By Letter to the Editor on December 31, 2019.
Re: “Trump blasts Christian magazine over editorial” (Dec. 21)
Franklin Graham is quoted as saying of the magazine his father founded and of which he remained honorary board chair to the end, it “represents what I would call the leftist elite within the evangelical community. They certainly don’t represent the Bible-believing segment of the evangelical community.” This is sheer nonsense!
“Evangelical” by definition means “Bible-believing” but Franklin Graham (unlike his father, at least in the latter part of his life) has chosen to align himself with what is really a fringe element in terms of traditional evangelicalism (i.e. historic Christianity). The problem is that this fringe element has gained national attention since the rise and fall of the Moral Majority. It consists largely of publicity-seeking televangelists and others who can boast large followings, but many of whom teach a “health and wealth” gospel and/or hold other views that are considered heretical in terms of historic evangelical beliefs. (This, I should add, is not true of Franklin Graham himself, who has done much good through his leadership of the Christian charity, Samaritan’s Purse.)
The secular media has mistakenly taken these televangelists and the like to be representative of evangelicalism in general, which is why (in the words of one CNN anchor) they found the Christianity Today (CT) editorial so “stunning.” Another CNN anchor, Wolf Blitzer, was closer to the mark when he reported, “This is mainstream evangelical Christianity leadership.”
CT is the publication of orthodox, thoughtful evangelicals, who are apolitical in nature and believe in speaking the truth in love on issues of social as well as personal ethics. Numbers of genuine evangelical leaders, especially in the academic world, are debating dropping the term altogether because it has become so misrepresented and misunderstood, but this is not widely known or reported. Sensationalism rather than thoughtful, biblically based reflection is what generally makes news. As CT’s retiring editor-in-chief Mark Galli, who wrote the controversial editorial, told The Atlantic, “We speak for centre-right and centre-left evangelicals. The far right – they don’t read us.”
The New York Times is probably right in stating the CT editorial won’t change anything. But for at least a moment in time it has shone a light on what it really means to be evangelical. Whether or not one agrees that Trump’s misdeeds mandate removal from office, it is at least refreshing to see a carefully worded and charitable piece of religious journalism recognized as authentically evangelical.
J. Cameron Fraser