The impeachment of President Donald Trump should have been a period of serious moral reflection for white evangelicals in America. It wasn’t. During the process, leading Christian nationalist groups parroted talking points ripped from the Teleprompters of Fox News and embraced wild-eyed conspiracy theories that fester in the fever swamps of the far right. They closed ranks, making one thing clear: They’d rather have the gifts of Trump – judicial appointments and policy changes that misuse religious freedom to justify discrimination – than the teachings of Jesus Christ.
But finally, a crack has appeared in that façade. Christianity Today, long a respected voice of American evangelicalism, a magazine founded by evangelist Billy Graham no less, yesterday ran a powerful editorial calling for Trump’s removal.
Editor in chief Mark Galli made a point that has seemed obvious to many of us: Trump is clearly morally unfit to hold the highest office in the land – and evangelicals, of all people, ought to know that.
“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,” wrote Galli. “Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come?”
It may be too late. Americans continue to flee organized religion at a steady clip. Among Millennials, the trend is accelerating. Can anyone blame young people for being wary of a theology anchored in an unrelenting drumbeat of hate (of LGBTQ people, liberals, non-Christians, atheists, etc.) and worship of Trump? That’s thin gruel for Sunday indeed.
White evangelicals love to portray themselves as the last bastion of morality and decency in America, yet 81 percent of them voted for Trump in 2016 even though they were well aware of his moral failings and crude behavior, and they’ve stood by him despite a litany of scandals and crass actions. During impeachment, one GOP congressman went so far as to compare Trump to Christ on the floor of the House. Evangelicals should have considered this blasphemy; instead, they ignored it. During the evening of impeachment when Trump, speaking at a rally in Michigan, relished the thought of the late U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) burning in hell, they again said nothing.
Evangelicals are tight-lipped because of the Faustian bargain they made. “Support me no matter what I say or how I behave, and I will give you the things you want,” Trump told evangelicals. He gave them not just judges but things like the dangerous Denial of Care Rule; Department of Labor regulations that foster discrimination; regulations that allow taxpayer-funded foster care agencies to turn away same-sex couples, atheists, religious minorities and others; and a host of anti-LGBTQ policies, among others. (Americans United has been on the frontlines of fighting back against all of these misguided measures in court and on Capitol Hill.) Evangelicals lusted for these policies and happily sold their birthrights for a mess of political pottage
It’s good to know that not all evangelicals have succumbed. Galli is to be commended for taking a bold stand. To no one’s surprise, he’s already being smeared by the committed followers of the First Church of Trump – among them, Graham’s son Franklin, a committed Trump sycophant.
That was to be expected. After all, a prophet often has no honor in his own town.
A famous person said that. Evangelicals might want to look it up.
Photo: President Trump addresses the Religious Right’s Values Voter Summit in 2017.