On Dec. 14, 2019, Christianity Today published an editorial whereby, then-editor in chief Mark Galli called for the immediate removal of Donald Trump as president of the United States. “Mr. Trump,” declared Mr. Galli, “is a near-perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.”
Mr. Galli then went on to declare that none of the president’s positive contributions outweigh the “moral and political danger” America now faces under his leadership.
He concluded: “We call for the many evangelicals who support the President to remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Trump influences your witness.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, Scott McKnight, writing for the same magazine, doubled down on the “smarter-than-thou” condemnation of Mr. Trump’s defenders.
Consider the following.
“The Church is more likely to be influenced by the government than the government by the Church … Statism is more than an occasional reality … for the Church, and it has been since Ronald Reagan.”
Mr. McKnight continued.
“We feel compelled to say that the alliance of American evangelicalism with this presidency has wrought enormous damage to the Christian witness … Wholesale evangelical support for the administration has made toxic the reputation of the Bride of Christ … [Trump] is a symptom of a sickness … With profound love and respect, we ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to consider whether they have given to Caesar what belongs only to God: their unconditional loyalty.”
Mr. McKnight then finishes drawing his caricature: “[The conservative] solution … is the state. [Their] narrative today is statism; the theory that the state ought to rule, and the state can solve our problems … [M]ake no mistake, [their] story is increasingly [one of statism] … It is a belief that solutions to our biggest problems are found in the state, and the Christian’s responsibility … is to get involved and acquire political power … Statism makes the government a god. Statism … goes back to the time of Constantine.”
So, there you have it. If you are a conservative and you believe in the freedoms guaranteed to you by our Constitution, and you are opposed to the government largesse, promised to us by the Democrats, you are a “statist.”
Do these people not see their shameless duplicity? Can they not hear that branch upon which they’re sitting cracking as they furiously saw away? Have they never heard of “psychological projection” and the fallacy of accusing others of the very sins of which they, themselves, are most guilty?
Mel McGinnis, a radio talk-show host from Pennsylvania, sums it up well.
“McKnight sets up this straw man of statism. We, as constitutionalists, are in direct opposition to that — we [are for] deregulation, not more statist regulation. And who among Christians is saying that Washington D.C. is the answer? McKnight projects on those who are right-leaning what the left attempts to do with their leftist politics by concentrating and centralizing power …”
Mr. McKnight would do well to listen to pastor McGinnis. He also might want to remember the lesson implied in the age-old axiom of the “pot calling the kettle black.”
Endnote: Interestingly, Mr. McKnight suggests that Christian “statism goes back to the time of Constantine.” Perhaps he should read a bit more deeply. Constantine was the first Roman emperor to stop the state from persecuting Christians. Constantine is the one who gave the state less power, not more. Constantine protected Christianity. He didn’t restrict it.
Constantine gave Christians back their dignity, he gave them back their security, and he gave them back their freedom. Constantine removed state-imposed penalties from those obeying Jesus. It was because of Constantine that our Christian forefathers no longer had to worry about the state burning them on pikes and crucifying them on crosses.
It was Constantine who protected all religions, not just Christianity, from government overreach and statist power. It was Constantine who gave his citizens religious freedom and took control of religion away from the state.
Pagan, though he was, Constantine patted the church on the head and let it do its good work, and as a result, hospitals were founded, orphanages were created, and universities were established.
Because of Constantine, women were given dignity, and children were given life. Because of Constantine, the Roman state got out of the business of the church. Because of Constantine, the government was restrained, and the body of Christ was released.
One has to wonder if Mr. McKnight and Christianity Today would have accused fourth-century Christians of “statism” simply for thanking Constantine for rescuing them from the butchery of the Diocletian state?
I, for one, am thankful for Constantine. I would have voted for him then, and I will surely vote for him now.
Thank God for Constantine.
• Everett Piper, former president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is a columnist for The Washington Times and author of “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery 2017).