December 1, 2017

Book Review: “God and Donald Trump” by Stephen Strang

God and Donald Trump by Stephen E. Strang, Florida: Charisma House, 2017. 221 pages.

One of the most contentious and controversial elections in American history culminated with the victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton on November 8, 2016. According to the mainstream media, the Republican candidate was never supposed to defeat the Democrat in this extraordinary race to the White House, but he nevertheless did. “How did he win?” was the big question that echoed across the country and around the world in the aftermath of Trump’s surprising and shocking victory, around one year ago.

A broad range of socio-economic and political explanations for why Trump won have been offered by both the left and the right, as well as a number of best selling books as to “what happened” (including Clinton’s own memoir of an account). However, this book is unique as it attempts to explain the often unexamined religious dimensions of the 2016 election.

God and Donald Trump by Stephen E. Strang was released recently on November 7, 2017. The book explores whether there was a supernatural element involved to Trump’s campaign.

Strang is the founder of Charisma Magazine and CEO of Charisma Media. He is a successful businessman and an award-winning journalist who wrote bestseller The Faith of George W. Bush in 2003. Now Strang seeks to provide an thorough explanation that considers the role of the Religious Right and how Donald Trump won the greatest amount of Christian voters in American history, more than any previous Republican president including even George W. Bush, himself an openly declared Evangelical Christian.

This book furthermore explores “who Donald Trump really is, what he believes, where his vision for America will lead us, and where God is in all of this.” The author admits that he is a vocal supporter of Trump. He views the outcome of the election as God’s response to an ongoing prayer for national revival and restoration to America’s traditional roots, a movement also known as “Make America Great Again.”

Strang writes in the opening chapters that:

While some people interpreted Donald Trump’s win as a political revolution, many conservative Christians saw it as a cultural counter-revolution and an answer to prayer…They weren’t praying to elect Donald Trump so much as they were praying for a change of direction and a new moral and spiritual awakening…Donald Trump represents a supernatural answer to prayer, but he didn’t come in the package people wanted. Of the seventeen Republican nominees, he ranked as the last choice of most evangelicals.

Back on June 162015, in Trump Tower, after Donald Trump announced his controversial candidacy he nevertheless continued to lead in the polls consistently into the Republican primaries, defeating 16 well qualified candidates. Trump ran on a populist platform emphasizing illegal immigration and international trade issues which were critical to his unexpected success throughout the Midwestern industrial heartland, today known as the Rust Belt.

However, Trump also unapologetically engaged the public behalf of Christian causes in the culture wars. After winning the Republican nomination, many ministers began endorsing Trump including most notably: Evangelist Franklin Graham, Baptist pastor Robert Jefress from Texas, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, among others on the Religious Right. Strang notes that critical to these connections were his long time spiritual adviser and preacher Paula White from Florida. Also, he considers the announcement of Indiana Governor Mike Pence for Vice President as the most important move in securing support among Evangelicals even beyond solid support in the Bible Belt.

Strang explains this phenomenon this way:

A momentum has started among conservative Evangelicals, and the Trump presidency has given renewed strength and support to a growing Christian resistance movement. The struggle no longer consists of Republican versus Democrat, left versus right, or conservative versus liberal but as…an even more critical and widely recognized area of conflict, nationalism versus globalism…evangelical resistance to the trendy but toxic globalist agenda has become an even greater area of focus for many believers.

As a New Yorker who had lived as a cosmopolitan liberal most of his life in addition to being a friend of the Clintons, it was ironic that Trump on the campaign was embraced by many conservative activists and public figures. By the time of the General Election, conservatives in having to choose who to vote for, perhaps felt he was simply the only viable option, as compared to Clinton.

Both Clinton and Trump had based their campaigns in Manhattan and it was there on Election Night that the seemingly impossible unfolded as the mainstream media reluctantly announced the final results at around 3:00 AM, sending shock waves across America and around the world. Throughout the transition, Trump together with Pence assembled what Strang calls “the most conservative and evangelical cabinet,” to the surprise to those who doubted his intentions and opposed his candidacy on an ideological basis.

On January 202017, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States in Washington, D.C.  Strang spends a chapter covering Trump’s first 100 days in office, characterizing opposition to Trump as activism from both in government and in the press as an overwhelming distraction from the GOP agenda. Part of this was the ongoing focus on Russian interference in the election while ignoring the economic and social reason why Trump won.  As President, Trump nevertheless delivered right away by nominating Constitutional Originalist Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. Trump also acted on pledges and promises by means of executive orders promoting religious freedom at home and abroad. Strang quotes his friend Pastor Jeffress in summarizing these perspectives, stating:

President Trump has not only met but he has exceeded our every expectation, in reviving the economy, rebuilding our military, respecting our veterans, and restoring our greatest freedom of all, the free exercise of our faith. President Trump has done more to protect religious liberty than any president in United States history, and we are grateful to him for that.

