President Donald Trump will launch the “Evangelicals for Trump” coalition as part of his reelection campaign during a rally today at a Florida church. The move comes at a time when the first hairline fractures have surfaced among Trump’s white evangelical Christian base.

About a week before Christmas, Christianity Today ran an editorial attacking Trump as morally unfit for the presidency and calling him a detriment to Christian witness. Trump and his Christian nationalist supporters were quick to fire back, with Trump going on an unhinged Twitter rant during which he called the magazine “far left.” (It’s not.)

No one expects to see massive evangelical defections from the Trump camp, but the incident did shake loose some evangelical anti-Trumpers who until now haven’t been especially vocal. Among them is Napp Nazworth, an editor at the online The Christian Post who decided to quit after that publication chose to respond to Christianity Today with a strong pro-Trump editorial.

“I warned them,” Nazworth told CNN. “If you go down this road and join team Trump, then that will destroy the reputation of The Christian Post. We had reached the impasse and I really had no other choice but to leave.”

For its part, Christianity Today is standing by its editorial, which was penned by Editor in Chief Mark Galli as one of his final acts before retirement. Timothy Dalrymple, president and CEO of the magazine, published a statement Dec. 22 that not only defended the piece but went beyond it to criticize evangelicalism’s alliance with the Republican Party.

“We nevertheless believe the evangelical alliance with this presidency has done damage to our witness here and abroad,” Dalrymple observed. “The cost has been too high. American evangelicalism is not a Republican PAC. We are a diverse movement that should collaborate with political parties when prudent but always standing apart, at a prophetic distance, to be what Martin Luther King, Jr. called ‘the conscience of the state.’ That is what we believe. This is where we plant our flag. We know we are not alone.”

Trump today will try to tamp down the very idea of dissent in the evangelical community, and he’ll do it by continuing a trend that has been a hallmark of his presidency: incessant pandering to a band of reckless, theocratic, far-right Christian nationalists and simply ignoring the broad diversity of religious belief and non-belief that marks the American experience today.  

P.S. There’s been some discussion about whether King Jesus International Ministry, the Miami church that’s hosting today’s event, is violating its tax-exempt status, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation has asked the IRS to investigate. Indeed, there is cause for concern. As Maggie Garrett, AU’s vice president for public policy notes in today’s Tampa Bay Times, Trump is recklessly jeopardizing the church’s tax-exempt status for political gain. For its part, the church now claims it is leasing the space to Trump’s campaign at fair-market rates. But it seems highly unlikely that the church’s pastor, Guillermo Maldonado, a close Trump ally, would offer the same deal and enthusiastic welcome to Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren.

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN