Christianity Today’s Mark Galli Says He is ‘Surprised by the Ethical Naïveté’ and ‘Widespread Ignorance’ of Trump’s Evangelical Supporters About His Moral Failings

Mark Galli’s last day as editor in chief of Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine, is on Friday. He had already planned to retire before writing an editorial calling for President Trump’s removal.
Credit…David Kasnic for The New York Times

People have been upset with Mark Galli before. As the editor in chief of Christianity Today, a prominent evangelical magazine, he has printed some controversial editorials. But the people he irks usually do not include the IT department of his own publication.

That is what happened when Mr. Galli published an explosive editorial on Dec. 19 arguing that President Trump should be removed from office. So many readers flocked to read the editorial online that the website crashed, overwhelming those whose job it was to keep it running.

Mr. Galli had been working for Christianity Today for two decades after being a Presbyterian pastor for about 10 years, first in Mexico City and later in Sacramento, Calif., but the response to the editorial was like nothing he had ever seen. The traffic to the website was 50-fold what it is on a typical day.

Mr. Galli’s last day with the magazine will be Friday. He had announced his retirement in October, long before the editorial and the response to it.

In an interview with The New York Times on Thursday, he said he was shocked by the magnitude of the reaction to the editorial — but also by evangelicals’ willingness to stick by Mr. Trump for more than three years. The interview has been edited and condensed.

Did you ever expect the sort of reaction this editorial received?

Not in the least. On a very viral article, we might get 4,000 or 5,000 on the site at one time. Not only did this crash the site almost immediately, but when it came back on, there were between 15 and 17,000 people on our site for hours. I’ve kind of gotten in trouble with my IT department because they said, “Why didn’t you give us a heads up?” and I said, “I had no idea.”

Friday I came into the office, and the desk phone we’re speaking on now literally rang — this is not hyperbole — all day, and I did not pick it up once because I was also getting messages by email, text messages and calls on my cellphone.

There was quite a bit of criticism from evangelicals and others of the piece. What did you make of that opposition?

I was a little surprised that Donald Trump and then Franklin Graham thought it was worth commenting on. And it did strike me as a bit ironic that they both said that it wasn’t significant or going to make any difference. It makes you immediately think that they do think it’s significant, or they wouldn’t comment on it.

I suppose the thing that was most surprising, and which I’m still trying to wrap my head around, was the positive response. People wrote to me and said they had felt all alone and were waiting for someone in the evangelical leadership to say what the editorial said. I wish I could tell you that I had noticed that and wanted to respond to it, but I didn’t see that. There were a lot of people who were feeling alone and they’re not feeling that way now.

Despite that, of course, evangelicals as a bloc largely support President Trump. Is there anything Trump could do to lose that support?

I’ve been surprised by the ethical naïveté of the response I’m receiving to the editorial. There does seem to be widespread ignorance — that is the best word I can come up with — of the gravity of Trump’s moral failings. Some evangelicals will acknowledge he had a problem with adultery, but now they consider that a thing of the past. They bring up King David, but the difference is King David repented! Donald Trump has not done that.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs