Jim DeMint, ex-Senate firebrand, ponders why God allows evil in ‘Satan’s Dare’

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As a senator from South Carolina, Republican Jim DeMint was a political firebrand aligned with the tea party. After leaving the Senate in 2012, he helmed the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, and raised money to elect more conservatives to the Senate.

So of course, Mr. DeMint’s first novel, “Satan’s Dare,” is about theodicy — the age-old question of why a loving God allows evil and sorrow to exist in the world, one that dates to the biblical account of Job.

“There’s a connection with what I do in Washington and writing a book, because everything is built on Judeo-Christian ideas,” Mr. DeMint said in a telephone interview on May 27.

While the roster of U.S. senators who have written books on spiritual themes is small —independent-Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman’s 2011 homage to the Sabbath called “The Gift of Time” is perhaps the only such volume — Mr. DeMint’s book stakes out new ground as both fiction and, he hopes, an inducement to national spiritual revival.

“America is declining because the Christian church is declining,” Mr. DeMint said. “The Christian church is declining because we’ve failed to address all these questions” about good and evil, about creation, and other related topics, he added.

For the first time in more than 80 years, fewer than half of all Americans said they were members of a local worship congregation, according to a Gallup poll released in March. Only 47% of Americans said they belonged to a faith community, down from 50% in 2019, Gallup said, noting a rise in the spiritually unaffiliated, or “nones,” during the same period.

Mr. DeMint said his faith journey was “kind of confusing growing up.” His father was Catholic and the future senator had his First Communion in the church. After his parents were divorced, his mother “put us in a Methodist church. My grandmother was probably praying for me the whole time,” he said.

At age 25, he said, a bestselling book on prophecy fell into his hands.

“I read ‘The Late Great Planet Earth,’ by Hal Lindsey, and at the time [I accepted] the idea of prophecies proving the Bible was true, that Jesus was coming back and that He would separate the sheep from the goats. I knew I was a goat,” he said.

“I prayed to receive Christ. I wasn’t in a church, no one was around, there was just an invitation in the book” to pray. He said he is still “officially” a member of the Presbyterian Church in America congregation where he had been an elder and Sunday School teacher for 30 years, but that he and his wife have “been so mobile the last few years, we go where my children go” when the DeMints visit, or to “a little church by the lake” near their home.

He said he had been working on the book for “the last 15 years,” transitioning it from a nonfiction apologetic “to one where I wanted to build a story in there. … This has been a faith journey for me in writing the book and asking the questions.”

“All Western civilization is built on ideas that come straight out of the Bible. All these things that set Western civilization [apart] from the whole world came from the life of Jesus and the Bible itself. We’re sweeping that away and expect to remain prosperous as a country.”

Echoing a point raised by historian Nathan O. Hatch, now the president of Wake Forest University in North Carolina, Mr. DeMint argues that the American Revolution sprang from the first evangelical “Great Awakening,” a religious revival in the 1730s that ended around 1740.

“I don’t see any other way to fix things in America unless the church itself wakes up,” Mr. DeMint said. “Not that we want to use government to push any religious ideas, but we want the freedom to practice our faith and be able to send our children to schools that teach the values.”

Asked about the current culture on Capitol Hill and what often appears to be a lack of civility across the aisle, Mr. DeMint acknowledged there’s a “real dislike, if not hate, between the parties.”

Reflecting on his time in the Senate, Mr. DeMint added, “There were a lot of people I disagreed with on policy, but I really appreciated them as human beings. We need to get back to some sense of decency and civility.”

The South Carolinian said he has outlined a sequel to “Satan’s Dare,” but “it’s contingent on whether the [first book] does well.” Fidelis Publishing, a Christian firm headed by former National Rifle Association President Oliver North, released the book recently.

The very publication of a novel shows a different side of Mr. DeMint, one veteran South Carolina political observer said.

Jim DeMint has never been a conventional type and this project is the proof of that. Too many politicians never leave the game, but Jim shows there is life after Washington. I hope many others take note,” said Scott English, who served as chief of staff to former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

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