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What It Means That A Christian Publication Is Calling For Trump's Removal From Office

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Trump should be removed from office - that's the headline of an editorial published yesterday in Christianity Today, an evangelical Christian newsmagazine founded by the Reverend Billy Graham, the editor of that magazine, Mark Galli, explained the reasoning behind the magazine's position to Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

MARK GALLI: The impeachment hearings - it became pretty clear, pretty quickly, unambiguously that the president had misused his office for personal political gain.

CORNISH: So how significant is it for Christianity Today to take this stance? We're going to pose that question to Adam Taylor. He's the executive director of Sojourners, a Christian peace and justice organization and a pastor, right?

ADAM TAYLOR: That's right.

CORNISH: So let's start there. Is this an earthquake among evangelical Christians, meaning are you and your friends passing this around?

TAYLOR: (Laughter) We are passing it around. We are encouraged and hopeful about it. I think it is very significant because Christianity Today is the largest evangelical magazine that really reaches mainstream evangelicals. I think it reaches conservatives, moderates and probably even some progressives. But it really is in that heart of evangelicalism. And I think it's important to emphasize that this piece further demonstrates that evangelicalism, the eventual movement, is not a monolith. It has a lot of diversity of opinion within it. And...

CORNISH: But we've heard from public, kind of political evangelical leaders about their support for Trump and why they believe the community should support Trump. How does this expose the rifts in a new way?

TAYLOR: Yeah, I would clarify what you said in that leaders of the religious right have been adamant supporters of President Trump. And I think there's a lot of other evangelicals who are either more apolitical, who have just not spoken out at all about Trump or things that are happening in our politics. And then there are others who have deep misgivings and even alarm about the behavior of the president, the actions of the president, but don't want to divide their churches.

And so this piece, I think, gives license, it gives courage to many evangelical pastors to start speaking and preaching about what they see happening in our politics. And it doesn't mean that they should then become partisan themselves, on the other side of the aisle. Dr. King once had a quote that I think speaks to this. He said, the church at its best is called not to be the master or the servant of the state, but to be the conscience of the state. And we desperately need that conscience in this moment right now.

CORNISH: But does this editorial - you said it could give some permission to some to speak more openly, but would it actually change minds?

TAYLOR: I think it can. The real test is whether those that it influences, if it gives them greater courage to speak about the things they've already been thinking and feeling. And I think, by and large, they have not been willing to take that step.

CORNISH: Now that a publication, as you said, with the influence that Christianity Today has, has weighed in in this manner, I want to talk about how this message could live beyond today. What are you going to be watching for, looking for in terms of responses?

TAYLOR: I'm really going to be paying attention to the conversations that this sparks within the kind of evangelical circles.

CORNISH: Is there a threat of backlash, though?

TAYLOR: There may be. I think there is certainly a chance for that. But I think that Christianity Today is on very solid moral, ethical grounds here. And they did a good job in the piece of demonstrating how they're not just doing this because they are, you know, somehow supporting Democrats. They even criticized Democrats in the editorial.

One of the points they make, which I think is really important to emphasize is that the kind of capitulation of the religious right and of some parts of conservative Christianity to Donald Trump is one of the most harmful forces in the context of evangelism, of actually spreading the gospel, particularly with young people. There are record numbers of young people that are leaving the church because they view the church as being judgmental, as being hypocritical, as being homophobic. You know, I really believe Christianity Today in this op-ed is staying more true to the core of the gospel.

CORNISH: Adam Taylor is executive director of Sojourners, a Christian peace and justice organization.

Thank you for coming in.

TAYLOR: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.