Influential evangelical magazine Christianity Today says Trump should be 'removed from office'
The evangelical magazine founded by the late evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham published an editorial by its editor on Thursday calling for President Donald Trump's removal. The magazine has been critical of Trump but not politically outspoken during his administration.
The piece, which appeared to draw so many readers that the magazine's website crashed briefly, was written by Mark Galli, who called Trump "a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused."
Galli, who will retire from the magazine on Jan. 3, wrote that the facts leading to Wednesday's impeachment 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," he wrote. "That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral."
But the editorial didn't just call out Trump. It called out his devout Christian supporters.
"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," Galli wrote. "Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior."
Graham had close friendships with several presidents before he died in 2018 but said late in his life that he wish he had distanced himself more politically. Graham's son, the Rev. Franklin Graham, has been a highly vocal supporter of Trump and prayed at his inauguration.
Based in Carol Stream, Christianity Today aims to be the voice of evangelicals, providing news and commentary through its monthly magazine and website. Many evangelical leaders and high-profile pastors are among the magazine's 80,000 print subscribers, and its advertisements regularly feature major evangelical institutions. In the hours after the editorial was published, "Christianity Today" was trending on Twitter.
Galli said that under his watch, the magazine has received criticism for some who wanted it to be more outspoken against the president. He said initially that he thought criticisms of the president were "too panicky and fearful" and that it took him some time to decide to draw a line in the sand.
"I bend over backwards to be charitable and patient with people, including people who support Trump," he said. "I probably went too far on that."
The editorial said the Ukraine-focused impeachment hearings "have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not" that Trump had abused his office. Galli said in an interview that he decided Thursday morning, hours after the late-night impeachment vote in the House of Representatives, to write about why he think the president should be removed.
"I was hoping I wouldn't have to do another editorial like this. I hate doing editorials like this," he said. "People are going to say mean, nasty things and say how much they hate me or hate the magazine, and I don't like that."
Galli said he believes that many evangelical leaders have not been openly critical of the president because they have friends and family who support Trump.
"It's not easy to come out publicly that makes it seem like these people are our enemies," he said. "There are times to be charitable. There are times to say, 'No, I'm not going any further.' "
Galli's wrote that evangelicals are playing with a "stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence" and that "the whole game will come crashing down" if they continued to ignore what he described as Trump's moral failings.
"It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world's understanding of the gospel," he wrote. "And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern."
Trump's presidency has created divisions among evangelicals, especially across racial and generational lines. Many appreciate several of the president's decisions, including choosing Supreme Court justices they hope will make anti-abortion decisions, but many others have decried Trump's behavior and comments. Galli's editorial called his behavior "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 wrote.
The magazine has published some pieces in the past that have been critical of Trump, including a piece by former editor Andy Crouch shortly before the election. In July, the president of Christianity Today, Timothy Dalrymple, wrote a piece calling out the silence among Christians when it comes to Trump and racism.
"On the other hand, I sense a profound frustration among non-white Christian friends that their white brethren keep silent as the president aims ugly and demeaning statements at people of color," Dalrymple wrote. "These friends don't like what the silence of the white church is saying, and neither do we."
Dalrymple reviewed Galli's piece before it was published. "We write according to our sense of conscience and calling," he said in an interview. "We trust that subscribers and audience are in God's hands."
The magazine also posted past commentary it published during Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton's impeachments, noting that the magazine also had labeled Clinton "morally unable to lead."
"Unfortunately, the words that we applied to Mr. Clinton 20 years ago apply almost perfectly to our current president," Galli wrote in the editorial. He specifically raised the issue of abortion, the reason why many evangelicals have said they voted for Trump and would do so again: "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?"