A wary reader might glance at Posner’s book and expect the worst, because any book that discusses honestly why the American evangelical community has embraced Donald Trump must lay waste to both sides of that relationship - a thing virtually no mainstream 'Trump book' has been willing to do. This one does ... Those grievances - against modernity, against compassion, against every kind of equality other than the equality of the male heads of households in white suburbs of the Deep South - are the hard, bitter kernel of Unholy’s story. Posner never loses sight of them, never calls them by anything other than what they are, never insults the importance of her subject with euphemisms ... very pointedly not written to pander to such people, which is intensely refreshing. And if any of those people should happen to read it and allow it to change their devotions, so much the better. It might actually save their life.
... hardhitting ... an apocalyptic view of American politics, not religion ... As Posner demonstrates ever more clearly and precisely, Trump and his unholy minions are heading the United States into a state of inequality it has never known ... Posner has been living this beat for decades. She attends the conferences, interviews pastors and televangelists, and is generally well known in these circles. Not to mention well read. The result in terrific insight, rationally laid out for the reader to appreciate in its true depth.
Posner’s narrative begins with the sense of displacement and racial grievance white Christian conservatives experienced following Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and traces the development of the religious right’s political infrastructure up until the Obama presidency, demonstrating how decades of patient strategizing created an environment in which Trump, the perfect televangelist candidate, could take center stage as the visible leader of a Republican Party prepared to pursue an agenda of wholesale assault on pluralist democracy in the name of redeeming white Christian America ... Highly recommended for those seeking to understand how white evangelicals developed political power.
[Posner's] extensive research offers a dizzying array of right-wing think tanks and coalitions, driven by both high- and low-profile names; it can be hard to keep them straight. Add abortion, immigration issues, blatant racism, and extremist alt-right views about same, and one has the stew that is the current political scene ... She sees no end in sight, nor does she offer easy answers. A gripping read.
... an incisive view from the left ... Thankfully, Unholy is not a superficial, quick-and dirty take like Michelle Goldberg’s Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. Posner’s entry makes a helpful and complementary companion volume to Frances Fitzgerald’s recent, magisterial book, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, which covers some of the same territory ... Unholy’s primary value is its personal, on-the-scene interviews, and historical context. It documents in dense, meticulous—sometimes excruciating—detail the worst fears and suspicions of those who believe in the constitution’s separation of church and state ... So as the 2020 election approaches, is Unholy a worthwhile addition to this sagging book shelf of attacks on conservative, white evangelicals? Does it say much on the subject that is new? Unfortunately, not so much ... While deeply researched and eloquently written, Posner doesn’t tell casual observers something they don’t already know, or could reasonably predict ... But worse, the sad truth is that no amount of editorial huffing and puffing will bring down Trump’s house, his base of white evangelical support. His handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic may be another story, perhaps for another book.
While Posner can get bogged down in the details, as in her meticulous debunking of the notion that Christian nationalism arose in opposition to abortion, overall she is convincing. Posner’s authoritative investigation will be a must-read for those interested in the connections between the Trump presidency and evangelicalism.
Posner takes pains to draw connections from early, sometimes obscure figures in evangelical politics to a wide constellation of Trump supporters and others pushing radical agendas ... Posner’s discussions of American ties to Hungary’s right-wing government, as well as Moldova as a center of worldwide far-right activity, require more research and context to lift them above the level of conspiracy theory. Posner’s passionate antipathy for Trump, the 'pagan king,' is consistently palpable, as is her disdain for conservatives in general. Though she makes many solid points about Trump’s racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic actions, most of these are already well-covered elsewhere. For a deeper dive into American evangelicalism that explains Trump’s appeal in a more organic, less headline-grabbing fashion, try Frances FitzGerald’s The Evangelicals ... More grist for anti-Trump readers that could serve as an entry point for further investigations of political evangelicalism.