A former editor of a Christian magazine who resigned last year over an editorial supporting President Donald Trump warned in a new commentary Jan. 23 of a new religious revival led by the Executive Branch.
Writing for The Bulwark, a conservative website often critical of Trump, Napp Nazworth noted that many the president’s evangelical supporters defend their position by arguing he is not “pastor in chief.”
But Nazworth – who resigned last year as political analyst and editor at The Christian Post after his bosses wrote a pro-Trump editorial and wanted it to be the position of the non-denominational evangelical Christian newspaper founded in 2004 – said “pastor in chief” is precisely the message sent by a new group called Evangelicals for Trump.
“I really do believe we have God on our side,” Trump said Jan. 3 to 5,000 evangelicals gathered at El Rey Jesús church in Miami for the new coalition aimed at helping to elect the president to a second term.
Portraying his political rivals as enemies of God, Trump claimed “we will ensure that our country forever and always remains one people, one family, and one glorious nation under God.”
Nazworth, who holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Florida and has taught at the University of Georgia, Charleston Southern University and Texas A&M, cautioned that aligning with a political movement is dangerous territory for evangelicals.
“Political leaders who believe they were chosen by God for a divine purpose tend toward unreasonableness, which is a bad trait for any type of leader, in any context – but is a particular affront within a government designed to carry out a deliberative form of democracy,” he wrote.
“Plus, while a religion yoked to political power can bring temporary (and only temporal) benefits to its members, political alliances are, by nature, fleeting. Which is to say that a politicized religion necessarily winds up subjugating its relation to eternal things in the pursuit of proximity to worldly power. As a prominent member of the Roman Empire’s IRS once put it, ‘No one can serve two masters.’”
Nazworth said that was his central concern last December when Senior Managing Editor John Grano and Executive Editor Richard Land presented him with an editorial countering a controversial commentary by the rival magazine Christianity Today opining that Trump should be removed from office.
The Christian Post editorial, published Dec. 23, characterized Trump opponents as part of a “Deep State” conspiracy theory typically associated with the far right.
“These words are chillingly similar to former President Barack Obama’s description of rural voters who ‘cling to their guns and Bibles,’ former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s characterization of Trump supporters as ‘deplorables,’ and most recently, Beto O’Rourke’s smug threats against biblically orthodox churches and citizens who own a certain type of rifle,” the editorial said. “These are the words of elitists who look down upon opponents as inferior human beings who need to be controlled, not debated.”
Nazworth, who worked at the Christian Post eight-and-a-half years, says he had no problem with responding to Christianity Today or publishing the piece as an op-ed, but as editor he could not support it as representing the voice of the editorial team.
Previously, Nazworth said, Christian Post editorials were a team effort, typically drafted by an editor and then passed around to senior editors. The first-ever piece taking a political position, ironically, in 2016 denounced then-candidate Trump as a “scam” from which evangelicals should back away.
In a television interview Jan. 20, Nazworth told Fox Ozarks in Springfield, Missouri, that he believes that many evangelicals who cast ballots for Trump in 2016 were primarily interested in voting against his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
“I think over time what happened was when they voted for Trump, then they became part of his coalition and felt like they needed to defend him, and they became more receptive to his arguments and less receptive to the critics of Trump,” he said. “So over time what I think has happened is evangelicals have become more and more enthusiastic supporters, not just supporting him because they are opposed to Clinton.”
“One thing I’ve been trying to make clear is that this does not represent all evangelicals, and there is very much a race-based component here,” Nazworth continued. “White evangelicals are much more supportive of Trump than non-white evangelicals.”