The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump
30 Evangelical Christians on Justice, Truth, and Moral Integrity
Edited by Ronald J. Sider
A Review by Dwight A. Moody
I’m not sure who the editor and publisher have in mind for readers of this book—it is hard to see it making any impact in our polarized population. These writers are little-known scholars and not well-known leaders in the Evangelical world. I was familiar with only eight of the thirty, and I have been reading and writing in the Evangelical world for decades.
Many people need to read this book, though—it is a powerful critique of a president who, according to Christopher Hutchinson, “lies blatantly, repeatedly, and without remorse” (207). Hutchinson is the only pastor in this writing bunch, and therein lies the problem of impact: seminary scholars have little chance to sway their Evangelical tribe when the chiefs among them are powerful and popular pastors who fill sanctuaries and screens with their adoration of Donald J. Trump.
But now, I have this question for the Reformed Hutchinson: could Trump sustain membership in any congregation shaped by a covenant? Or perhaps I should put that question to the larger-than-life referee of all things Christian, the Reverend Albert Mohler, a recent convert to Trumpism but a long time proponent of Reformed religion and just the kind of populist leader this book is meant to counter.
These authors, of course, catalogue the many failings of the Donald: lack of humility (43) and compassion (55), to name two. Then there is Chris Thurman and his chapter, with the unambiguous title: “Immoral, Spineless, Demonic, Prideful, Blind, Stupid, and Lacking in Grace?” (131-138), wherein he names those who lead this Trump Tribe.
The influential writer and editor Ron Sider pens the most powerful and important chapter, “President Trump and the COVID-19 Epidemic” (62-69). He exposes the ultimate failure of our President to lead and protect the people of the United States in this worst of all tragedies. This catastrophe is both intensely personal (people dying) and expansively social (economy collapsing). Sider offers little commentary along with his recitation of the facts, and no lament—none is needed, for this epic presidential failure will go down as the epicenter of his concentric circles of incompetence.
Not everyone in this volume sees the Christianity Trump is violating the same way. Some are focused on a scheme of personal righteousness; and here I mention Irene Fowler, who lists “the core values of Christianity” as humility, truth, personal righteousness, love of God and others but not the world, and care of the oppressed” (48-49).
Others understand the faith in more social terms; and I offer as evidence the wide-ranging moral vision of Steven E. Meyer, who names economic values (rich over the poor, even before the greatest crash since the Depression), environmental issues (deleting hundreds of regulations designed to protect this good earth), and foreign policy (favoring the strong man over the immigrant and the refugee). His 14-page essay (181-194) is the longest in the book: “Quo Vadis, America?”
Perhaps the best piece is one borrowed from The Atlantic, written by Peter Wehmer and entitled “The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity” (73-77). He locates Evangelical support for Trump in their “existential struggle against a wicked enemy—not Russia, not North Korea, not Iran, but rather American liberals and the left” (74). He writes further: “Many evangelical Christians are also filled with grievances and resentments because they feel they have been mocked, scorned, and dishonored by the elite culture over the years” (75). Against this “culture war” mentality on which they have been fed (by politicians and preachers longing for political power), Wehmer puts forth the suggestion of Makoto Fujimura of “culture care”. This has great promise and had it taken up more space in this volume would have made the a more valuable antidote to all things Trumian. It offers a different way to be Christian, to remain Evangelical, and to engage as a citizen of the country and, indeed, of the world.
What is strangely under-represented in the book is the issue of race. Black Lives Matter was just bursting on the social scene as this book went to press. White supremacy in the church and in the country is a much bigger issue than this book of essays reflects; it is a much larger component to the Trump Effect than this book allows. Thanks to Napp Nazworth for holding up this banner in the anti-trump parade (with his article “Race-Baiter, Misogynist, and Fool”, 32-41).
But no book can address everything, and who knows what new cultural touch point will emerge before this remarkable year ends! But I can say that the ending of this book is so unremarkable that it calls for a response. Sider himself concludes with an evangelical call to three things: prayer, listening, and talking (218). He did not even mention voting, nor any of the other common means of civic engagement.
All of which makes me ready to launch my own SWEAT team; by which I mean, Southern White Evangelicals Against Trump. I could launch it right here in Glynn Country, Georgia, where was lit (on February 23, in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery) the fuse that burned all the way to Minneapolis, there to ignite the global movement for social justice.
Maybe I will.
Becoming C. S. Lewis
Harry Lee Poe
Becoming Mrs. Lewis
by Patti Callahan
Hearing and Responding to God’s Call
edited by Barry Howard
Climate Church, Climate World
by Jim Antal
Gullah Geechee Heritage in the Golden Isles
by Amy Lotson Roberts & Patrick J. Holladay
Jesus Loves Obamacare
by Barbara Young
Just Mercy: Story of
Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson
The Narrative of the Life of
Frederick Douglas, an American Slave
by Frederick Douglass
Paul: A Biography
by N. T. Wright
This Precarious Moment
by James Garlow, David Barton
Raising Boys Who Respect Girls
by Dave Willis
How the Early Christian “Third Way”
Changed the World
by Gerald L. Sittser
Songs of American: Patriotism, Protest,
and the Music that Made a Nation
by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw
The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump
edited by Ronald Sider
Truth Over Fear:
Combating the Lies about Islam
by Charles Kimball
The Universal Christ
Where Do We Go From Here?
edited by Kevin Slimp
Here are four books written by Dr. Dwight A. Moody, provided here (or in the near future) in both text and audio format. All are in various stages of production for this web site. Feel free to provide comment on these books using the response form at the bottom of each page.
This was a series of sermons preached by Dr. Moody at Third Baptist Church of Owensboro, Kentucky. It is inspired by (and follows the format of) the influential book by Buddy Shurden, Four Fragile Freedoms. The text here includes an epilogue written in 2018 that offers reflections on the book, 20 years after its publication. It is also the intent of Dr. Moody to provide an audio version of this book; to date, only the Preface and Introduction are available.
On the Other Side of Oddville: Stories of Religion and Everyday Life
For a number of years, Dr. Moody wrote and published in public newspapers around the country a weekly column on Religion and American Life (something he continues to do through this Meetinghouse initiative). This book collects 105 of these 700-word essays. You may purchase a sign copy of this book–$20 inclusive of shipping; simply request it through the Response Form at the bottom of each page of the website. (This text is in production.)
Its’s About Time: A Memoir of Ministry at Georgetown College
From 1997 to 2008, Dr. Moody served as dean of the chapel and professor of religion at Georgetown College in Kentucky. This is the narrative essay that forms the core of this book. Upon leaving the school to launch the Academy of Preachers, he produced this self-published book. The book also included sermons, prayers, letters, essays, and memos; it can be ordered through Amazon. (This text is in production.)
Nine Marks of a Good Sermon
During Dr. Moody’s tenure at Georgetown College, he taught a course in “Communication for Ministry” (and popularly called “Preaching). This material was developed during that ministry and continued during his years as founder and first president of the Academy of Preachers. It is published here without the illustrative sermons included in the book.