For 40 years now, the religious right has been a fixture in American politics and for all that time it has befuddled observers who continually misunderstand it, beginning with its support for Ronald Reagan, a divorced Hollywood actor, against Jimmy Carter. Reagan was the first US president to describe himself as a "born-again Christian".
But Reagan - whose wife consulted an astrologer for guidance as first lady - was a virtual saint compared to Donald Trump, the most recent presidential beneficiary of their enthusiastic support, and someone that 81 percent of self-described white evangelical protestants rewarded with their votes.
The secret to making sense of them is simply stated in the title of Katherine Stewart's new book: The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism. It draws on more than a decade of first-hand experience and front-line reporting that began when her daughter's public elementary school was targeted to house a fundamentalist Bible club.
"The purpose of the club was to convince children as young as five that they would burn for an eternity if they failed to conform to a strict interpretation of the Christian faith," she recalls.
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