Coming to the president’s defense, the former pastor of an East County megachurch has condemned Christianity Today’s viral editorial titled “Trump Should Be Removed from Office.”
Evangelical leader Jim Garlow, until recently the head of Skyline Church in Rancho San Diego, concedes Donald Trump’s “flaws, past moral failures and sins.”
But Garlow vigorously disputes the piece by Mark Galli, the magazine’s editor-in-chief.
“Galli writes ‘the impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see,’” Garlow wrote Thursday on charismanews.com. “There you have it…. Based on Mr. Trump’s failure to model sanctification, he should be impeached? Hardly.”
In a 1,600-word essay — 600 words longer than Galli’s — Garlow, 72, echoed Republican talking points on Trump’s interactions with Ukraine that led to his impeachment Wednesday.
“Simply put, many contend that there was no violation of the Constitution,” Garlow writes. “Again Galli chooses to state his opinion as ‘fact.’ … Amazingly, the Democrats could not even get all of their own to vote for impeachment, let alone any of the Republicans.”
Garlow also defends himself and fellow clerics who have met with Trump in the Oval Office.
“Condescendingly, Galli lectures evangelicals who support Trump, saying that they ‘brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency.’ To my knowledge, I know every one of the persons who have served as the president’s faith advisers,” he says.
Garlow insists faith leaders haven’t excused anyone’s immorality or behavior, including the president’s.
“Not one. They never have. Not one of them has ever said or believed that the (using Galli’s words) ‘bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end.’ Not one,” Garlow says.
Garlow says Galli has no knowledge of the internal meetings with Trump “that have been constructively pastoral in nature.”
“Numerous high-visibility evangelicals have had opportunity to be with the president, to counsel him and to pray with him,” he said. “Some have spoken truth to leadership. Wisely, they do not discuss the content of those meetings publicly. Nor should they. They are considerably more aware of the ‘heart’ of the president than is Mr. Galli.”
But Garlow drew criticism as well, including from the Rev. Matthew Hambrick, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in San Diego.
“Pastor to pastor: every time you stand up for this man regardless of behavior and the evidence of his corruption, you teach the world not to trust Christian leaders,” Hambrick tweeted Friday.
Pastor to pastor: every time you stand up for this man regardless of behavior and the evidence of his corruption, you teach the world not to trust Christian leaders.
— Rev. Matthew Hambrick (@RevHambrick) December 20, 2019
The New York Times on Friday said others leading Christian supporters of Trump have matched his rhetoric.
“Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said on Twitter that he was ‘sad’ to see the publication ‘echo the arguments of The Squad & the Resistance & deepen its irrelevance among Christians,’” said the Times.
Garlow had been Skyline senior pastor since 1995. His successor is Jeremy McGarity, formerly of SevenSanDiego Church and the husband of Garlow’s daughter, Janie. Josh Garlow, one of Garlow’s four adoptive children, remains at the church as an executive pastor.
Author Garlow’s essay says he still lives in San Diego while preaching to Washington lawmakers, ambassadors and federal government employees via his Well Versed Nations ministry including Bible studies at the U.S. Capitol.
Christianity Today, founded in 1956 by the late Billy Graham, came under attack from Trump himself, asking if the magazine “is looking for Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or those of the socialist/communist bent, to guard their religion.”
Trump added in a tweet: “How about Sleepy Joe? The fact is, no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself!”
I guess the magazine, “Christianity Today,” is looking for Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or those of the socialist/communist bent, to guard their religion. How about Sleepy Joe? The fact is, no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2019
The president also noted that Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, revealed the spiritual adviser to many presidents voted for Trump.
Thank you to Franklin Graham for stating that his father, the late great Billy Graham, voted for me in the 2016 Election. I know how pleased you are with the work we have all done together! https://t.co/40RX2KM4Vv
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2019
Noting the evangelical split, Washington Post Opinion writer Greg Sargent said Friday:
“Trump has granted evangelicals power in exchange for their unwavering support, but the bargain now includes a requirement that they pretend Trump’s wretchedly corrupt subversion of the country’s interests to his own simply isn’t happening, or that it’s absolutely fine.”
But for some evangelicals, Sargent says, “this bargain has crossed over into a species of scam that they can no longer accept.”
Garlow and Trump nemesis Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, agree on one thing, however.
“How should we respond to all this? … For starters,” Garlow writes, “how about a call to pray for our president?”