Mark Galli, Editor in Chief for the popular news publication, Christianity Today, wrote an article just over a week ago about why Donald Trump should be removed from office. I found this article and everything that followed quite interesting.
It is no secret that evangelicals are split on Trump. Many are his strongest allies. Many view him as an abomination. Many voted for him simply because they did not like their other options.
The article written by Mark Galli begins by reminding the reader why Christianity Today (CT) was founded. It was founded by none other than Billy Graham to help evangelicals interpret the news in light of their Christian faith.
The article then justifies to the reader why they are straying from their “typical approach.” The typical approach is to “stay above the fray” and not pick sides, basically. The typical approach is to not pick a candidate explicitly, or become partisan. Although, naturally a Christian evangelical publication is going to lean right and conservative.
Now, if you have read my blog for long enough, you know my stance on “bias.” We all have bias and there is no reason in hiding yours, or pretending to be objective. You are not objective. You should be as objective in your methodology for finding truth as possible, but don’t pretend to be the bastion of objectivity. You are not.
So, I don’t pretend that CT rarely comes out and “takes a stand” on certain issues that it feels it must. CT, like everyone, is biased and has an agenda. There is nothing wrong with that. But for Pete’s sake, don’t pretend you don’t.
For example, I am a conservative Christian evangelical that will most likely vote for Trump in 2020. Is he my favorite guy in the world? No, but I’m not voting for the rest of them. False dichotomy? Maybe. Anyway, there’s my bias out in the open.
So what has made CT, or Mark Galli in particular, come out of its hole of objectivity and take a stand? Mark Galli states that the facts in this matter are “unambiguous”:
“The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.”
This supposed abuse of power is supposed to be the main reason Galli came out from behind his desk of subtlety to take his heroic stand. However, rather than defend this “unambiguous” interpretation of the facts, he quickly moved on to an emotional tirade about Trump’s tweets and past affairs with women.
He did return to the subject briefly when he said, “We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath.”
Again, another assertion. Perhaps, this time he will back it up with some defense. Just kidding, why do that when you can make a comparison to Bill Clinton? Twice now, Galli has asserted that Trump has abused his power as President for personal gain without once appealing to any evidence. All he has done is assert that the facts are “unambiguous” and “absolutely clear.” They are so clear that he has no need to reveal them, apparently.
What’s interesting about the last Galli quote is the use of the plural “we”. Galli is unmistakably speaking on behalf of CT, which was obvious anyway, but there it is explicitly.
What I find most appalling about the article is how it paints evangelicals that voted for Trump, or continue to support Trump. Check out this loaded statement: “That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.” Supporting Trump’s removal is now about loyalty to the God of the Bible.
Galli could not have picked a more perfect word, loyalty. The word loyalty is a good English translation of the Greek word in the New Testament usually translated as “faith.” When you read “faith” in the New Testament, you’re better off thinking “loyalty” than you are “blind belief,” which is how it is commonly used today.
So, does Galli really believe that if one votes, or supports Trump, that one is not loyal to God? If pressed, surely he would not make salvation conditioned on support, or non-support, of a president. Even if we tone down the language to that of obedience, surely this is an overreach.
Nonetheless, it is clear that Galli, and CT, are excluding evangelicals who support Trump from the table of “genuine Christians.” This is nothing new. Many Christians have been saying this about evangelical Trump supporters since the 2016 election. Galli is doing nothing more than pitching his tent in this camp. Good for him.
He then goes on in prophetic fashion to “remind” evangelical Trump supporters of where their loyalty lies, whom they serve, and what is at stake. What is at stake, by the way? Our witness, he says. Who will take us serious? This really seems to be the main concern. And this is a recurring theme from those conservative evangelicals who chastise other conservative evangelicals for supporting Trump.
What about our witness? Who will take us seriously? How will they ever take the gospel message seriously, if we support Trump? Let me give a few reasons why this is a bogus line of argumentation:
- The truth of the Gospel message is not dependent upon the character of the Gospel messenger.
- The effectiveness of the Gospel message is not dependent upon the character of the Gospel messenger.
- If a person will only accept the Gospel message on the condition that I publicly denounce Trump, that person does not understand the message.
- A vote for Trump is not a justification of all of his actions and words. I repeat: a vote for Trump is not a justification of all of his actions and words.
