For some reason I don’t look to Evangelical magazines for guidance on “morality.” Any ideas on the subject are just products of shifting cultural and political ideas. There isn’t even a word in the Bible for ‘morality’. But since the editor of Christianity Today made a splash by throwing the phrase “profoundly immoral” into the impeachment debate—I’d use this standard in looking at the magazine itself?
I subscribed, and took a look through their archives. Let’s go over a few things that I find profoundly immoral?
Women are spiritual beings, yes or no?
The magazine allows that women are spiritual, but remains open to the idea that men are closer to God than women are, and properly in authority ‘over’ them. They like the idea, in 2013, of women wearing scarves on their heads to signal ‘submission’ to men.
The magazine followed news of #MeToo, but does not, that I’m seeing, do much original reporting. I’m interested to know whether the staff knew of lurking problems and were silent.
When well-known Evangelical clerics were accused of cover-ups I’m dismayed by the coverage. Reporting on C.J. Mahaney, for example, the magazine’s angle isn’t a criminal cleric having covered up the sexual abuse of children, but learning to say “I’m sorry.”
The magazine’s coverage of transgender people is unrelievedly negative and, indeed, hostile. Changing sex is discussed as a ‘warped and twisted’ way of seeing oneself. Trans people are victims of an idea that is “estranging people from their basic biological identities as male and female.”
Given the magazine’s larger focus on the central importance of gender as a divine marker, this comes close, if not establishes, trans people as non-Christians and, in Evangelical theology, going to Hell.
The magazine is against homosexuality and regularly follows the idea that same-sex interest is a curse placed by an angry God on idolaters who have been judged. They offering “coaching” for Evangelical children to learn to signal condemnation “without coming across as hateful or judgmental,” as their expert says.
The magazine has regularly lent support to reparative therapy for homosexuality. Or as one of its favored spokesmen calls it: “the thought that growth or change is possible.” The idea that sexual orientation can change, if with difficulty, has been a regular feature of coverage of gay issues.
When sexual orientation can’t be changed, the magazine seems to favor calls for enforced celibacy or marrying opposite-sex partners and, with God’s grace, making do.
I wanted to know how the magazine covered the tricky matter of a 2015 biography by Charles Marsh detailing the homosexuality of Evangelical hero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The review notes: “It fascinated me at first, but I grew tired of Marsh directing the camera angle of every scene so as to rather heavy-handedly keep it in view.”
Homosexuality, the reviewer adds, is “unsavory behavior” and Bonhoeffer, being “sexually innocent,” would know nothing of it. This is a complete fabrication at odds with the facts in Marsh’s book.
Christianity Today was founded in 1956 by a virulent anti-Semite named Billy Graham, so naturally I was interested to know what the magazine has said about that issue. Their coverage of Graham’s anti-Jewish rants was evasive, without quoting his actual remarks.
Evangelicalism itself is clearly implicated in the rise of Nazi Germany, but Christianity Today over time has denied the association. It likes to pin the blame for anti-Semitism on Islam or other favored villains. As in a 1978 essay: “Secularism, not Christian faith, is the real source of modern anti-Semitism, and evangelical believers should not hesitate to point this out.”
The magazine did not review Christopher J. Probst’s Demonizing the Jews: Luther and the Protestant Church in Nazi Germany, which documents how Christianity in Germany was deeply involved in Hitler’s rise.
Protestant theology to this day relies on explicitly Nazi texts like Gerhard Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. The only coverage by the magazine of this fact is a grotesque 1975 review praising Kittel’s team as “prestigious scholars.”
Looking over the magazine’s coverage of Trump it is very clear their dislike of him is mostly over sex. These are people for whom any touching outside clerically-sanctioned marriages disqualifies from public life.
A 2016 denunciation of him goes much further than I would have thought possible. The magazine wants to see his sex life as a form of idolatry.
Indeed, there is hardly any public person in America today who has more exemplified the “earthly nature” (“flesh” in the King James and the literal Greek) that Paul urges the Colossians to shed: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry” (3:5). This is an incredibly apt summary of Trump’s life to date. Idolatry, greed, and sexual immorality are intertwined in individual lives and whole societies. Sexuality is designed to be properly ordered within marriage, a relationship marked by covenant faithfulness and profound self-giving and sacrifice. To indulge in sexual immorality is to make oneself and one’s desires an idol. That Trump has been, his whole adult life, an idolater of this sort, and a singularly unrepentant one, should have been clear to everyone.
I’ll get my political commentary elsewhere, thanks.