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Verk av Tim Alberta


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This book is eye-opening and terrifying.
auldhouse | 6 andra recensioner | Mar 20, 2024 |
Summary: A several years-long study of why much of the evangelical movement turned to hard right, nationalist politics, ignoring character and embracing the pursuit of power to enforce its vision of American greatness.

Tim Alberta, a writer for The Atlantic, who had written articles critical of the former president, was stunned in the summer of 2019 when his father, an evangelical pastor outside Detroit, died suddenly of a heart attack. What stunned him even more was that a number of people at his father’s funeral, instead of offering comfort and condolences, took him to task for what he had written. One, a family friend, left him a letter accusing him of being a traitor. Subsequently, conversations with his father’s successor, Chris Winans, told a tale of controversy during COVID over church closures, mask mandates and more. Winans watched many depart for a church down the road preaching a political gospel people wanted to hear instead of the counter-cultural gospel of Jesus Pastor Winans preached.

All this set Alberta on a cross-country quest to understand what was happening in much of American evangelicalism, from a tent church in the South, to the ministry of Robert Jeffress, to the campus of Liberty University. Alberta remains a faithful Christian and this book is not an exvangelical hatchet job. Much of the book allows leaders in their own words to talk about their embrace of an American greatness gospel, motivated by an idea of reclaiming a white vision of America in the 1950’s, even as boomers from that era began to die off and the actual population of the country became far more culturally diverse. He questions the flip-flop from the excoriation of Bill Clinton for his moral failures to the embrace of a president just as flawed, if not more so. He received no good answers, just the justification that the needs of the hour required such a man. Some interviewees expressed quiet reservations not reflected in their subsequent public rhetoric.

He also chronicles the stories of the wounded. Russell Moore was a former leader of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Church, a man of impeccable religious conservatism who nevertheless opposed the former president and also stood up against sexual abuse in the church against its executive leadership. He was forced out and left the denomination. David French, fought for religious liberty cases on university campuses and at one time wrote for the National Review. When he wrote against the former president, the threats became so bad, both he and his wife began carrying firearms. One of the most courageous was a Liberty University professor, popular with students being fired for not obeying the administration. He refused to resign, accept a severance package and sign a non-disclosure agreement. He offers an account of Rachael Denhollander, fighting for anti-abuse policies in the Southern Baptist Church while forced out of her own congregation.

He portrays his own father’s embrace of the culture wars and efforts to reclaim American greatness, and how the seeds that bore fruit in 2015 were sown many years earlier through Falwell’s Moral Majority and Ralph Reed’s Christian Coalition. Combine that with congregations nourished on talk radio and conservative cable news networks and you had a populace discipled, not by the gospel of Jesus but by the gospel of America. Instead of a vision for a global kingdom of God, what mattered was the kingdom of America. Instead of zeal for the greatness of God, it was zeal for the greatness of America. In short, what Alberta portrays is political idolatry in the guise of Christianity.

What’s troubling to see is people from rural pastors to Jerry Falwell, Jr., using this gospel to build their own kingdoms, drawing off people from other congregations with the lure of their false gospel. For some, there is power and glory in their nearness to earthly political power. And while all this is happening, many Gen Z children are heading for the exits, and many others as well.

Alberta concludes where he began, at the church his father once pastored. He’s heartened to find that, despite all the wounds, Chris Winans has persisted, pursuing a strategy of “pull, don’t push” with his people, offering sound teaching to make them question their own beliefs. The church had replaced its losses and was leaning into a vision of faithful presence in the culture rather than “owning the libs.” He entertains the hope, even as he wonders how this all will work out that this “hidden gospel,” hidden in quiet acts of everyday faithfulness will lead to a new revealing of Christ.

Jesus said we cannot believe in both God and Mammon. This is the kind of choice and the kind of divide that runs through the accounts of this book. I’m increasingly struck through recent reading that the draw of Mammon is the belief that it works. That seems the only justification people offer for embracing a political faith so opposite the teaching of scripture. What is not said is that in so doing we are saying that we don’t believe in the way of Jesus, the way of loving enemies, of expanding the reach of his rule to “sinners,” Samaritans, and even Gentiles, and walking the way of the cross. Are we willing to persist in what is foolish and weak, believing it reflects the power and wisdom of God?

