Christianity Today (CT) Editor in Chief Mark Galli simply can’t contain his outrage over the moral depravity of President Trump. Last Thursday, just weeks before his retirement, Galli unleashed a scathing editorial calling for Trump’s removal.
Labeling Trump’s actions “profoundly immoral,” Galli wrote: “That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.” Then, taking aim at fellow evangelicals, Galli added: “Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior . . . If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come?”
As someone who’s been pleading with evangelicals for the past two years to speak out against immoral leaders, there was a part of me that was tempted to cheer—not because of Galli’s call for the president to resign. That’s immaterial to my point. If you’ve followed me for long, you know I’ve both criticized and praised this president when either response has been warranted. And I haven’t published anything about the impeachment process because I’ve felt anything I’d say about it would likely prove unhelpful in this extremely politically-charged environment.
But I was tempted to cheer only because an evangelical leader was apparently taking a stand based on conviction, despite knowing it would spark backlash within his own camp. This is almost unheard of in evangelicalism. Yet, considering the source, I was dumbfounded.
Here were Galli and CT—an editor and magazine, which have not only consistently failed to confront corrupt leaders but have actually aided and abetted them—lecturing other evangelicals about supporting Trump. The hypocrisy was so blatant, I stared at my screen with my jaw on my chest as I read Galli’s entire op-ed.
Here were Galli and CT—an editor and magazine, which have not only consistently failed to confront corrupt leaders but have actually aided and abetted them—lecturing other evangelicals about supporting Trump. The hypocrisy was so blatant . . .
And as if that weren’t bad enough, there’s the shocking backstory of the op-ed. As we now know, the op-ed came after Ed Stetzer, CT contributing editor and executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, used his influence at CT to arrange a phone call between MacDonald and CT Global Director Jeremy Weber. (That phone call was captured on a “hot mic” recording, which has since been published on YouTube.)
And about a year earlier, MacDonald had given Stetzer a $13,000 classic VW as a gift. Though Stetzer reimbursed Harvest Bible Chapel for the VW after learning that MacDonald had purchased it with the church’s money, taking such a large gift is a serious breach of journalistic ethics.
Yet when called on this glaring breach, Galli’s response was that Stetzer—a CT editor—isn’t a journalist. That’s another jaw-dropper. Whether Stetzer is a journalist or not, Stetzer should be required to adhere to the magazine’s ethical standards. Yet Galli completely brushed off Stetzer’s moral lapse. CT never reported what Stetzer did and Stetzer remained in his position.
But it gets worse.
Galli and CT also apparently didn’t see a story when I revealed that the person on the “hot mic” recording joking with James MacDonald about putting child porn on the computer of former CT CEO Harold Smith was PR guru, Johnnie Moore. Moore also is heard coaching MacDonald on how to manipulate CT into giving MacDonald favorable coverage for his abysmal lawsuit.
Moore sits on the executive committee of the National Association of Evangelicals. He’s also the leader of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Committee. You would think Galli, who’s so concerned about the witness of his fellow evangelicals, would care that someone as morally compromised as Moore holds such prominent positions within evangelicalism. Yet, CT didn’t publish the shocking revelations about Moore.
Recently, I talked with Moore and he told me that he flew out to Carol Stream last spring to meet face-to-face with the leadership of CT to apologize for his behavior. I live within 10 minutes of CT’s offices, but Moore didn’t bother to apologize to me until several weeks ago when I called Moore and confronted him.
Unlike CT, I can’t do any favors for Johnnie Moore—nor would I. But apparently CT does, and it did.
But CT’s collusion and complicity doesn’t end there. When I published my initial exposé on MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel in WORLD Magazine, CT published an article disputing my exposé. In addition, CT did something almost unheard of in journalism: it published Harvest’s press release in full.
Interestingly, CT had done something similar about a year earlier when famed apologist Ravi Zacharias was caught in a sexting scandal. Like MacDonald, Zacharias pre-emptively sued his accuser before she went public. And then, after the woman had signed a non-disparagement agreement and could not speak, CT published Zacharias’ full statement against her.
At the time, I was more naïve and remember being convinced by the CT article that Zacharias was innocent. I have since read Steve Baughman’s book, Cover-up in the Kingdom, and now realize there’s a lot more to the story than CT reported. I have questions for which I’m continuing to seek answers.
There also was the time CT kicked me out of its studio after I blew the whistle on the Moody Bible Institute and got fired from my job at Moody Radio. Before then, CT had allowed me to use its studio to record podcasts.
But apparently burning a bridge with a friend of CT’s was not allowed, regardless of the veracity of my reporting. Galli later apologized to me for the rude way CT had treated me. But he stood by the decision to rescind our prior agreement.
What’s become abundantly clear is that Galli and CT’s outrage concerning immorality is extremely selective. If one happens to be an evangelical powerbroker, CT will give your indiscretions, and even blatant corruption, a pass. But if you’re Donald Trump—a figure despised by the Left and rejected by a significant minority on the Right—Galli and CT will unload both barrels.
What’s become abundantly clear is that Galli and CT’s outrage concerning immorality is extremely selective. If one happens to be an evangelical powerbroker, CT will give your indiscretions, and even blatant corruption, a pass.
The magazine has been building its more progressive base for years. And as Matthew Schmitz, senior editor of First Things, noted in an op-ed in the New York Post, most of the leadership class within evangelicalism is far more liberal than the movement it supposedly represents.
Galli likely knew his op-ed would make him a hero to the people who write the books, sell the books, organize the conferences, and staff Christian colleges. It seems a calculated risk, and one that’s apparently paid off. As Galli told CNBC, three times as many people have subscribed to CT than have unsubscribed since his op-ed went viral.
So I get it. Mark Galli and CT made a brilliant move, which has enlarged their progressive base and will allow the magazine to go precisely where it’s been straining to go the past decade. And Galli’s op-ed will likely launch him beautifully into a “retirement” replete with speaking invitations and opportunities to freelance for secular publications.
But let’s not pretend that this was all about righteous indignation. Galli and CT clearly only care about “justice and righteousness” and preserving the witness of evangelicalism when it suits them. And it’s not just Trump who’s “dumbed down the idea of morality.” Galli and CT have been doing that for years. And they’re the last people who should act as though they have a moral platform from which to pass judgment.