Historian Jon Meacham talks Trump and evangelicals
Updated: Mar 11, 2019
PBA Assistant Professor of Journalism J. Israel Balderas interviewed presidential historian, Pulitzer Prize-winner, and contributor to TIME and The New York Times Book Review, Jon Meacham prior to the author speaking at the DeSantis Family Chapel on The Art of Leadership: Lessons From the American Presidency.
WEST PALM BEACH, FL – Presidential historian Jon Meacham may one day write a book about the exhausting years of Donald Trump's presidency, and a working title could be The Decline and Fall of the American Empire. What remains unknown for this political intellectual is if chapters describing current events will be the start of the book or its ending.
Meacham spoke to Assistant Professor of Journalism and The Beacon Today faculty advisor J. Israel Balderas in a TV interview, with the Warren Library serving as the background. The author of several New York Times bestsellers, including "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power" and "Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush," visited Palm Beach Atlantic University as a guest speaker hosted by The LeMieux Center for Public Policy.
Another working title for a presidential biography of Trump could be The Apprentice because "he's still trying to learn this," Meacham said, meaning how to be the leader of a free society. And regardless of what happens after four years in the White House, Meacham believes historians will write about Trump "as long as the American presidency is discussed."
Balderas asked Meacham about another national bestseller book he wrote, "American Gospel: God, the Founding Father, and the Making of a Nation," which looked at how religion in this country shapes the public life of its citizens without controlling it. By writing the book, the author wanted to bring a historical authority and a sense of hope that what President Abraham Lincolns called "the better angels of our nature" lies in recovering the spirit and sense of the America's founding.
Unfortunately, debates about religion and politics appear to be more divisive today.
Meacham remains puzzled by the existing contradiction between how President Trump lives out his private life - currently being accused by several women, including adult-film star Stormy Daniels, of having affairs, and evangelical Christians strongly supporting what appears to be a president challenged by morals. In fact, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted March 7-14, Trump's job performance holds solid support amongst 78% of white evangelicals. That is just below the 80% who voted for him on Election Day.
"Basically, the evangelical movement very broadly put, so we are talking in general terms, basically decided that the Supreme Court was worth everything else," Meacham said. "I hope it's worth it in the end for them when they look back."
In American Gospel, which was written in 2007, Meacham recalled writing about evangelical leaders who worried that if religious motivation was central in political life, that it would be corrupting in some way.
"The power of the state and the power of the church, if you look at history at all remotely, have always ultimately not mixed very well."
By The Beacon Today staff