Faith and Resistance in the Age of Trump

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Editor(s): 
Miguel A. De La Torre
  • Maryknoll, NY: 
    Orbis Books
    , September
     2017.
     272 pages.
     $22.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781626982475.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

     READ INTERVIEW WITH EDITOR HERE

Since the 2016 election, it is difficult to ignore the sense of fatigue washing over people in activist and academic circles nationwide. Developments in the Russia investigation reveal the fragility of our democratic processes, budget cuts and resignations strip executive departments of their effectiveness, and the bombastic ramblings of this new president threaten to unravel the safety and security of the entire nation, but especially of vulnerable populations. Many watching the events of the last year are understandably exhausted. But, as the contributors to Faith and Resistance in the Age of Trump remind us, this is not the time to shut down or turn away; this is not the time to become disillusioned or apathetic; and, this is especially not the time to allow our despondency to foster inaction.

This volume, edited by theologian and ethicist Miguel A. De La Torre, is comprised of twenty-five short chapters, each by leading theologians, scholars, activists, and religious leaders who approach the topic of faith and resistance from their own disciplinary as well as personal perspectives. In the immediate post-election period in which much of the blame for Trump’s win was placed on the putative overzealousness of “identity politics,” these contributors wear their subjectivities on their sleeves. They challenge media pundits who attributed Trump’s victory to negligence of the “everyman” (a thinly-veiled euphemism for white, Christian, heterosexual, cisgender men). Contrary to such commentators, the contributors to this volume critique the “everyman” position as one of privilege: to inhabit an identity not inherently political or politicized is a luxury to which many in this country are simply not privy. It is to these non-privileged bodies—bodies now made even more vulnerable by a Trump presidency—that we should now attend. This volume is a guide, a “roadmap,” as Jacqui J. Lewis tells us in the preface, for how to do just that (xxv).

Those looking for an in-depth analysis of the topics covered in this volume may hesitate at the brevity of each chapter. But what this volume perhaps lacks in exhaustiveness, it gains in accessibility and digestibility. This volume is not written for academic readers alone—though they will certainly find much useful discussion within its pages—but is primarily written for religious communities. The purpose of this volume is to address and to motivate religious communities in the US to act according to the principles of their faith and to resist the discriminatory and violent policies being instituted by this administration. At its core, this volume is a call to action. It is meant to reach people, to inspire anyone committed to social justice to act on that value by doing something, by saying something.

Each author approaches this objective differently and chooses to address different areas of concern under this administration—for instance, racial justice, immigration status, LGBTQ rights, reproductive health, voter suppression, environmental degradation, unequal and unfair economic policies, and so on. But, despite this topical breadth, the urgency of resistance is a common thread uniting each chapter. For the contributors to this volume, resistance to systemic oppression is a religious act, an act of faith. This theme frames the book and is repeatedly revisited throughout. For example, in the preface, Lewis characterizes resistance to empire as a form of prayer, a form of prayer akin to Jesus’s spiritual revolution, which developed alongside—and informed—his resistance to Roman imperial rule (xxiv). Also speaking to this notion of resistance as a religious act, Marie Alfred-Harkey describes resistance as a moral imperative in her chapter on sexual justice. For Alford-Harkey, to resist injustice is to empathize, to use one’s religious values to defend those vulnerable to institutional prejudice and violence (68). Simone Campbell, in her chapter “Low-Wage Workers and the Struggle for Justice,” echoes this theme by equating political activism with “holy curiosity” (44). To take an interest in the stories and well-being of others, Campbell argues, is to partake in something holy.

This theme concerning the faithfulness inherent to resistance is at its most poignant when it is applied to issues of institutional violence and (white) privilege. Many chapters in this volume address the ways that oppression creeps into the fabric of everyday life and numbs us to the dangers of its effects. This is especially egregious, this volume argues, when oppression is enabled by those claiming to be moral leaders of their communities. This volume aims to shine a light on the complicity of religious leaders who, with their silence, condone Trump’s prejudice and vulgarity. Such leaders, in the words of De La Torre, “prostitute” themselves to an immoral leader in exchange for political power and sway over the Supreme Court (xxx). David P. Gushee and Jim Wallis mirror this sentiment in their chapters, criticizing white evangelicals who traded in their faith and so-called moral values for legislative influence and cultural dominance. As Wallis argues, the fact that Trump was able to mobilize the white Christian vote, despite his obvious bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny, demonstrates that racial solidarity proved more influential than the Christian maxim to love one’s neighbor (157).

Another notable thread running throughout this volume is the palpable passion of its contributors. Each chapter, each example of resistance, is not just an examination or dissection of our current state of affairs but is also an attempt at catharsis. This volume is not just analytical; it is also indignant, mournful, and reconciliatory, sometimes all at the same time. Though it is, as De La Torre empathizes in the conclusion (230), sometimes hard to be hopeful, this volume reminds us that it is especially in such times that we are required to speak—to speak up and to speak often. But, even more than to speak, this volume calls us to act. This is a necessary read for anyone looking for a way to make hope a political reality once more.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Kirsten Boles is a doctoral student in Women's Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University and Assistant Editor of Reading Religion.

Date of Review: 
February 27, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Miguel A. De La Torre is professor of social ethics and Latino/a studies at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. An ordained Southern Baptist minister, he is the author of 18 books, including Reading the Bible from the MarginsTrails of Hope and Terror, and Introducing Lib­erative Theologies.

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