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(51,063 posts)
Tue Nov 28, 2023, 03:14 PM Nov 2023

Tim Alberta: My Father, My Faith, and Donald Trump [View all]


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It was July 29, 2019—the worst day of my life, though I didn’t know that quite yet.
The traffic in downtown Washington, D.C., was inching along. The mid-Atlantic humidity was sweating through the windows of my chauffeured car. I was running late and fighting to stay awake. For two weeks, I’d been sprinting between television and radio studios up and down the East Coast, promoting my new book on the collapse of the post–George W. Bush Republican Party and the ascent of Donald Trump. Now I had one final interview for the day. My publicist had offered to cancel—it wasn’t that important, she said—but I didn’t want to. It was important. After the car pulled over on M Street Northwest, I hustled into the stone-pillared building of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

All in a blur, the producers took my cellphone, mic’d me up, and shoved me onto the set with the news anchor John Jessup. Camera rolling, Jessup skipped past the small talk. He was keen to know, given his audience, what I had learned about the president’s alliance with America’s white evangelicals. Despite being a lecherous, impenitent scoundrel—the 2016 campaign was marked by his mocking of a disabled man, his xenophobic slander of immigrants, his casual calls to violence against political opponents—Trump had won a historic 81 percent of white evangelical voters. Yet that statistic was just a surface-level indicator of the foundational shifts taking place inside the Church. Polling showed that born-again Christian conservatives, once the president’s softest backers, were now his most unflinching advocates. Jessup had the same question as millions of other Americans: Why?

As a believer in Jesus Christ—and as the son of an evangelical minister, raised in a conservative church in a conservative community—I had long struggled with how to answer this question. The truth is, I knew lots of Christians who, to varying degrees, supported the president, and there was no way to summarily describe their diverse attitudes, motivations, and behaviors. They were best understood as points plotted across a spectrum. At one end were the Christians who maintained their dignity while voting for Trump—people who were clear-eyed in understanding that backing a candidate, pragmatically and prudentially, need not lead to unconditionally promoting, empowering, and apologizing for that candidate. At the opposite end were the Christians who had jettisoned their credibility—people who embraced the charge of being reactionary hypocrites, still fuming about Bill Clinton’s character as they jumped at the chance to go slumming with a playboy turned president.

From the April 2018 issue: Michael Gerson on Trump and the evangelical temptation
Most of the Christians I knew fell somewhere in the middle. They had to some extent been seduced by the cult of Trumpism, yet to composite all of these people into a caricature was misleading. Something more profound was taking place. Something was happening in the country—something was happening in the Church—that we had never seen before. I had attempted, ever so delicately, to make these points in my book. Now, on the TV set, I was doing a similar dance.

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