church and Trump
December 20, 2019

As Christianity Today editor Mark Galli mentioned Thursday in his editorial calling for President Trump's removal from office, the evangelical magazine was founded by Billy Graham. One of his children, Franklin Graham, is among the president's evangelical abettors, and his response insisted the late evangelist was pro-Trump.

Billy Graham "would be very disappointed," Franklin wrote on Facebook. "My father knew Donald Trump, he believed in Donald Trump, and he voted for Donald Trump. He believed that Donald J. Trump was the man for this hour in history for our nation."

Another Graham family member disagreed: "A heavy hearted bravo to CT!" tweeted Boz Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham who runs an organization which helps churches prevent and confront sexual abuse. "Well said on so many levels. I believe my grandfather would have had a similar perspective."

Graham served as an adviser to presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush. But after the scandals of the Nixon administration, he took a step back from politics, cautioning evangelicals against being "closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle, to preach to all the people, right and left," Graham said in 1981. "I haven't been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will in the future."

In 2016, a Trump surrogate claimed Graham "prophesied" over Trump, but Graham's office denied the account, saying he simply signed a Bible with a generic greeting.

This is not Christianity Today's first critique of the Trump administration, its policies, or associated public figures, as Andrew Lewis, a University of Cincinnati professor who studies the Christian right in America, documented in a lengthy Twitter thread. But despite the magazine's willingness to buck Republican orthodoxy, it is hardly the "far left" or "liberal" institution Trump, Franklin Graham, and Liberty University's Jerry Fallwell, Jr. have claimed since the editorial dropped. Bonnie Kristian

September 6, 2016

Donald Trump identifies himself as a Presbyterian, but he hasn't regularly attended Presbyterian services since his family started attending Marble Collegiate Church in midtown Manhattan more than 50 years ago. Trump was confirmed at First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens, at about age 13 in 1959, but in the 1960s, the Trump family started attending Marble, on Fifth Avenue, because of the preacher, Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, whose 1952 book extolling the "power of positive thinking" helped make him a wealthy man. Peale presided at Trump's first wedding, to Ivana Trump, and Peale's successor, Rev. Arthur Caliandro, married Trump and his second wife, Marla Maples, who also attended Marble.

Trump told The New York Times he isn't sure he ever officially joined Marble, which was affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, and said, "I haven't been back since Dr. Caliandro passed away," three years ago. Last year, Marble Collegiate issued a statement saying that Trump is not "an active member" of the church. Peale preached that it is possible to be wealthy and spiritually successful, and Trump and his father, Fred Trump, were big fans. Trump calls Peale "a great preacher and a great public speaker," and the admiration was mutual. "When the service was over, you said, 'I'd have sat there for another hour,'" Trump told The Times. "There aren't too many people like that. It wasn't the speaking ability, it was the thought process."

Today, Marble Collegiate is "inclusive," says current senior minister Dr. Michael B. Brown, "whether you're talking about race, age, politics, sexuality, economics, or gender." He wouldn't comment directly on Trump's statements this election, but he told The New York Times, "There is a difference in the world of politics and the world of church, and in the world of church, we are compelled by Jesus' commandment — it wasn't a suggestion or a request — it was, I command that you love one another." You can read more about Trump's religious experience at The New York Times. Peter Weber

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