By Heather Timmons
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Christianity Today, the magazine founded by the late Reverend Billy Graham, renewed its criticism of President Donald Trump in a new editorial that cited his "misuses of power" and asked fellow Christians to examine their loyalty to him, days after a controversial editorial that called for his impeachment.
The 130,000-circulation magazine, which has 4.3 million monthly website viewers, in its editorial last week cited Trump's "profoundly immoral" conduct in office, drawing immediate criticism from Trump and dozens of evangelical leaders.
Evangelicals have been a bedrock of support for the Republican president, and the magazine noted in its new editorial, published Sunday, that Trump "has done a lot of good for causes we all care about."
But the magazine's president, Timothy Dalrymple, wrote in the editorial, headlined "The Flag in the Whirlwind," that evangelicals' embrace of Trump means being tied to his "rampant immorality, greed, and corruption; his divisiveness and race-baiting; his cruelty and hostility to immigrants and refugees."
"With profound love and respect," Dalrymple said, "we ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to consider whether they have given to Caesar what belongs only to God: their unconditional loyalty."
The editorial praised the Trump administration's judicial appointment, "advocacy of life, family, and religious liberty." But it said, "It is one thing to praise his accomplishments; it is another to excuse and deny his obvious misuses of power.
Dalrymple pledged to open up a "serious discussion about how our activity as Christians shapes our activity as citizens" in 2020. He declined to be interviewed until after the Christmas holiday.
Evangelical Christians make up about 25% of the U.S. population. According to a Pew Research poll https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/03/18/evangelical-approval-of-trump-remains-high-but-other-religious-groups-are-less-supportive from last January, 69% of white evangelicals approved of the job Trump is doing, compared with 48% of white mainline Protestants and 12% of black Protestants.
On Jan. 3, Trump will hold an "Evangelicals for Trump coalition launch" in Miami.
Graham's son Franklin had slammed the original Christianity Today editorial and said his father knew, believed in and voted for Trump, an endorsement that other family members dispute https://www.redletterchristians.org/let-billy-grahams-legacy-speak-for-itself. Dozens of evangelical leaders signed a letter criticizing the magazine's impeachment call, and Trump said on Twitter he would stop reading the publication.
Christianity Today was founded in 1956, and its current impact in the evangelical community is limited, said Greg Carey, a New Testament professor at Lancaster Seminary in Pennsylvania. "Like other traditional media, their platform has fragmented, so I'm skeptical that they have the real punch to change a movement."
Still, the way Trump and others have pushed back showed the outlet is being heard. "There are those who feel that a crack in that foundation (of evangelical support of Trump) is a threat" that needs to be patched, Carey said.
For evangelicals who have doubts about Trump's conduct in office and the church's embrace of the president, "having an institutional voice that has some respect gives them cover to voice their opinion," Carey said.
(Reporting by Heather Timmons; Editing by Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman)