“Whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election—that is a matter of prudential judgment. That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.”
–Mark Galli, Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today
We now have it on the authority of the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine founded by Billy Graham and Carl Henry that, if you are a Christian believer, you are disloyal to God, have betrayed the Holy Trinity, and are unfaithful to the Lord Jesus if you (1) oppose the impeachment and removal of President Donald Trump or, if he is not removed by impeachment, you (2) support Trump over whichever Democratic candidate opposes him in the 2020 election.
And they said that Pastor Jerry Falwell and the old Christian Right stepped over the line with voter guides and insistence that Christians must vote for Candidate (fill in the blank)!
Let’s see what this implies, taking the views of a not-so-hypothetical Christian whom Galli tells us is a bad, disloyal, disobedient believer (an anti-Christ, if you will).
Suppose that a Christian believer finds persuasive the anti-impeachment arguments of Constitutional scholars such as Jonathan Turley (a liberal Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton), Alan Dershowitz (a liberal Democrat who voted for Clinton) and Ken Starr (an Evangelical who knows a little bit about constitutional law and impeachment). But, then, out of the blue, comes an obscure editor of a Christian magazine who – as far as readers can tell – has no equivalent expertise, and he tells him that he has a high moral obligation as a Christian believer to support not just impeachment, but removal of Trump from office. This is not a matter of prudence, but moral duty, Galli insists.
Why would any informed Christian layperson, who knows about law, politics and history, take seriously what this guy has to say, rather than the arguments by Turley, Dershowitz and Starr?
A counter-argument could be made to the anti-impeachment arguments of Turley, or Dershowitz or Starr. It could be argued that they are irrational and incoherent arguments, although I don’t find them to be so. Take to the pages of Christianity Today and tell us why Starr, as an Evangelical believer, is being disloyal to the author of the Ten Commandments. Have at it. But Galli doesn’t do that, he simply proclaims from the high perch of the CT editorial desk that that Trump should be removed and that the facts supporting impeachment and removal are “unambiguous.”
That’s bad enough, but Galli insists that it is a Christian moral imperative that “Trump should be removed from office…by popular vote next election.” Set aside ignorance of how Presidents are elected (not by popular vote but the votes of the Electoral College), Galli has now implicitly endorsed whoever Trump’s Democratic opponent is in 2020. One must not, according to Galli, even prudentially weigh and balance the Democratic alternative to Trump – for to do so would violate the moral imperative that Trump be removed.
In other words, Galli tells those who find Trump preferable to Sanders or Warren that they are not faithful Christians. Sojourners Chief Jim Wallis, I am told, has already carried this to its logical conclusion – removal of Trump, he declares, is a matter of faith not politics. Really? Is there enough time to place that in the Creed? Make it an official confession or statement of faith? Call for the excommunication of those heretics who support Trump’s reelection?
Every Democratic candidate publicly favors the legality of abortion until the moment before birth. Each supports public funding for abortions and the repeal of the Hyde amendment. But I am told – upon pain of being charged with being a bad and unfaithful Christian, by the Editor-in-Chief of Christianity Today – I must not vote for Trump and that I cannot even contemplate doing so.
Good thing Galli is not the pope and that Christianity Today is not the magisterium. This editorial should disabuse those who are inclined to think that ignorant political fundamentalism and self-righteous moralism is the exclusive province of Trump court theologians. Which means faithful Christians of good will may oppose impeachment and may choose to support Trump’s reelection without worry about whether their souls are in danger, despite the posturing from Evangelical “gate-keepers” writing from the lofty heights of the editor’s desk at Christianity Today.
Keith Pavlischek is a retired U.S. marine colonel living in Annapolis, Maryland. He was assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Truman State University from 1989 to 1993, then Program Director for the Crossroads Program and the Civitas Program on Faith and Public Life. Later he was a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He is author of John Courtney Murray and the Dilemma of Religious Toleration.