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Author Eric Metaxas, evangelical intellectual, chose Trump, and he’s sticking with him

Author Eric Metaxas, evangelical intellectual, chose Trump, and he’s sticking with him

The case of Eric Metaxas still remains a puzzling one to many of his fellow evangelicals.

How could the man who wrote an admiring, bestselling biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer — the German pastor martyred for his opposition to the Nazis — become one of the most prominent evangelical supporters of Donald Trump, the most authoritarian, least churchly president in recent American history?

The answers to this question go to the heart of the cultural fears that motivated a large majority of white evangelical Christians to vote for Trump, opening an enduring split among evangelical elites.

“There are not many people … who truly surprised me in the 2016 campaign,” said David French, a conservative writer for National Review who was briefly mentioned as a possible third-party presidential candidate. “Of the publicly prominent Christians [who backed Trump], the two most surprising to me were William Bennett, author of ‘The Book of Virtues,’ and Eric Metaxas, author of ‘Bonhoeffer’.”

But it wasn’t just his credentials as an intellectual that made the Yale-educated Metaxas, on the surface, an unlikely Trump backer. It was his magnetic personality, the immaculate suits, the sharp-tongued humor and his public profile in New York City, where he hosted high-minded conversations with authors and public intellectuals at the Yale Club. Malcolm Gladwell made an appearance in January 2015.

Metaxas, the son of a Greek immigrant, began his career as a writer for the successful Christian children’s TV show “VeggieTales.” His wife, Susanne, is deeply active in the antiabortion movement as president and CEO of a pregnancy support center in Manhattan. And while Metaxas’ flamboyance has crossed over into excessive self-promotion at times, he is so talented, funny and sincere that his friends just laughed it off.

You can get a sense of his quirky, dry humor from his “Socrates in the City” events, like his 2014 conversation with former talk show host Dick Cavett, including an extended riff about how the gathering is really a “UFO cult.”

Metaxas’ 2012 keynote speech at the National Prayer Breakfast was a tour de force. He mixed comedy with a bracing challenge to President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi over abortion as they sat a few feet away on the dais. He even passed a copy of his book to Obama, who then held the book up for the photographers, handing Metaxas a publicity coup.

“He was seeming to position himself in this unique niche of someone who — unlike many conservative leaders — could move in elite circles and yet had a common touch and a way of communicating with everybody,” French said.

In September 2015, Metaxas published a satire piece in the New Yorker mocking Trump’s obvious lack of familiarity with the Bible. But in the process of writing that piece, Metaxas later said, he concluded that Trump was “basically a good guy — like an uncle, but he says a lot of things you don’t agree with.”

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