Mark Galli’s now infamous Christianity Today editorial about Donald Trump smacks of clickbait trying to capitalize on the negative opinions many have of Trump. Only instead of calling out Trump for the immorality he really is guilty of, Galli chooses the popular talking point of the day, not because it’s true (it isn’t), but because that’s what will get the most hits. He makes no mention of Trump’s support for abortion, the homosexual agenda, or socialist programs. Nope. He just picks up and runs with the lamest, dumbest, and most thoroughly debunked lie because it sells. The Ukranian phone call is one of the hottest news stories of the year, and it’s based on a collection of lies. Galli could have chosen a thousand true complaints against Trump, and his editorial would have been gold. Instead he chose to perpetuate a lie because it gets clicks. He’s using CT’s reputation with evangelicals to prod Trump for a response, and it worked. Trump responded, as did his sycophants, and Galli gained the world by selling his soul. Galli has more common with Trump than he probably cares to admit.
Putting it in Context
As Christians, we should be firstly interested in the truth. Viewing every CT essay or editorial through the lenses of cynicism might keep us from falling into error, but it also may keep us from finding the hidden gem of wisdom buried in the dungheap. Thus we need to separate the reality of CT’s business from the content of what we read, while not forgetting that they’re related. The need for profit will color the content, and we can’t discount that reality. I’m going to tease apart Mark Galli’s editorial considering, first and foremost, the context of what he wrote, and secondly and of no less importance, the content.
Let’s begin with a pertinent question on context: Where was Christianity Today in 2015 when Trump started his campaign? At the time, I clearly remember there were choruses of Christians warning that Trump was not a Christian, not a conservative; That he was a wolf in sheepskin, and that his immoral lifestyle and frank unrepentance were a dealbreaker. (Bob Enyart, Steve Deace, and Bob Vander Plaats are just three names that immediately come to mind.) But Christianity Today just published a few measly editorials–I could count them on one hand–politely suggesting that Trump might not be the right choice. Even Galli’s editorials were carefully worded not to step on the toes of subscr- I mean evangelicals who liked what Trump was saying. CT knew at the time, as did everyone else, that going against Trump meant losing subscribers. So they shut up, and let him win. CT’s self-aggrandizing little editorial is too little, too late. But even worse, it’s hypocritical and hollow. There’s your context.
A Symptom of Liberal Theology
Let’s pull up a little more to get a wider view of CT. I pegged Christianity Today as having lost in way back in 2011 when they said that the Genesis account of Adam and Eve isn’t literal and that it doesn’t “fit the evidence” of modern genetic science (even though it actually does). As all for-profit publications, CT lives or dies based on the number of eyeballs it can draw. If pushing theistic evolution is popular, they’ll do that. If bashing Trump is all the rage, they’ll be happy to oblige. We have no reason to be surprised at the double-mindedness of CT. As all once-Christian institutions do, Christianity Today has turned into a liberal theology rag. Trump had it right when he said they were a far-left publication. The ignorant laughed at and mocked this statement. Well, the joke’s on them.
The Content, and it ain’t much
Galli’s arguments for removal surprisingly weak given the fanfare that accompanied the editorial. But what’s even weirder is that Galli doesn’t actually call for removal in the text of the article (as he does in the clickbait headline).
False Premise 1: Bribery or something
The thrust of the indictment against Trump is quite ambiguous and, well, not even real:
[T]he 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.
This sounds at the very least distateful, except for one thing: it didn’t happen. Trump’s accusations against Biden are true, as Biden has himself admitted to bribery in order to get a Ukranian prosecutor fired. Trump simply asked Ukraine to look into the matter. Galli, playing loose with the facts, is off to a bad start. Bearing false witness isn’t exactly what the editor of Christianity Today should be doing, no? I have to wonder if this an intentional ploy to get people to keep reading. Maybe. I’ll reserve judgment on that, but it’s worth considering as a possibility. If bearing false witness isn’t too low for CT, then neither is being clickbait.
False Premise 2: Discrediting your political opponent is immoral
Tacking onto the first false claim, Galli ramps it up:
That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.
It’s not immoral to ask a foreign leader to investigate a known fact. But it is immoral to raise one’s own personal tastes and preferences to the level of moral law, as Galli does here. Incidentally, the overly dramatic “violation of the Constitution” line sounds eerily reminiscent of the Pharisees condemning Jesus for violating their manmade law.
The False Conclusion
Galli’s conclusion addresses the Christian church’s relationship with Trump, but sadly fails to address the church’s relationship with the Republican party and politics in general.
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?
Well, well, well. Where was this concern about our witness and abortion when George W. Bush and his pro-abortion wife inhabited the White House for 8 years? Bush appointed pro-abortion and pro-homosexual judges, and many Christians celebrated the appointments of these “strict constructionist” judges. Funny that CT didn’t have a scathing editorial calling for Bush’s impeachment and removal. And has he heard of some guy named Obama? This concern for our witness comes across as feigned and flat. If it’s not, Galli at least owes us an explanation of why CT waited 15 years to take this moral high-road.
Make no mistake, Trump isn’t any worse or better than Bush. He’s just not sugarcoated and prim and proper. But he’s the same empty suit, pushing the same pro-abortion, pro-sodomite agenda that Bush and Clinton did. And that’s the bitter pill neither the anti-Trumpians nor the pro-Trumpians want to swallow. Trump is just as much the shady, phony politician as Obama, Clinton, and the Bushes.
Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! --Matthew 23:24
The Clickbait Admission
Galli at the end of the article shows his hand, letting you know you’ve been clickbaited. He really isn’t calling for removal from office. He just needs to justify the article so he doesn’t look so opportunistic.
We have reserved judgment on Mr. Trump for years now… To use an old cliché, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence.
It would be more accurate to say he’s reserved judgment on the Republican party for decades–and still is. Trump is just the convenient fall guy because he’s distateful. But he’s no less immoral than Romney, McCain, or the Bushes. Something tells me we won’t be seeing any articles condemning other Republicans. After all, that’s all in the past, and why would Christianity Today concern itself with past events?
Galli ends with some dramatic flair, the cherry on top if you will, trying to stir us up to, well, like/share/subscribe I suppose.
And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern.
Yes, that just happened. The hypocrisy of evanglicals supporting the wicked because they bear the magic “R” isn’t new. And I can’t believe that Galli is unaware that the evangelical reputation is already soiled with the dung of the Republican pary and has been for quite some time. No, Galli knows better. This isn’t a case of, “enough is enough.” This article was a B12 shot for CT, a “let’s try this” experiment to boost circulation. But that’s no excuse. Bearing false witness, pushing liberal theology and other godless ideas, and straining a gnat whilst swallowing a camel will do more to give occassion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.