Christianity Today, a leading evangelical publication, has come out to say President Trump needs to go. The magazine argues that not only are the facts against him “unambiguous,” but also that the pattern of immorality that has defined his presidency makes them all the more damaging.
The backlash was swift and brutal. Trump took to Twitter, as he so often does, and trashed the magazine as a “far-left” publication that “knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call and would rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President.”
Franklin Graham, a prominent evangelical leader and son of the publication’s founder, Billy Graham, distanced himself from its editorial board and declared that in 2016, his father gladly cast his vote for Trump. Similarly, Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, claimed Christianity Today’s editorial revealed “that they are apart of the same 17% or so of liberal evangelicals who have preached social gospel for decades!”
The response to the editorial was expected, and perhaps even understandable. Evangelical Christians have made it quite clear since 2016 that they do not like being told who they can vote for or who in good conscience they can support. But many have used the impossible choice in 2016 as an excuse to toss moral accountability aside. (Many of the same leaders, such as Franklin Graham and Falwell Jr., who have defended Trump’s faults called for Bill Clinton’s impeachment based on his immorality.) If anything, Christianity Today’s editorial was a breath of fresh air and a reminder that morality still matters in the White House, and Christians have an obligation to say so.
Much of Christianity Today’s editorial focuses on the immorality of Donald Trump, the man. But that has little, if anything at all, to do with the substance of the House Democrats’ articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, the president.
The House has accused Trump of abusing his power and obstructing Congress. The first allegation is undeniably true, as Christianity Today rightly stated. Trump withheld foreign aid from Ukraine, and the clear implication is that he did so to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden, his political rival. Even many Republicans have given up trying to defend his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as anything but a quid pro quo.
But presidents abuse their power constantly, and the answer is rarely impeachment. If the standard for removal from office were simply an overreach of power, or a prioritization of personal interests, then every former president would at one point have had articles of impeachment drawn up against them.
The second allegation, that Trump obstructed Congress, is ridiculous. Denying the House its witnesses and refusing subpoenas could be an overstep, but that is for courts to decide, not the House. And it certainly does not meet the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard set by the U.S. Constitution.
Trump’s habitual immorality aside, there is simply not enough evidence to support the vague, undefined case the Democrats have made against the president. The Constitution, not the Bible, defines the standards for impeachment, and we must deal with them as such.
I applaud Christianity Today for speaking the truth. Trump is no moral exemplar, and it’s time evangelical Christians stopped treating him as such. But the case that Christianity Today makes is very different from the case the Democrats have made, and that distinction is important.
Christians live in two kingdoms. It is often difficult to traverse man’s kingdom and obey the commandments of God’s kingdom. We live directly under the laws man has written, and we hope that they reflect the natural law instituted by God. But there are certain issues where the line between politics and morality is blurred, and the Christian’s responsibility is obscure. Impeachment is one, voting is another.
Evangelicals will have the opportunity to vote their consciences at the ballot box next year, since the Senate will almost certainly acquit Trump. The choice will likely be just as difficult as it was in 2016. But for now, we, as Christians, should be willing to obey the law as it is written and let God do the rest.
That’s one view. Another comes from Michael Smith:
I was going to write a commentary on the Christianity Today article but I realized that I wrote a pre-rebuttal on March 19th of this year.
It was as follows:
I get this all the time – “You claim to be a Christian, how can you support someone like Donald Trump?”
Well, it’s like this – we conservatives and Christians know what the Democrats would do to us if given the chance. We know that with them, we’re always one wedding cake away from sensitivity training and reeducation camps. We’ve lost so much cultural and political influence that we can’t always fight for ourselves because the fights aren’t fair any more, they are always stacked against us from the outset. The media, the institutions and usually government (especially the judiciary) always gang up on us.
So we did what every weaker army has done in history.
We hired a mercenary.
Sure, Trump doesn’t necessarily believe what we believe and he isn’t our idea of a conservative – and he has an interesting past – but he came to us and offered to be our champion, someone who could and would put together an army to fight to the death to preserve our beliefs and to defend conservativism.
He would go to war under our flag.
Trump is our Sir John Hawkwood.
Besides having the coolest name straight out of a sword and sorcery novel, Hawkwood was an Englishman and a knight who served in the English army during the Hundred Years’ War and commanded the White Company, the most elite mercenary army in all of 14th century Italy.
That’s how we can support Trump.
He is not of us but he is for us.