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Trump is a 'spiritual danger,' evangelical writers warn
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Trump is a 'spiritual danger,' evangelical writers warn

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'The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelicals on Justice, Truth and Moral Integrity,' Cascade books.

'The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelicals on Justice, Truth and Moral Integrity,' Cascade books. (Cascade Books/TNS)

PHILADELPHIA - Ron Sider started with a laugh and a prayer.

"Lord have mercy," he replied with a chuckle when Clout asked why it was necessary to compile a collection of essays in a book titled "The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelicals on Justice, Truth and Moral Integrity."

Sider is an emeritus professor of theology, holistic ministry, and public policy at Palmer Theological Seminary in Montgomery County. He said white evangelical voters overwhelmingly supported President Donald Trump in 2016 even though he "is clearly racist, repeatedly says awful things about women, (and) has policies on questions of racial justice, economic justice, and environmental issues that fundamentally contradict biblical norms."

The book Sider edited arrived this month, when racial strife has been thrust once again to the forefront of public life, following the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Louisville and Atlanta.

Sider calls on white evangelicals to confront racism.

"Donald Trump, instead of uniting the country, is stoking that racism," he said. "They want Jesus to be lord of their politics. I don't think they've thought very much about that."

John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, contributed a chapter asking white evangelicals to reflect on the civil rights movement, which was followed by the rise of the election-oriented "Moral Majority" - which he sees as motivated more by fear and power than hope and humility.

"White evangelicals are driven by a political playbook that runs against the core tenets of Christian faith," Fea said. "These things will corrupt the church and will thus weaken the church's witness."

Fea said the "Christian right has hijacked our churches," making them heel to Trump's politics.

"The white evangelical church has been held hostage by the GOP," he said.

Chris Thurman, a psychologist in Austin, Texas, helped launch the project. He modeled it after a 2017 book, "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President."

Thurman's chapter looks at verbal abuse people of faith suffer from "supposed Christians" for criticizing Trump. Among the insults he has heard: "spineless," "demonic," "cowardly," "stupid."

"I just think at some level they must have some sense that they've backed the wrong horse and just can't admit it," Thurman said. "It is brutal out there."

Thurman agrees with Fea that division among white evangelicals will linger even if Trump loses his reelection campaign.

Sider is more optimistic that some evangelicals will rethink their politics ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

"My hope and my guess is there will be a small number of white evangelicals who say they can't vote for this man again," he said. "It wouldn't take a lot of that to change the outcome."

Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.inquirer.com

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