This PW issue went to press before Election Day, but Farmer quotes Gushee as explaining prophetically: “I was already beginning to see the appeal of Donald Trump to at least a certain part of the white Christian community, and I was trying to make sense of that without focusing on a particular individual. … A widely felt anxiety is one of the major stories of the American election of 2016, so I wanted to offer an alternative kind of spirit and vision, at least for Christian readers.”
Just after Election Day, veteran journalism scholar Stewart Hoover posted four columns all arguing that the biggest mistake forecasters made in recent months was misunderstanding Trump’s deep appeal to “white Christians.” In one column, Hoover writes that “White Christians were the central demographic driving the rhetorical success of Trump’s call to make things great again. For them, that meant a return to the 1950s. The resonance of the ’50s clearly has more than just the prospects of waged labor in it. It is resonant because it was the time when things made the most cultural sense, when a White Protestant moral architecture defined values, behaviors, and public images.”
In PW, speaking to Farmer before Election Day, Gushee said, “We have all this nostalgia about the Christian values of our past. That’s very strong among conservative Christians, but it is usually uninformed by serious reflection on all the evils of American history.” He calls it “a white nostalgia for an imaginary Christian past that doesn’t take seriously the problems of racism,” among other ills.
Gushee said he wants “my fellow Christians” to “lift your head up, don’t be hysterical, try to be as constructive as you can be and engage in our culture at this time. And try to see the good in our country as well as the things we are concerned about.”