What’s true is true, no matter how it is received. How people interpret a vote for Donald Trump is irrelevant to whether or not such a vote is justified. This is so blatantly obvious that it boggles the mind that some don’t see it. Does Galli really believe that people are voting for Trump because they have justified his immoral actions and words? If so, one wonders if he is paying attention at all. I’m quite sure he does not and this is nothing more than moral posturing. He is repeating what so many others have already mistakenly said. His words are nothing more than the tag-lines of a group that he desperately wants to be included in.
Here is another question that Galli puts forward to shame evangelical Trump supporters that I want to answer directly:
“Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?”
Literally no one is saying “the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end.” What we are saying, with respect to abortion, is that if we don’t vote for the conservative candidate that has the best chance at winning, we are more likely to get a president who will make our efforts toward ending abortion that much more difficult. That person right now is Donald Trump. Are we correct? That’s up for debate, but these intentional mischaracterizations will never tell us.
These false dichotomies that people raise against the pro-life position are embarrassing, especially coming from someone like Galli who is pro-life. We can support the candidate that is most pro-life “friendly” while at the same time calling-out his moral failures. This isn’t difficult. It also does not mean that we must withhold support from him.
We are not in a “political poker game” as Galli suggests. Evangelical Trump supporters want to see the abomination that is abortion come crashing down, and part of the strategy for doing so is to win judicial seats. In order to win those seats, we must have a President who will appoint pro-life justices. This isn’t because we want power, or whatever gross misrepresentation Galli wants to make, it is because innocent human beings made in the image of God are being slaughtered in their mothers’ wombs. Is there more to being pro-life? Yes, but there certainly isn’t less and the abortion issue rightly takes precedence over all other issues. That isn’t to say that other issues do not matter, but no other issue is resulting in the slaughtering of innocent lives at the rate abortion is producing.
Some evangelicals are willing to be viewed negatively by others for the sake of ending this genocide. Galli has made it clear that he is not. He is more concerned with his “witness,” as he has made clear. At the risk of going too far, let me ask, what is God more concerned with? The way other people view you, or the genocide of millions of innocent lives? The question is really: Are you willing to support a president with a less than perfect moral life for the sake of ending abortion, or not?
Some will say it is a false dichotomy. To them I say: show me the pro-life candidate with a perfect moral life that actually has a chance at winning. Right now, a third-party vote is a wasted vote. We all know this. This option is for those who want to maintain their pro-life credibility and also maintain, with Galli, their “witness” before the eyes of their peers. Frankly, I don’t care how others view me. Whatever option you take, far be it from me to question your “loyalty” to God as Galli has done.
Now, on to the response to this article. Nearly 200 evangelical leaders wrote a scathing letter to the President of CT in response to Galli’s article. They called him out for questioning their loyalty and integrity toward God.
They also complained about Galli’s description of evangelical Trump supporters in Still Evangelical? as “evangelicals [who] often haven’t finished college, and if they have jobs (and apparently most of them don’t), they are blue collar jobs or entry level work.” The inference is clear: dumb, lazy, and poor. In the same essay, Galli described himself as belonging to an “elite” class of evangelicals. Ooo, elite.
The letter against CT also raises what I view as the most important response: So, who are you going to support? Surely, none of the pro-abortion Democrat candidates. It is not enough to tell your readers who they most certainly cannot support. You have to give them a positive position to take. What is it? Should they support a pro-abortion candidate? Should they vote third party? Should they withhold their vote?
CT most likely does not want to say any of these things and I would be surprised if they did. Most likely, they won’t give an answer, at least not as explicitly as they have denounced Trump. Denouncing Trump explicitly is easy. Supporting another position just as explicitly would be quite difficult, with respect to their base.
However, I would like to make a prediction. The “witness” that Galli and CT are so concerned with, will not be satisfied until they do support a Democratic candidate. Let’s not kid ourselves. The people that Galli and CT are concerned about maintaining a witness before are on “the Left.” And “the Left” have made it clear that denouncing Trump will not suffice, you will have to continue down their path even further before you will be welcomed. If Galli and CT do this, they will lose their long-standing base. Partial loyalty to “the Left” is never sufficient. It is always all or nothing. Ask the many evangelicals who have tried.
Franklin Graham, a person always brought up in the conversation about Trump and evangelicals, weighed in on CT’s invoking his father’s name:
“Yes, my father Billy Graham founded Christianity Today; but no, he would not agree with their opinion piece. In fact, he would be very disappointed. I have not previously shared who my father voted for in the past election, but because of this article, I feel it is necessary to share it now. My father knew Donald Trump, he believed in Donald Trump, and he voted for Donald Trump. He believed that Donald J. Trump was the man for this hour in history for our nation.”
