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As conservative religious voters grapple with how to respond to an audio recording of Donald Trump lewdly boasting about groping women, Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of American evangelicalism, released on Monday a blistering critique of the GOP presidential nominee.
The editorial, written by executive editor Andy Crouch, was accompanied by a subtitle that minced no words: “Evangelicals, of all people, should not be silent about Donald Trump’s blatant immorality.”
For the magazine founded more than 50 years ago by famed evangelist Billy Graham as an alternative to mainline Christian publications, the editorial amounts to a grenade tossed into the presidential campaign. Roughly 70 percent of white evangelicals in the most recent Pew Research polls support Trump, and few conservative evangelical leaders have criticized him, even following the release of the recent tape.
But Crouch, who spent years as an Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship campus minister before coming to the magazine a decade ago, used the editorial to channel the growing concern among younger evangelicals that the political deals cut by previous generations have compromised the integrity of their faith.
Noting that the magazine is a nonprofit organization and does not endorse candidates, Crouch nonetheless writes: “Just because we are neutral, however, does not mean we are indifferent. We are especially not indifferent when the Gospel is at stake. The Gospel is of infinitely greater importance than any campaign.”
As for Trump, Crouch says, “There is hardly any public person in America today who has more exemplified the ‘earthly nature’ … that Paul urges the Colossians to shed: ‘sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry’ (3:5). This is an incredibly apt summary of Trump’s life to date.”
“That Trump has been, his whole adult life, an idolater of this sort, and a singularly unrepentant one,” he continues, “should have been clear to everyone.”
Crouch does not spare Trump’s evangelical supporters, who have proposed a variety of theological justifications for making him their candidate. He is particularly dismissive of the argument put forward by many high-profile conservatives, including Graham’s son, Franklin, that because the Bible includes examples of God using flawed men to accomplish His will, evangelicals shouldn’t be concerned about Trump’s personal morality.
And he calls out the long-standing conservative evangelical reasoning behind backing Republican candidates simply out of concern over the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“There is a point at which strategy becomes its own form of idolatry — an attempt to manipulate the levers of history in favor of the causes we support,” writes Crouch. “Strategy becomes idolatry, for ancient Israel and for us today, when we make alliances with those who seem to offer strength — the chariots of Egypt, the vassal kings of Rome — at the expense of our dependence on God who judges all nations, and in defiance of God’s manifest concern for the stranger, the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed.”
Crouch’s indictment of Trump is not dissimilar from complaints lodged by Trump’s secular critics as well, but the language he uses may remind many of Christianity Today’s 130,000 subscribers of Old Testament prophets: “He has given no evidence of humility or dependence on others, let alone on God his Maker and Judge. He wantonly celebrates strongmen and takes every opportunity to humiliate and demean the vulnerable. He shows no curiosity or capacity to learn.”
“He is,” Crouch concludes, “the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool.”