How Christianity Today Smeared Fellow Evangelicals

By Robert Gagnon Published on December 24, 2017

On tough prudential judgments, evangelicals should be able to disagree. This includes deciding for whom one should vote. Alas, Christianity Today seems to have a different view. The day after Roy Moore’s defeat, CT made it clear that if you supported Republican Moore over Democrat Doug Jones you are:

  1. a “fringe evangelical”
  2. who “sold your soul,”
  3. who “changed your view of ethics,” and
  4. worked for the destruction of evangelicalism, not “salvation.”

The article, “How #Black Women Saved Evangelicalism,” is written by John Richards. Richards is the managing director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. His article appeared on Ed Stetzer’s CT blog. Stetzer is Richards’ boss at Wheaton.

Stetzer is not only a CT contributing editor and holder of the Billy Graham chair in Mission and Evangelism at Wheaton. He’s also the executive director of the same Billy Graham Center. There is no question that Richards reflects Stetzer’s views. For his “selling your soul” charge Richards cites a recent NPR interview of Stetzer.

How does Richards think “Black women saved evangelicalism”? Not by abstaining from the Alabama vote or by writing in a third moral candidate. No, they saved evangelicalism by voting 98 percent for Democrat Doug Jones.

What does Jones stand for? Jones is in favor of abortion, “gay marriage,” and “transgender rights” (men in women’s rest rooms, locker rooms, and sports teams). He also favors activist judges who amend the Constitution. He is strongly opposed to religious liberty protections. How this voting for Jones honors the legacy of Billy Graham is beyond my knowing.

Name-Calling Among Evangelicals

This is just more of the same name-calling that we have seen from other evangelical “Never-Moores.” Never mind that voting for Moore was not an endorsement of any alleged four-decades-old sexual assaults. Moore himself vigorously denied committing these acts and calls the behavior repugnant. Never mind that this happily married man for 33 years is known to his wife and female acquaintances (including ex-girlfriends) as the most gentle and polite man possible toward women. Never mind that this does not fit the profile of a “sexual predator” and “pedophile.”

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Never mind too that one could make the opposite case. That the sell-outs are those who, by voting for Jones, tacitly supported his ungodly political agenda. Never mind that the most vigorous opponents of Moore were strongly against him even before any of these allegations. None of that matters, right? 

Richards’ piece wasn’t a one-off at CT. Mark Galli, editor in chief of CT, adds charges in his own editorial, titled “The Biggest Loser in the Alabama Election.” Supporters of Roy Moore are guilty of:

  1. “hypocrisy” and
  2.  “sabotag[ing] not only their political cause but … the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Galli is more nuanced and less direct than Richards and Stetzer. He grants that “sometimes it really is a choice between the lesser of two evils.” He also distinguishes between supporters of Trump and Moore who “condemn the[ir] immorality” and those who “justify or ignore [their] moral failings.” (He says that the latter are taking a road that “leads to no less place than hell.”) But by the second half of his piece, Galli is condemning all those who supported Moore over Jones.

I did not detect a suggestion that voting for Doug Jones would be hypocritical or a hell-bound sabotage of the gospel. For an editor who claims to dislike polarizing rhetoric, this damning of fellow believers is a bit ironic.

Lessons From The Past

This is not the first time something like this has happened at CT. On Oct. 10, 2016 Executive Editor Andy Crouch accused evangelicals who voted for Trump of flirting with idolatry (“Speak Truth to Trump”).

He made this charge not just against those who were enthusiastic supporters of Trump from the beginning of his campaign. He made it against even those who reluctantly supported Trump as the only alternative to Clinton. Crouch did not accuse supporters of Hillary Clinton, with her distinctly anti-Christian program, of hypocrisy. 

The irony is that CT has become more rather than less partisan in these recent elections, while condemning fellow evangelicals of the same. Politically they belong to the light while other evangelicals belong to the darkness or at least serious shades of gray. 

This is not the last time evangelicals will face a difficult election choice. Next time let us treat each other with charity.

