Book Review: The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump
Before I review the book at hand, I want to start by saying that I would not categorize myself as either a Trump supporter or a Trump hater. I am a Christian who wants the best for our country and world and often admits that I do not know for sure what will be best in the long run. I also have lots of personal thoughts that I will likely leave out of this review so that it does not turn into a book itself.
In The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelical Christians on Justice, Truth, and Moral Integrity, 30 authors write 25 chapters in an effort to convince Christians to withhold support for Trump as the President of the United States. They break their effort into 3 parts: I. On Trump (chapters 1-8), II. On Evangelical Support of Trump (chapters 9-17), and III. On Theological, Historical, and Constitutional Issues Regarding Trump (chapters 18-25).
As for reviewing the book, I want to start with what I believe the authors generally get correct. The book has 30 authors who clearly do not always see eye to eye themselves, but I believe I can speak in some general terms that they all appear to agree on.
1. They are right about Trump’s character.
Though I disagree with the approach many of the authors took in addressing his character, I do believe they are correct in their overall assessment. While Trump does profess to be a Christian, external evidence serves him poorly. It is difficult to find any of the fruits of the Spirit evident in his life. I cannot come to any conclusion about Donald Trump that can include an endorsement of his public character.
2. They are right about the absence of Evangelical criticism and calls for accountability.
Alongside this, they are right about the hypocrisy Christians have displayed in their treatment of Trump compared to their treatment of recent Democratic presidents. There is no possible way to view the President personally and as a world leader that could get around the necessity of calling out his mistakes, immorality, and poor political decisions. One can believe that Donald Trump should be the President rather than Hillary Clinton and still speak against his sins and mistakes while calling for accountability.
3. They are right about the poor witness this political season has been for Christianity.
We have not looked great the last few years. Contrary to many of the authors, I do not believe it is the fact that Evangelicals largely voted for Trump that is the main problem. I believe the problem has been that Evangelicals have been so quick to overlook problems and defend the President no matter what that has left the bad taste in people’s mouths. Also, Christians’ posture on social media has not helped much.
Now I want to turn to things I believe the authors generally got incorrect. Again, this is not going to be true of every author but rather looks at the book as a whole.
1. Many of the authors do not understand their audience.
Mark Galli’s editorial in Christianity Today is cited by multiple authors. Galli also wrote a chapter in the book Still Evangelical?, in which he stated,
“I know hardly anyone, let alone any Evangelical Christian, who voted for Trump.”
This mentality and experience seem to be common among the authors of Spiritual Danger. They seem to have little to no genuine understanding of those they are trying to write to and convince. I find it unlikely that many of the people they are hoping to influence would even continue reading the book after a few chapters, given the attacking posture of the first part of the book toward the President. Like I said earlier, I do not think their overall assessment is wrong, but the attitude and posture of it reeks. Take the words of Bandy X. Lee in the prologue of the book,
“Yet it would be enough if I planted a seed—if, in their moment of disappointment, they would remember there was another place where Christians could be, and that, if they chose to abandon their president, we would welcome them as brothers and sisters. It is for these people that I initially agreed to this project, knowing that their simplicity has made them vulnerable to exploitation and oppression, now by a Christian establishment that has chosen to ally with worldly power.”
Great start to the book, right? Brothers and sisters in Christ will be welcomed IF they chose to abandon their president? Those who do not are simple? Name calling and blackmailing is what those words communicate to its intended audience. It reminds me again of Mark Galli’s words in Still Evangelical?, where he said,
“And this class of evangelicals has discovered that we have family members so different they seem like aliens in our midst. These other evangelicals often have not finished college, and if they have jobs (and apparently a lot of them do not), they are blue-collar jobs or entry-level work. They do not write books or give speeches; they do not attend conferences of evangelicals for social justice or evangelicals for immigration reform. They are deeply suspicious of mainstream media. And a lot of them voted for Donald Trump.”
This kind of rhetoric is amplified by Christopher Pieper and Matt Henderson in chapter 7 of Spiritual Danger, where they say,
“In the same way that a person cannot love the Yankees and the Red Sox or follow veganism and frequently devour a steak, one cannot really love Jesus and wish to follow him and also vote for a person who so clearly embodies the opposite of everything Christ taught, died for, and demands of us.”
I do not really need to say anything, because any Christian who voted for Trump can see that these writers do not understand or respect them very well, which is a big part of the problem. They do not understand their audience, and their audience does not understand them. This makes me wonder if their book will do any good at all.
