In my previous post, I suggested that the December 19 @CTmagazine article “rallied our primitive selves, invigorated our already established opinions, and charged us all with the imperative to act.” Yesterday’s published articles are illustrations of how this plays out. While definitely more tempered–as the voice of the President carries slightly more weight than the Editor–the ultimate results are essentially the same. True, @TimDalrymple_’s article is far better at articulating the nuances, but it still exists within the same mental and epistemological framework as the previous article, and still, therefore, in my humble opinion, falls short of the discourse needed in today’s context. Here is a summary of my observations.
First, I applaud the explanation of how CT works internally regarding editorial discretion and process. That should not be dismissed, as any transparency from an organization like this should inform our views and opinions, and challenge us all to stop seeing all institutions as monoliths. Very few actually are.
Second, when Dalrymple says, “But at the end of the day, we write for a readership of One. God is our Tower,” I challenge this, and I do so from personal experience. We all fall into the trap of deflecting when being attacked. This is understandable. But we should seriously be honest with ourselves and recognize this as a defensiveness that does not communicate humility well. It also detracts from our credibility. This is especially true as Dalrymple says later in this same article that, “[CT aims] to bring biblical wisdom and beautiful storytelling both to the church and from the church to the world.” (italics in original). May I observe that CT does not write for a readership of One? They write, and rightfully so, for a wide audience and readership.
Third, this article by Dalrymple as an “explanation” could very easily be received as a “justification” of the article by @markgalli, which, as we discussed, was not written with much charity. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of someone attempting to “explain” their previously damaging words or actions with additional explications, you will recognize this as dismissiveness, and “making excuses.” I’m certain Dalrymple’s article will have the same effect. Let me say that I would not expect Dalrymple to write an augmentation or adjustment (much less a retraction), as that would be an internal dissonance that would also be damaging to CT. I’m just simply trying to understand and articulate the dynamics of this kind of communication, and the effect that it has on communication.
Finally, and most palpably missed by Dalrymple’s article is the dilemma and contradiction of planting a flag and setting the table. The problem is quite simple. You can’t do both. Especially if you’ve planted a political flag as Galli did in the previous article. It is here that I find the greatest lamentation, both for the oversight, and for the effect it will have in our public discourse. Having planted a flag, CT has compromised the genuineness of the table invitation. It is my hope that this is not beyond repair, that the love and charity of Christ could overcome such divisions. It is my exhortation that we do not add complexity to that challenge.
There isn’t much to say about the Christian Post article and letter to Christianity Today other than to observe that while inevitable, it perhaps could have been avoided if CT had chosen a different framework with which to communicate. Again, in recognizing the wide diversity of readers (globally) they seem to have failed to understand the ones closest to home. Perhaps understandably, as an internecine conflict is often the most contentious. Nevertheless, the principle, I propose, still stands.
So, in summary, we have entered into the tension, of speaking our convictions and bridging the divides. It is my proposition that if more people understood that holding tightly to a tension means holding loosely to each end of the paradox, then we would be better poised–spiritually, psychologically, emotionally–to have more productive conversations. For my friends who are so thankful for CT’s voice and witness, may we also be critical of the weaknesses of the methodology. For my friends who are deeply disappointed and perhaps angry at CT, you too can rise above, and avoid replicating their mistake.
Below are the two articles, again, with my highlights (in blue, as the original formatting is from the original articles) and comments.
The Flag in the Whirlwind: An Update from CT’s President
Why our editor in chief spoke out against Trump, and why the conversation must continue.
DECEMBER 22, 2019
Reader responses to Mark Galli’s recent editorial have spanned the spectrum. We have received countless notes of encouragement from readers who were profoundly moved. They no longer feel alone. They have hope again. Many have told us of reading the editorial with tears in their eyes, sharing it with children who have wandered from the faith, rejoicing that at last someone was articulating what they felt in their hearts. They felt this was a watershed moment in the history of the American church—or they hoped it would prove to be. Stay strong, they told us, knowing we were about to reap the whirlwind.
On the other hand, we have heard from many readers who felt incensed and insulted. These readers felt the editorial engaged in character assassination, or maligned a broad swath of our fellow evangelicals, or revealed that we prefer the Democrats to a President who has done a lot of good for causes we all care about.
