In his new book, Ben Howe attempts to explain something that should never have occurred: why most white evangelicals voting in 2016 chose Donald Trump ... This is a deeply introspective, at times anguished book. Howe shows how each proffered rationale for support for Trump departs sharply from evangelical tradition ... Ultimately, Howe is most concerned for the witness of the evangelical church, not least 'the injury it does to the soul of Donald Trump'. He asks: 'You’ve gained the world. How is your soul faring?'
[Howe's] book comes [close] to an explanation...Howe was a conservative activist who went through a change of heart during the 2016 primaries ... he says, the conservative reaction during the Obama administration was to hit back twice as hard. In his view, long before Trump appeared on the scene, a 'toxic mixture of resentment and desire for revenge … spawned the Trump evangelical movement.' Trump then successfully courted evangelicals by promising to give them power and to fight back on their behalf. Today Howe says that Trump did get things done for evangelicals, like nominating justices opposed to abortion, but he sees in the president “untold chasms of depravity.” And he accuses Trump of pulling many evangelicals into 'a vortex of moral ambiguity and relativism,' surrendering their moral voice in the public sphere for a bit of worldly influence.
Mr. Howe is a conservative, a committed evangelical Christian and fervent anti-Trump Republican ... 'Broadly speaking,' writes Mr. Howe, 'we have taken to confronting immorality by becoming immoral. But because our immorality is intended to stop an objectively worse immorality”—the hegemony of modern progressivism—“we reason that it is not immoral' ... There are two glaring problems with Mr. Howe’s argument. The first is that a presidential election is not an ideal instrument with which to measure a group’s moral disposition ... The other problem is that it’s never clear who Mr. Howe’s 'we' signifies. Sometimes he censures supposed evangelical leaders...for not only endorsing Mr. Trump in 2016 but obsequiously identifying themselves and their causes with him. That is entirely fair. At other times he speaks knowingly of what 'most' or 'many' evangelicals think or say. I have a strong suspicion he’s getting these impressions from Twitter, a web platform he mentions frequently.
Conservative commentator Howe censures the evangelical movement that helped elect Donald Trump president in this pointed debut ... Mixing political commentary, historical facts, and personal narrative, Howe offers a critical yet compassionate call to arms for fellow evangelicals to remember their religious obligations as upholders of high moral standards. He also predicts that, though Trump has appeased his religious base on some issues, the president will become less interested in faith-based gains after he achieves his political goals. Howe’s trenchant work will appeal to anyone concerned with the evangelical embrace of the Trump presidency.