Two Southern Baptist megachurch pastors joined Donald Trump in criticizing an editorial in the flagship evangelical magazine Christianity Today saying the president should be removed from office.
Trump went after the magazine founded in 1956 by evangelist Billy Graham on Twitter Friday morning, calling it a “far left” publication “which has been doing poorly and hasn’t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years.”
Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and a Trump supporter, tweeted that his late father would not agree with the editorial and would be disappointed, sharing for the first time that the elder Graham voted for Trump in 2016, believing he “was the man for this hour in history for our nation.”
The Christianity Today editorial, signed by Editor-in-Chief Mark Galli, said the magazine’s standard practice is “to stay above the fray” of partisan politics and acknowledged that, “the Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion.”
“But the facts in this instance are unambiguous,” Galli wrote. “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 said impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives have “illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see.” Turning to evangelicals who support Trump’s policies despite his flaws, the editorial declared: “None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.”
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a Trump supporter, responded that Christianity Today “is a dying magazine that has been ‘Never Trump’ from the beginning.”
“They are going against 99 percent of evangelical Republicans who oppose impeachment,” Jeffress said, declaring Trump “the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-Israel president in history.”
Jack Graham, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and, like Jeffress, a member of the president’s unofficial evangelical advisory team, also weighed in.
“The magazine Billy Graham helped to start over 60 years ago in no way resembles its founders vision,” tweeted Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. “It is increasingly liberal and out of step and out of touch with conservative Christians and churches.”
“We wrote editorials about Clinton during his impeachment process,” Galli said “We wrote editorials about Nixon during his. This struck me as rising to that level and it needed comment.”
Christianity Today claims readership of more than 5 million people monthly through various print and digital resources. Founder Billy Graham conceived of it as a “middle-of-the-road” evangelical counterbalance to the Christian Century, an independent magazine popular in mainline Protestantism with an editorial voice leaning more toward the left.
In Friday’s Twitter flurry, President Trump said he won’t be reading the magazine again.
“Christianity Today knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call and would rather have a radical left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion and your guns, than Donald Trump as your president,” he said. “No president has done more for the evangelical community, and it’s not even close.”