In Parts 1 and 2, Strang summarizes the religious response and related aspects during the election while in Part 3 and 4, more emphasis is placed on what is known about Trump’s personal experience with faith and the broader political purposes that have inspired him.

Referencing the Trump’s own self-promotional account in The Art of the Deal as well as other family sources about his early life, we see the impact that his Mainline Protestant upbringing as a Presbyterian had in his formative years, before acquiring his greedy playboy, billionaire, real-estate mogul image. Growing up in the outer borough of Queens, New York, the Trump family attended a Presbyterian Protestant church pastored by Norman Vincent Peale, one of the earliest “prosperity preachers” who wrote an influential book called The Power of Positive Thinking.

Strang suggests that perhaps, this teaching did have an impact on Trump in a positive sense. However, he admits that later in life Trump’s multiple divorces would have a negative effect on any “family man” image, except for the fact people really respected how his children turned out to be. The author here infers that Trump’s foundational upbringing in faith, although largely forgotten throughout his life, later  inspired his interest to reconnect to Evangelicals, despite having lived a life that does not reflect a moral ideal standard.

Finally, Stephen Strang includes the transcript of an interview for Charisma Magazine with then candidate Donald Trump. The conversation focuses on issues of domestic religious liberty as well as topics on Judeo-Christian values and Christian Zionism. Trump assures Strang that on all the issues, he will keep his promises to support the evangelical cause if he wins. This for Strang, is the turning point that convinces him to support Trump, as he says:

After that interview I understood that Donald Trump believes America remains a great country even though we’ve drifted away from the clear vision of the founders. He possesses an undeniable faith in America, and I realized that a big reason for that is his lifelong faith in God.

Overall, Stephen Strang’s account is a sincere one that attempts to examine Donald Trump’s background and political intentions, albeit from a perspective that is not really objective as it is openly supportive while rarely ever critical. The book is very effective at retelling the story of the entire two-year campaign from a personal perspective involving issues of faith, though in broadly evaluating Evangelicals, it does not clearly clarify certain ambiguous aspects. For example, although statistics indicate that the greatest number of Evangelicals voted for Trump in the election, it’s not considered that most of these voters were in fact, cultural Evangelicals rather than bible-believing, churchgoing Christians. This surprising fact about last year’s election, can be further explored in the following report on How “Notional” Christians Switched to Trump by the IRD’s Joseph Rossell.

There were obviously very vocal and prominent Evangelical voices (both conservative and liberal) who criticized Donald Trump during the primaries, before the election and ever since then. Though, it would be interesting to see whether more critics will be prepared to offer as thorough and consistent an explanation of their views as does Stephen Strang.

One notable book to be released in January 2018 attempts to do that through a compilation of essays addressing Evangelicalism in the age of Trump, titled “Still Evangelical?”

Nevertheless, God and Donald Trump is a highly recommended read for Christians as well as all readers interested in American politics, because it is among the few books (however biased) that even attempts at exploring in-depth the religious dimension of last year’s presidential election. For Christians critical of Trump, the book can be useful in revealing why some of their fellow believers gradually started to consider Trump’s movement as the unexpected answer from God, to long held prayers for revival in America.

Furthermore, Stephen Strang’s personal perspective in this book can help to make sense of how Donald Trump won the election, while providing a first-hand account of how self-proclaimed Evangelicals played a part in his victory. God and Donald Trump is an interesting yet controversial book that encourages deeper thought about changing cultural and religious trends in America.


 

12 Responses to Book Review: “God and Donald Trump” by Stephen Strang

  1. Chip says:

    It’s worth noting that Trump courted both the Falwells and Graham in 2012, and that Graham counseled Trump back then that he should run for president. Evangelical support for Trump began years before he actually ran, with Paula White beginning to contact prominent evangelical leaders on behalf of Trump in 2011, according to Christian journalist Julia Duin’s lengthy piece on White for The Washington Post Magazine. (Trump was considering a 2012 run.) The site GetReligion once traced Trump’s courting of prosperity-gospel preachers to either 2008 or 2010, if I remember correctly. So evangelical support for Trump was not a last resort choice for many of his strongest supporters today.

  2. It is wonderful to see Christianity take center stage again. Obama was continually demeaning Christians and defending Islam. One wondered if he would be completely comfortable with a complete Ilslamic takeover of America. Even Bush let the atheist elements and elements of America’s moral slide run amuck with out any pushback what so ever. That has all changed with this election.