When one calls other believers “hypocrites,” one must be prepared to have the label turned back on oneself. Like other high-minded evangelical entities (from example, The Gospel Coalition and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission), Christianity Today has no problem honoring sinful people whose achievements even the Left admires.

An Abusive Double Standard

Over the years it has offered many a glowing tribute to MLK. Rarely one hears mention of his “womanizing.” “Womanizing” is here a euphemism for his sexual immorality that spans his civil rights years. I have no problem with celebrating King’s civil rights accomplishments and stirring rhetoric. My concern is the abusive double standard.

When celebrating MLK, the good folks at CT don’t see themselves as fighting against “human decency” and a “holistic gospel ethic.” The don’t believe they’re “co-opting the core values the Christian faith requires of us all,” and “compromising the very principles they champion.” They don’t think they’re violating the biblical teaching to “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess 5:22) or hypocritically trying to “help the country become godly again by [honoring] people whose godliness is seriously questioned.” Yet they hurl such accusations at Christians who vote for Trump or Moore.

People like David French respond: Roy Moore was no MLK! Who said he was? Are we saying that sexual standards apply only to those who have not achieved great things? This is just what they have accused supporters of Trump and Moore of, ironically.

Evangelicals and Charity

Christianity Today should apologize to its readers. It publishes many good articles and has many good people work on its staff. Yet that does not give it license to name-call fellow evangelicals for making the sort of prudential judgments that they themselves commend.

Moore’s political career is finished. However, this is not the last time evangelicals will face a tough election choice. Next time let us treat each other with charity.

 

Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D., was formerly professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon), among other works.

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  • Hannah

    I really am quite sick and tired of being reprimanded and demeaned by my fellow Christians for not following along with whatever political party they deemed “most holy”. My faith votes, I do not. Moore was no shining angel, but a man who advocates abortion (Jones), panders to the LGBT community (Jones), and has shown avid animosity towards those who reside on the other side of the aisle (Jones) will never earn my vote. The smear campaign done on Moore was atrocious and worthy of the ridicule it’s accrued. Should Christians be so simple-minded and listen to whatever voice is loudest – or are we called to be discerning and not heed others just because they insist they speak the truth?

    In the last year or so, I’ve seen “CINOs” (Christians In Name Only) come out of the woodwork to play virtue signaler to their peers – and oddly enough, their tactics are eerily similar to their worldly compatriots: slander, libel, ridicule, verbal (and sometimes physical) violence, and worst of all – pride. That insufferable, nauseating pride that says “I am correct because I managed to contort the Scriptures into supporting what I believe to be true.” No. You will not make me submit to your opinion simply because it’s popular and well-liked. As it has been said, “Lies are soft and squishy. They can be whatever shape you want. They’re convenient. The truth is hard and spiky. Hard to embrace. Worth embracing.” I will not look to the world for guidelines but rather He Who is Truth and Righteousness.

  • Thank you, Robert Gagnon, for saying it out loud. Some of The Stream’s writers, and other “Prime Time Christian Thought-Leaders” have been pulling the same judgmental stunts against President Trump too. We continue to see masks fall off everywhere, as we did during the presidential campaign. Those who like to look down their noses at anyone who doesn’t toe the uniparty line are exposing themselves as pharisees and quislings.

  • GPS Daddy

    We live in very dark times when we are forced to vote for a morally compromised conservative or the highly morally compromised left. We have few “good” options going forward. This country to sooo morally compromised that its going to take God to straighten it out.

  • Todd Birdsong

    There’s nothing unchristian about voting for the better of two undesireable candidates. Don’t think yourself too pious to vote thusly. Jesus isn’t running in any election and no one else is perfect. It’s reasonable to vote for the candidate best aligned with the interests or needs of Christianity. Doug Jones was not that candidate. Christians should smarten up.

  • Patmos

    The folks at Christianity Today fell for the guilt trip campaign headed by the Democrats. Saul Alinsky would be proud.

  • John

    The items in this article are plain as day now that you have connected the dots. Do the editors at CT think the readers are perpetually blind? Even if one is to posit that they were blinded by the emotion of the moment, by now, a mea culpa should be forthcoming.

