Christians, Christianity, Trump, and Impeachment

Special Sunday Post

Let me just put this out there from the beginning: I voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and plan on voting for Trump again in 2020 provided that there isn’t some outlandish and unthinkable reason that I shouldn’t. That being said, I should also confess that when I cast my vote for Trump, it was out of reluctance because my personal pick, United States Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) had been bested in the nomination process, and I could not stomach a person as utterly immoral and contemptuous as Hillary Clinton.

I never claimed that Trump was a moral paragon, I’ve only written two posts directly referring to Trump: this one refuting assertions about Christians made by John Pavlovitz and this one on simply a logical point about abortion. Trump is president and there isn’t a whole lot that can be done to change that reality, unless you listen to some.

Particularly if you listen to Christianity Today’s editor-in-chief Mark Galli wrote in an editorial on December 19, 2019, wherein he called for Trump’s impeachment and removal, and did so by appealing to the impeachment proceedings of Bill Clinton 20 years prior. He begins by writing in the second paragraph,

“The typical [Christianity Today] approach is to stay above the fray and allow Christians with different political convictions to make their arguments in the public square, to encourage all to pursue justice according to their convictions and treat their political opposition as charitably as possible. 

He continues,

“That said, we do feel it necessary from time to time to make our own opinions on political matters clear—always, as [founder Billy] Graham encouraged us, doing so with both conviction and love. 

That’s some very nice moral and religious posturing that Galli engages in, and he gets to the meat of the matter by making an apparent concession by writing,

“Let’s grant this to the president: The Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion. This has led many to suspect not only motives but facts in these recent impeachment hearings. 

Um, yes, partisan actions should always be suspect as well as any supposed “facts” that are brought to the table, especially when the person who is supposed to be in charge of the whole affair is partisan and makes an admission that this is something that was planned from the beginning. So, why should Trump be impeached? Galli explains,

“[The] facts in this instance are unambiguous: 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. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral. 

If that were true, indeed that would be a valid reason. The problem is that anyone who has actually taken time to read the call transcript in question, the call that supposedly kicked this who matter into gear, is simply left scratching their head. The reason for this head-scratchingly confused statement is that anyone who understands how language works—even Trump’s rambling and often infantile speaking patterns—and reads the transcript carefully recognizes that none of that statement bears any resemblance to reality.

Galli continues,

“The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals.

Anyone familiar with logical reasoning sees that and goes, guilt-by-association fallacy much? 

Yes, several people who were once associated with the Trump campaign and later administration have gone been arrested and have either been convicted or are looking at trials for actions not related to either the campaign or the administration. One thing has nothing to do with the other.

Galli goes on,

“Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president.

Um, yes, any doubts that I have had about Trump, with regard to campaign promises about economic policy and judicial appointments have been satisfied by his actions. This is not to say that it has been perfect, that there’s more that could not be done: of course not, but I recognize that politics isn’t perfect. I didn’t judge Trump any differently than any other previous politician that I supported and it would be ridiculous to do otherwise.

Galli refers to CT’s previous comments about the Clinton impeachment and makes an invalid comparison. Galli conflates Trump’s personal moral failings (eg multiple, admitted extra-marital affairs, questionable enterprises) with his administration of the federal government as chief executive of the United States, saying,

“[The] words that we applied to Mr. Clinton 20 years ago apply almost perfectly to our current president.

But do they though? Trump never tried to hide his affairs, in fact he seemed somewhat proud of them when he was younger. But if we’re going to be Christians about this, then one of the principles of Christian judgement is equal scales. 

First, is what Trump is accused of doing immoral? If Trump did do what he’s accused of doing—namely using aid money to get political dirt on his opponents—clearly it is. The problem is that they have presented no positive, unambiguous evidence that such occurred. Not one single witness, not one piece of paper, was produced that could be held up and said, “See!” There was a lot of, “well…uh…I construed it…,” but a subjective interpretation doesn’t override empirical facts.

Interestingly, Everrett Piper, formerly president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, who was originally opposed to Trump for his obvious moral failings, argues that Galli is wrong, and wrong for the reasons that he was wrong in 2016, in this editorial in The Washington Times, wherein he writes,

“Mr. Galli apparently believes Christians who argue that the preservation of religious freedom and the protection of human life are a higher priority than our president’s ambiguous phone calls, disturbing tweets and past sexual indiscretions are somehow guilty of “sacrificing our prophetic voice.”

Piper then takes his readers on a brief tour of history from British abolitionist William Wilberforce, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., churches that supported the Underground Railroad, and even the Christians in the early church, concluding with,

“…Galli’s editorial is one that smacks of being oblivious of his own politics while he accuses others of being too political. But the fact is he and Christianity Today are no less “in bed with Caesar” than any of those that they presume to lecture. 

Tom Gilson, writing at The Stream, hits Galli for his wrong-headed criticism, 

“To call for the president’s removal at this stage in history, and to do it in agreement with the Democrats’ processes and reasonings, is to participate in the wrong they are doing.

Michael Brown, also writing at The Stream, applauds Galli’s moral criticism of the President, but also recognizes that it’s not out of any necessarily Christian concern but out of a desire for moral posturing, writing,

“We can support the president for the very real good he does do. Much of this good is on behalf of causes that are of great importance to evangelicals. Religious liberty really does matter. Protecting babies in the womb really does matter. Helping the poor get better jobs really does matter. These, too, are issues of justice and righteousness.

We simply need to be consistent when it comes to our ethics, meaning, we should call balls and strikes with fairness and impartiality. And we should call for ethical behavior as loudly as we call for righteous legislation. Why can’t we do both?

I agree with all three: Christians need to do a better job differentiating between their support for particular policies and support for a political figure. Trump fails in making moral pronouncements and he is no moral arbiter, but sometimes…you know…even blind squirrels find a nut. Christians recognize how unfairly and unjustly the president has been treated and feel a need to defend even someone who is morally contemptuous. It’s what we’re wired to do in pursuit of justice.

In essence, Galli presents believers with a false dilemma: if they believe in their in moral position then they have to denounce Trump, regardless of how fairly or unfairly he is being treated or their abandoning their moral position entirely. This is poor reasoning on his part. It’s not Trump or the moral high ground, it’s the moral high ground or none at all.

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