Millions of American Christians learned that they are, in fact, disloyal to God and to the Ten Commandments because of President Donald Trump, thanks to Thursday’s blockbuster op-ed from Christianity Today and its editor-in-chief Mark Galli.
Reading this piece, I was struck not only by the acceptance of dishonest narratives from corporate media but its contempt for believers who prefer Trump to govern them over the woke crowd — those evangelists whose dogmas on gender, abortion, and socialism provide much condemnation and no hope for atonement.
And yet, those issues are dwarfed substantially by the stunning hypocrisy of Galli’s judgment on the Deplorables — but more on that later.
“[W]e have done our best to give evangelical Trump supporters their due, to try to understand their point of view, to see the prudential nature of so many political decisions they have made regarding Mr. Trump,” Galli writes, after saying that said Trump supporters have tarnished their “witness to your Lord and Savior” by choosing one unsaved man who pays lip service to God over other unsaved candidates who pay lip service to God.
Note the admission here: “We,” CT‘s editorial staff, have tried to understand the “they” of Trump supporters. That phrasing — us and them — indicates there are no Trump supporters among CT‘s editorial staff, a shocking figure considering that roughly 80% of self-identified evangelicals voted for the man over Hillary Clinton (CT has its own article downplaying the phenomenon).
With that framework established, we proceed to a number of thought-killing clichés about Trump’s character:
- “He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals…”
- “His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost…”
- “The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see…”
- “This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country…”
Check Your Blind Spots
However, Galli has no moral authority to make this judgment on political preferences. Just a few years before this missive, Galli authored a lionizing biography of Karl Barth (pictured, inset) — a neo-orthodox theologian (e.g., believed that Christ did rise from the dead but the eyewitnesses did not record it accurately) and avowed socialist who excused Josef Stalin’s “totalitarian atrocities” due to the “positive intention” of the Marxist world view. He wrote:
[I]t is pertinent not to omit to discriminate in our view of contemporary Communism between its totalitarian atrocities as such and the positive intention behind them. And if one tries to do that, one cannot say of Communism what one was forced to say of Nazism ten years ago — that what it means and intends is pure unreason, the product of madness and crime. It would be quite absurd to mention in the same breath the philosophy of Marxism and the “ideology” of the Third Reich, to mention a man of the stature of Joseph Stalin in the same breath as such charlatans as Hitler, Goering, Hess, Goebbels, Himmler, Ribbentrop, Rosenberg, Streicher, etc. What has been tackled in Soviet Russia — albeit with very dirty and bloody hands and in a way that rightly shocks us — is, after all, a constructive idea, the solution of a problem which is a serious and burning problem for us as well, and which we with our clean hands have not yet tackled anything like energetically enough: the social problem. (Die Kirche zwischen Ost und West, 1949)
In his book, Galli’s harshest criticism on the topic of Soviet mass murder reads: “in retrospect, Barth does seem naive on this issue.” No accusations of disloyalty to the Decalogue.
In other words, as long as we’re canceling Christians for their political blind spots, Mr. Galli ought to hack at the log of the Holodomor, death camps, and purges in his hero’s eyes before he reaches for the speck of mean Tweets in his brothers’.
Christians and Democratic Elections: A Brief Primer
That said, I want to stress that Galli and the staff at Christianity Today are, indeed, my brothers and sisters in faith, because Jesus explicitly destroys any and all political barriers between his children. This is explicit in the gospels: Jesus was incarnated into an oppressed minority culture, yet he left the topic largely unaddressed. In fact, it seems he condemned the oppressed minority for its own bigotry and oppression more than he did Rome (Matthew 18:21-35, Luke 10:25-37). His teaching prioritized the individual’s sin against God more than socio-political issues. He confounded his ethnic kin’s hope for a political Messiah (Matthew 13:31-32) while justifying men who collaborated with the oppressive regime if they truly repented of their deeper sin — rebellion against God (Luke 19:1-9).
That is not to say that Jesus primarily excused men who committed the same sins which Trump fans stand accused of today. The point is that Jesus transcends those political viewpoints entirely — like the famous scene in Flatland where the narrator witnesses a sphere rising above his plane of existence. The men he called to be disciples ranged from “zealots” — i.e., those who were ready to violently revolt against Rome — to tax collectors, or collaborators with the oppressive majority culture. He commanded them to love one another (John 13:34-35) despite these differences, because the Kingdom of Heaven had arrived. Their allegiance, their hope, their ambitions — all of these things had been focused on a tussle between Rome and Israel’s political stature, but now a spiritual kingdom superseded that struggle entirely.
As such, both Peter and Paul wrote to churches telling us to humbly obey the pagan governments over us (Romans 13:1-7), because we are nomads and exiles (1 Peter 2:13-17) — citizens of a kingdom that is already here spiritually and certain to come physically when Christ returns and destroys his enemies the whole earth over. And in the meantime, our duty is to create disciples — the subjects who will fill God’s kingdom. It is not, like many postmillennial or amillennial brothers believe, our duty to conquer nations (Ephesians 6:12) or judge those outside the church (1 Corinthians 5:12).
Even though we have the means to choose our own leaders in America, it is not the Christian’s responsibility to achieve any particular political outcome. Allow me to alienate everyone who might agree with me so far by saying this: it is far more important for us to rescue the child facing abortion by caring for his unbelieving mother than to lobby for her to go to jail. It is far more important for us to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit in giving what we own to the poor than to lobby for higher taxes on unbelieving millionaires. There is a much stronger case from Scripture to argue that God is establishing his kingdom household by household rather than by us taking the levers of power. Let us recognize how small we are and trust that our statistically insignificant actions are God’s plans for us, and they are enough. He wants us fixated on our neighbors, not our national politicians.
Democracy — that is, majority rule — and the narrow way (Matthew 7:13-14) are at odds with one another. Thus, Christians have liberty to vote for whoever they want — to abstain from voting, to cast protest votes, or to cast pragmatic votes given a choice between two major candidates — and trust that God is sovereign over the outcome. What Christians are not free to do is condemn their brothers and sisters for how they vote, just as they are not free to condemn each other for whether they bought an Xbox or a Playstation.
Yeast of the Phari-CT
On that note: Mark Galli and his colleagues are indeed judging their brothers and sisters for transgressing human traditions rather than God’s commands. Yes, it is a real sin to put more hope in Trump and America than the cross and the resurrection. But the article doesn’t make that distinction with its broad brush — while placing equally high stakes on “the reputation of our country” and looking to someone outside the faith community as our “moral leader.”
Another area of “loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments” is not bearing false witness, as Galli does by calling the Democrats’ charges against Trump — a simplistic, partisan narrative driven by deceptively edited statements — “unambiguous facts.” I would suspect, based on this piece, that he needs to listen to the testimony of at least Jonathan Turley in full rather than rely on condensed news packages from the likes of NPR or primetime broadcast TV.
Christianity Today‘s op-ed has received a lot of other thoughtful responses from conservative evangelicals (I recommend you read Dr. Michael Brown’s and Samuel Sey’s, for starters) and unqualified praise and amplification from pundits and media outlets who are hostile to the faith. Granted, with any national discussion, there will be ignorant and eloquent responses from either side, as well as harassment and threats. My own response here is rather strident, but hopefully, he sees it as fair. As long as we are doing guilt by political association, his whitewash of Barth’s Marxism is magnitudes more shameful than thinking Trump should serve out his term until a crime is proven beyond reasonable doubt (without cheating, as he partially admits Democrats have done). I would much rather we lay down our weapons and work on the harvest together — so let’s please stop judging whole categories of strangers and get our focus back to our families and communities.