Since timing is everything, the holiday break by Congress has lifted an editorial in a onetime evangelical Christian publication to prominence for its demand that "Trump Should Be Removed From Office."
What might have been a one-day news story during a congressional session grew in stature because of Christianity Today's founding by the late evangelist Billy Graham, the denunciation of the editorial by his son, evangelist Franklin Graham, and the opposition to the editorial's conclusions by some 200 evangelical leaders.
Our judgment of the magazine's opinion is that it couldn't offer severe reprimands of previous presidents being considered for impeachment, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton (Andrew Johnson also was impeached in 1868, many decades before the publication began), and not provide one just as scathing for President Donald Trump. In fact, we would guess it was getting pressure from what remains of the evangelical political left to do just that.
Of Nixon in 1974, as articles of impeachment were being considered against him, it said, "The transcripts show him to be a person who has failed gravely to live up to the moral demands of our Judeo-Christian heritage. We do not expect perfection, but we rightly expect our leaders, and especially our President, to practice a higher level of morality than the tapes reveal."
Of Clinton in 1998, after the president's apology for his actions but prior to his impeachment, it said he had "shed his last shred of moral authority," that "his failure to tell the truth ... rips at the fabric of the nation," that "he will have more difficulty than any other lame duck administration commanding the respect and attention of the American people," and that he "missed a truly historic moment" with what could have been a "straightforward admission."
Of Trump earlier this month, a day after impeachment articles were voted against him, it said he "has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration," "is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused," and "has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath." Whether he should be removed by the Senate or by popular vote in the November 2020 election "is a matter of prudential judgment," it added.
Of the three, only Trump did it suggest should be removed.
Although Billy Graham founded Christianity Today in 1956, the publication hasn't been associated with the evangelist's organization in many years. Today, many people refer to it as more progressive Christian in thought than evangelical Christian.
Franklin Graham, for his part, said his father would "disappointed" in the editorial, that his father "knew Donald Trump," "voted for Donald Trump" and "believed that Donald J. Trump was the man for this hour in history for our nation."
As others have written, the Christianity Today editorial is not likely to change any minds about the 45th president of the United States. Those who hate him will continue to hate him. Those who revere him will continue to do so.
For the rest of us, we eventually have to make a judgment whether re-electing a very flawed man would be better than electing one of several candidates whose stated policy goals would, in our opinion, wholly change — and damage — the fabric of our nation.
For we who claim a Christian faith, or any faith, Trump is a morally flawed individual. His pre-presidency business dealings were at best legally sly, his insults of individuals and groups of people demeaning, his womanizing sickening and his lack of gravitas for the high office he holds disappointing. And although we will not judge his personal religious faith, it is hard to see what role it plays in his daily life.
And yet, he has more conservative, life-affirming and freedom of liberty accomplishments of any president since Ronald Reagan. The economic success of his administration, despite what Democratic candidates may say, has benefited people of all ages, races and pay grades.
We have written previously of the articles of impeachment with which Trump was charged last week and of which he is almost certain to be acquitted in a Senate trial. Their seriousness is about equal to the fairness of the process in which House Democrats manufactured them. We are much more concerned with the president's overall character than with these specific "crimes."
Christianity Today has a right to say what it wants about the president, his morals and whether or not he deserves to continue in the White House. But most people today already have made up their minds about this unusual individual who is the country's chief executive. And they have felt they can take the bad with the good and the misjudgments with the accomplishments. Especially when the alternative looks so frightening and uncertain.