Of course, we appreciate the support and listen humbly to the criticisms. But at the end of the day, we write for a readership of One. God is our Tower. Let the whirlwind come.
President Donald Trump would have you believe we are “far left.” Others have said we are not Bible-believing Christians. Neither is true. Christianity Today is theologically conservative. We are pro-life and pro-family. We are firm supporters of religious liberties and economic opportunity for men and women to exercise their gifts and create value in the world. We believe in the authority of Scripture.
We are also a global ministry. We travel the world and see the breadth and depth of what God is doing through his people all around the planet. It is beautiful, and breathtaking, and immense. The global Body of Christ—and the community of evangelicals—is vastly larger than our domestic political squabbles. But partly on behalf of that global body, we can no longer stay silent.
American evangelicals have always been a loose coalition of tribes. We have fought one another as often as we have fought together. We at Christianity Today believe we need to relearn the art of balancing two things: having a firm opinion and inviting free discussion. We need, in other words, both a flag and a table.
First, then, the flag. Numerous reporters have asked whether the ministry supports what was stated in the editorial. Was Mark Galli speaking on behalf of the institution? CT does not have an editorial board. Editors publish under their own names. Yet Galli has stood in the trenches for men and women of faith for over three decades. He has been an outstanding editor in chief. While he does not speak for everyone in the ministry—our board and our staff hold a range of opinions—he carries the editorial voice of the magazine. We support CT’s editorial independence and believe it’s vital to our mission for the editor in chief to speak out on the issues of the day.
[via: This is a very helpful explanation of “how things work.”]
As an institution, Christianity Today has no interest in partisan politics. It does not endorse candidates. We aim to bring biblical wisdom and beautiful storytelling both to the church and from the church to the world. Politics matter, but they do not bring the dead back to life. We are far more committed to the glory of God, the witness of the church, and the life of the world than we care about the fortunes of any party. Political parties come and go, but the witness of the church is the hope of the world, and the integrity of that witness is paramount.
Out of love for Jesus and his church, not for political partisanship or intellectual elitism, this is why we feel compelled to say that the alliance of American evangelicalism with this presidency has wrought enormous damage to Christian witness. It has alienated many of our children and grandchildren. It has harmed African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American brothers and sisters. And it has undercut the efforts of countless missionaries who labor in the far fields of the Lord. While the Trump administration may be well regarded in some countries, in many more the perception of wholesale evangelical support for the administration has made toxic the reputation of the Bride of Christ.
Galli’s editorial focused on the impeachment, but it was clear the issues are deeper and broader. Reasonable people can differ when it comes to the flagrantly partisan impeachment process. But this is not merely about impeachment, or even merely about President Trump. He is not the sickness. He is a symptom of a sickness that began before him, which is the hyper-politicization of the American church. This is a danger for all of us, wherever we fall on the political spectrum. Jesus said we should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. With profound love and respect, we ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to consider whether they have given to Caesar what belongs only to God: their unconditional loyalty.
[via: The talking past each other continues. What I find disappointing in this segment, similar to Galli’s tone, is it appears to not understand that Christians who support this Administration genuinely believe that they do so because of their unconditional loyalty to God. That this will be received as yet another condescending insult–you’re calling me “sick!?”–further disharmonizes the conversation.]
Let me protect against two misunderstandings. The problem is not that we as evangelicals are associated with the Trump administration’s judicial appointments or its advocacy of life, family, and religious liberty. We are happy to celebrate the positive things the administration has accomplished. The problem is that we as evangelicals are also associated with President Trump’s rampant immorality, greed, and corruption; his divisiveness and race-baiting; his cruelty and hostility to immigrants and refugees; and more. In other words, the problem is the wholeheartedness of the embrace. It is one thing to praise his accomplishments; it is another to excuse and deny his obvious misuses of power.
[via: This thought just dawned on me, so it has not simmered, and I’m uncertain of its merits. The locus of these two general articles being “abuse of power” ought to be considered more deeply. Power is, after all, the undercurrent of evangelical influence, namely, that by “being in power,” and “political” power specifically the agenda of evangelical Christianity can be deployed. I do not believe that CT’s focus on “abuse/misuse” of power to be simply a natural correlation to the articles of impeachment, but a betrayal of a deeper and more complicated relationship that religion has with power, a double-edged sword of virtue and vice. This highlights yet another level of complication (tension?) that exists within the evangelical form of Christianity, especially in light of CT’s consistent claim to have “no interest in partisan politics.” Should not the pursuit of power itself be critiqued? (To be fair, I have not audited CT’s history to find and understand articles on “power,” though I know Andy Crouch has, in recent years, been a proponent of “talking about power in the church.”)]
