Monday, February 6, 2017

The Deplorables' Guide to Making America Great Again, by Todd Starnes

Well, I guess I'm a deplorable.  I voted for Trump.  Fox contributor Todd Starnes gives voice to many deplorables in his new book The Deplorables' Guide to Making America Great Again.  While Fox News may be "fair and balanced," The Deplorables' Guide is definitely not balanced, although I would say he's fair.  Starnes covers some of the hot issues from the 2016 presidential election, some of the hot cultural controversies from today's headlines, and a few odds and ends from political and cultural life in the United States.  His perspective and positions are very clear.  No one will be under the illusion that he might be a moderate Republican or a closet Hillary supporter.

Starnes doesn't have patience for the outrage coming from the left, the "perpetually offended snowflakes" who spend their days "waxing poetic about gender fluidity, taking selfies, and debating which lives matter and which lives do not."  The social justice warriors are the legacy of the Obama administration.  Writing as a Christian, Starnes calls on other Christians to stand against the erosion of conservative values in the U.S.  "God's little lambs can no longer go silently where the Left leads us.  Our duty is to be civil--not silent."  The renewal he's calling for starts at home: "Making America great again does not start at the White House.  It starts at your house, and mine."

Many of Starnes's topics and examples concern the marginalization of Christianity from public life.  In schools, school events, and public gatherings even the most benign and non-sectarian expressions of faith are excluded.  A marching band playing an arrangement of a Christian hymn?  Forget it.  Students saying "God bless America."  No way.  A football coach kneeling and silently praying on the field after a game?  Get rid of him.

I had two questions as I read these accounts.  First of all, don't many of these public expressions dilute the Christian witness?  He quoted one principal who said "the children saying 'God bless America' had nothing to do with religion.  'It wasn't taught with any intention of having any type of religious overtones. . . . It was taught to show patriotism.'"  Is Starnes comfortable to reducing God to our national mascot?  To taking religious overtones out of religious expression?  Second, it's one thing when a high school football crowd sings a hymn that the marching band is forbidden to play.  But what if Starnes kids go to public school in Dearborn, Michigan, and the vast majority of the student body is Muslim?  When the food is halal, they pray several times a day, and the dress code for girls requires head coverings?  When Christians are in the majority, he's OK with the majority culture ruling the day.  But he doesn't address the changing demographics in pockets of our diverse nation where Christians are becoming the minority.

Starnes also talks about the way Christians in business and entertainment are having their rights eroded.  Some of the cases are well-known, but worth revisiting.  Who would have imagined that government officials would try to block a business opening because of the founder's religious views? Chick-fil-a has faced that from a number of municipalities and universities around the country.  Or a TV program being cancelled because of the stars' views?  Ask the Benham brothers about their HGTV show.  The goal of progressives is "to silence any speech they disagree with. . . . They are creating a generation of intolerance--a generation that is OK shutting down free speech and purging dissenting viewpoints."

Whether the election of Donald Trump will reverse any of these trends is yet to be seen.  He writes, "we stopped just shy of complete moral meltdown, the crumble of our nations physical (not to mention spiritual) infrastructure."  I join Starnes in his dismay at the moral turn our country has taken.  But I wish his tone was less belligerent.  A Christian's goal should be to influence culture by showing love and leading their neighbors into relationship with Jesus.  I am certain Starnes would not disagree with me on that, but I can see how some would read The Deplorables' Guide and come away thinking that Starnes is in favor of ham-fisted cultural dominance.

The Deplorables' Guide is great reading for conservative Christians who want to commiserate about the decline of culture in America.  Starnes is an entertaining writer, and I found myself laughing with him, cursing with him, and becoming convinced, as he said, to start making America great again in my little slice of the world.  He provides "Marching Orders" at the end of each chapter, ways that you can change your own little world in hopes of make the greater world even greater.  Liberals probably don't want to bother with this book.  You might learn a little about how conservatives think, but mostly it will just make you angry.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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