Why the Christianity Today Editorial Matters
Yesterday, the Editor-in-Chief of Christianity Today, Mark Galli (full disclosure: Mark’s a friend), wrote a bold, direct op-ed calling for the removal of President Trump from office. He writes that the impeachment process brought to light “unambiguous” facts:
“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.”
You should really read the full op-ed.
This is a big, big deal.
People whose primary comment is “this editorial isn’t going to change the minds of millions of evangelicals” don’t understand editorials and they don’t understand evangelicals. Of course, an editorial isn’t going to mean Trump’s going to lose 30-points among evangelicals. Of course, an editorial isn’t going to directly, explicitly change millions of minds. This editorial—which is itself the product, in large part, I believe, of the paradigm-shifting and relentless writing of Michael Gerson, Pete Wehner and David Brooks among a few others—is going to provide cover and permission for an entire cohort of evangelical elites who felt that if they made their views plain they’d a) be wasting their time b) be out on a ledge alone c) be “outside of their lane.” This editorial will help address all three of those reservations. The impact of this editorial is going to be in the pastors and non-profit heads who are sharing this with their staffs and the decisions that flow from those conversations. The leaders who now feel they can share this editorial or other political news, privately or publicly, who wouldn’t have before.
Christianity Today is an institution with a mandate to speak for evangelicals on public issues. Unlike Jerry Falwell Jr. Unlike Eric Metaxas. Unlike Robert Jeffress. No one appointed those people to speak for evangelicals. Christianity Today, on the other hand, has the mission and the mandate. Like the National Association of Evangelicals. Like Russell Moore. Like Shirley Hoogstra.
I would encourage folks to stop taking out their theological and ecclesial disagreements by allowing unappointed folks with a platform the right to define American evangelicalism. The call has always been “I wish other Christians would speak up,” “If only Christianity Today/Pastor so-and-so, would be clear…” Well, Christianity Today has now, once again, been clear and definitive. People do not have to agree with everything the op-ed includes/does not include to recognize what they did, and to empower their voice at least as much as they empower Robert Jeffress’ voice.
Let me state this clearly: A Democratic nominee for president who actually means what they say about bringing the nation together/appealing to every voter/etc. will have both the ability and desire to strategically respond to this editorial in a sensitive and effective way. Democrats should be thinking quite seriously about this over the coming weeks as they prepare to start voting.
Finally, if you’re viewing this editorial through the lens of political effectiveness and goals alone, you’re going to miss its import. I’ll be writing more about this soon for a publication, but the main point here is this editorial represents the end of the evangelical delusion that politics is only upstream from culture. If the last four years have shown anything (though it has always been clear), it has shown that politics affects faith as well—how it is perceived, and how it is practiced. This editorial has evangelism and the integrity of American evangelicalism in mind. It has in mind the hundreds of young people I’ve met on college campuses over the last few years who now doubted whether the elders in their life meant anything they said at all, including about Jesus and the Christian faith. Mark Galli’s editorial, which very intentionally refers to integrity and consistency several times, is something to hold onto.