Reviews for The Kingdom, The Power, And The Glory

by Tim Alberta

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Alberta, a staff reporter for the Atlantic and a man of Christian faith, was impelled to write this look at religion and right-wing politics after the funeral of his father, a pastor, during which churchgoers assailed him for his anti-Trump writings. Crisscrossing the country, Alberta spoke with prominent evangelical clergymen (they are nearly all men) to understand how Donald Trump, seemingly the opposite of what Christ calls people to be, could hold so many believers in his thrall. Readers will get a history of the interworkings of religion and politics going back to the Scopes trial and highlighting the days of the Moral Majority and on through Barack Obama’s presidency as churchgoers were fed a steady drip of lies from the pulpit about this “Marxist.” Most importantly, according to Alberta, Christians believed they were “under siege” and thus were susceptible to wooing by alleged protector Trump. But there is so much more here. A parade of pastors most Americans have never heard of justify, amplify, but never really demystify why they’ve followed Trump. They’ve acquired power and twisted the kingdom, but the glory is so tarnished as to be unrecognizable. A probing, disorienting, and essential work.

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

In this scathing account, journalist Alberta (American Carnage) scrutinizes the unraveling of American evangelicalism over the past several decades. According to the author, extremists are now the establishment within the evangelical movement and have been “conditioned to subdue” their Christlike love and chase political power. To make his case, Alberta profiles such “conservative clerics, Trump-inspired politicos, patriot crusaders, culture-war capitalists” as Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist megachurch pastor and longtime Trump acolyte who believes evangelicalism is “under siege” from a secular government, as well as moderate pastors who’ve broken from the denomination, including Russell Moore, the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, whose critiques of Trump and calls to address racial tensions in the church sparked “vicious internecine fighting” and led to his 2021 departure from the denomination. Alberta adeptly illustrates how Christian nationalism is “destroying the evangelical church” on a big-picture level, as well as how it’s justified individually, framed scripturally, and blared over pulpits in support of hyper-conservative political candidates. While he suggests a “true Christianity” might still be salvageable, Alberta’s own evidence reveals how deep the rot has already spread. It’s an incisive, unsparing look at a movement in crisis. (Dec.)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An exploration of the changing face of American evangelicalism through the past several decades. Alberta, a staff writer for the Atlantic and author of American Carnage, describes the evangelical church as the product of changing times, with various factions of American Protestantism “amalgamating under a shared, if loosely defined, label: ‘evangelicals,’” in the early 1970s. At the time, evangelicals were poised to have a major role in shaping American culture. However, Alberta shows that what was meant as a spiritual movement built around shared values and goals for spreading the gospel soon split apart through political involvement, especially due to the influence of a cadre of charismatic church leaders. The author recognizes two particular periods of cultural turmoil, each of which ushered in the leadership of an unlikely American president. First was the Carter administration, which caused many evangelicals to seriously engage in politics for the first time, resulting in the election of Reagan. Second was the Obama era, marked by expansive cultural changes that brought about “a sudden onset of dread” among the evangelical base. The result was the rise of Trump. Alberta builds his study around interviews with a number of people central to—or at least privy to—the changes in evangelicalism over time. The topic is deeply personal to the author, whose father was a conservative (but largely apolitical) Presbyterian pastor. Alberta lionizes his father while criticizing most of his father’s friends for allowing politics to influence their faith life. “The crisis of American evangelicalism,” the author writes, “comes down to an obsession with…worldly identity.” The author sees this obsession as having weakened Christianity in the United States. Regarding the term evangelical, he believes that today, most non-religious people “are completely and categorically repelled by that word.” Sometimes overly personal yet well researched and comprehensive. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.