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Evangelicals are losing the culture war. What if it’s their fault?
In 2016, writer and filmmaker Ben Howe found himself disillusioned with the religious movement he’d always called home. In the pursuit of electoral victory, many American evangelicals embraced moral relativism and toxic partisanship.
Whatever happened to the Moral Majority, who headed to Washington in the ’80s to plant the flag of Christian values? Where were the Christian leaders that emerged from that movement and led the charge against Bill Clinton for his deception and unfaithfulness? Was all that a sham? Or have they just lost sight of why they wanted to win in the first place? From the 1980s scandals till today, evangelicals have often been caricatured as a congregation of judgmental and prudish rubes taken in by thundering pastors consumed with greed and lust for power. Did the critics have a point?
In The Immoral Majority, Howe—still a believer and still deeply conservative—analyzes and debunks the intellectual dishonesty and manipulative rhetoric which evangelical leaders use to convince Christians to toe the Republican Party line. He walks us through the history of the Christian Right, as well as the events of the last three decades which led to the current state of the conservative movement at large.
As long as evangelicals prioritize power over persuasion, Howe argues, their pews will be empty and their national influence will dwindle. If evangelicals hope to avoid cultural irrelevance going forward, it will mean valuing the eternal over the ephemeral, humility over ego, and resisting the seduction of political power, no matter the cost. The Immoral Majority demonstrates how the Religious Right is choosing the profits of this world at the cost of its soul—and why it’s not too late to change course.
Conservative commentator Howe censures the evangelical movement that helped elect Donald Trump president in this pointed debut. The son of a pastor, Howe became disillusioned with Christian power-grabbing actions during the 2016 elections; it was, he notes, "what happens when the people who believe they have the moral high ground find themselves on the low road." Howe then explains why he believes evangelicals became enamored of Trump, specifically that they could look past his morally corrupt nature as long as he delivered politically conservative objectives. A major factor of the evangelical belief in Trump, he writes, is "vessel theology," in which men who feel little agency see themselves as vessels of God to do His work on earth thus connecting with other Biblical giants such as Judas, Paul, and Noah. In this way, Trump's unconventional (or even sinful) behavior could be justified by the idea that "God can use anyone" to bring about change. 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.