Obviously, such statements cannot be verified, nor do they really matter. Who Billy Graham would support is irrelevant.
One of the best commentaries on this article that I found was that of Julie Roys who claims to have been calling for evangelicals to speak out against the immoral actions of leaders “for the past two years.” She says she wanted to cheer at Galli’s article, but found his outrage quite selective.
“Here were Galli and CT—an editor and magazine, which have not only consistently failed to confront corrupt leaders but have actually aided and abetted them—lecturing other evangelicals about supporting Trump. The hypocrisy was so blatant, I stared at my screen with my jaw on my chest as I read Galli’s entire op-ed.”
The hypocrisy of which she speaks is a an op-ed published at CT by James MacDonald titled “Why Suing is Sometimes the Biblical Choice” in which a justification was made for “MacDonald’s unbiblical and morally repugnant lawsuit against [Roys], two bloggers, and their wives. Their wives!”
The article was released after MacDonald was introduced to CT Global Director Jeremy Weber by CT contributing editor, Ed Stetzer, who had received a $13,000 VW as a gift from MacDonald. Stetzer later repaid the money when he found out it was bought by Harvest Bible Chapel. Clearly a moral lapse, was brushed off by Galli.
Roys says it gets worse. This introduction of MacDonald to Weber was captured on a hot mic.
“Galli and CT also apparently didn’t see a story when I revealed that the person on the “hot mic” recording joking with James MacDonald about putting child porn on the computer of former CT CEO Harold Smith was PR guru, Johnnie Moore. Moore also is heard coaching MacDonald on how to manipulate CT into giving MacDonald favorable coverage for his abysmal lawsuit.”
Roys also calls attention to the sexting scandal that Ravi Zacharias found himself in. Zacharias pre-emptively sued his alleger and the woman signed a non-disparagement agreement. Once she was unable to speak, CT released Zacharias’ full statement against her. Roys says that after reading Steve Baughman’s book, Cover-up in the Kingdom, she is convinced that there is more to the story.
The list goes on.
Galli and CT seem to have a “selective outrage” when it comes to the morality of leaders, says Roys. But why the selectivity?
“I suspect the reason for this hypocrisy is that CT depends on the evangelical industrial complex to survive. It needs its evangelical advertisers and relationships with top Christian celebrities and thought leaders to remain in business. But CT doesn’t need Trump.”
It is convenient to criticize Trump who is not “one of our own.” How convenient? “As Galli told CNBC, three times as many people have subscribed to CT than have unsubscribed since his op-ed went viral.” I’m sure that is just a coincidence.
“Mark Galli and CT made a brilliant move, which has enlarged their progressive base and will allow the magazine to go precisely where it’s been straining to go the past decade. And Galli’s op-ed will likely launch him beautifully into a “retirement” replete with speaking invitations and opportunities to freelance for secular publications.”
Are Galli and CT seriously concerned with the moral short-comings of Donald Trump? Maybe, but clearly they overlook others’ short-comings when it is convenient. It seems much more likely that Roys’ assessment is closer to the truth.
It occurs to me that something is glaring in the background: what is the truth? What seems to matter most here is: Did Donald Trump abuse his power for personal gain? It is not as if we cannot know. Galli is right, the matter is “unambiguous.” Just not in the way he wants it to be. Remember that he did not provide a single line of evidence. He simply made the statement and moved on to Trump’s personal moral failures.
We have the transcript of Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian President, who has explicitly denied any quid-pro-quo. Read the transcript. You tell me, did Trump abuse his power for personal gain over Joe Biden? I see no evidence of that, but make your own judgment.
As for Galli and Christianity Today? It comes as no surprise what they are really up to: kowtowing to “the Left” and more liberal evangelicals to broaden their base and grow their support. How do they justify such a move? The don’t want to “harm their witness” as Christians. For the reasons stated above, I don’t buy it. This is simply Christianese for “we want to be liked.” It’s time to call a spade a spade, Galli.
“Trump Should Be Removed from Office” Mark Galli: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/trump-should-be-removed-from-office.html
“Nearly 200 evangelical leaders slam Christianity Today for questioning their Christian witness” Melissa Barnhart: https://www.christianpost.com/news/nearly-200-evangelical-leaders-slam-christianity-today-for-questioning-their-christian-witness.html
“The selective outrage of Mark Galli & Christianity Today” Julie Roys: https://www.christianpost.com/voice/the-selective-outrage-of-mark-galli-christianity-today.html
Trump and Ukrainian President Phone Transcript: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Unclassified09.2019.pdf