- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Baker Books (October 3, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 080100733X
- ISBN-13: 978-0801007330
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #788,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Choosing Donald Trump: God, Anger, Hope, and Why Christian Conservatives Supported Him Hardcover – October 3, 2017
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From the Inside Flap
How did a crass, unrepentant reality TV star and cutthroat business tycoon secure the majority of the religious conservative vote?
The 2016 election of Donald J. Trump exposed a deep divide in American politics and culture, one that pollsters and pundits didn't seem to realize was there. But Trump did, and he used it to his advantage in ways that surprised nearly everyone, even those who voted for him.
Now the New York Times bestselling author of The Faith of George W. Bush and The Faith of Barack Obama turns his pen toward the Trump phenomenon. Through meticulous research and personal interviews, Stephen Mansfield uncovers who Trump's spiritual influences have been and explains why Christian conservatives were attracted to this unlikely candidate--a man whose proclamation of faith during the presidential campaign runs counter to his immoral past--and the repercussions of that choice.|Stephen Mansfield is the New York Times bestselling author of The Faith of George W. Bush, The Faith of Barack Obama, Lincoln's Battle with God, and The Character and Greatness of Winston Churchill. Founder of The Mansfield Group, a media training firm, he is also an in-demand speaker and consultant. He holds a doctorate in history and literature and makes his home in Nashville, Tennessee, and Washington, DC, with his wife, Beverly.
From the Back Cover
Past Praise for Books by Stephen Mansfield
"This is a game-changing book."--Glenn Beck
"I wish everyone could have read this book ten years ago. At least read it now."--Eric Metaxas
"You will be thrilled, disturbed, and astounded, but ultimately inspired and uplifted."--Rabbi Daniel Lapin
"Every voter in the country should read this book!"--Dave Ramsey
"Perceptive and well-written."--Archbishop Desmond Tutu
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Mansfield has done an excellent job of explaining how Trump was elected and the particular role of the conservative Christians in that accomplishment. He identifies the anger of Christians, feeling that the country they knew was slipping away. They wanted change at almost any cost. Trump won them over by promising to give their country back to them. (Loc 1282/2679) He won over Christian leaders by promising to abolish the Johnson Amendment, the law restricting pastors from speaking openly on political issues or endorsing candidates from the pulpit. (Loc 1314/2679)
Conservative Christians were so desperate for political power and change that they were willing to overlook Trump's lack of experience, his foul language, his bullying business practices, his disrespect and lack of compassion for the marginalized, his lack of familiarity with what it meant to be a Christian, his public boasts of marital infidelity, and his offensive behavior in general. (Loc 92/2679) Mansfield writes that Christian leaders were “interested in allying themselves to power at any moral cost.” (Loc 241/2679) Other Christians believed God had called and would use an immoral Trump much as God had used an immoral Cyrus in the Old Testament. (Loc 1944/2679)
Mansfield explores the spirituality of Trump and covers the great influence of Norman Vincent Peale in the distant past and Paula White in the recent past. Mansfield is direct on criticizing Trump's claim to be a Christian, noting his lack of knowledge of Christians things and his lack of moral character. (Loc 337/2679)
Mansfield also explains that conservative Christians have now wed themselves to Trump. They are responsible for putting Trump in the White House. They took a risk and now they must reconcile what the Trump administration becomes to what they believe about God and truth. (Loc 1490/2679) Mansfield also writes of the prophetic voice that must come from Christian leaders as Trump will need spiritual counsel.
