Christianity Today and the problem with 'Christian elitism'
Christianity Today editor Mark Galli’s “lofty” op-ed last week calling for President Trump’s removal from office touched off a firestorm of criticism and dissent from scores of evangelical leaders, and the backlash and debate have reached “critical mass” since its publication. Meanwhile, secular media immediately seized upon the CT editorial to argue that evangelical support for the president was finally crumbling under the weight of impeachment by the House of Representatives.
After all, when Christianity Today, the “flagship” magazine of evangelicals, founded by Billy Graham himself, turns against the president, then the long hoped for evangelical exodus from Trump must surely have finally commenced.
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, as made clear by the Graham family itself. The great evangelist’s son, Franklin, divulged that his father “knew Donald Trump, believed in Donald Trump, and he voted for Donald Trump.” He then went on to say that his father “believed that Donald J. Trump was the man for this hour in history for our nation.”
Additionally, almost 200 evangelical leaders signed a joint letter opposing the CT editorial and asserting that CT itself is a shell of its former self and that CT speaks to, and for, fewer evangelicals with each passing year.
What was the spirit animating CT editor Galli’s “thunderbolt” from on high? The answer is likely found in the self-appointed Mount Olympus from which Mr. Galli made his “moral” pronouncement. After Trump’s election, Mr. Galli bluntly confessed:
“I know hardly anyone, let alone any evangelical Christian who voted for Trump. I describe evangelicals like me as ‘elite’ evangelicals … and this class of evangelicals has discovered that we have family members so different they seem like aliens in our midst. These other evangelicals often haven’t finished college, and if they have jobs (and apparently a lot of them don’t), they are blue-collar jobs or entry-level work. They don’t write books or give speeches; they don’t attend conferences of evangelicals for social justice or evangelicals for immigration reform. They are deeply suspicious of mainstream media. A lot of them voted for Donald Trump.”
These words are chillingly similar to former President Barack Obama’s description of rural voters who “cling to their guns and Bibles,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s characterization of Trump supporters as “deplorables,” and most recently, Beto O’Rourke’s smug threats against biblically orthodox churches and citizens who own a certain type of rifle. These are the words of elitists who look down upon opponents as inferior human beings who need to be controlled, not debated.
That is the toxic emotional and spiritual stew in which the attitude animating Galli’s editorial festered into life.
This attitude is distinctly unbiblical. In Philippians, the Apostle Paul describes Jesus — the only one who rightly deserves elite status — as one who, “though in the form of God, did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but humbled himself.” Instead, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, fellowshipped with sinners, tax collectors and the racially “unclean,” and was the first to champion equality for women, slaves, and even lepers.
Mr. Galli asks evangelicals supporting Trump to consider how continued support for the president will impede and compromise evangelical witness for Jesus to an unbelieving world. One might well ask Mr. Galli how his obvious elitist disdain and corrosive condescension for fellow Christians with whom he disagrees, as ignorant, uneducated, “aliens in our midst” might well damage evangelical witness to an unbelieving world. Unbelievers might well conclude, “These Christian preach love for neighbor, but they certainly don’t seem to practice what they preach!”
You may think Trump is a narcissistic, morally challenged, belligerent cad who has no business being president — except for the pesky constitutional fact that over 60 million American voters elected him to it. You may see Trump as a modern day Cyrus, the Persian king who did God’s bidding in assisting in the restoration of Jerusalem. You may think Trump is a Samson-like hero called to realign the Supreme Court, to redirect the economy toward the American worker, and/or to tear down the pillars of Deep State corruption in modern Washington. But whatever you think — and however you vote — America will certainly survive and is, in significant ways, thriving under a Trump presidency — even if it lasts another four years.
However, our religious and other freedoms will not long survive a government of elites so convinced of their superiority that they are willing to compromise constitutional due process, after illegally manipulating the nation’s national security and law enforcement apparatus behind the scenes, to depose a duly-elected sitting president — all the while declaring arrogantly to the American people that it is for their own good.
These are the fellow travelers that Christianity Today is clearly aligning itself with at this critical juncture in our nation’s history. CT’s op-ed does not represent evangelical Christianity today, yesterday or in the future. After all, a majority of Trump’s evangelical support has been triggered by his opponents’ advocating policies that make him appear to be, at the very least, the lesser of two evils in a binary contest.
CT’s disdainful, dismissive, elitist posture toward their fellow Christians may well do far more long-term damage to American Christianity and its witness than any current prudential support for President Trump will ever cause.
John Grano is Senior Managing Editor of The Christian Post and Richard Land is its Executive Editor.