Wednesday, June 26, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt fourteen)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

‘We’ve always been marginalized. We’re marginalized today,” Reed said. “The challenge was, could we ever change it? And we did. I mean, it took forty or fifty years. But we’ve changed it.”

Changed what, exactly? The public’s perception of evangelical Christianity is worse than at any point in recorded history. Church attendance is steadily eroding and will nosedive as Baby Boomers die off in greater numbers. Meanwhile, the rhetoric around their supposed persecution—Reed told Stephen Strang, on his podcast in 2019, that it would be “open season” on Christians if Trump lost reelection—hasn’t been updated since the heyday of Jerry Falwell Sr. The only think that seems changed, I observed to Reed, is disposition. Whereas the evangelical movement once downplayed its alliances with those who might undermine its moral credibility, today it openly champions the likes of Donald Trump and Herschel Walker.

Reed set his jaw. “I believe as a theological matter that someone can find redemption in Christ and become a new person,” he replied. “And I believe that Herschel Walker is a new person.”

Maybe he was. I didn’t know the man’s heart. If the allegations against Walker were true, then it would be consistent with scripture for him, as a new person who found redemption in Christ, to take responsibility for his actions, to admit his deceptions, to ask for the forgiveness that accompanies being a new person, and to radiate the transformative mercy he had been shown. But Walker wasn’t doing any of that. Instead, he was asking for cheap grace. He was promoting a surface-level sanctification. He was using Christianity as a lowest common denominator—a way to gloss over the mistakes of his past, to explain his persecution at present, and to guarantee voters a political reward in the future.

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