Those Christian who voted for Trump need to read this book to understand the ramifications of their choice. Those who did not vote for Trump need to read this book to understand how we got to this place in American history.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
But first for an overview of the book. Mansfield begins with the unlikely rise of Trump, and the puzzling phenomenon of his defeat of a huge Republican field, with many candidates of accomplishment, character and religious faith, and then his defeat of a Democratic candidate who had probably spoken of her own religious faith more extensively and thoughtfully than most candidates. Though apparently religiously illiterate while claiming faith, known for sharp business practices, serial marriages, and sexually crude language about women and allegations of sexual impropriety, he managed to get elected with 81 percent of whites identifying as “evangelical” voting for him. Mansfield explores his background, and particularly the profound influence his father had upon his boy, who he nicknamed both “King” and “Killer,” raising a young man who always believed he must win, and for whom ruthlessness toward that end was warranted. Both military academy and early business associations with lawyer Roy Cohn deepened the killer instinct of this man who thought he must be king.
Oddly, this utterly secular, ruthless young man nevertheless had religious influences. The pastor who most influenced him was Norman Vincent Peale, with his theology of positive thought. For a young man relentlessly driven to pursue success to win the father approval he never knew, this was the ideal “theology,” one that brooked no possibility of failure or defeat, but believed that you could eventually do what you dream. Peale’s death left a religious vacuum in his life filled by evangelical prosperity televangelist Paula White, who Trump first met around 2000, who helped gather a group of pastors to pray for him in 2011, as he was grappling with a decision to run, counseling him that the time was not yet, and who now chairs his evangelical advisory council. She prayed at his inauguration, vigorously defends him as a born-again Christian, and has helped gather support of key evangelical leaders.
In the third part of the book, Mansfield turns from the formative influences in Trump’s life, past and present, to the factors, that propelled Trump into the White House. He speaks of the growing concern of evangelical leaders of Obama administration decisions that both violated moral convictions and policies that were encroaching on religious liberties. A pivotal point for Trump was when he realized the role the Johnson Amendment played in silencing evangelicals in the pulpit who wanted to speak out against these policies and support those who opposed them. He made overturning this amendment his rallying cry in support of religious liberty. He also offered an alternative to a candidate on one hand far more religious, and yet one whose statements about gay rights, in support of Planned Parenthood, and lack of engagement with evangelicals suggest to these evangelical leaders that things would only get worse in her administration. The result was support of Trump, likened to King Cyrus, a pagan king who yet accomplishes God’s purposes in liberating the Jews from exile. Finally, Mansfield briefly discusses how Trump proclaimed himself the “voice” of white working-class people struggling in the Obama economy, saying things people only felt free to say at dinner tables and working class bars.
The last part of the book discusses the relationship of religious leaders around the presidency and advocates a stance Mansfield calls “prophetic distance.” He describes how in the early years Billy Graham was seduced by presidential access and the decisions he later made:
“Graham’s conclusion about his ministry was telling. After all of his years of friendships with presidents and being asked to comment on politics, he finally realized, ‘I have one message” — the gospel. He decided in his later years that he could have done more good by speaking his truth to presidents and politicians than by allowing himself to be pulled into their orbits, thus dissipating his message” (p. 137).
He then highlights the example of Paul Marc Goulet’s International Church of Las Vegas, and his Latino co-pastor Pasqual Urrabazo, who met Trump at a meeting at Trump Tower and told Trump of how offended he was about the things said of Hispanics and how wrong he was on immigration policy. Trump asked to meet his people and attend his church. Goulet did not give him the pulpit but allowed him to visit the church’s school, where he met former Vegas gang members. Goulet later said, “I won’t endorse candidates. But I will give them a chance to hear truth and see it in action. I will show them a picture of what, with God’s help, they might be.” This is what Mansfield believes the religious leaders who have gained access to Trump must do, or they will pay a great price.
As I mentioned, I liked this book for several reasons. One was that it was neither a hagiography or a screed, but a nuanced treatment of Trump, although I would have appreciated a stronger treatment of the element of racism in Trump’s appeal. The background of Trump’s life helped me realize this is both an extraordinarily driven, and yet wounded individual, that even at his father’s funeral had to talk about what his father would have thought of him. I also appreciated the chapters on the religious influences in his life. In particular, I had not appreciated the role Paula White has and continues to play in his life. Finally, his advocacy of a role of “prophetic distance” for religious leaders who have access to the president is one I think important.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.