Politics and the pulpit: How white evangelicals’ support of Trump is creating schisms in the Church

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Goodwill Church, in New York’s leafy Hudson Valley, is a special destination for Atlantic Team Alberta. This is where the family’s journey of faith began. “There’s something so familiar about this place, so hard to describe,” he said. “My parents always described this church as sacred ground for our family.”

Tim’s father, Richard Alberta, was a pastor at this pulpit about 50 years ago after becoming a born-again Christian. “I don’t know where he’s sitting,” said Alberta. “I don’t know what the sermon was about that day. But something happened: a man who had been an atheist for years, you know, decided to give his life to Jesus.”

The Alberta family later moved to Michigan, where Tim’s father led the Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church. “My life has been completely wrapped up in the church,” says Tim. “We were the sun around the family, we were the whole world.”

The Atlantic’s Team Alberta, with CBS News’ Robert Costa.

CBS News

But Tim Alberta sought a career in journalism, writing about politics. His father urged him to stay grounded, including an unforgettable conversation in 2019: “He keeps telling me, ‘Don’t spend your whole career on these people. There are so many other stories.’ And it was one of the last conversations we had.”

Days later, Tim’s father died suddenly.

“When I came home to my church, I was expecting something different than what I got, I think,” he recalled.

While some offered comfort, Albert also clashed with some conservative church members over his reporting on then-President Donald Trump. “A lot of people on the show wanted to argue about politics,” he said. “They wanted to know if I was still a Christian. And my father is 100 feet away in a box.”

Costa said, “The church was not a sanctuary from politics; Was politics now a part of the church?” he asked.

“That’s right. I knew that on some level. And in fact, I deliberately ignored it.”

Alberta’s obsession with faith and politics is the basis for his new book, “Government, Power and Glory,” in what he calls an “age of extremism” for evangelicals. “There was a real crisis in the American church, especially in the white evangelical church.”


CBS News

According to the Pew Research Center About a quarter (24%) of American adults identify as evangelical.. And as the Republican presidential race heats up, 68 percent of white evangelicals support Trump. Alberta This shows a departure from normal norms – both in the GOP and in the church.

“We need to think about the American church in parallel with American politics,” he said. “When it gains enough influence, when it gains enough power, the fringe can overtake the mainstream. And that’s what we’ve seen happen in the church.”

The shake-up in today’s churches comes from decades of evangelicals gaining influence, from Billy Graham’s stadium crusades to Donald Trump’s stadium rallies. In recent years, evangelicals have heatedly debated their response to Covid and Trump, with all mainstream Republicans (like House Speaker Mike Johnson) counting themselves as one.

At the Goville church, Senior Pastor John Torres (who worked with Tim’s father) is uncomfortable with the political shadow over the church and others.

Costa asked Torres, “What do people say about politics?”

“That’s bad, that’s rubbish.”

“What do they say to you about politics?”

“Don’t get involved,” Torres replied. “I don’t want people sitting there listening to what I preach. I want them to stay regardless of their views. I want to talk to them about Jesus. ‘I don’t want to talk about politics.’ Because I don’t know what I can give them politically.

Other evangelists Don’t do it The politics of the mind—and see this moment as proof of hard-won power.

Evangelist holds massive rally on DC Mall amid pandemic
Worshipers attend a concert by evangelical musician Sean Fucht on the National Mall in Washington, DC on October 25, 2020.

Samuel Corum / Getty Images

“What do you say to evangelical leaders who hear your argument and say, ‘You’re missing the point: Trump will win for evangelical Christians, he will win for conservative America,'” Costa said. he asked.

“What wins?”

“Supreme Court benches, a seat at the White House table?”

Alberta replied, “Show me any issues in the Bible.”

But will do It’s an issue for many as Trump seeks the White House again. Alberta, “You have millions of evangelical Christians who voted for Donald Trump and who, like him, have embraced his terrifying rhetoric and Christ-like behavior.

“Why did you hug him ‘happily’ to use your word?” Costa asked.

“Power,” replied Alberta. “Trump ran for president in 2016 promising that Christians would have power if he was elected. He gave it to them. He gave it to them in a way that no American president in modern history has. And when you’re in power, you can quickly see your principles, your values ​​and your beliefs.

Regardless of Alberta, he said his faith has never been better today. His belief in reporting is also strong, and he says this is his calling.

“You and I, we’re journalists,” said Alberta. “We don’t have to be the story. I never want to be the story. [But] If you see this, you won’t be able to look away.”

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Story by Michelle Kessel. Prepared by: Emmanuel Seki

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