The week of December 19, 2019 through December 26, 2019 was quite dramatic. In it a fracture appeared in the Evangelical Christian culture in the United States after Donald Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives. The “court evangelicals” who are known for defending President Trump were caught off guard and the moderates who reject Christian nationalism pushed back. In the 1950’s when Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy created chaos with his investigations of imagined communists, it was an attorney for the United States Army that boldly asked him if he had any decency. Did we witness that moment of the fight for decency in the Christianity Today editorial? This post is a narrative of what happened in a week and what it could mean for evangelical culture.
“Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.”
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
Martin Luther King
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 NLT
After the Christianity Today editorial I was watching CNN and I saw Mark Galli be interviewed on television. That stunned me but the idea of how big this story was didn’t hit me until I was back in California a few days later. A day after Christmas I was riding the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) into downtown San Francisco and I was reading the Los Angeles Times. It was just my usual and casual intake of news both local and national as well as state. While I was riding the train I saw the Christianity Today editorial was still being discussed in the Times. It was then that I realized that this story was not going away. As I processed the situation I came to the realization that in Evangelical Christian culture this became the story of the year. It had all the right ingredients. A president, evangelical culture, and it showed how evangelical culture is fracturing and splitting. One week in 2019 was pivotal for evangelicalism and I would contend that week was from December 19, 2019 until December 26, 2019. Let’s retrace this historic week and look at what happened over a week’s time.
Christianity Today Editorial and the Firestorm it Created
Mark Galli is the editor of Christianity Today. On December 19, 2019 he authored an editorial calling for Donald Trump’s removal from office. The piece by the editor was published two days after the House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The editorial from Mark Galli became a firestorm when it was released. You can read the entire editorial in, “Preserving Christianity Today’s Editorial by Mark Galli Calling for Donald Trump’s Removal From Office.” In the editorial Mark Galli wrote the following.
But the facts in this instance 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.
The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.
Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. 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. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.
And then in a stunning piece of writing Galli says the following:
To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? 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?
Its important to note that Christianity Today supported Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 and the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974 during the Watergate scandal. On the internet and both in evangelcial culture it was almost as if a bomb had exploded.
President Trump Attacks Christianity Today
After the editorial came out President Trump tore into and criticized it on December 20, 2019. Some are saying it was his most aggressive tweets attacking someone according to my research. The president called Christianity Today a leftist publication and played to people’s fears. He stated that people wanted to take guns from Christians. He proclaimed that no president has been better for Evangelcial Christianity. Christianity Today was accused of not knowing what a perfect telephone call is and Trump said the transcrpipt on the Ukraine phone call was solid. In a sign of possuble dementia the president did refer to Christianity Today as ET. The editorial it appears not only caught Trump off guard but also his strongest evangelical supporters. The demand on the website of Christianity Today website was so high that it crashed a couple of times.
The “Court Evangelicals” Defend President Trump
Mark Galli gave an interview with Sarah Pulliam Bailey of the Washington Post shortly after all this transpired. He stated that he didn’t want to write such an editorial but that he gave a lot of grace to Trump and his supporters over the past three years. You can read that Washington Post article in more detail here. However the “court evangelicals” started to respond in anger to what Christianity Today has done. For those who are not familar with the concept of the “court evangelcial” its a term Professor John Fea from Messiah College outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has used to describe those evangelicals who support Donald Trump no matter what he does. A “court evangelical” is someone who is fighting for America’s “Christian soul.” They trade their faith for power and prestige. In this case its access to President Trump. You can read more about the phenomena in this article in Vox.
Franklin Graham led the charge against Christianity Today, which was founded by his father Billy Graham. In an interview with the New York Times on December 19, 2019. Graham called the magazine an embarrassment. And stated that it represented a liberal element in evangelicalism today. But Franklin Graham went further on his Facebook page when he stated that his Billy Graham was a strong supporter and voter of Donald Trump. This is what he said.
Christianity Today released an editorial stating that President Trump should be removed from office—and they invoked my father’s name (I suppose to try to bring legitimacy to their statements), so I feel it is important for me to respond. 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.
