Tim Alberta on the infiltration of political extremism into American Christianity

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Site Search
Give

Popular culture

In “The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory,” Tim Alberta recounts the infiltration of political extremism into American Christianity

February 22, 2024 -

Hands folded in prayer in front of the US Capitol building. By lazyllama/stock.adobe.com

Hands folded in prayer in front of the US Capitol building. By lazyllama/stock.adobe.com

Hands folded in prayer in front of the US Capitol building. By lazyllama/stock.adobe.com

Journalist Tim Alberta, a preacher’s kid, rushed home to suburban Detroit after his father died of a heart attack.

He must have expected that the congregation at Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church would uniformly treat him with love and compassion. After all, he had grown up there and still knew many of the members.

But that’s not what happened. Some of the church members had heard Rush Limbaugh on the radio discussing a book Alberta had written with unflattering revelations about Donald Trump.

“One man questioned whether I was truly a Christian,” Alberta wrote. “Another asked if I was still on ‘the right side.’ All while Dad was in a box a hundred feet away.”

The reception he received from those two members—and others—so upset Alberta that he chastised the congregation when he delivered his father’s eulogy.

“What’s wrong with American evangelicals?”

Cornerstone’s story frames the narrative in Alberta’s new book, The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism.

Alberta crisscrosses the country, describing some of the most outlandish behavior by evangelical extremists, witnessing what he calls “the deterioration of American Christianity.”

Cornerstone proves to be a microcosm of what’s going on nationally. In a revealing meeting with Chris Winans, his father’s successor as pastor, Alberta asks him, “What’s wrong with American evangelicals?”

“America,” Winans responds. “Too many of them worship America.”

Alberta documents example after example of the world—especially politics—infiltrating Christianity in unhealthy ways, leading to a divide among evangelicals.

On one side are institutions tarred by scandal like the Southern Baptist Convention and Liberty University. On the other are outspoken critics like columnist David French and theologian Russell Moore.

“This was nothing less than a war for the soul of American Christianity,” Alberta writes.

“The crackup of the evangelical Church”

It’s not surprising that Alberta found so much to criticize about evangelicals. But it’s disappointing that he found so little to praise.

“Having spent Trump’s presidency traveling the country, meeting religious voters in small towns, and big cities alike, I knew how many serious, sane evangelicals were still out there,”  Alberta acknowledges. “They are dismayed by the hysteria and hyperbole that has captured their movement and want nothing more than to reclaim it. Their character deserves respect and the crackup of the evangelical Church is not their doing.”

Alberta obviously knows his Bible. He frequently quotes from Scripture in the book, and his criticisms shouldn’t be easily dismissed.

“There is nothing inherently wrong with legislative engagement,” he writes. “People of faith should advocate on moral grounds for the betterment of their fellow man. But politics are one tool to help construct a movement; politics are not the movement itself.”

Our true hope

The book ends on a hopeful note, with Winans delivering a challenging sermon to his flock and quoting 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV): “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

And in an appearance on Meet the Press, moderator Kristen Welker asked Alberta if the things he had witnessed while researching the book had shaken his faith.

“Not even a little bit,” he said.

His book shouldn’t shake ours, either.

But it should prompt us to make sure we fix our eyes on eternal things.

What did you think of this article?

If what you’ve just read inspired, challenged, or encouraged you today, or if you have further questions or general feedback, please share your thoughts with us.

Name(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Denison Forum
17304 Preston Rd, Suite 1060
Dallas, TX 75252-5618
[email protected]
214-705-3710


To donate by check, mail to:

Denison Ministries
PO Box 226903
Dallas, TX 75222-6903