Theology is the right lens for the deadly shift within the movement.
A recent article by Tim Alberta in the Atlantic magazine Chronicles the story of two Michigan churches in their different trajectory on the issue of evangelical radicalization toward right-wing politics. He has a church background as a pastors kid and has a good theological understanding of where these pastors in their churches are coming from and headed to.
You can read his article, How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church, in the June 2022 issue of The Atlantic Magazine.
I sent him the following letter because I was very provoked by the questions he raises, but of which there are not many good answers. I hope that what we’re seeing in the broader church world can be agreed-upon by Christians, to be primarily biblical and spiritual. I at least try to make a case to Tim that that is the best way to view the issues at hand.
You're the first Atlantic writer I have encountered who has theological literacy (and a conspicuous neutral voice) from the inside of evangelicalism. I appreciate how The Atlantic has made an effort to understand the mindset of that movement through Emma Green and your articles.
Given that you at least can see through a theological lens, I want to posit a theological hypothesis for the tectonic shift in the movement to the political right: this is from God's perspective, institutional apostasy (2 Th. 2). The events of the past few years have been the tip of the iceberg for a full-scale abandonment of the essential truth that made the ism about the evangel. The cauterizing effect of near universal support for Trump's presidency allows for further and further cognitive dissonance regarding the bible's teaching, which cannot but lead to inevitable full-scale abandonment of Truth as the Apostles recognized it.
Some writers who helped me see this, and “stop worrying and love the bomb,” so to speak, were John Calvin's introduction to the Institutes where he defends the fledgling Reformed/Evangelical sect against the monster power institution of Rome. His argument is as follows: the true work of the Lord is almost always marginal, persecuted by even the institutions which are set up by God, and thus are more likely to be humanly powerless, poor, and weak. Further, many of the evangelical statesmen of the late 19th and early 20th century warned of such a time. They could see it coming. Specifically in that there was a coming religion filled with an obsession for numbers and metrics, but devoid of the Spirit. Helpful in that regard is Iain Murray's Evangelicalism Divided, which traces the decline over the 20th century.
Anyway, I thank you for your article because it has stirred my thoughts and forced me to opine.
Jesus People SF