I just read a really important book: The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory by Tim Alberta, a staff writer for the Atlantic. Brings up so many thoughts. It’s strong journalism that dives deep into how the American evangelical church has basically gone crazy in the past few years, in no small part by unifying around Trump and demonizing anyone opposed to him – not just Democrats, but anyone seen to be an enemy, even good faithful Christians who served Trump himself, like Mike Pence.

This is not a hit job by a liberal who doesn’t understand faith – I hate those. Alberta is a pastor’s kid, raised and still active in an evangelical church. (He says his Presbyterian denomination is more conservative than the PCA.) In the epilogue, he explicitly writes that his goal for the book is to glorify God. It’s an interesting book because his journalistic skill makes this an excellent resource for non-Christians to understand the state of the evangelical church. But it feels like he’s writing to the church. He understands the church and the book is actually steeped in Scripture.

But that Scripture is used to contrast how the church is with what the Bible says it should be. I don’t think it’s cherry-picking – the crudeness, division, lust for power and domination, violent language of these parts of the church are so self-evidently opposed to how the gospels and epistles say the people of God should be it boggles the mind. I think for that reason, Alberta’s tone lies between disbelief and disgust.

To be honest, I feel the same way. I honestly feel shell-shocked by what I’ve seen in the American evangelical church over the past few years. We used to rightly care about integrity in our leaders – now we turn a blind eye or even cheer terrible behavior. The book echoes a similar message as Russell Moore’s recent book – in previous times the world rejected Christianity because of its claims, that there is an objective truth and that it calls us after salvation to certain standards of behavior. But now, the world rejects Christianity because of Christians, who don’t even reflect the values they say they believe in. What I can’t understand is when my brothers and sisters (and I do still consider them my brothers and sisters) turned this way. I always thought we were the same. Was I just mistaken? Did something change? It’s hard to grasp, like realizing you don’t know your family member at all.

It can be depressing – various people say that every single evangelical church in America has been affected by the ultra-political faction. But the book is not all gloom and doom. The last section of the book is the longest, and it’s basically about hopeful signs that things are changing. Moore gets mentioned repeatedly as a voice of reason and encouragement. And although the political voices are loud, Alberta guesses they only constitute 20% of evangelicals. Most just want to follow Jesus.

I also had a curious realization. Even though I see examples of the politicization of the church everywhere, I actually haven’t personally experienced it. The churches I’ve been a part of and connected to, there hasn’t been a faction agitating for more politics, sowing division. And I’m curious why that is. Maybe because the Bay Area is so overwhelmingly liberal there is no larger politically conservative culture to connect to? Of the churches I know of a lot of them are Asian-American – I think that’s a part of it too. Because this is a white evangelical phenomenon – the book doesn’t mention a single minority church. The urge to reclaim political power I think is related to an emotion of feeling a loss of power. But minorities never felt like we ever had power so that urge isn’t there. For whatever reason, the politicization of the church is something I read about (a lot) but have not directly experienced, and I consider that a blessing.

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