Impeachment, Karl Barth, and Christianity Today

Politics has the prospect of allowing our passions and opinions to distort our theology.

While we may like or dislike different theologians and politicians, we should be circumspect before we drape our personal preferences in the garb of biblical fidelity and then hold others to our own preferred standards. This strikes at the heart of our Christ-wrought Christian liberty, a doctrine codified in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

 

In recent days Christianity Today’s editor-in-chief Mark Galli published an editorial calling for the impeachment and removal of President Trump from office. Before I wade into the debate, I want to distinguish two important issues that Mr. Galli raises in his article. First, there is his call for President Trump’s impeachment. Second, there is the way that he characterizes Evangelical supporters of the President. The first issue, I believe, is debatable. Christians can have differences of opinion on this matter because they either believe or do not believe the House Democrats have made a compelling case for impeachment. Some might have serious questions about the President’s moral character but believe that the House Democrats have failed to make their case and therefore do not support impeachment. Others might believe that the House Democrats have indeed made their case and thus support impeachment. The second issue, namely, how Mr. Galli characterizes Evangelical supporters of the President is where I want to focus my attention. My concern is to challenge us all to be consistent in our assessment of public figures, not address the merits or demerits of the case for impeachment. In other words, my concern cuts across the pro- anti-Trump divide and instead engages underlying theological issues that arise in Mr. Galli’s article.

In Mr. Galli’s editorial he calls on Christians to call for impeachment and support his removal from office. He writes that the President’s admissions about immorality with women, his “mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders” on his Twitter feed are “a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.” Therefore, the President should be removed one way or another, whether by impeachment or being voted out of office. Such an outcome “is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.” Mr. Galli opines:

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. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?

The implications of Mr. Galli’s argument are clear—if anyone fails to support the President’s removal he is opposed to the Creator of the Ten Commandments. Support of the President supposedly compromises one’s Christian witness. Regardless of the commonly cited reasons for supporting the President (his judicial appointments, opposition to abortion, e.g.), such factors cannot outweigh the President’s moral failings. Mr. Galli was recently interviewed and has doubled-down on his argument and has been surprised by the ethical naïveté of those who have criticized his editorial. He has claimed, “Some evangelicals say he is prideful, abrasive and arrogant — which are all the qualities that Christians decry — but they don’t seem to grasp how serious it is for a head of state to talk like that and it does make me wonder what’s going on there.”

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