In theory, I’m not part of the audience for this book. I am not, nor have I ever been, an evangelical. Raised Catholic with both Jewish and irreligious friends, I didn’t even know any evangelicals until I was well into my teens. A book with the subtitle “Why evangelicals chose political power over Christian values” would seem to target someone with deeper ties to that community.
It would be a grievous error to select books according to such a theory, because this is a title which should not be missed by anyone, whether evangelical or athiest.
On the one hand, it’s an interesting historical document from the standpoint of a person deeply immersed in the culture on which he’s reporting. On the other hand, it’s a series of contemplative analyses of human nature and fallacious thinking.
Just one example: Howe’s “vessel theory” of why evangelicals have shifted to support Trump has merit; more than simply explaining the opinions of a religious group, though, it can be reasonably extrapolated to explain why, for example, those who believe that small government is a necessity are fine with Trump dictating to companies; why those who demand fiscal responsibility are okay with Trump’s record spending and even why those seeing livelihoods lost due to a trade war can nonetheless support that trade war.
Howe approaches his book from a sense of self-awareness which is far too uncommon. In the introduction, he addresses a case of an abusive video posted by a man in 2012 and the subsequent destruction of that man’s career. Howe regrets his actions in attacking that man – not because the person, Adam Smith, was somehow not wrong in berating a Chik-Fil-A worker, but rather because Howe recognizes that he responded to evil with evil.
The book presents a strong case for standing on principle but being open to changing perspective… something which will appeal to many who have attempted to do that exact thing. It isn’t just a gratifying work, though; it works this message in with others in order to follow the narrative line.
If there is one overarching theme to the book it is that everyone – particularly the evangelical movement – needs to stop doing that, as adding evil to evil cannot do anything but diminish the power of grace.
The book is full of deep thinking, insightful moments, and useful history. It will be an excellent addition to many bookshelves.