Christianity Today took aim at Trump but only hurt itself

After more than a quarter-century of occasionally attempting to help direct traffic at the intersection of faith and politics — on radio, on PBS and in books — I am bewildered by Christianity Today editor Mark Galli’s column on Thursday, which has attracted so much love from the secular left. In condemning President Donald Trump from the pages of the magazine Billy Graham founded, Galli has blindsided more than half of the evangelical Christians in the United States.

The entire enterprise — the magazine plus online platform — will suffer even as Galli heads out to retirement in January. But Trump will not.

What is remarkable is the selfishness of Galli’s act and, whether he has the applause of his editors, chief executive or financial backers, his legacy at the magazine will be to have done exactly what precedes every schism in every congregation ever, this time within the “CT” readership, whatever its number: take an absolutist stand on a radically divisive issue. But Galli is no Martin Luther.

“Christianity Today is a nonprofit, global media ministry centered on Beautiful Orthodoxy — strengthening the church by richly communicating the breadth of the true, good, and beautiful gospel,” proclaims the magazine’s mission statement. “Reaching over five million people monthly with various digital and print resources, the ministry equips Christians to renew their minds, serve the church, and create culture to the glory of God.”

Perhaps this is what it did before. It has now become just another content provider on politics, and of the left-wing sort. The real cost here is borne by readers who will simply shrug off appeals to resubscribe or give the platform a try. Americans are drenched in political conflict, and hundreds, even thousands, of outlets offer political commentary. Why in the world would anyone seek an absolutist political opinion from a website about evangelical faith? The answer is obvious: Most people won’t, and they will steer clear of yet another politicized platform. Has Galli’s column changed a single mind in America, except about the magazine he was supposed to steward?

I don’t know Galli. But Christianity Today has suffered the same long, slow decline that has crippled “mainstream denominations,” and perhaps the idea of putting on a show-stopping exit was just too tempting to pass up. But Galli should have done just that. That he knew this is given away in his perfunctory introductory apologia: “The impeachment of Donald Trump is a significant event in the story of our republic,” Galli begins. “It requires comment.”

But, of course, it isn’t such an event. It isn’t even clear now that the articles of impeachment will be delivered to the Senate, though if they are, the outcome is predetermined. Indeed, it seems likely to me that Trump will be reelected, and it is laughable to say that there is a clear, one-sided “Christian” appraisal of the case for or against the president. In a democratic republic, the people decide, and they will end up giving the presidency back to Trump or to his opponent for reasons wholly unrelated to Christianity Today’s view on the question. Christians by the millions will be on both sides of that election. They did not need, or ask for, this intervention in their deliberation.

“The typical CT approach is to stay above the fray and allow Christians with different political convictions to make their arguments in the public square, to encourage all to pursue justice according to their convictions and treat their political opposition as charitably as possible,” Galli continued, just before he implicitly condemned every Christian who supports Trump. There are tens of millions who already condemn Trump, and tens of millions who don’t. But whether Trump is good or bad for the republic isn’t a theological question. It is a political one.

By injecting Christianity into that debate, Galli inevitably suggests (especially to the left, for whom it is convenient) that people of the Christian faith are, in fact, obliged to condemn Trump and support his impeachment. This is risible. It is irresponsible. It also proved irresistible.

The only interesting question about all this is why Galli felt compelled to sacrifice the best interests of the platform he was supposed to nurture? I don’t know the answer, but I can calculate the cost. It is immense. The only redeeming aspect of this is the condemnation now flowing down from previous supporters of the once-traditional fortress of evangelicalism. Perhaps that will save other congregations of believers, whether virtual or still organized around pews or causes, from the same intemperate outbursts from their leadership.

WPBloom

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(3) comments

Holmes -- the real one

There are a lot of righteous actions that don't necessarily deliver positive results for the one who does them.

The easy way, of course, is to "focus on the positive," to avoid controversy, and to tell people what they want to hear.

Whistle blowers are well aware that they swim against the tide when they reveal wrongdoing that is being hidden.

Even a gentle countering any of Trump's many lies with the truth can make a personal encounter very difficult.

Yes, doing the right thing can have negative consequences. So is the solution to just shut up and stay out of it?

What happens when a publication takes a stand? Well, we could look back on just how some of our more respected publications handled dispensing news about Hitler's rise to power in Germany. https://www.elon.edu/u/academics/communications/journal/wp-content/uploads/sites/153/2017/06/07_Katherine_Blunt.pdf

Not all that admirable. But then rich guys like Henry Ford were supporting Hitler openly...

We could look back on the fate of the Münchener Post under Hitler.

We could also examine the role of the press in Germany during that time generally: https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/the-press-in-the-third-reich

https://thelogicalindian.com/story-feed/awareness/newspaper-which-fought-hitler/

https://www.ap.org/press-releases/2019/ap-publishes-biography-on-newspaper-that-illuminated-hitler-s-rise-to-power

Yes, those who spoke out in the press paid a price. Those who spoke out in the pulpits did too. Some did both. Why? Because it was the right thing to do.

Hugh Hewett is advocating against taking, "....an absolutist stand on a radically divisive issue." It takes courage to take a stand. It take courage to confront wrongdoing. People who take these kinds of actions are heroes.

People who claim to be "Christians" and people who live their lives as such are completely different entities. It is a courageous thing to ask people to look at whether their actions match what they say they believe.

A review of history demonstrates the power of doing just that.

hermit thrush

given how strongly the white house has reacted to the christianity today editorial, i think it is hard to believe that ct has only hurt itself.

Kevin_Beary_is_racist

We know President Trump normally didn't use protection when with his mistresses , thanks to him saying so himself repeatedly in various ways across his various interviews in the Howard Stern Show. I am glad these Christian groups love Trump so much, nothing says "Strong Theological Convictions" like blind support of a Stormi Daniel's boyfriend as president. Remember when Trump said he would be having sex with his daughter if she wasn't his daughter ("Perhaps we'd be dating..") at the exact time Melania was pregnant? GREAT CHRISTIAN LEADER! Where did Trump go to mass on the Easter's he has been president? Sure, Trump is the exact image of everything Christianity is supposed to be about (Trump wanted Tiffany aborted, and said so publicly) but at least Trump is racist the way Fox News makes people racist!

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