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Episode Summary

American Christianity enjoys a great deal of power and influence at home and abroad. Is the church better for it? Is the world better for it? Or is Christian Nationalism just another idolatry—a temptation to take up the sword instead of taking up the cross? Journalist Tim Alberta (The Atlantic, POLITICO) joins Evan Rosa for a discussion of his new book, *The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism*. Tim explains his reporting on American Evangelicalism from 2019 through 2023 as well as his own Christian faith and spiritual background. He also reflects on a variety of challenging issues that influence life far upstream from political theatre, including: how faith matures or erodes; the impact of Constantinian Christianity and the Christian embrace of power, influence, and glory in American public life; the difference between Christ and Christendom, and our allegiance to one or the other; and the meaning and unique threat of idolatry—which takes on a unique form in contemporary American life.

Episode Notes

American Christianity enjoys a great deal of power and influence at home and abroad. Is the church better for it? Is the world better for it? Or is Christian Nationalism just another idolatry—a temptation to take up the sword instead of taking up the cross? Journalist Tim Alberta (The Atlantic, POLITICO) joins Evan Rosa for a discussion of his new book, The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism. Tim explains his reporting on American Evangelicalism from 2019 through 2023 as well as his own Christian faith and spiritual background. He also reflects on a variety of challenging issues that influence life far upstream from political theatre, including:

  • how faith matures or erodes
  • the impact of Constantinian Christianity and the Christian embrace of power, influence, and glory in American public life
  • the difference between Christ and Christendom, and our allegiance to one or the other
  • and the meaning and unique threat of idolatry—which takes on a unique form in contemporary American life.

Show Art

Grégoire Guérard, “The Arrest of Christ”, circa 1520-1522, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, France

About Tim Alberta

Visit Tim’s personal website for more of his writing, or follow him on X/Twitter.

Tim Alberta is an award-winning journalist, best-selling author, and staff writer for The Atlantic magazine. He formerly served as chief political correspondent for POLITICO. In 2019, he published the critically acclaimed book, "American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump" and co-moderated the year's final Democratic presidential debate aired by PBS Newshour.

Hailing from Brighton, Michigan, Tim attended Schoolcraft College and later Michigan State University, where his plans to become a baseball writer were changed by a stint covering the legislature in Lansing. He went on to spend more than a decade in Washington, reporting for publications including the Wall Street Journal, The Hotline, National Journal and National Review. Having covered the biggest stories in national politics—the battles over health care and immigration on Capitol Hill; the election and presidency of Donald Trump; the ideological warfare between and within the two parties—Tim was eager for a new challenge.

In 2019, he moved home to Michigan. Rather than cover the 2020 campaign through the eyes of the candidates, Tim roved the country and reported from gun shows and farmers markets, black cookouts and white suburbs, crowded wholesale stores and shuttered small businesses. He wrote a regular "Letter to Washington" that kept upstream from politics, focusing less on manifest partisan divisions and more on elusive root causes: the hollowing out of communities, the diminished faith in vital institutions, the self-perpetuating cycle of cultural antagonism, the diverging economic realities for wealthy and working-class citizens, the rapid demographic makeover of America—and the corollary spikes in racism and xenophobia.

Tim joined The Atlantic in March 2021 with a mandate to keep roaming and writing and telling stories that strike at the heart of America's discontent. His work has been featured in dozens of other publications nationwide, including Sports Illustrated and Vanity Fair, and he frequently appears as a commentator on television programs in the United States and around the world. Tim's first book, "American Carnage," debuted at No. 1 and No. 2 on the Washington Post and New York Times best-seller lists, respectively. He lives in southeast Michigan with his wife, three sons, and German Shepherd.

Show Notes

  • Tim Alberta, The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory
  • Intellectually re-examining the faith of childhood
  • A generational disillusionment in today’s exit from Christianity
  • Generational break in attitude & behavior
  • Distance from the moral majority generation to evaluate critically
  • Inverse relationship where the more one learns about Christ, the less they like Christianity
  • The creation of the secular, evil “other”
  • “They created this other, this outsider, this enemy that had to be defeated.”
  • Current American Christianity is often looking to find our identities on the good side of zero-sum equation.
  • Shrinking our theology into something pathetic and miniscule.
  • St. Augustine, St. Paul, and C.S. Lewis
  • “One way to find meaning is to locate an enemy.”
  • From Cal Thomas’s Blinded by Might” —”Unless you have the power to right every wrong and cure every ill and what better way to do that than with An all powerful God on your side.”
  • The church most often seems to thrive when it is at the margins.
  • “We can understand the relationship between this lust for dominance in our, in a society, the inverse relationship between that lust for dominance and the health of the church.”
  • Satan’s temptation of Christ in the Gospel of Luke—the temptation to bow down.
  • St. Peter, “Blessed are you Simon bar Jonah…” and then… “Get behind me Satan.”
  • Reaching for the sword versus reaching for the cross
  • The impact of Constantinian Christianity
  • John Dixon’s Bullies and Saints
  • Constantine wielding Christianity to dominate—the imposition of Christian faith
  • “Is Christianity an end or is it a means to an end?”
  • “It's easy to forget about the teachings of Christ if you are preoccupied with the, crusades of Christianity”
  • “An idol is something that starts as a good and healthy thing, but then becomes the ultimate thing.”
  • America as a kingdom
  • American Christendom as a source of idolatry
  • Baptizing the American experience and past
  • E.g., Thomas Jefferson, Donald Trump, and Paula White
  • “The other part of it that I find to be uniquely problematic and sometimes just downright gross, is this willful merging of scripture with the American mythos.”
  • Mike Pence, and “Let us set our eyes on Old Glory.”
  • “Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.”
  • An age of gnawing unknowns
  • Tim Alberta’s reflections on his father
  • “Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.”
  • The influence of Jesus’s life and teaching
  • “We are in sales, not management.”

Production Notes

  • This podcast featured Tim Alberta
  • Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
  • Hosted by Evan Rosa
  • Production Assistance by Macie Bridge, Alexa Rollow, and Tim Bergeland
  • A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School https://faith.yale.edu/about
  • Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture: https://faith.yale.edu/give

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