  3. Peter says:

    My fellow Christians, let’s be honest. When we say we put God before country, and country before party, we are lying. Our continued support of Donald Trump proves beyond any doubt that it is party first, and God last.
    Donald Trump, on multiple occasions during the campaign, said that he has never asked God for forgiveness, and that he doesn’t need to ask God for forgiveness because he’s a good person. If ANY Democrat had said this, we would be horrified.
    For that matter, if ANY Democrat had done HALF of the outrageous things that Trump has done in the last year, we would be outraged.
    Let’s face it. We just didn’t want Clinton to be president. We would have voted for Satan himself if he had an “R” next to his name. Just promise us a Constitutional Originalist on the supreme court and we can overlook any faults (adultery, lust, vanity, pride, greed, wrath).
    At least we can convince ourselves that everything is OK by pointing to examples in the Bible where God chose an imperfect man (or woman) to take on an important role or task. Who’s gonna argue with that?
    Love the sinner, hate the sin. It’s OK to love Donald Trump and pray for his soul. That’s what God would want. But electing him as president, and continuing to defend and support him – THAT is loving the sin.

    • Jerry Olshevski says:

      Peter, you are 100 per cent right. Well said. We have lost a sense of Biblical morals, righteousness,and humility in the White House. May God help us and be merciful to us as a nation.

  4. I agree with Peter and Jerry. I am the author of, “Thanks: Giving and Receiving Gratitude for America’s Troops; A Soldier’s Stories, A Veteran’s Confessions and A Pastor’s Reflections” I am UMC Lay Speaker, A Presbyterian Ruling Elder and A Minister of “Word and Sacrament” in the United Church of Christ. I served in the United States Army as Spec. Five in the Head Quarters Company, 18th. Engineer Brigade posted in Smiley Barracks in Karlsruhe, West Germany, from 1977-1981.
    I pray for our troops in harms way. America had a deadly enemy, the USSR and The Warsaw Pact, in my day. Now the danger to our republic Twits from the White House! God help America!

  5. Jeremy Gordon Heiken says:

    I search to find the Christ in many Christians.

  6. Laurie says:

    Agree with the last statements…God CAN use Trump but I see no real evidence of SOUND Christian beliefs coming from those so-called spiritual leaders who are prosperity preachers. That unnerves me. I pray for a real move of God in his life, a real awakening of his spirit, to know truth.

    • Thel says:

      Hmmm Peter, it seems that what is being suggested here is that Christians should not vote at all? It is great when we have the option to vote “for” but all too often we must hold our noses and vote for the sake of voting “against” (such as against a liberal democratic platform that is egregiously and “in your face” anti-God). Are you suggesting that Christians join in with fake news media and other Trump bashers after having voted for him. We should now undermine or abandon him on the strength of irrelevant, petty, exaggerated, and/or unproved attacks on his character? Why did you not offer any alternatives? Now that he is the pilot flying the plane, you think we should abandon, or even try to sabotage him instead of support him? For what Godly purpose? Please respond!

      • Wes says:

        Well said Thel. There seems to be a sanctimonious spirit at the heart of the evangelicals opposing Trump, which is often the result of comparing our own strengths with the weaknesses of others.

  7. Gene Bussewitz says:

    If Trump is ‘your’ Christian role model I think you are on the wrong side of what Jesus would approve. The man talks about grabbing women ‘wherever’, has multiple women saying he was sexually inappropriate, has had a number of married sexual accusations of impropriety, not to mention a number of unethical business dealings in his career. Morality still counts for me as a Lutheran, but I guess you can write it ALL off as ‘fake news’! The marriage encounters were NOT fake news as the divorces probably cost him a lot of money and lawyers and you don’t pay if not somewhat guilty!! How about the $130,000….maybe just a nice couple of guys that thought the gal needed some funds?

  8. Linda says:

    Whatever the case, thank GOD above that enough people decided to keep Hillary out of it, as her conduct since certainly underscores. Thank you EVERYONE who was bold enough to stand up against the Trump haters and vote for him (or if you wish, against Hillary – it’s all the same). It is the ONLY option that gave this country which I deeply love, another chance.

  9. Caleb says:

    Think what if there is no Trump, then you will see the big picture of why God has brought him. First, America would have gone in the hands of Islam and disorder will be the order. Then perversion and sodomic sins will be on the rise which will completely spoil the future. Third, the foreign powers would have gathered more influence on American soil.
    More Christian killings on other parts of the world. I am being a person came from third world country, I know countless lives of people are spared today because of President Trump.
    All these were avoided by one unapologetic man on the world scene. Also the cause of Israel is defended. King Cyrus was a heathen king but he was God’s choice. If God can use Cyrus, he can use this President. Also this President speaks what’s in his mind without covering it up with nice words to please some.
    People who speak about Trump must go and live in a Islamic country or London for a year, and surely they will thank that God brought this man in a timely move.
    May God bless America and her President in Jesus name.

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