America’s Most Popular Evangelical Magazine’s Leftward Drift Sparks Controversy

I have been a subscriber to Christianity Today for several years. Over the past half-century, Christianity Today magazine and website have been the best sources of information about mainstream Christianity in America, but also around the world. Billy Graham created the magazine in 1956 to be an evangelical response to The Christian Counterpoint, a mainline magazine.

Christianity Today’s focus was on vital reporting, fascinating features, and thoughtful reviews of books and music. The magazine’s ability to remain apolitical while remaining theologically mainstream was one of its most valuable features.

The magazine rarely expressed itself explicitly as a political publication, except in the case of scandals involving presidents. The magazine did not call for Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974. In a 1998 editorial, criticizing Bill Clinton following his impeachment, the editor called him “morally incapable of leading.” And in 2019, Mark Galli wrote that Congress should remove Donald Trump after his impeachment.

Over the years, however, I began to notice that Christianity Today was moving leftward. Christianity Today began to sound more liberal, both politically and theologically. From articles on “creation care,” which were not much different than the rhetoric of believers in another environmental phrase containing two words beginning with the letter C, to the promotion of women in pastoral positions (while ignoring millions of complementary Christians around the world), the magazine started to sound more liberal.

Galli’s attack on Trump was reason enough to cancel my magazine subscription. But a podcast about another scandal by the magazine was even more troubling. The story of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church and its troubling pastor Mark Driscoll was told in “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill”. The story was heartbreaking and fascinating, but the production value made it more so. The podcast’s analysis was flawed, as it relied heavily on anti-male feminists and took multiple jabs at Trump and other conservatives.

Two articles published over the summer have me wondering what direction Christianity Today will take. A piece in August focuses on Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond,” a song that has been a hit with Americans across the country. Hannah Anderson, the author of the piece, admitted to having high expectations when she first heard the song.

Anderson writes, “I was thrilled to hear a song that echoed the Old Testament call for justice and the words of God in Jeremiah 5, which condemns those who are ‘fat and sleek’ but do not ‘promote the cause of fatherless’ and ‘defend just cause for the poor’.”

As a Christian who also enjoys good music, it’s easy to understand why you would want a Johnny Cash-type song. I welcome this. Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie, perhaps? Sorry, but this song would not be welcomed by anyone outside the extreme left.

What is Anderson’s issue with the song? She claims that the song “doesn’t love its neighbor” because Anthony goes after those who abuse welfare. The author quotes these lyrics:

We have people in the streets, but we don’t have anything to eat

The welfare of the obese milkin’

God help you if you are 5’3″ and 300 pounds

Your bags of fudge rounds shouldn’t be paid for by taxes

She continues to describe her time on food stamps, and how humiliating it was. She then tells her readers that, “protesting against corrupt government officials and wealthy elites, however justified, can’t be done on the backs of other people who are suffering.” Access to food via SNAP, or a food pantry at a church must not come at the cost of dignity and self-worth.

Even Christians, however, should be concerned about people who abuse the system. It’s great that there is a safety net, but the Bible does not call for welfare programs as the main solution to the problems of society. Anderson praises churches and other Christian groups for helping those in need. But it is wrong to claim that calling out people who abuse the system will rob them of their dignity and self-worth.

It’s not uncommon to see Christian authors losing their minds over progressivism, but an article from August might surprise you. Beth Felker Jones compared the church community to the people flocking to watch Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and the “Barbie’ movie. Jones is delighted by the “theological” themes in “Barbie”, and she makes a cheap jab at conservative Christians for pointing out that Swift has publicly expressed frustration about how American Christianity has become partisan. (I can imagine that Swift has no problem with progressive Christians.

Jones concludes, “The kids are looking for a sense of community.” “I’m going keep hoping, hoping that maybe what they want is Christ’s body.”

Why not lead these children to Christ instead of hoping? Why not instead of taking potshots against Christians who Taylor Swift may not agree with, and lauding the movie that alienates half those kids that need Jesus — both boys and men — saying that all of them mistreat women — show them what an authentic Christian community looks and feels like?

I wish I had known what happened to Christianity Today. It reminds me of the behavior we’ve observed in many large Christian groups. John Cooper, a Christian who is outspoken and committed, said that large Christian organizations end up “leaning to the left and punching to the right,” which means that they are so afraid of being called “evil conservatism” that they will take left-leaning stances and attack conservatives in order not be criticized. I think that’s exactly what happened to Christianity Today. It makes me sad and angry.