Similarly, this is neither a criticism of the evangelical Trump voter nor an endorsement of the Democrats. The 2016 election confronted evangelical voters with an impossible dilemma: Vote for a pro-choice candidate whose policies would advance so much of what we oppose, or vote for an extravagantly immoral candidate who could well damage the standing of the republic and the witness of the church. Countless men and women we hold in the highest regard voted for President Trump, some wholeheartedly and some reluctantly. Friends we love and respect have also counseled and worked within the Trump administration. We believe they are doing their best to serve wisely in a fallen world.
We nevertheless believe the evangelical alliance with this presidency has done damage to our witness here and abroad. The cost has been too high. American evangelicalism is not a Republican PAC. We are a diverse movement that should collaborate with political parties when prudent but always standing apart, at a prophetic distance, to be what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the conscience of the state.” That is what we believe. This is where we plant our flag. We know we are not alone.
Now, to the table. A table is a place of welcome, a place where bread is broken and friendships are forged. In a political landscape dominated by polarization, hostility, and misunderstanding, we believe it’s critical for Christians to model how to have a firm opinion and host free discussion at the same time. Evangelicals of different stripes cannot continue to shout one another down, bully those who disagree, or exclude one another and refuse to listen.
We hold fast to our view that the wholehearted evangelical embrace of Trump has been enormously costly—but we are committed to irenic conversation with men and women of good faith who believe otherwise. (And since an open letter was published even as we were preparing to publish this statement, let me simply say that I appreciate the thoughts it expresses, and I hope this statement too can be the beginning of a dialogue.)
[via: (To be redundant), there is the rub of the matter. “In a political landscape dominated by polarization, hostility, and misunderstanding,” it is virtually impossible to welcome those at the table having planted a flag! Specifically, having planted a political flag (as already discussed in the previous article).]
In the words of Proverbs 27:6, “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (ESV). Deeply aware of our own sinfulness and limitations, we are going to invite supporters and critics alike to produce essays agreeing or disagreeing with our stated views. It is time for evangelicals to have a serious discussion about how our identity as Christians shapes our activity as citizens. We will invite authors who represent a variety of viewpoints in a thoughtful and charitable manner. We will publish those essays in mid-January. We hope we can come together in convicted humility and learn from one another.
Now it is time for Christmas. Christ is still the light that shines upon a people living in darkness. We look forward to resuming the conversation soon.
The flag is planted. The table is set. We invite you to join us at either one.
Timothy Dalrymple is president and CEO of Christianity Today.
Nearly 200 evangelical leaders slam Christianity Today for questioning their Christian witness
By Melissa Barnhart, CP Reporter
In a letter sent to Timothy Dalrymple, the president of Christianity Today, on Sunday, nearly 200 evangelical faith leaders condemned both its editorial calling for the removal of President Donald Trump from office and its editor-in-chief, Mark Galli, for dismissing evangelicals who oppose his views on the matter as being “far right.”
The faith leaders said in the letter, which can be read in full below, that the editorial “offensively questioned the spiritual integrity and Christian witness of tens-of-millions of believers who take seriously their civic and moral obligations.”
The signatories also decried Galli who they say “offensively dismissed” their point of view in comments he made in an interview with CNN Friday, where he said that evangelicals who are upset or outraged by his Christianity Today editorial do not read the magazine because they are “Christians on the far right, evangelicals on the far right, so they’re going to be as dismissive of the magazine as President Trump has shown to be.”
[via: I’m saddened to read this opening salvo as quite exactly what I was saying in my previous post.]
“We are, in fact, not ‘far-right’ evangelicals as characterized by the author,” the letter states. “Rather, we are Bible-believing Christians and patriotic Americans who are simply grateful that our president has sought our advice as his administration has advanced policies that protect the unborn, promote religious freedom, reform our criminal justice system, contribute to strong working families through paid family leave, protect the freedom of conscience, prioritize parental rights, and ensure that our foreign policy aligns with our values while making our world safer, including through our support of the State of Israel.