For Christianity Today to side with the Democrat Party in a totally partisan attack on the President of the United States is unfathomable. Christianity Today failed to acknowledge that not one single Republican voted with the Democrats to impeach the President. I know a number of Republicans in Congress, and many of them are strong Christians. If the President were guilty of what the Democrats claimed, these Republicans would have joined with the Democrats to impeach him. But the Democrats were not even unanimous—two voted against impeachment and one voted present. This impeachment was politically motivated, 100% partisan. Why would Christianity Today choose to take the side of the Democrat left whose only goal is to discredit and smear the name of a sitting president? They want readers to believe the Democrat leadership rather than believe the President of the United States.
Look at all the President has accomplished in a very short time. The economy of our nation is the strongest it has been in 50 years, ISIS & the caliphate have been defeated, and the President has renegotiated trade deals to benefit all Americans. The list of accomplishments is long, but for me as a Christian, the fact that he is the most pro-life president in modern history is extremely important—and Christianity Today wants us to ignore that, to say it doesn’t count? The President has been a staunch defender of religious freedom at home and around the world—and Christianity Today wants us to ignore that? Also the President has appointed conservative judges in record number—and Christianity today wants us to ignore that? Christianity Today feels he should be removed from office because of false accusations that the President emphatically denies.
Christianity Today said it’s time to call a spade a spade. The spade is this—Christianity Today has been used by the left for their political agenda. It’s obvious that Christianity Today has moved to the left and is representing the elitist liberal wing of evangelicalism.
Is President Trump guilty of sin? Of course he is, as were all past presidents and as each one of us are, including myself. Therefore, let’s pray for the President as he continues to lead the affairs of our nation.
Others also got into the act of attacking Christianity Today as well. Robert Jeffress blocked me the other day on Twitter. But according to John Fea he said this in a tweet. “@CTmagazine is a dying magazine that has been “Never Trump” from the beginning. They are going against 99% of evangelical Republicans who oppose impeachment. President @realDonaldTrump is the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-Israel President in history!” Jerry Falwell Jr who also has blocked me said the following as well. “Less than 20% of evangelicals supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 but now CT Magazine has removed any doubt that they are part of the same 17% or so of liberal evangelicals who have preached social gospel for decades! CT unmasked!” Then James Dobson formerly of Focus on the Family got involved. Dobson said that Christianity Today wanted a liberal Democrat instead. This is the statement he put out:
“I have read a new editorial published by Christianity Today that promotes impeachment of President Donald Trump. The editors didn’t tell us who should take his place in the aftermath. Maybe the magazine would prefer a president who is passionately pro-abortion, anti-family, hostile to the military, dispassionate toward Israel, supports a socialist form of government, promotes confiscatory taxation, opposes school choice, favors men in women’s sports and boys in girl’s locker rooms, promotes the entire LGBTQ agenda, opposes parental rights, and distrusts evangelicals and anyone who is not politically correct. By the way, after Christianity Today has helped vacate the Oval Office, I hope they will tell us if their candidate to replace Mr. Trump will fight for religious liberty and the Bill of Rights? Give your readers a little more clarity on why President Trump should be turned out of office after being duly elected by 63 million voters? Is it really because he made a phone call that displeased you? There must be more to your argument than that. While Christianity Today is making its case for impeachment, I hope the editors will now tell us who they support for president among the Democrat field. That should tell us the rest of the story.”
CEO of Christianity Today Responds to the Critics
As the story grew the CEO of Christianity Today Timothy Dalrymple responded to the critics. He stated that a conversation was started that needed to continue. The magazine explained to those who read that they are not far left. Nor are they engaging in character assassination. Dalrymple explained that the magazine’s focus is always Jesus and that they had to raise some questions. And with that a flag was planted or a line drawn in the sand. Below is all that the CEO published about the editorial calling for Donald Trump to be removed.
“Reader responses to Mark Galli’s recent editorial have spanned the spectrum. We have received countless notes of encouragement from readers who were profoundly moved. They no longer feel alone. They have hope again. Many have told us of reading the editorial with tears in their eyes, sharing it with children who have wandered from the faith, rejoicing that at last someone was articulating what they felt in their hearts. They felt this was a watershed moment in the history of the American church—or they hoped it would prove to be. Stay strong, they told us, knowing we were about to reap the whirlwind.
On the other hand, we have heard from many readers who felt incensed and insulted. These readers felt the editorial engaged in character assassination, or maligned a broad swath of our fellow evangelicals, or revealed that we prefer the Democrats to a President who has done a lot of good for causes we all care about.
