Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Secular news outlets from NPR to the New York Times are hailing Tim Alberta’s new book, The Kingdom, The Power, and the Glory, for furthering the popular thesis that evangelicals have abandoned themselves to political idolatry. By “political idolatry” they mean “political conservatism,” as neither Alberta’s book nor the many prestige outlets enthusing over it have a word of criticism for Christians who advance left-wing causes. However, a curious passage in the book suggests that those leveling this charge may be most guilty of infecting the church with partisanship.

Alberta reports on The After Party, a forthcoming program led by Duke Divinity consulting professor Curtis Chang and developed with New York Times columnist David French and Christianity Today editor in chief Russell Moore. The program offers pastors and small groups a curriculum “reframing Christian political identity from today’s divisive partisan options.”

According to Alberta, during its germination phase, the project hit a roadblock. Evangelical donors had little interest in funding an explicitly political Bible study. Thus, to get The After Party off the ground, the trio (all frequent critics of evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump) turned to “predominantly progressive” “unbelievers.” In fact, they turned to secular left-wing foundations. 

Alberta’s book offers no details about the funding of the project, but a bit of internet sleuthing reveals that in May 2022, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors announced that The After Party would be one of the thirty-two beneficiaries of their New Pluralists project, which is investing $10 million to “address divisive forces.” If that money were divided evenly, it would more than cover the entire $250,000 budget of Chang’s umbrella organization, Redeeming Babel, which is behind The After Party. While Chang and company claim their program isn’t focused on parties or policies, the Rockefeller announcement noted it would launch in the “battleground” of Ohio, though none of The After Party founders call that state home.

Rockefeller’s interest in bankrolling Bible studies is a red flag. In the same grant round as The After Party is a group seeking to promote the “leadership of rural LGBTQ+ people.” Another is committed to “keeping the remaining fossil fuel resources in the ground” in the name of “climate justice.” In 2019, The After Party’s benefactor gave $100 million to the Collaborative for Gender and Reproductive Equity, an initiative that funds efforts to safeguard abortion and ensure “youth” have access to “gender-affirming care.” A full accounting of all Rockefeller grantees committed to furthering hard-left causes would require a book long enough to rival Alberta’s.

Rockefeller’s isn’t the only progressive purse with strings attached to The After Party. The project’s website lists One America Movement, an ecumenical group, as one of its partners. The group’s board includes the leader of an LGBTQ-affirming synagogue, as well as a co-founder of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York who excuses rioting as self-defense and has called Jesus a “black radical revolutionary.” One America has received over $2 million from some of the most powerful foundations on the left—such as the Tides Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the Walton family’s Catena Foundation, and the John Pritzker Family Fund—all of which fund enterprises promoting abortion, LGBTQ issues, and other left-wing priorities. The Hewlett Foundation, which also directly funds The After Party, is the second largest private donor to Planned Parenthood.

Does anyone really believe these secular progressive grant-makers are interested in developing a church curriculum about politics without an eye toward affecting policy? Or that this curriculum will strengthen evangelicals’ commitment to the very causes progressives despise? Between 2013 and 2014, the Ford, Rockefeller, and Tides foundations contributed a combined $1.3 million to the Evangelical Immigration Table’s “Bibles, Badges, and Business” initiative, launched to mobilize evangelical support for amnesty legislation such as the failed Gang of Eight bill. Hewlett and a host of other major left-wing donors bankrolled the Evangelical Environmental Network’s Evangelical Climate Initiative with the aim of generating churchgoer support for cap and trade legislation. Secular progressive foundations have not hesitated to leverage new evangelical ministries to sway Christians to their political will.

Creating a Bible study curriculum to teach churches how to engage politics is by nature a political act. That’s even truer if you’ve turned for financial support to unbelievers committed to advancing left-wing policies. If these critics of conservative evangelicals are correct that their Trump-voting brothers and sisters are sick with political obsession, then they have the same disease. One would be hard-pressed to identify evangelical voices who’ve done more to bring a divisive focus on politics into the pews—all under the pretense of de-escalation and bipartisanship.

As a pro-life Democrat, Chang blamed the “American Church” for the January 6 riot, saying we “own what happened at the Capitol.” He urged California voters to oppose the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom. And he leveraged his Christian platform to argue against religious exemptions from vaccine mandates, running the website Christians and the Vaccine, and distributing videos that described the jab as a “redemption” of aborted cell lines—all while acting as a paid consultant for federal health agencies. French and Moore have been no less outspoken on political matters.

To offer a politics curriculum backed by the secular left as the church’s solution to idolatrous co-optation by the right is like suggesting that a man who became obese eating cake and ice cream will lose weight by gorging on pizza and potato chips. As a friend told me, “If you want the church to be less political, start by focusing less on politics yourself.” 

As for those pastors considering whether to bring The After Party into their churches, they should take the advice of the classic film All the Presidents Men and follow the money.

Megan Basham is a culture reporter for the Daily Wire.

First Things depends on its subscribers and supporters. Join the conversation and make a contribution today.

Click here to make a donation.

Click here to subscribe to First Things.

Image by Milad Mosapoor licensed via Creative Commons. Image cropped. 

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter Web Exclusive Articles

Related Articles