Part of the challenge is that our attention, on social and news media, is on the gospel of Mammon. During his remarks at his father’s funeral, and in a recent interview, Alberta repeatedly offers the challenge that if we claim to place Jesus first, that we spend more time in scripture, in reading nourishing Christian books and taking in podcasts and sermons, than listening to the media of Mammon. Perhaps, in this season of Lent, fasting from this media and feasting on the word of God may be a start. Hopefully, it will remind us whose kingdom, power, and glory we are called to seek.
… (mer)
BobonBooks | 6 andra recensioner | Feb 28, 2024 |
Can you imagine being approached at your father's funeral and being accosted about your political views? That happened to Tim Alberta.

Alberta is a fearless man. He takes on the insidious milieu of Christian nationalism that has drenched the modern church. For the most part, he does so with a firm and orthodox understanding of Scripture. This book is needed in the confused climate of American evangelicalism. So many have begun to look for salvation in a political outcome that they have missed the true nature of the Kingdom of God. Alberta takes this ideology to task.

If this book has shortfalls, they come in the realm of overstating one's case. Alberta takes up the most heinous of examples to cover. He devotes chapters to Greg Locke (a certifiable nutcase who has baptized Christian nationalism with a few hijacked bible verses), Charlie Kirk, Robert Jeffers, and Jerry Falwell Jr. Don't misunderstand me - all of these characters need the attention that Alberta shines upon them. My fear is that he paints the totality of the church in the hues of their error. For example, in chapter twelve he seems to indicate that the church is following the pattern of Vladimir Putin and how he used the Russian Orthodox Church to solidify his autocratic government. Does anyone besides me think this is an argument that is a bridge too far?

Another part of this book that is confusing to me are the two chapters that cover sexual abuse allegations and investigations in the Southern Baptist Convention. In no way am I saying that these issues should be hidden. I am, however, questioning what role they play in a book on Christian nationalism. It seems that Alberta wants to air all of the church's dirty laundry, whether it is pertinent to his topic or not. I think he even senses this tendency. In the Epilogue, he writes, "To be clear, there are still thousands of healthy, vibrant churches across this country, places that have their gospel priorities straight and lean into the tradition of discipling with hard truths" (444). And then he goes on to say that most American christians are not interested in this type of discipleship. I suppose I share his concern over Christian nationalism and its insidious effects upon the Gospel, but perhaps I disagree with how pervasive the problem is.

Regardless of my critique, Tim Alberta has authored a fine book. It sheds light on issues that the church must address. It points to a more historical and robust understanding of Scripture. And it, in the end, roots any hope we have in Jesus.
… (mer)
RobSumrall | 6 andra recensioner | Jan 31, 2024 |
[3.75] Readers who are in the hunt for a breezy thumbnail summary of the impact of evangelicalism and its historic intersection with politics would be advised to pass on this opus and read Alberta’s excellent articles in the Atlantic. Those who seek a deep-dive into this extraordinary phenomenon will find Alberta’s book insightful and – depending on their politics and religious convictions – disturbing or encouraging. I found the first quarter of the book most engaging as Alberta skillfully used his dad as a launching board for the thorny topic. His father was a hotshot banker who was on the rise in his industry but still felt a profound emptiness. He entered a seminary and became a respected preacher. In a revealing C-SPAN interview, the author acknowledged that pretty much all the family’s relatives and friends thought the change in trajectory was “nutty.” He approaches the issue as both a journalist and a Christian. His strong faith, family ties to religion and superior knowledge of scripture are evident throughout the book. Alberta’s extensive – and in some cases exhausting—investigation risks overwhelming readers who have only moderate interest in the issues. Dozens of religious leaders, political luminaries and other individuals fill the pages. But in the end, Alberta presents a thought-provoking and debate-inspiring expose on what he depicts as a hostile takeover of evangelicalism. In a televised interview, the author confided that he was initially worried about how his research might impact his religious convictions. “My faith has never been stronger than it is now,” he said.… (mer)
brianinbuffalo | 6 andra recensioner | Jan 28, 2024 |



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