President Donald Trump has lashed out at an evangelical Christian magazine that called for his removal from office in a viral editorial.
In two Friday morning tweets, Trump called Christianity Today, which was founded by the American evangelist Billy Graham, a “far left magazine” that “knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call.”
″[Christianity Today] would rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President,” Trump wrote. “No President has done more for the Evangelical community, and it’s not even close.”
“I won’t be reading ET again!” he added, presumably meaning to write CT.
Trump’s caustic Twitter comments were one of the many moral failings that Mark Galli, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, pointed to in an editorial that urged his fellow evangelicals to reevaluate their support for the president.
One day after Trump became the third American president to be impeached by the House of Representatives, Galli wrote that the impeachment hearings made it clear that the president was morally unfit for the job.
“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,” Galli wrote. “That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.”
Although evangelicals often justify their loyalty to Trump by praising his performance on issues that are key to the religious group, Galli wrote that none of these political wins could balance the “moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.”
Hours after the editorial’s publication, Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, posted a rebuttal on his popular Facebook page. The younger Graham, a longtime Trump ally, said that his late father would not agree with the editorial.
He revealed that his father had voted for Trump in the 2016 election. Billy Graham died in 2018 at age 99.
“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,” Franklin Graham wrote.
Franklin Graham called the editorial a “partisan attack” and listed out what he saw as Trump’s accomplishments ― the economy, the fight against ISIS, trade deals, defending religious freedom, the record-setting appointment of conservative judges, and the “fact that he is the most pro-life president in modern history.”
He said that the magazine is being “used by the left for their political agenda” and wants Trump removed over “false accusations that the President emphatically denies.”
“It’s obvious that Christianity Today has moved to the left and is representing the elitist liberal wing of evangelicalism,” Franklin Graham said. “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.”
Most white evangelicals are in fact more likely to side with Franklin Graham than with Galli. In October, before the House Intelligence Committee began its public hearings on impeachment, the Public Religion Research Institute found that 88% of white evangelical Protestants didn’t think Trump should be impeached and removed from office, much higher than any other major religious group surveyed.
Galli pointed out in his editorial that American evangelicals reacted very differently to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings. In an Oct. 1998 editorial, Christianity Today’s editors wrote that Clinton’s “unsavory dealings and immoral acts” made him unfit for office.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination that ordained Billy Graham, passed a resolution in 1998 declaring that “moral character matters” for public officials and urged Americans to vote for candidates who “demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.”
But decades later, white evangelical Christians’ views on the importance of private morality appear to have shifted dramatically. In 2011, 60% of white evangelicals said that a public official who “commits an immoral act in their personal life” cannot still “behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” A study conducted by University of Notre Dame professors David Campbell and Geoffrey Layman found that there’s been a stunning 42-point swing in the opposite direction since then, with only 16.5% of white evangelicals saying in late 2018 that privately immoral behavior translates to unethical professional conduct.
Campbell concluded that white evangelicals’ strong affinity for the Republican Party has caused them to reconsider their moral stances.
“They have put politics first,” Campbell said.