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Opinion: Author Tim Alberta Sees Another Way for Evangelical Christians in Politics

By Mark Silk
tim alberta kingdom power glory
"The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism" and author Tim Alberta. (Courtesy images)

In Iowa’s Republican caucuses this month, 53% of white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump. In the New Hampshire primary, 70% of them did.

Are you surprised? Of course not.

The attachment of white evangelicals to Trump has been described, discussed and derided for years. But to understand what it’s all about, the place to go is Tim Alberta’s new book, “The Kingdom, The Power, and the Glory.”

Alberta, an evangelical pastor’s kid as well as a seasoned political reporter, has used his insider’s knowledge to compile what amounts to a field report on the spiritual politics of white evangelicalism in America since the 2020 election.

The impact of COVID-19 cannot be overestimated. Government mandates restricting in-person worship seemed to provide concrete evidence for a widespread belief among evangelicals that secular authorities are coming after Christianity. Around the country, Alberta found, many congregants abandoned evangelical churches that observed the mandates in favor of those that defied them.

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tim alberta evangelical extremism book
Tim Alberta participates in an interview on “CBS Sunday Morning.” (Video screen grab/CBS)

The effect, which Alberta lays out in “The Kingdom,” the book’s opening section, has been an intensified politicization of the white evangelical world. 

Next, in “The Power,” Alberta engages with a legion of evangelical characters who have promoted and profited from the politicization: Ralph Reed and Paula White, David Barton and Charlie Kirk, Michael Flynn and Greg Locke, and lesser-known exploiters of the fears and anxieties of the rank and file. These he calls out as grifters — shepherds who know they are leading their flocks with false teachings for their own benefit.

“The Glory,” the book’s final section, focuses on Alberta’s heroes — people who have pushed back against the evangelical establishment’s powers and principalities. These include fellow conservative evangelicals such as Russell Moore, former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s policy office; Rachael Denhollander, legal champion of sexually abused evangelical women; and lawyer-turned-New York Times columnist David French. 

The good news, Alberta maintains, is that (by his estimate) only 20% of white evangelicals have been fully MAGA-fied. The bad news is that the remaining 80% are complacent. And, as he recently told evangelical podcaster Curtis Chang, “That committed 20% is going to beat that complacent 80% every time.”

Channeling his inner pastor, Alberta issues a kind of altar call to the 80% to abandon their complacency and stand up for Christianity’s true nature.

Although he criticizes what he sometimes calls “American Christendom” for ignoring Jesus’ injunctions on behalf of the poor, the stranger and the marginalized, he issues no summons to some version of the Social Gospel. His restorationist ideal is the primitive Church, a wayfarer enterprise dedicated to love of enemies and not just friends, disengaged from earthly politics because Christ’s kingdom is not of this world.

As he said to Chang, “Maybe just maybe now there’s a demand starting to grow in among those 80% … not to go to war with the 20, but to be better equipped so that they can help to reclaim their church, reclaim their congregation, reclaim their faith tradition, from those who have tried to hijack it.”

Judging by the Iowa and New Hampshire results, the evidence for such a reclamation is pretty slim. But “faith,” says the Good Book, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

And Tim Alberta is determined to keep the faith.

This commentary, which was originally published by Religion News Service, does not necessarily reflect the views of The Roys Report. 

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and a contributor to Religion News Service.

Editor’s note: Click below for a podcast reciente with author Tim Alberta, He speaks in part about the book’s last section, which highlights the advocacy work of Rachael Denhollander as well as how The Roys Report came to be and why the work we do matters.

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  1. Are we evangelicals supposed to vote for Biden? He is a disaster. Is that what Alberta wants? No, I’m voting for Trump and that doesn’t mean I’m a Christian nationalist or putting my hope and trust in politics rather than Christ.

    1. Trump has been held liable for sexual abuse and defamation. In addition to parroting fascists dictators and wanting to send a bunch of people to rot in Hell.

      There were many other fine candidates such as Mike Pence who by the way loves Jesus and has great experience in government. However, but the majority of white U.S. evangelicals WANT Donald Trump and his abuses.

      This is a really telling display of the lack of character amongst white evangelicals in the U.S. …..

      1. Biden has perpetrated sexual abuse also. So we have two bad men running for Pres. Trump however is much more competent and usually knows where he is at any given moment.

    2. Look at it this way, come November your choice isn’t simply between Biden and Trump. It’s really much deeper than that. It’s choosing to continue to live in a democracy, or to embrace, would be dictator. Even if I’m not thrilled with everything Biden has done it is still believe in democracy.

  2. Many people simply cannot, will not see beyond the Red/Blue divide. They practically think Jesus is not King. So we need to choose either Red or Blue. Can we not see beyond that temporary distortion of politics? They think God is dead, so we must vote because there is no third choice. How about not voting for a Devil rather he be blue or red? How about repenting for not trusting God, not praying to Jesus Christ to come back and fix this mess. How about repenting of being both in this world and of it? Repenting of joining in in a mindset that politicians are the true gods and our vote is our only power instead of prayer. Too much voting and complaining to each other. Not enough fasting and prayer. Only Jesus can fix this mess. Biden is senile and needs to retire. Trump is the worst in-your-face wicked person I have ever seen run for president. To not see God as the answer to this is to not actually act as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

  3. I’ve been in this milieu for decades, seems to me the 70s sometime. I was with the old Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship way back when. I’ve seem much. Trumpers and MAGAs are so fearful they cannot see the elephant in the room that is a rapist, con man & liar. Not merely a man with faults but a man profoundly not suited to an America with 330,000,000 people. Biden’s problems are many, like most of us but pale in comparison to Trump. We need a secular nation with God inspired principles that allow us to worship and gather as needed. We sure do not want or need a Christian nation. Faith based nations have only declined into internecine warfare. Witness Israel and the middle east Islamic countries.

    1. Just remember the Protestant Reformation was not only left the Catholic church in control of many countries but so called Christian State churches in non-catholic countries.

      Unless something changes drastically in the Democratic or Republican party I see no alternative except for Christians to not only pray but vote for Biden.

      Remember Trump was even removed from running his own charity and one of his own sisters “…says he’s an ‘unprincipled phoney'”

      .https://bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53881222

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Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Hurt and Healed by the Church” by Ryan George.