Mark Galli, the soon to retire Christianity Today editor, was surprised by the scale of the response to his anti-Trump editorial—both the positive and the “ethical naïveté” of the negative.
In an interview with the New York Times, Galli discusses his impending retirement and the controversial editorial in detail. The article crashed the Christianity Today website as thousands attempted to read his words. His phone rang non-stop for the entire day, and messages poured in by email and text.
Many people praised the editorial saying “they had felt all alone and were waiting for someone in the evangelical leadership” to come forward. But Galli also garnered plenty of vitriol including call-outs from Franklin Graham and Donald Trump himself.
“I was a little surprised that Donald Trump and then Franklin Graham thought it was worth commenting on. And it did strike me as a bit ironic that they both said that it wasn’t significant or going to make any difference. It makes you immediately think that they do think it’s significant, or they wouldn’t comment on it.”
Trump’s Moral Failings
One of the biggest surprises for Galli is the “widespread ignorance” in the evangelical community. Trump’s morals—or lack thereof—have been on full display, even before he was elected.
“Some evangelicals will acknowledge he had a problem with adultery, but now they consider that a thing of the past. They bring up King David, but the difference is King David repented! Donald Trump has not done that.”
Galli also points out that evangelicals are also turning a blind eye to the President’s pridefulness, abrasiveness, and arrogance. All of which are “qualities that Christians decry.”
When asked whether he thought this selective blindness was limited to Trump, Galli explains how evangelicals are actually being “discipled by him” and becoming more Trump-like in the way they respond to things:
“I think his supporters would say it is limited to Trump. But I will say that some of his closest followers are, in a sense, being discipled by him. Mr. Trump’s typical response to a critic is to frame the entire conversation as a competition between success and failure. When the editorial published, the first response coming out of the mouth of some leading evangelicals was ‘That’s Christianity Yesterday’ or ‘You’re a dying magazine.’ They’re taking their cues on how to react in the public square from Donald Trump, whose basic response is to denigrate people.”
Religion and Politics
Galli admits that he did not vote for Trump, but instead went with a third-party candidate.
“After Trump was elected, I spent the first three years of his administration just trying to understand why conservatives and why very conservative evangelicals would vote for him and support him so enthusiastically.”
Galli says he is “not a political person” but has spent a lot of time thinking about the intersection or “Christian faith and political life.” Given what is known “about what the president has done,” the soon-to-retire editor wonders if there is “a way to talk about our nation’s issues that is not merely partisan, but raises questions of ethics and morality?”
His retirement from Christianity Today was planned before the editorial was published and will start in early January.
However, that doesn’t mean he will fade into the shadows. Galli has already received invitations to contribute to prominent publications like The Guardian and The Los Angeles Times.