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Reviewed by:
  • Faith and Resistance in the Age of Trump ed. by Miguel De La Torre
  • Joseph Prabhu
Faith and Resistance in the Age of Trump. Edited by Miguel De La Torre. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017. Pp. 272. $12.70, paper.

For many people of faith, the election of Donald Trump as the forty-fifth president of the United States represented both a political and a religious crisis that fundamentally called into question the very nature of religious claims, values, and allegiances. His background in “reality television” made him an effective communicator of fear and false promises, in an era largely shaped by the values, attitudes, and habits fostered by contemporary electronic and digital media. Using such media, he was able to turn the economic anger and anxiety created by globalization and a global economy into racial anger about cultural change. Exploiting such anxiety, he presented himself as a champion of whites fighting for survival in the face of rapid demographic change, and a clear majority of white Christians voted for him. Other religious groups also supported Trump, but not in such high percentages.

When pressed on the glaring discrepancy between Trump’s bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, and cruelty and the religious values of compassion, inclusiveness, and care for the oppressed and marginalized, one response of the Religious Right is that Trump has delivered on significant parts of their agenda (appointment of conservative Supreme Court justices, the fight to ban abortion, tax cuts for the wealthy, etc.). The Right is willing to sacrifice religious values for political gain, so that religion has been transformed into a form of ideology or, in religious terms, idolatry. That transformation justifies the assertion—a key premise of this volume—that Trump’s election points to a simultaneous political and religious crisis. When a significant part of the population who consider themselves religious trade their purported religious values for political advantage, religion has lost its moral power and has become a transactional matter—and deeply corrupt. [End Page 133]

This volume, edited by De La Torre, Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology, brings together the outraged responses of some twenty renowned scholars and activists from across the religious spectrum, including Jim Wallis, Sr. Simone Campbell, Kelly Brown Douglas, Amir Hussain, Miguel Diaz, Santiago Slabodsky, Asante Todd, and others, who provide deeply felt and reasoned reactions to the ongoing peril posed by Trump. They make no secret of their horror both of the betrayal of democratic norms, procedures, and values that his election represents and of the support of that betrayal provided by the Religious Right.

Remarkably, this collection was compiled in just a few months and sent to the publisher a month after Trump’s election. Three years later, it stands up very well. The contributors put aside other commitments and tasks to demonstrate their sense of civic urgency in thinking seriously about the crisis from their particular perspective; they have written essays of remarkable depth and cogency. For them, faith is a matter of engaged spirituality, and religion is a matter of resistance against an unjust leader and regime.

Many of the contributions carry both a normative and a critical thrust. They argue that religion should not be seen as a private (in contrast to personal) matter but must issue in good works that necessarily have a public impact and embody progressive religious values of justice, fairness, love, and compassion. Social and political policies must be judged in light of such values. True religion is normatively independent of politics, so that it carries moral power and authority. When religion is equated with a particular political program, it becomes a form of ideology and forfeits its authority.

From the perspective of such normativity, the agenda on which Trump ran and that he has sought to implement is judged and found to be immoral. Many of his political and social positions were well known prior to the election, yet a large percentage of the American population chose to vote for him, which deeply troubles many of these authors. Nevertheless, they refuse to succumb to despair. They offer many constructive suggestions for healing the body politic—the support of immigrants, solidarity...


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pp. 133-135
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