It continues, “We are not theocrats and we recognize that our imperfect political system is a reflection of the fallen world within which we live, reliant upon the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is freely given to sinner and saint, alike.
“We are proud to be numbered among those in history who, like Jesus, have been pretentiously accused of having too much grace for tax collectors and sinners, and we take deeply our personal responsibility to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s — our public service.”
They also denounced assertions Galli made in an essay published last year in the book Still Evangelical?, in which he derided the 76% of white self-identified evangelical voters who helped elect Trump in 2016. He described those individuals as “evangelicals [who] often haven’t finished college, and if they have jobs (and apparently most of them don’t), they are blue collar jobs or entry level work.” In the same piece, Galli referred to himself as belonging to a different group of evangelicals, the “elite” evangelicals.
The letter also assumes that Christianity Today will support a Democrat in the 2020 presidential election, and issues a challenge to publicly declare which Democrat they will support.
Although Galli’s opinion is that Trump must be removed from office, he stressed in an interview with The Washington Post Friday that he has supported some of the president’s policy decisions, “including the judges he nominated and his support for anti-abortion policies.”
Galli, who will be retiring from his position at the magazine in January, added that despite the attention his editorial has received, he’s keenly aware that it’s not likely to change many people’s opinions. “I don’t have any illusions that because of what I wrote or because it was under the masthead of Christianity Today that it’s going to change many minds. It’s not going to change many minds.”
He also pushed back against a belief held by many that the publication is tilting left, including the president who labeled Christianity Today as “far-left” and “progressive” in a series of tweets Friday in response to the editorial.
Support for the publication hasn’t waned, he told the Post, which reported that the magazine has “received a surge in donations and new subscribers.”
Galli argued in the Thursday editorial that Trump has to be removed from office because he violated the Constitution and is “profoundly immoral.”
“… 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,” Galli wrote in the piece published a day after Trump became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House of Representatives.
He added, “To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior.”
Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, dismissed the publication in an interview with Fox News opinion host Laura Ingraham Friday night, recasting it as “Christianity Yesterday.”
“You cannot imagine a publication more out of step with the faith community that it once represented,” Reed said before lauding Trump’s policies supporting religious liberty and Israel.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins also hit back at Christianity Today’s editorial in an interview with Shannon Bream on “Fox News @Night” by asking whether they had written editorials condemning the Obama administration’s actions in thwarting Congress’ investigation into Fast and Furious, or refusing to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, or forcing Christian-owned businesses to pay for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs under the HHS’ Obamacare mandate.
Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, who founded Christianity Today, also responded to the magazine’s editorial, saying Friday that in spite of the president’s shortcomings, his father voted for him and would not be in support of Galli’s opinion.
“Christianity Today released an editorial stating that President Trump should be removed from office — and they invoked my father’s name (I suppose to try to bring legitimacy to their statements), so I feel it is important for me to respond,” Graham began in a statement posted on Facebook.
“Yes, my father Billy Graham founded Christianity Today; but no, he would not agree with their opinion piece. In fact, he would be very disappointed. I have not previously shared who my father voted for in the past election, but because of this article, I feel it is necessary to share it now. My father knew Donald Trump, he believed in Donald Trump, and he voted for Donald Trump. He believed that Donald J. Trump was the man for this hour in history for our nation.”
The letter to Christianity Today can be read below:
We write collectively to express our dissatisfaction with the editorial Christianity Today published on Thursday, December 19, 2019 calling for the removal of our duly elected President, who was put into office at the behest of over sixty million voters.
It was astonishing to us that your editor-in-chief, Mark Galli, further offensively dismissed our point of view on CNN by saying, “Christianity Today is not read by the people – Christians on the far right, by evangelicals on the far right – so they’re going to be as dismissive of the magazine as President Trump has shown to be.” It also came to our attention, that Mr. Galli has written other statements about Americans who chose Donald Trump over Secretary Clinton in 2016, referring to them as “These other evangelicals [who] often haven’t finished college, and if they have jobs, and apparently most of them don’t, they are blue-collar jobs or entry level work” as he describes himself with pride as an “elite evangelical.”
