When Mark Galli, outgoing editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, wrote a scathing op-ed in December stressing that President Donald Trump is unfit for office, the president immediately went into damage-control mode and tried to shore up his support among far-right white evangelicals. The Evangelicals for Trump event held in Miami on January 3 was as much a political event as a religious event, and to evangelical Trump critic John Fea, the event epitomized everything that’s wrong with the Trump/Christian Right alliance.
“It is no coincidence that this rally took place two weeks after Christianity Today, the historic voice of moderate evangelicalism, called for Trump’s removal from office,” Fea asserts in a January 11 op-ed for USA Today. “The magazine’s editor, Mark Galli, described the president’s character as ‘grossly immoral’ and warned his fellow evangelicals that their ardent support was damaging to their Christian witness.”
Being attacked by Christians isn’t necessarily a big deal for Trump. When he is criticized by non-fundamentalist Mainline Protestants in the African Method Episcopal (AME) Church or by Catholic Democrats, Trump isn’t going to lose sleep over it because that isn’t his base. But the op-ed from Galli was a very big deal because white evangelicals are a crucial to his 2020 reelection campaign.
“While the Evangelicals for Trump campaign had been in the works for several weeks before Galli’s editorial, it is hard to see the decision to schedule the kickoff event for January 3 as anything but damage control,” Fea explains. “Even the smallest crack in his evangelical support — especially in swing states like Florida — could result in a Trump loss in 2020.”
The Miami rally, Fea notes, had all the trademarks of a MAGA event.
“As Trump took the podium, the evangelicals in attendance — many wearing pro-Trump clothing and Make America Great Again hats — began screaming ‘USA, USA, USA’. It was clear from the outset that this event would be no different from any other Trump rally,” Fea observes. “It didn’t matter that the room was filled with born-again Christians. Trump only knows how to sing one note, and it is music to the ears of his evangelical supporters.”
In Miami, Fea writes, it was evident that “Trump the strongman was on display. Like autocratic leaders before him, he stirred fear among his people and offered them safety under his regime…. Trump spent the evening mocking his enemies, trafficking in half-truths in order to instill fear in people whom God commands to ‘fear not,’ and proving that he is incapable of expressing anything close to Christian humility.”
Fea concludes his op-ed on a melancholy note, stressing that he was saddened by the Evangelicals for Trump rally.
“I usually get angry when members of my tribe worship at the feet of Trump,” Fea writes. “This time, I just felt sad.”