I am finishing-up Tim Alberta’s book The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism in preparation for a conversation I will be taping with him tomorrow on CSPAN’s Book TV. I am sure I will have more to say about the book in the coming days and weeks and I will let you know when my discussion with Alberta will air. We are also lining up a review at Current.
A lot of media outlets are focusing on the part of the book where Alberta tells the story of Trump calling Iowa evangelicals “pieces of s–t” before the 2016 caucuses. While this is certainly revealing, I also found his chapter on First Baptist-Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, a diehard Trump supporter, court evangelical, and 2024 Trump endorser, to be more newsworthy.
I was struck by two things Jeffress told Alberta during an interview in his 6th floor office suite at First Baptist-Dallas:
First, Jeffress finally admitted that “some damage may have been done” to the Christian witness of evangelicals as a result of their support for Trump. He believes that in the last couple of years evangelicals have “crossed a line” in their support of Trumpism. Alberta writes in response to Jeffress’s comment: “This was an astonishing confession.” Of course this has not prevented Jeffress from appearing at Trump rallies in support of his 2024 presidential run.
Second, Jeffress told Alberta that most of the work he does “has nothing to do with societal skirmishes or upcoming elections or anything else found outside the Bible.” Jeffress said that the media has created a caricature of him that does not conform to reality. Here is Alberta’s response to this claim:
Glancing to my right, his left, I took note of the irony. The corner of Jeffress’s office was a shrine–his secretary used that specific word to describe it–to President Donald J. Trump. There was an eight-foot tall poster memorializing the “Celebrate Freedom” concert in D.C. (the one where the choir sang “Make America Great Again”). There were boxes of Trump cuff links and a golden Trump commemorative coin. There were dozens–dozens–of framed photos of Jeffress and Trump: praying over him, talking with him, shaking hands with him, giving thumbs-up with him…In the sweep of my reporting on the former president and his many sycophants, I had never seen such a temple to Trumpism.
I may ask Alberta about this tomorrow.