Of course, we appreciate the support and listen humbly to the criticisms. But at the end of the day, we write for a readership of One. God is our Tower. Let the whirlwind come.
President Donald Trump would have you believe we are “far left.” Others have said we are not Bible-believing Christians. Neither is true. Christianity Today is theologically conservative. We are pro-life and pro-family. We are firm supporters of religious liberties and economic opportunity for men and women to exercise their gifts and create value in the world. We believe in the authority of Scripture.
We are also a global ministry. We travel the world and see the breadth and depth of what God is doing through his people all around the planet. It is beautiful, and breathtaking, and immense. The global Body of Christ—and the community of evangelicals—is vastly larger than our domestic political squabbles. But partly on behalf of that global body, we can no longer stay silent.
American evangelicals have always been a loose coalition of tribes. We have fought one another as often as we have fought together. We at Christianity Today believe we need to relearn the art of balancing two things: having a firm opinion and inviting free discussion. We need, in other words, both a flag and a table.
First, then, the flag. Numerous reporters have asked whether the ministry supports what was stated in the editorial. Was Mark Galli speaking on behalf of the institution? CT does not have an editorial board. Editors publish under their own names. Yet Galli has stood in the trenches for men and women of faith for over three decades. He has been an outstanding editor in chief. While he does not speak for everyone in the ministry—our board and our staff hold a range of opinions—he carries the editorial voice of the magazine. We support CT’s editorial independence and believe it’s vital to our mission for the editor in chief to speak out on the issues of the day.
As an institution, Christianity Today has no interest in partisan politics. It does not endorse candidates. We aim to bring biblical wisdom and beautiful storytelling both to the church and from the church to the world. Politics matter, but they do not bring the dead back to life. We are far more committed to the glory of God, the witness of the church, and the life of the world than we care about the fortunes of any party. Political parties come and go, but the witness of the church is the hope of the world, and the integrity of that witness is paramount.
Out of love for Jesus and his church, not for political partisanship or intellectual elitism, this is why we feel compelled to say that the alliance of American evangelicalism with this presidency has wrought enormous damage to Christian witness. It has alienated many of our children and grandchildren. It has harmed African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American brothers and sisters. And it has undercut the efforts of countless missionaries who labor in the far fields of the Lord. While the Trump administration may be well regarded in some countries, in many more the perception of wholesale evangelical support for the administration has made toxic the reputation of the Bride of Christ.”
And the CEO of Christianity Today also aid that George Soros is not involved in funding the evangelical magazine. For those who do not know the George Soros conspiracy theory is an anti-Semitic claim that is both dangerous and has no foundation. Those who re-tweet or push that conspiracy theory are engaging in anti-Semitism. This blog needs to do a post about how George Soros conspiracy theory is anti-Semitism.
200 “Court Evangelical” Trump Supporters Write an Open Letter to Christianity Today in the Christian Post
On December 22, 2019 in the Christian Post there were 200 court evangelicals who signed an open letter to CEO Timothy Dalrymple pushing back. The “court evangelicals” disputed that they were far right and claimed that they represented mainstream evangelicalism. The letter which was written you can read below.
We write collectively to express our dissatisfaction with the editorial Christianity Today published on Thursday, December 19, 2019 calling for the removal of our duly elected President, who was put into office at the behest of over sixty million voters.
It was astonishing to us that your editor-in-chief, Mark Galli, further offensively dismissed our point of view on CNN by saying, “Christianity Today is not read by the people – Christians on the far right, by evangelicals on the far right – so they’re going to be as dismissive of the magazine as President Trump has shown to be.” It also came to our attention, that Mr. Galli has written other statements about Americans who chose Donald Trump over Secretary Clinton in 2016, referring to them as “These other 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” as he describes himself with pride as an “elite evangelical.”
Of course, it’s up to your publication to decide whether or not your magazine intends to be a voice of evangelicals like those represented by the signatories below, and it is up to us and those Evangelicals like us to decide if we should subscribe to, advertise in and read your publication online and in print, but historically, we have been your readers.
We are, in fact, not “far-right” evangelicals as characterized by the author.