2. Many of the authors give Trump too much credit.
In politics, we often forget that even the President is but one cog in a huge system of wheels. He is the biggest cog for sure, but he is still not to blame for the political, emotional, economical, medical, or spiritual state of our country. It is always tempting to throw too much blame at a political enemy, but there is plenty blame to go around for what ails the USA.
3. The authors repeatedly point the finger at a few Evangelical leaders.
Many Christians who voted for or sympathize with those who voted for Trump would like for certain religious leaders to step away from their Twitter accounts and other various platforms and stop talking about politics. Those few influential leaders do not reflect the sentiments, attitudes, or motives of many Evangelical voters, however. Also, there are many other influential Evangelical leaders who have not taken such an approach to the President. They have been vocal about their problems with Trump.
4. The authors often do not see the other side of the coin.
The arguments made against voting for Trump throughout the book can be made equally well against voting for past and present Democratic candidates. I am just not sure if many of them can see that. The blindness they claim has fallen upon Evangelical Republicans, which is real, has also fallen upon Evangelical Democrats.
5. This leads me to what might be the biggest problem with the book. 30 authors present a plethora of problems with no solutions.
One chapter presented what was a reasonable solution, which I will get to in a second. Chapter after chapter after chapter, the reader is bombarded with reasons to not vote for Trump but never given any acceptable alternatives. Like I said, the same arguments can be made against the Democratic candidates and, I believe, even more. The impression one feels when reading most of the chapters, however, is that the solution must be to vote for Trump’s opposition. This, however, is not an acceptable solution. The best chapter (24), however, does provide what I believe to be the most reasonable solution, which is to withhold support from both candidates and put our trust in God while calling both toward godlier principles.
6. I have one more issue with the book, and it is an issue I generally have with Christians willing to support the Democratic candidates of late. I am not sure if they really understand abortion.
The single-issue voting subject always comes up with these discussions. I understand that there are many issues that pertain to being wholly pro-life, but if we truly understand abortion, I think we gain perspective. Would the authors be cool with voting for Hitler if he had more good policies than the other candidate except for that pesky Jewish genocide issue? Abortion is cold-blooded murder, and it is happening to 22% of all American pregnancies. If we were killing 22% of our toddlers by ripping them apart, I doubt we would brush it off as another issue to weigh alongside deportations and affordable healthcare. The difference is that abortion is hidden. We do not see it. If everyone had to start slaughtering their own chickens and cows, we would have a lot less meat consumption in our country. Abortion is similar. We want it but do not want to see all the bloody details. That hiddenness also influences Christians who still believe it is evil. They do not see just how heinous it is. Watch some of the videos and see for yourself. Add to that the fact that issues like healthcare, immigration, and homelessness are incredibly complex, and neither side of politics has great solutions right now.
I will admit that I have lost much faith in the Republican party and their genuineness about fighting abortion, though. I believe it has turned into a political issue that many do not want to go away.
Still, I just cannot help but try to vote for those that might end up helping save the lives of innocent babies.
In the end, The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump had some bright spots but will likely fail to create any kind of movement the authors are hoping for. I find myself in a strange position.
Much like the authors, I do not want to be identified with the Evangelicalism that overlooks a president’s sins and fails to bring proper criticism and rebuke. At the same time, however, I do not want to be identified with the Evangelicalism that does the same thing on the other side of the political spectrum.
Maybe that makes me a moderate?
Most Trump voters will be turned off before the first chapter of this book. Many others will get turned off in the first section of the book. The best parts are later in the book, but I fear many will not make it that far. I think there are parts worth reading here. The chapters I would recommend are:
Chapter 24: An Anvil Which Wears Out Many Hammers
Chapter 15: Trump, the Last Temptation
Chapter 25: The Constitution and Faith
Chapter 19: Evangelical Double-Mindedness in Support of Donald Trump
Chapter 16: Immoral, Spineless, Demonic, Prideful, Blind, Stupid, and Lacking in Grace?
Chapter 3: Donald Trump’s Low View of Women
I took many notes about specific statements made throughout the book and would love to discuss those with anyone who wants to dive deeper. I wanted to keep this more to the point.
Finally, this review is not an endorsement for Trump. I’m keeping my voting preference for 2020 to myself at this time. I simply wanted to point out some strengths and flaws in a book I read that might help some other brothers and sisters in this political process. I will admit that I find it nearly impossible to know what is truly going on behind the scenes in politics, much less in people’s hearts, and increasingly difficult to cast any vote. I am happy to serve and trust in the Lord.