Book Review: God and Donald Trump (Stephen Strang)

This book contains little about Donald Trump’s personal faith and worldview. The author, Stephen Strang, believes there’s not much to say on the topic: “My aim in taking on this project has not been to write Donald Trump’s spiritual biography—that would have been a very short book” (page 169). Whether or not intentional, this remark parallels a famous quip by JFK’s sister Eunice, when a person suggested a book should be written on JFK’s faith: “It will be an awfully slim volume.”

But here’s the weird thing. There actually is a story here, and it’s a fairly interesting one. (Politico covered some of this story in an October 6, 2015 article, “How Norman Vincent Peale taught Donald Trump to Worship Himself.”) Peale makes a cameo appearance in this volume, but his influence on Trump’s faith and worldview is not explored in any depth.

This book is less about Trump’s faith and more about his 2016 campaign’s evangelical outreach efforts. In fact, more time is spent discussing his supporters’ faith than his own. The book also devotes a substantial portion of the book to strongly criticizing evangelicals who supported other candidates.

The book’s greatest weakness is its attempt to redefine evangelical Christianity so that Trump can fit within its definition. It goes so far as to redefine the Gospel message itself. On page 172, Strang states, “I haven’t tried to analyze his spiritual condition—only God knows the heart. Yet I’ve been told that the way of salvation has been explained to him, and if he believes in his heart that Jesus Christ is risen and the only begotten son of God, then he is a Christian—and an evangelical Christian at that since that’s what evangelical Christians believe.”

This leaves out recognizing and repenting for sin. Perhaps Strang left it out due to Trump’s comments that he had never asked God for forgiveness (in an Iowa forum and in this CNN interview). But repentance is central to the Gospel message. Virtually every time through the Gospels, Acts, and the rest of the New Testament, when someone is called to become a Christian, repentance is part of what they are specifically called to do. Repentance and faith must always precede salvation.

If you want a book about Trump’s evangelical outreach efforts during the 2016 election, you will enjoy this book. If you want to learn more about Donald Trump’s personal relationship with God, you will find this book a disappointment.