Magazine edi­tor calls Trump ed­i­to­rial ‘the right thing to do’

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NEWS - Mary Schmich mschmich@chicagotri­bune.com Twit­ter @MarySch­mich

Mark Galli went to work on Thurs­day morn­ing, as usual, in his sec­ond­floor of­fice at Chris­tian­ity To­day in the Chicago sub­urb of Carol Stream. He turned on his com­puter, as usual, and pre­pared to write.

What he wrote sur­prised even him. Galli is edi­tor-in-chief of the magazine, which was founded in 1956 by the prom­i­nent evan­ge­list Billy Graham. It’s not a pri­mar­ily po­lit­i­cal pub­li­ca­tion, but, as Galli ex­plained when I talked to him on Fri­day, peo­ple kept ask­ing if he was go­ing to write about the im­peach­ment of Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump, a pop­u­lar fig­ure among evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians.

Fi­nally, on Thurs­day, he de­cided he should write some­thing.

“I was go­ing to do the typ­i­cal on­the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand, let’s-let-the-process-run-it­self-out piece,” he said when we talked. “But some­thing in me said, ‘That doesn’t work.’ I pro­ceeded to write the ed­i­to­rial that came out of my fingers.”

What came out of his fingers, un­der the head­line “Trump Should Be Re­moved from Of­fice,” was this:

“The im­peach­ment hear­ings have made it ab­so­lutely clear, in a way the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion did not, that Pres­i­dent Trump has abused his au­thor­ity for per­sonal gain and be­trayed his con­sti­tu­tional oath.” And this:

“The im­peach­ment hear­ings have il­lu­mi­nated the pres­i­dent’s moral de­fi­cien­cies for all to see. This dam­ages the in­sti­tu­tion of the pres­i­dency, dam­ages the rep­u­ta­tion of our coun­try, and dam­ages both the spirit and the fu­ture of our peo­ple.”

What came out of Galli’s fingers was also a cau­tion to Chris­tians who con­tinue to sup­port Trump:

“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?”

Galli is 67, a na­tive Cal­i­for­nian who has lived for three decades in the sub­urb of Glen El­lyn. Now an Angli­can, he was or­dained as a Pres­by­te­rian min­is­ter but re­lin­quished his or­di­na­tion when he turned to jour­nal­ism. He be­came man­ag­ing edi­tor of Chris­tian­ity To­day in 2000 and has been edi­tor-in-chief since 2012.

He calls him­self “a huge pro-life guy” and an ad­vo­cate of re­li­gious free­dom, but he re­jects the ar­gu­ment that just be­cause Trump has acted and talked in de­fense of those stances, Trump de­serves to be de­fended.

“I’ve tried to be as char­i­ta­ble as I can to my evan­gel­i­cal broth­ers and sis­ters who voted for Trump,” he said.

But, as he wrote in his ed­i­to­rial: “None of the pres­i­dent’s pos­i­tives can bal­ance the moral and po­lit­i­cal dan­ger we face un­der a leader of such grossly im­moral char­ac­ter.”

One of the most sig­nif­i­cant points Galli made in our con­ver­sa­tion was about what makes a coun­try healthy, strong. The econ­omy mat­ters, but it’s not the only thing.

“Most peo­ple don’t seem to think that moral­ity and ethics are as con­crete as other things in our lives,” he said. “But if a coun­try and its lead­ers fail to hold min­i­mal moral stan­dards, it’s su­per-de­struc­tive.”

Al­most as soon as Galli’s ed­i­to­rial was pub­lished, it ex­ploded in the me­dia. His phone rang all day Fri­day. His email in­box was flooded. He has been sur­prised by “the depth of the ap­pre­ci­a­tion.”

“Most of the peo­ple I’m hear­ing from are say­ing, ‘thank you, thank you, thank you,’ with 20 ex­cla­ma­tion points,” he said. “Peo­ple have been look­ing for some­one to say this. It has been hang­ing over their hearts and minds for months, if not years.”

Not ev­ery­one has been grate­ful. The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the late Rev. Billy Graham, said on Face­book that his fa­ther would dis­agree

“None of the pres­i­dent’s pos­i­tives can bal­ance the moral and po­lit­i­cal dan­ger we face un­der a leader of such grossly im­moral char­ac­ter.” — Mark Galli, edi­tor-in-chief of Chris­tian­ity To­day, in an ed­i­to­rial

with the ed­i­to­rial. Pres­i­dent Trump weighed in on Twit­ter, call­ing Chris­tian­ity To­day “a far left magazine,” which “has been do­ing poorly.”

“I won’t be read­ing ET again!” he vowed.

“Un­for­tu­nately,” Galli said, “Mr. Trump is mis­in­formed in his tweets. I’m cen­ter-right. Some of our peo­ple are cen­ter-left. We’re not fail­ing jour­nal­is­ti­cally.”

In­ci­den­tally, Galli’s ed­i­to­rial also took is­sue with Trump’s tweets: “His Twit­ter feed alone — with its ha­bit­ual string of mis­char­ac­ter­i­za­tions, lies, and slan­ders — is a near per­fect ex­am­ple of a hu­man be­ing who is morally lost and con­fused.”

Galli said he has re­ceived sev­eral threats in re­sponse to the ed­i­to­rial but tries not to take them se­ri­ously.

“That type of anger and the want­ing to strike out at oth­ers, I just don’t get it,” he said. “It makes me so sad.”

Galli is re­tir­ing in early Jan­uary and plans to spend more time fly­fish­ing, fix­ing up the house, play­ing with his six grand­kids and work­ing in a pro­gram that helps set­tle refugees. But when peo­ple ask him if the ed­i­to­rial was a part­ing shot, he says no.

There are sim­ply times and places, he said, when you must speak up. “You feel called,” he said.

And to those who call him coura­geous, he also says no.

“It was the right thing to do.”

/STACEY WESCOTT / CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Mark Galli, edi­tor-in-chief of Chris­tian­ity To­day magazine, at the pub­li­ca­tion’s of­fice on Dec. 20, 2019, in Carol Stream.

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