Rather, we are Bible-believing Christians and patriotic Americans who are simply grateful that our President has sought our advice as his administration has advanced policies that protect the unborn, promote religious freedom, reform our criminal justice system, contribute to strong working families through paid family leave, protect the freedom of conscience, prioritize parental rights, and ensure that our foreign policy aligns with our values while making our world safer, including through our support of the State of Israel. We are not theocrats, and we recognize that our imperfect political system is a reflection of the fallen world within which we live, reliant upon the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is freely given to sinner and saint, alike.
We are proud to be numbered among those in history who, like Jesus, have been pretentiously accused of having too much grace for tax collectors and sinners, and we take deeply our personal responsibility to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s — our public service.
The editorial you published, without any meaningful and immediate regard for dissenting points of view, not only supported the entirely-partisan, legally-dubious, and politically-motivated impeachment but went even further, calling for Donald Trump not to be elected again in 2020 when he certainly survives impeachment.
As one of our signatories said to the press, “I hope Christianity Today will now tell us who they will support for president among the 2020 Democrat field?”
Your editorial offensively questioned the spiritual integrity and Christian witness of tens-of-millions of believers who take seriously their civic and moral obligations.
It not only targeted our President; it also targeted those of us who support him, and have supported you.
It was followed by 200 court evangelicals who attached their name to the letter. Many I do not recognize however there are some of the usual individuals such as Michelle Bachmann, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Robert Jeffress.
Julie Roys Raises a Issue with Christianity Today
Over at Julie Roys blog she makes a good point in how Christianity Today has been selective in whom they have called out. This blog has written quite a bit about Harvest Bible Chapel and it has seen how Christianity Today has given James MacDonald a platform to abuse and has not called him out. In addition some of the personalities such as Ed Stetzer have been aggressive and far from being transparent as well. This blog tangled with Ed Stetzer in 2015 when I wrote a critique of his view of church membership. Stetzer’s response was to block me on Twitter and ignore the questions I sent to him. You can read that post in, “Ed Stetzer’s Warped View on Church Membership.” So Julie Roy’s post does raise a couple of points that need to be considered. You can read that in, “The Selective Outrage of Mark Galli & Christianity Today.” That said, it should also be pointed out that Christianity Today has spoken up and editorialized in two other impeachment situations. In 1974 the magazine stated that it was good that Richard Nixon resigned when he faced impeachment. Then in 1998 it supported the impeachment of President Bill Clinton for lying under oath about the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Napp Nazworth of the Christian Post Resigns as he is Caught in the Controversary
As the controversary over the Christianity Today editorial still continued one other evangelical publication decided that it had to support President Trump. Its political editor Napp Nazworth of the Christian Post resigned in the controversary. Nazworth could not support the direction of the internet newspaper. You can read hos tweet postings below.
Evangelicals Rally Around Mark Gallis
Then on Christmas Eve a number of prominent Evangelical Christians who are authors and work in ministries and not into Christian nationalism wrote an open letter defending Mark Gallis and Christianity Today in the Religion News Service. The open letter went to state that the mission of the church is not politics. And that politics is dividing the country and the church significantly. And with that Amy Julia Becker, Dale Hanson Bourke, Mae Elise Cannon, (author and executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace), Rob Dalrymple, Richard Foster, Marlena Graves, Chris Hall, Daniel Hill, Evan B. Howard, Sam Logan, (president emeritus of Westminster Theological Seminary and associate international director of the World Reformed Fellowship), George Marsden, (professor of history emeritus, University of Notre Dame), Rich Mouw, (president emeritus, Fuller Theological Seminary) Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Ron Sider, (Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theology, Holistic Ministry and Public Policy, Palmer Seminary at Eastern University) and Nikki Toyama-Szeto (executive director, Evangelicals for Social Action and The Sider Center) said the following:
“The United States evangelical and Christian community is at a moral crossroads. Our country has never been more politically divided with white evangelical Christians at the heart of much of the political discord. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with Galli’s conclusion or his argument, we write to affirm his courage and the bold decision to have Christianity Today officially take a stand regarding the Trump presidency.
As leaders who love Jesus and are committed to the Bible, obedience to the Holy Spirit, spiritual transformation, and Christian witness, we affirm the questions posed by Galli’s editorial and his encouragement for Christians to engage in the public square with their political convictions in ways that are constructive and respectful to others with whom they disagree.