Of course, it’s up to your publication to decide whether or not your magazine intends to be a voice of evangelicals like those represented by the signatories below, and it is up to us and those Evangelicals like us to decide if we should subscribe to, advertise in and read your publication online and in print, but historically, we have been your readers.
We are, in fact, not “far-right” evangelicals as characterized by the author.
Rather, we are Bible-believing Christians and patriotic Americans who are simply grateful that our President has sought our advice as his administration has advanced policies that protect the unborn, promote religious freedom, reform our criminal justice system, contribute to strong working families through paid family leave, protect the freedom of conscience, prioritize parental rights, and ensure that our foreign policy aligns with our values while making our world safer, including through our support of the State of Israel. We are not theocrats, and we recognize that our imperfect political system is a reflection of the fallen world within which we live, reliant upon the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is freely given to sinner and saint, alike.
We are proud to be numbered among those in history who, like Jesus, have been pretentiously accused of having too much grace for tax collectors and sinners, and we take deeply our personal responsibility to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s — our public service.
The editorial you published, without any meaningful and immediate regard for dissenting points of view, not only supported the entirely-partisan, legally-dubious, and politically-motivated impeachment but went even further, calling for Donald Trump not to be elected again in 2020 when he certainly survives impeachment.
As one of our signatories said to the press, “I hope Christianity Today will now tell us who they will support for president among the 2020 Democrat field?”
Your editorial offensively questioned the spiritual integrity and Christian witness of tens-of-millions of believers who take seriously their civic and moral obligations.
It not only targeted our President; it also targeted those of us who support him, and have supported you.
United Marketing Solutions
Metro Life Church
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Dream Believe Institute
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Rev. Wesley Baldwin, PhD
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City Church International
Grace Chapel – Nashville
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President & CEO
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Fairview Baptist Church
Liberty Pastors Network
Rock Church International
Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer
The Radiance Foundation
Latino Coalition for Israel
Founder & CEO
Dr. Daniel Caamaño
Alma Vision Radio and Television
Paula White Cain
Paula White Ministries
Pastor, City of Destiny
Founder / Chairman of Board Full Circle
West Michigan Prayer Center
Princeton Pike Church of God
Dr. Tim Clinton
American Association of Christian Counselors
Bishop Kelvin L. Cobaris
Cobaris Ministries International
Christian Men’s Network
Global Advisor, OperationOutcry
Vice President & Publisher Emeritus
David Aaron Crabb
Restoring Hope Church
Pacific Justice Institute
Dr.Jimmy L. De La O DDiv.
Founding Senior Pastor
Iglesia Cristiana Nuevo Pacto
Apostle Alberto Delgado
Alpha and Omega
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Dr. James Dobson
James Dobson Family Institute
Co-founder and Chairman
The Crossing Church
Dr. Kirk Elliott
Constitutional Law Attorney
Lima Baptist Temple
Jerry Falwell Jr.
Fairview Baptist Church
Dr. Gary D. Frazier,
Discovery Missions International
Dr. Day Gardner
National Black Pro-Life Union
Rosemary Schindler Garlow
Dr. Nick Garza
NHCLC Board member
Amazing Grace Baptist Fellowship
Bishop Anne Gimenez
Rock Ministerial Fellowship
Prestonwood Baptist Church
Ada First Baptist Church
Contemporary Christian Artist
Paul Marc Goulet
International Church of Las Vegas
Rev. Mark Gurley
Michigan Oak Initiative
Vice President/Director of Operations
National Apostolic Christian Leadership Conference.
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The Institute for Christian Defense
Center for National Renewal
Calvary Church of Albuquerque
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Pastor Emeritus FBC Orlando
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First Baptist Church Bossier City, LA
EastLake Community Church
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Pastoral Associate, Priests for Life
Director, Civil Rights for the Unborn
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Lord of Hosts Church and One Voice Ministries
Harvest Christian Fellowship
Pastor of Global Outreach
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Senior Pastor, Doral Church
VP of Hispanic Association of Pastors
Cissie Graham Lynch
Apostle Guillermo Maldonado
President and Senior Pastor
King JESUS Ministries
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Houston’s First Baptist Church
Bishop Joseph Mattera
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Dr. David H. McKinley
Warren Baptist Church
Dr. Yolanda McCune
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National Apostolic Christian Leadership Conference.
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