to encourage them to trust God rather than the promises of men. This book isn't about voting for any particular candidate or party, but asks the question -Will we compromise our Christian integrity in the voting booth? Howe makes a case that when we place our hope in men, we lose our witness to the world and compromise our faith. He has quotes from liberal pundits defending Clinton re: his assault of Monica Lewinsky and contrasts them to cons This book is written primarily to a Christian audience to encourage them to trust God rather than the promises of men. This book isn't about voting for any particular candidate or party, but asks the question -Will we compromise our Christian integrity in the voting booth? Howe makes a case that when we place our hope in men, we lose our witness to the world and compromise our faith. He has quotes from liberal pundits defending Clinton re: his assault of Monica Lewinsky and contrasts them to conservatives' defense (including some pastors!) over Trump's radio interview where he boasts about the women he has assaulted. They were almost identical in their excuses, and those excuses were for all the world to see. He also works through ethical issues such as voting for the lesser of two evils. But is that even consistent with the scriptures? There are no easy answers, and the author doesn't give an easy out but encourages the reader to wrestle through them on his own before God and conscience. This is a timely book with November coming up. Howe makes it clear that Christ reigns and God's plans are never thwarted. For those who profess to follow him, do we believe it?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ericka

    So much info and insight packed in here from someone who knows the demo of which he writes. Author is a friend and I am deeply familiar with subject matter. Spot on in most ways. Worth a read if you care to understand how some of us Christian conservatives felt completely off guard when so many embraced Trump in the end.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Kiviniemi

    Very interesting read, although a lot of things were just infuriating to be reminded of. As a Christian who did not vote for Trump, it was helpful to see the shifts that happened to align so much of evangelical Christianity with the conservative agenda.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Pete Zilla

    Brutal assessment of Evangelicals and their relationship with Trump. I think the author very articulately identifies the incongruity in their support and the inconsistency of their beliefs. I think it's a must read for understanding American politics today. Brutal assessment of Evangelicals and their relationship with Trump. I think the author very articulately identifies the incongruity in their support and the inconsistency of their beliefs. I think it's a must read for understanding American politics today.

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