  • Hmmm…

    So, this is what Christians should be pronouncing, messaging out to the world, who take note by the way. Why isn’t the ministry, if it still considers itself a ministry, raising its voice to the convoluted culture taking hold in our nation? Where is the outcry from the church?? Turned inward, ducking its calling to be salt and light to this wicked and perverse generation. They are more into politics than Christianity today! with the Jones/Moore thing. Absurd! We have the words of life. Where is the voice of the church, crying out, taking stands, telling this increasingly spiritually ignorant world what God’s word says, what time it is on his clock … Afraid of persecution? Sad, sad commentary. Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptists speaks out on the radio or did when he came into headship of the Seminary in Louisville. Great voice. Strong voice. We need them in every borough, city, Middlesex village and town. To fall down like this article has on our mighty charge is pathetic.

  • BRush

    CT has become a rag , that is why I never read anything they write. i unsubscribed to their junk. They have been hijacked by someone, I could speculate on what group but I’ll leave that out of this discussion.

  • davidk

    “fellow” evangelicals?

    That presupposes that CT is evangelical.

  • Chip Crawford

    We need to pray that the Church step up and provide LEADERSHIP. Confusion occurs within that void. Believers need to be encouraged and strengthened as a Body.

  • benevolus

    I have never had much trust for Christianity Today. By definition, it has to try to be too many things to too many people. And these people are not in the trenches of ministry; rather, they read, think, write, and talk to people at seminaries. All of that tends to skew them leftward theologically.

  • bbb

    Look at a church’s doctrine and dogmas and you will know what kind of church it is.
    The Pravda media sold Alabama and anyone who would listen to it a massive block of lies in order to win a Senate seat for Democrats. The lies were promoted 24-7 for a month, paid for “witnesses”, a yearbook doctored, hours on mainstream Pravda media spent calling Moore every name in the books, and people like Hannity were quick to rain fiery piety upon a man who didn’t know what hit him.
    Then Alabama proved to all America how corrupt its voting system is.
    The DOJ needs to clean that house thoroughly.
    That said, Democrats cheat and lie. It is what they do.
    So when taking a church or Christians to task over being gullible fools who gobbled up the fantasyland “he dated me” [notice sex was never mentioned but so cleverly implied that really stupid people simply mentally bought the poison hook, line and sinker] one must remember Christians are people, human beings, fallible.
    Saying one’s faith promotes forgiveness and actually expecting anyone to forgive are two different things.
    Not only in Alabama but all over America many churches bought into the social justice movements, into the modernization and altering the Bible to fit trendy ideas, and frankly they embraced an ACLU or Charity Club mission statement and felt pious since there was a picture of Jesus in the narthex. Those places are comfortable zones for Democrats to hide in and hedge the eternal life question bet.
    Let’s take a few moments in the Bible to regain our balance. Each must define “evangelical” for themselves in their hearts, minds, souls and bodies. It may be necessary to step away from trendy churches and start seeking those places that teach and preach the inerrant Word of God. I for one do not believe any group of Christians is evangelical unless they embrace the Bible 100%.

    • Chip Crawford

      They are bad – the press, Demo machine, but that’s not what lost this election for Moore. He’s not a victim here and lost it himself. He said three different things to Hannity contradicting himself – I heard it – and so did his constituency. Hannity is open and fair, and gave him the chance to come back and fix it. Judge Moore did not take him up on the offer. He also never looked in the camera like so many have done and spoken to the people about the allegations. He did not behave like an innocent person. He also did not act like a Christian – threatening to sue the accusers, railing against McConnell and others against him …. He all but abandoned giving any attention to the people for whom he was to represent, their issues! totally lost in the scuffle. A professional, certainly a lawyer and a judge, a public office holder, must be able to handle pressure and stay on course. Judge Moore flunked the test. How would he handle the pressure of D.C.? Now, he’s failed to concede the election like a gentleman and professional and is lodging an objection and filing a lawsuit. The other guy, Jones, is just a term finisher, a lame duck, and then they will have a full election with better candidates.

  • Charles

    Quite an edifying conversation you’ve inspired here, Professor Gagnon.

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