As the race for the Oval Office was heating up back in 2012, I published a little column that caught CNN’s attention: “WWJVF: Who Would Jesus Vote For?” I had written it because candidates on all sides — even Obama — were invoking the King of Kings to support their agendas. So, CNN’s Carol Costello asked me to answer the question that my article left unanswered.
It takes more than a little temerity to claim to speak on behalf of the Almighty. I recall all too well a saying about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread. This is not to say that some assertions cannot be made with confidence. I know, for instance, that the God of the Bible recognizes no other gods or paths to salvation because his Word says so very clearly (Exodus 20:2–3; John 14:6). But I could not say with certainty that the Ancient of Days was giving his weighty endorsement to Newt Gingrich and not to Rick Santorum.
So I answered as, I think, the biblical evidence indicates: “Jesus called on all people, across the political spectrum, to repent and acknowledge him,” I said. “He was not ultimately seeking political transformation of society, but spiritual transformation…. If you change the hearts of people, you change the laws they enact, and society as a whole.”
Costello, a consummate professional, nonetheless looked disappointed.
She should have consulted Mark Galli and the folks over at Christianity Today (CT) who do not suffer from my want of temerity. On the contrary, they are happy to answer such questions. Definitively. In a highly publicized column last week, Galli, writing on behalf of CT, states categorically that Trump “should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.”
That statement has raised more than a few eyebrows. My colleague George Neumayr has already written a superb article addressing this mind-boggling call for Trump’s impeachment and its political implications. But I wish to focus on the theological underpinnings of Galli’s argument.
Galli’s Christianity Today column is vague in several respects. For example, as Neumayr rightly points out, “it nowhere establishes that Trump’s behavior is impeachable.” More than that, however, it nowhere establishes the central premise and purpose of the editorial. Galli’s thesis may be neatly summarized as this:
God wants Donald Trump, the President of the United States, removed from office.
Make no mistake about it. That is what Galli is saying. By adding, “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,” Galli is asserting that if you do not agree with his thesis, you are opposing the Lord of Hosts. Yikes! Who wants to be found among that opposition?
To Christians shaken by Christianity Today’s edict, let me say this: Mark Galli isn’t Dante and Donald Trump isn’t the author of America’s political inferno.
Reading CT’s explosive editorial, which assumes the tone of a press release from God himself, I was reminded of my middle-school math teacher who, because she was a good math teacher, insisted that I demonstrate how I arrived at the solution to a given problem step by painstaking step. It wasn’t enough just to put the answer. Similarly, Galli doesn’t show us how he arrived at his solution; he simply insists that we accept it as correct or face the wrath of God. In a bit of sleight-of-hand, he refers to Billy Graham twice — Franklin Graham dealt with that ably enough — but doesn’t quote Scripture a single time. There is more than a modest dose of hubris in this.
According to Galli, CT has taken this position out of “concern for the character of our national leader.” What intrigues me here is how Galli, among others, applies this logic rather haphazardly. He writes that “[Trump’s] Twitter feed alone … is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.” Having been somewhat morally lost and confused at one point in my own life, I know it when I see it. Psalm 55:21 says, “His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” I am sure that President Obama was a perfect gentleman on Twitter, but his policies were drawn swords toward the unborn. They were also morally bankrupt, advancing as they did every sordid agenda from abortion to homosexuality. Surely CT has access to a biblical scholar or two who might have pointed out that the Lord takes a pretty dim view of these things. But in Galli’s logic, Trump’s “Twitter feed alone” eclipses actual policy — policies that are more consistent with biblical principles than those of any president since Reagan — and constitute grounds for impeachment. The implication of this faulty logic is that abortion does not offend the editor of CT so much as Trump’s twitter posts.
The Bible knows nothing of representative government. What we do see are God’s people faithfully serving a number of pagan kings — Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Darius, and King Ahasuerus, to name only a few — whose personal values almost certainly did not accord with those of God. But God’s people served them because they rendered homage to the things of God. When kings did not honor God, Divine wrath befell them. (See Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4, Belshazzar in Daniel 5, and Herod Agrippa in Acts 12.) To be clear, I am not saying that President Trump is a pagan; I am saying that CT has confused the role of God’s priests — for whom the standard is entirely different — with that of earthly rulers. Were we to apply the priestly standard to the presidents of the last 40 years, who among them would be left? Jimmy Carter? And we all know how that worked out.
To stand strong for one’s faith in Jesus Christ and push back against a culture that, in the words of Isaiah 5:20, “call[s] evil good and good evil” is to be “divisive,” “unloving,” “bigoted,” and “intolerant.” Christians are often very sensitive to these charges. This is because we have confused Christ’s command to serve him with being likable, as if that were an attribute of God. (It isn’t.) As such, we often endeavor to be, above all else, inoffensive, polite, and acceptable to those who hate God, abuse his people, and blaspheme his name, as if their approbation were our highest calling. (It isn’t.) This doctrinal malpractice has given us a social gospel of the sort that permeates Galli’s column calling for Trump’s removal from office.
In the final analysis, Christians must judge Trump’s policies individually and vote in a manner that is consistent with God’s Word and their consciences.