Finally, we affirm faithful evangelical witness, application of Scripture, and spiritual discernment allow for a faithful Christian witness that may come to similar conclusions as Galli’s overt challenges to the policies and actions of the Trump Administration.
The false binary posed by allegiances of certain evangelical Christians to one political party inhibits our ability to be faithful to the witness of Christ and his kingdom. May Christians in the United States enter into the 2020 elections with a recommitment to the Good News of the gospel that calls us to righteousness in Christ, faithful Christian witness, and responding to the needs of our neighbor.
Although one may not agree with Mark Galli, we have an obligation to consider the character and actions of this president. Our faithful witness to Christ and the future legitimacy of American Christianity is at stake.”
You can read the article in, “An open letter from friends of Christianity Today affirming Mark Galli’s editorial.”
Analysis of the Week for Perspective
This blog is of the persuassion that the week of December 19, 2019 until December 26, 2019 will be a key week in the history of Evangelical Christianity in the United States. What happened is that the moderates who are not into Christian nationalism spoke up and they pushed back. The Christian nationalists were caught off guard as was President Trump. Remember that evangelicals are his biggest base. They adore and love Donald Trump more than they did George W Bush or Ronald Reagan. As John Fea asked because of the Christianity Today editorial did American evangelicalism have its Joseph Welch moment? For those who do not know Joseph Welch was the lawyer for the United States Army who pushed back against Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy when he asked, “Have you no decency sir?” It led to a turning point eventually against McCarthyism in the 1950’s. You can read more about John Fea in, “Is the *Christianity Today* Editorial a Joseph Welch Moment?”
For too long but especially recently traditional evangelicals have married their faith and politics. Many can’t divorce the two. For some evangelicals faith is a political party. That has long been an issue. As Evangelical Christianity in the United States experiences a long and slow death, it will be the issue of politics that will be one of the biggest nails in the coffin. While older white evangelicals are political the fact remains that younger ones are not. Younger ones are embarrassed and mortified by older people’s embrace of Trump. The 2016 election caught me off guard, especially as a traditional Republican. It tore apart relationships and seeped into ministries and churches that I was once affiliated with. I wrote about what this was like as someone who was in the 17 to 18% of evangelicalism. You can read this in, “A Needed and Courageous Editorial at Christianity Today and What It Means to Those Who are in the 17 to 18%.” But what you are seeing is the fracturing of American evangelicalism. The “court evangelicals” have gone all in into someone who is tearing apart the fabric of the church, neighborhoods, communities and more. How many people do you know who are divided? How many people do you know who won’t speak to some relatives, friendships and people they once associated with? I know several. I also know others who are afraid to speak out because they don’t want to have division. Is that what the Christian faith is about? Division, bullying, intimation, living in fear and more? Is that what Jesus taught? If you believe that then I don’t think you know what Christianity is at all. But it also raises another issue, the behavior of individuals like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Jr, Tony Perkins, Robert Jeffress and more have been not only just embarrassing but outright shameful. They made a Faustian bargain and in the process they sold their souls. Honestly and I know this will upset some people but I don’t think one can consider individuals like Jerry Fallwell Jr, James Dobson, Tony Perkins and Robert Jeffress to be Christians. They are spiritually lost. This blog wants to be clear that the Neo-Calvinists mostly avoid the trap of politics. The only exception appears to be Wayne Grudem and I am considering writing a post about Grudem.
What does disappoint me about this crowd is how they react to information. Many of these people are living in their own little bubble of alternatives facts. If Jesus was about truth how can you then attach yourself to alternative facts? Why do some evangelicals believe that impeachment is about the Congress going after them? That is warped and not at all what impeachment is about. Why do people like James Dobson prefer Donald Trump to Mike Pence? Mike Pence could tell you what John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Hebrews 11 are all about. Donald Trump can’t do that at all. Those in the court evangelical camp appear to have no conscious at all. Have they singed it completely? Honestly I wonder if that is what happens when you go all in during a Faustian bargain.
But this past week was quite eventful and historic. A fracture happened in evangelicalism and it became public for the first time. Going forward it will be interesting to see what happens and how things develop. This was realized when I began to see this debate about Trump and the split in Christian media in well established newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Politico, The Hill, New York Times and more. In times like this its important to be on the right side of history. And I hope you will wrestle with that and choose to be on the right side of history for the sake of your children and grandchildren.