I admit it. I’m having a bit of a Mrs. Weasley sort of day. You know in The Chamber of Secrets when Fred, George, and Ron take the flying car to get Harry? And they get back to the Weasley house, and Harry’s looking around in wonder. Mrs. Weasley comes storming down the stairs and yells, “Where have you been?”
That’s my feeling about the Christianity Today editorial.
Let me start by noting what I appreciate about it. The call to charity in approaching others is necessary. It’s an important reminder. It’s easy to get caught up in dismay, frustration, anger, and pride when addressing or being addressed by people with whom we disagree. Rarely, if ever, do we slow down and think of charity first. I am also grateful that this publication finally did take a stand. They have ruffled feathers, given pause, and inspired, one hopes, reflection.
Let me also note that I am hesitant to criticize anyone making a change for the better. I acknowledge that conversion takes time. It’s not a one-and-done thing. It is a process. Anyone recognizing that Trump’s behavior is unacceptable and choosing to call him out on it is appreciated. I suspect that there are quite a few people who voted for him in 2016 who regret that decision. Those of us who didn’t vote for him need to give room for those people to have changed hearts and minds.
And yet, I am so incredibly bothered by this editorial. I will try to respond with charity, because that’s the one worthwhile thing I think this piece provides. But I do think it deserves some pushback. Please note that a Catholic framework is different from an Evangelical framework; I know this and don’t claim to speak with authority about either position, really. My context is Catholic, though, and that’s the lens through which I see the world and this piece. (I would also like to acknowledge that, as far as I’m recalling off the top of my head, no major Catholic publication, institution, or group has come out to say Trump should be removed from office. There have been some that have spoken out against particular policies, but none have called for his removal. I do see, after a quick Google search, that NETWORK has indeed called for his impeachment; they do not articulate support for removal but for a fair trial in the Senate. Will be happy to update this section with corrections if I’m wrong.)
And now to the editorial. The author, Mark Galli, writes that “politics is not the end and purpose of our being.” He says with pride that “politics does not dominate our homepage.” He notes hesitation in being critical of Trump to appease readers (i.e., subscribers) and allow people to come to their own conclusions. I certainly agree that politics is not our end or purpose. But we exist within a political world. It deserves engagement, not avoidance. We landed in this position largely because people refuse to speak to each other about politics and religion. By remaining silent, by refusing to engage, by divorcing the political from the theological, they (Galli and CT) have perpetuated the dire state we are in. Evangelicals make up a significant portion of Trump’s base. If Galli and CT could have swayed their readers and/or some Evangelicals away from Trump, then why wait until now to do so? Are they that averse to politics?
Galli goes on to give some credit to the president with two false statements: (1) “The Democrats have had it out for him from day one.” (2) “And, no, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment.” The first is problematic because it’s a wide brush. Dems overall have not had it out for Trump. There may have been some members who expressed their desire early on to impeach Trump, their disappointment that he won, their anger at his policies, their excitement to vote him out of office. Had they “had it out for him,” though, he’d have been impeached the day Democrats took control of the House. That didn’t happen.
But the second false statement frustrates me because it plays right in to a GOP talking point: that Trump is a victim. He was afforded opportunities to be present at or have counsel attend the hearings in the House Judiciary Committee. He declined. He sent no official representatives. Additionally, impeachment inquiries are not places for due process in the sense that Trump means. They are investigative: gathering information from witnesses, making sense of facts, putting pieces together. Please recall that Trump and the White House blocked several witnesses from testifying, encouraging subpoenas to be ignored. His side of the story was not given by choice. Due process takes place during the trial in the Senate. That is the point of a trial. The House committees were not required to invite President Trump or White House counsel to attend. But they did. And, again, for the people in the back, Trump declined.
Then we get to the meat of what I find problematic about this editorial. Galli writes, “We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see.”
I’m sorry, but “Where have you been?” Here’s what that means. Either Galli himself or the editorial board of Christianity Today ignored the following moral deficiencies: affairs, paying hush money to porn stars, mocking disabled journalists, putting children in cages, over 13,000 false or misleading claims, blatant racism, blatant sexism, blatant anti-Semitism, hate speech toward Muslims, inciting violence, sexual assault, separating migrant families, illegally refusing entry to asylum seekers, profiting financially from his political position, refusing to act on gun violence prevention measures, putting children in cages (yep, I’m saying it twice), soliciting foreign interference in our elections not once but twice (at least), demonizing journalists, prejudice and harm against members of the LGBTQ community, denying climate change, mocking veterans and the dead. If they didn’t notice these problems before now, then they weren’t paying attention.
Or, and here’s what really gets me, they were simply okay with this behavior until now because they got what they wanted. I think that’s obvious in the following two questions that Galli poses: “If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?”
I don’t know how he wrote that with a straight face.
As a Christian, I am appalled. How did he or they not see it? How do we read the same Bible, profess the same belief in God, and yet they were okay until, what, this week? Trump’s “bent and broken character” hasn’t seemed to matter to a large group of Christians for a very long time. And I find that troubling. It suggests willful ignorance. It betrays acceptance of injustice in order to get certain “goods” (judges, for example). It displays a pretty high tolerance for moral deficiencies. Christianity will have a lot of work to do to heal the damage that has been done by some members supporting Trump. The hypocrisy is astonishing. To think that reversing course now saves face is naive. By staying silent until this week, Galli and Christianity Today have been complicit in Trump’s atrocities.
Welcome to the resistance, Christianity Today. I’m glad you finally arrived, but I’m mighty disappointed it took you this long.