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As Faith Leaders Criticize CT Editorial, Subscriptions Surge

Trump editorial

Reactions to last week’s Christianity Today (CT) Trump editorial calling for the President’s removal from office continued making headlines over the weekend. While subscriptions to the magazine reportedly surged and the hashtag #ChristiansAgainstTrump trended, almost 200 Christian leaders wrote an open letter of “dissatisfaction” to CT’s president and CEO, Timothy Dalrymple. He, meanwhile, posted an update about the debate and urged continued conversation.

On December 19, CT editor-in-chief and former pastor Mark Galli published an editorial decrying Trump’s “profoundly immoral” actions, saying they harm Christians’ credibility and evangelistic effectiveness. Trump immediately condemned the magazine (founded by Billy Graham) as “far left” and touted his efforts on behalf of evangelicals. Galli and his critics have been appearing on various TV programs to discuss the controversy.

Faith Leaders Say They Feel Targeted by Trump Editorial

In their letter to Dalrymple, evangelical leaders say it was “astonishing” that Galli “offensively dismissed our point of view” during a CNN appearance because “historically, we have been your readers.” They also point to Galli’s essay in the book Still Evangelical?, in which he characterizes Christians who voted for Trump as largely uneducated and unemployed—as opposed to so-called “elite” evangelicals.

The letter-writers maintain they are “Bible-believing Christians and patriotic Americans who are simply grateful that our President has sought our advice as his administration has advanced policies that protect the unborn, promote religious freedom, reform our criminal justice system, contribute to strong working families through paid family leave, protect the freedom of conscience, prioritize parental rights, and ensure that our foreign policy aligns with our values while making our world safer, including through our support of the State of Israel.”

The leaders emphasize their reliance on grace, their commitment to public service, and their objection to “the entirely partisan, legally dubious, and politically motivated impeachment” of Trump by the House of Representatives one day before Galli’s editorial was published. They also imply that CT will be championing a Democratic candidate in the 2020 election.

Signatories—including Gary Bauer, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Jr., Jack Graham, Danny Gokey, Greg Laurie, Eric Metaxas, Rod Parsley, Robert Jeffress, Tony Perkins, and Chonda Pierce—close by writing: “Your editorial offensively questioned the spiritual integrity and Christian witness of tens-of-millions of believers who take seriously their civic and moral obligations. It not only targeted our President; it also targeted those of us who support him, and have supported you.”

CT: ‘We write for a readership of One’

In an update posted on CT’s website Sunday, Dalrymple says responses to Galli’s editorial “have spanned the spectrum.” While the magazine has “received countless notes of encouragement from readers who…no longer feel alone [and] have hope again,” it also has “heard from many readers who felt incensed and insulted.” Though CT welcomes all input, Dalrymple writes, “At the end of the day, we write for a readership of One. God is our Tower.”

CT’s president asserts that the publication, which has no editorial board and doesn’t endorse political candidates, is “theologically conservative” and “pro-life and pro-family.” As part of a global ministry that supports the “global Body of Christ,” Dalrymple adds, CT “can no longer stay silent.”

Though Dalrymple writes that CT is “happy to celebrate the positive things” accomplished by Trump’s administration, it feels “compelled to say that the alliance of American evangelicalism with this presidency has wrought enormous damage to Christian witness,” has “harmed” various minority groups, and has “undercut” missionary efforts. “While the Trump administration may be well regarded in some countries,” Dalrymple writes, “in many more the perception of wholesale evangelical support for the administration has made toxic the reputation of the Bride of Christ.”

He also decries the “hyper-politicization of the American church,” saying only God deserves “unconditional loyalty.” Dalrymple says that “American evangelicalism is not a Republican PAC” but a “diverse movement”—and that continued conversation is needed. “Evangelicals of different stripes cannot continue to shout one another down, bully those who disagree, or exclude one another and refuse to listen,” he says. Next month, CT plans to publish a variety of essays on the topic.

Debate Dominated the Weekend Airwaves

In an MSNBC interview Sunday, Galli said although “hundreds” of CT subscribers canceled because of his editorial, the magazine “gained three times as many subscribers” and experienced a surge of donations. The editor-in-chief said CT’s “legacy” includes addressing “national issues of moral import,” especially when “the welfare of the American people” is affected.

On the CBS show Face the Nation, Galli called Trump’s character “deeply, deeply concerning,” saying he’s “no longer…fit to lead” America as a result. Galli reiterated that he’s making a moral judgment, not a political judgment, about the president. “We’re not looking for saints,” the editor-in-chief said, “but a president has certain responsibilities as a public figure to display a certain level of public character and public morality.” The point of his editorial, Galli said, was to consider whether “the evangelical constituency that we represent” can continue supporting Trump “in good conscience.”

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Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 27 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.