A Crack in Trump’s White Evangelical Base of Support

Christianity Today has called for the president’s removal from office.

On Thursday, the editor in chief of Christianity Today, Mark Galli, wrote a piece calling for Donald Trump to be removed from office. Here is the crux of his argument.

[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. 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.

News of this reverberated in the world of white evangelical Christians because this didn’t come from a publication that can be written off as part of the “secular left.” Christianity Today was founded by evangelist Billy Graham and has been a staple in evangelical circles for decades.

Whether a call like this opens up a fissure in Trump’s base of support among white evangelicals remains to be seen. But it represents a crack that, as Leonard Cohen wrote, allows some light to get in. It is precisely the kind of thing that can spread a bit of cognitive dissonance among those who have been attempting to avoid the difficult questions raised by blind support of a president who is clearly amoral.

Keep in mind that this news comes only a few weeks after Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, talked with radio host Eric Metaxas about how those who oppose Donald Trump are engaging with demonic forces. When a publication like Christianity Today joins the opposition, it becomes more difficult to literally “demonize” the other side.

In response to this call for Trump’s removal, Franklin Graham has weighed in to define the battle lines. In a post on Facebook, he begins by suggesting that his late father voted for Trump and would disagree with what Galli wrote. Graham doesn’t mount a defense of the president, but simply dismisses the charges against him as partisan.

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.

While I wouldn’t presume to speak for Galli, it seems rather clear from what he wrote that his intention was to ask readers to weigh the facts, which he described as “unambiguous.”

Here is how Graham ended his response.

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.

At least he didn’t call them “demonic.” But the message is clear. As is always the case with authoritarianism, questions raised from within the ranks are dismissed and those who raise them are ejected from the fold. That is the message Graham sends to anyone who might find some merit in what Galli has written.

But while the battle lines have been clearly drawn, this episode highlights the weakness of every authoritarian system, including the one that undergirds Trump’s base of support among white evangelicals. Any question or challenge raised poses a major threat to the entire edifice. That is the crack that was just opened by the piece in Christianity Today.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.