What It Would Take for Evangelicals to Turn on President Trump

Michael Luo in The New Yorker:

One night in 1953, the Reverend Billy Graham awoke at two in the morning, went to his study, and started writing down ideas for the creation of a new religious journal. Graham, then in his mid-thirties, was an internationally renowned evangelist who held revival meetings that were attended by tens of thousands, in stadiums around the world. He had also become the leader of a cohort of pastors, theologians, and other Protestant luminaries who aspired to create a new Christian movement in the United States that avoided the cultural separatism of fundamentalism and the theological liberalism of mainline Protestantism. Harold Ockenga, a prominent minister and another key figure in the movement, called this more culturally engaged vision of conservative Christianity “new evangelicalism.” Graham believed a serious periodical could serve as the flagship for the movement. The idea for the publication, as he later wrote, was to “plant the Evangelical flag in the middle of the road, taking a conservative theological position but a definite liberal approach to social problems.” The magazine would be called Christianity Today.

During the next several decades, Graham’s movement became the dominant force in American religious life, and perhaps the country’s most influential political faction. From the late nineteen-seventies through the mid-eighties, evangelicals became increasingly aligned with the Republican Party, progressively shifting its priorities to culture-war issues like abortion. Today, evangelical Protestants account for approximately a quarter of the U.S. population and represent the political base of the G.O.P. Despite President Trump’s much publicized moral shortcomings, more than eighty per cent of evangelicals supported him in the 2016 election. Last week, however, Mark Galli, the ninth editor to lead Christianity Today since its founding, in 1956, published an editorial calling for President Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. “The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents,” Galli writes. “That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.” Galli, who will retire from his post early in the new year, implores evangelicals who continue to stand by Trump to “remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior.”

Galli and other contributors to the magazine have been critical of Trump in the past, but the forcefulness of the editorial took many by surprise. The piece became a sensation, trending online and receiving widespread media coverage.

More here.