US President Donald Trump on Friday blasted the magazine founded by the late Reverend Billy Graham after the influential publication for conservative evangelical US Christians called for him to be removed from office.
Christianity Today on Thursday wrote in an editorial, entitled “Trump Should Be Removed from Office”, that it could no longer stand on the sidelines after the Republican president’s impeachment this week by the US House of Representatives.
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“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,” it wrote. “That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.”
The Democratic-led House impeached Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the 2020 election. The votes made Trump only the third president to be ever impeached in US history. The Republican-led Senate is expected to hold a trial next month on whether to remove Trump from office.
Trump, who has denied wrongdoing and branded his impeachment as a politically-motivated effort by Democrats to overturn the results of the 2016 election, questioned Christianity Today’s success and dismissed its call that he be removed from office.
“No President has done more for the evangelical community, and it’s not even close,” Trump tweeted, without providing evidence.
Christianity Today Editor Mark Galli, in response, said Trump’s conduct was an urgent concern.
“We rarely comment on politics unless we feel it rises to the level of some national … concern that is really important. And this would be a case,” he told CNN in an interview. “This is something we need as a movement to think about, pray about at this time in our life.”
Evangelical Christians make up about 25 percent of US voters, according to Pew Research, and have been a bedrock of Trump’s support. In 2016, he took more than 80 percent of the group’s votes, according to Pew’s polling.
In making its case, the magazine said its stance calling for former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment years ago applies “almost perfectly to our current president”.
Christianity Today acknowledged Trump has advanced conservative Christian causes with his nominations for the US Supreme Court, his “defence of religious liberty” and his economic policies.
But it said the impeachment process over Trump’s efforts to leverage his public office to solicit Ukraine’s investigations ahead of the 2020 US election showed he “betrayed his constitutional oath”.
Trump on Friday suggested Christianity Today was “far left” and supported Democrats – a charge Galli rejected, telling CNN it was considered “pretty centrist”.
Roughly seven in 10 white evangelical Protestants say they approve of the way he is handling his job as president, according to Pew Research Center polling earlier this year. And many prominent Evangelicals have stood by him – despite a coloured personal history, allegations of sexual misconduct, deeply divisive policies and profanity-laced comments. That includes Graham’s son, Reverend Franklin Graham.
The late Graham’s son said in a tweet on Friday that his father, who was one of the best known Christian evangelical leaders and a spiritual adviser to US presidents, was a Trump supporter and would have been “disappointed” in the editorial.
Johnnie Moore, a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, tweeted that during the “hyperventilating” over the “inconsequential” editorial, he was at Vice President Mike Pence’s residence, “where dozens of evangelicals who actually lead MILLIONS were celebrating Christmas undistracted by impeachment & grateful” for the administration’s policies.
Adding that Christianity Today “only represents a certain segment of evangelicals”, Moore tweeted that “this is not a game changing moment or hardly a surprise”.
Another Trump evangelical adviser, Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, tweeted that the magazine is “dying” and “going against 99% of evangelical Republicans who oppose impeachment”.
The editorial did not take a position on whether Trump should be removed by the Senate or by popular vote in the 2020 election, calling it “a matter of prudential judgment”. But Galli wrote that the need for Trump’s removal “is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments”.
The magazine’s editorial also criticised Democrats for what it said was an effort to take down Trump since he took office, but it concluded that it did not justify the president’s actions.
“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,” it said. “Consider how your justification of Mr Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior.”