Scores of evangelical leaders pushed back Sunday against Christianity Today for calling for President Trump’s removal, accusing the magazine founded by the Rev. Billy Graham of spiritual presumption against other Christians and cultural elitism.
The letter, sent in an email to Christianity Today President and CEO Timothy Dalrymple, was signed by more than 180 prominent evangelical figures.
“Of course, it’s up to your publication to decide whether or not your magazine intends to be a voice of evangelicals like those represented by the signatories below, and it is up to us and those Evangelicals like us to decide if we should subscribe to, advertise in and read your publication online and in print, but historically, we have been your readers,” reads the letter, which was obtained Sunday by The Washington Times.
Christianity Today shocked the religious and political worlds Thursday by calling for Mr. Trump’s removal from office, citing “the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character” and calling his removal “not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.
“To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve,” Christianity Today wrote.
That struck the writers of Sunday’s letters as itself a gross overreach.
“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,” they wrote.
The nearly 200 writers included such prominent evangelical political types as Mike Huckabee, Gary Bauer, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Alveda King and Bishop Harry Jackson.
Also among the signatories were George Wood, longtime head of the Assemblies of God in the U.S.; best-selling author Eric Metaxas; baseball star turned preacher Daryl Strawberry; Billy Graham Evangelistic Association figures such as Skip Heitzig and Greg Laurie; the Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University; Gilberto Velez, board chairman of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas.
The writers also took note of the fact that the letter did not specifically call on the Senate to impeach him — a result that would produce President Mike Pence — but said whether Mr. Trump is removed by the Senate or defeated next November is a matter of “prudential judgment.”
“The editorial you published … [called] for Donald Trump not to be elected again in 2020 when he certainly survives impeachment. As one of our signatories said to the press, ‘I hope Christianity Today will now tell us who they will support for president among the 2020 Democrat field,’” the letter’s signatories wrote.
The writers also took issue with the previous derisive language of Christianity Today Editor-in-Chief Mark Galli toward evangelicals who back Mr. Trump.
They noted a 2016 interview in which Mr. Galli referred to Trump voters as “these other evangelicals [who] often haven’t finished college, and if they have jobs, and apparently most of them don’t, they are blue-collar jobs or entry level work” and called himself an “elite evangelical.”
Mr. Galli had downplayed criticism of last week’s article as “evangelicals on the far right” who will “be as dismissive of the magazine as President Trump,” a characterization to which the writers also objected.
“We are, in fact, not ‘far-right’ evangelicals as characterized by the author. Rather, we 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 other matters.