The decade's most triggering comedy
The media has long framed Christianity Today, founded by Billy Graham in 1956, as America’s most influential Christian news outlet. The Washington Post, for instance, regularly describes it as evangelicalism’s “flagship” magazine,” as does The New York Times. A review of federal election records, however, indicates that the views of the magazine’s leadership and staff may be far out of step with ordinary evangelicals.
Between 2015 and 2022, nine Christianity Today employees made 73 political donations. All of them went to Democrats. This tally includes President and CEO Timothy Dalrymple, who gave $300 in two separate payments to failed Georgia Senate candidate Sarah Riggs Amico.
Amico’s platform, which includes protecting abortion “without exception” and repealing the Hyde Amendment to allow federal tax dollars to fund abortions, contrasts sharply with the views of evangelicals who overwhelmingly say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. She is also at odds with traditional Christian beliefs when it comes to gender, sexuality, and religious liberty.
Along with declaring herself a “staunch LGBTQ ally,” Amico promised to support the Equality Act, a bill that The Heritage Foundation warns would threaten parental rights over children who believe they’re transgender. The conservative think tank has also said the bill would decimate conscience rights for medical workers and “cancel[s] religious freedom.” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler put the Equality Act in even starker terms, saying it “represents the greatest threat to religious liberty in the United States in our lifetimes” and would “totally transform the United States as we know it.”
Dalrymple was not the only member of the magazine’s executive ranks to donate to Democrats. Natalie Lederhouse, Vice President of Advertising and Partnerships, contributed $50 to the 2020 Biden Victory Fund. The Federal Election Commission has no records of any Christianity Today executive giving to the GOP since 1991.
The Society of Professional Journalists holds that editorial staff should never contribute to candidates or campaigns. For reporters covering politics, the SPJ goes even further, cautioning that “almost no political activity is OK.” Most large secular news outlets, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and NPR, abide by these standards and have disciplined and/or fired reporters who flouted these rules. MSBNC even suspended host Keith Olbermann without pay due to three campaign donations, though his show was clearly marketed as opinion. Yet two editors at Christianity Today contributed to Democrat campaigns at the same time they were covering politics.
Between October 2019 and November 2020, news editor Daniel Silliman made eight donations to five different pro-abortion, pro-LGBTQ candidates, among them, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. In addition to possessing a perfect voting score from Planned Parenthood and NARAL, Warren supported shutting down crisis pregnancy centers across the country, and her platform included requiring schools to admit biological men into women’s sports and single-sex spaces. She also pledged to allow a gender dysphoric nine-year-old to approve anyone she appointed as education secretary.
Silliman also donated to Renee Hoyos, Tennessee Democrats’ nominee to the U.S. House; Moe Davis, House candidate from North Carolina; Blair Walsingham, House candidate from Tennessee; and former Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).
Though Silliman listed his occupation on these donations as “historian,” his job title with Christianity Today was news editor. He not only oversaw the publication’s political coverage, he directly authored a number of stories and conducted several interviews of a political nature.
On October 27, 2020, days before the presidential election, Christianity Today ran an article from Silliman about former President Donald Trump switching his religious identification from Presbyterian to nondenominational. In it, he stressed that Trump “was not a regular churchgoer before he was elected president” and highlighted a poll showing that “most Americans don’t think Trump has strong religious beliefs.” Silliman ended the article by citing critics who believe Trump’s church change was politically motivated.
In another article in the run-up to the 2020 election, Silliman spotlighted President Biden’s Catholicism and quoted progressive theologian Richard Mouw opining that “[Biden] is viewed as having an authentic faith… when he talks about his faith, it rings true.” Silliman then tied Mouw to conservative Christian icons, Chuck Colson and J.I. Packer.
In other pre-election reports, he positively portrayed third-party candidates as being above personal political ambitions and moderate voters as those who “want to defend democratic norms against the partisanship that warps people into election deniers.” In an interview just before the 2022 midterms, Silliman refrained from asking former Obama White House staffer Michael Wear any hard-hitting questions about how the Democratic platform conflicts with biblical principles regarding life, sexuality, and the family, and instead asked him how his new nonprofit, The Center for Christianity and Public Life, meets needs that “[aren’t] being met by other organizations that help Christians engage in politics.”
Not all of Silliman’s political coverage centered on presidential hopefuls. He also covered the Fairness for All Act, a proposal that would have granted special privileges to people who identify as LGBTQ. It was opposed by conservative legal groups like Alliance Defending Freedom for “undermin[ing] human dignity by threatening the fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience.” Approximately three-quarters of Silliman’s report on the bill was devoted to those who favored the legislation.
Though she held a less influential position than Silliman, Emily Lund donated to the Democratic National Committee during the time she served as Christianity Today’s assistant editor and editorial resident. In November 2016, she compiled a round-up of ministerial responses to Trump’s election. They were overwhelmingly negative.
The Most Powerful Voting Bloc
Tom Ascol is the president of the theologically conservative Founders Ministries. Christianity Today covered his unsuccessful bid to lead the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., framing his defeat as a “win for abuse reform” though he, like his opponent, favored reforms. He tells me he’s not surprised to learn that the magazine’s staffers donate to Democrats.
“I grew up reading Christianity Today,” he says. “My mom was an early subscriber. So, I remember when it was a helpful publication under the leadership of Carl Henry and his contemporaries. The fact that modern CT staff have financially supported pro-abortion, pro-sexual perversion candidates does not surprise me at all. The magazine long ago lost its biblical moorings and has been under the influence of progressives and leftists for years. It’s tragic. And it’s a reminder to evangelicals that institutions that faithful Christians build are always in danger of drifting left.”
On the political front, filmmaker and Trump campaign insider Daniel Bostic expressed similar sentiments. “This isn’t really shocking given their widely mocked endorsement of the Democrats’ absurd impeachment attempts. Ethical problems aside, the silver lining is that CT is finally showing their true colors by throwing their money where their support has clearly been for some time, with the far left.”
Dalrymple told The Daily Wire that his staff’s views are more balanced than their political donations make them seem, and he pointed to a recently hired member of his donor relations team who appears to have contributed $100 to a Republican candidate or group in April 2023.
Dalrymple also said that with the exception of Amico, he has previously given only to Republican candidates, though none appear in federal elections records during his tenure as the head of Christianity Today. “I gave to Sarah as a sign of personal friendship, but she knows I’m conservative and hold different views from hers,” he said, “I would rather have more Christians, like Sarah, on both sides of the aisle.”
Dalrymple said his magazine has “long used a code of ethics to prevent conflicts of interest” and that the majority of its coverage is non-political. He added that the outlet’s new editor-in-chief, well-known Trump critic Russell Moore, does not believe that reporters should make political donations and that none have made any since Moore took over last year.
Yet given the fact that Christianity Today’s donations flow (with one very recent exception) entirely in one direction and the person in charge of political coverage appears to have strong partisan impulses, it raises the question of whether staffers are using their media positions to try to shift the opinions of other evangelicals.
As The Atlantic put it in 2021, evangelicals are “America’s most powerful voting bloc,” representing 31% of the electorate and throwing their support in near-lockstep to the GOP. They are not only conservative, but they are also generally recognized as the most conservative religious demographic, particularly when it comes to matters of life, sexuality, and gender.
According to research from Lifeway Christian Resources and Ligonier Ministries, majorities of evangelicals of all ethnicities say the Bible’s prohibition against homosexual behavior still applies and, even today, only 29% of white evangelicals favor gay marriage. On issues that progressives prioritize, evangelicals are among the most skeptical. They are the least likely to agree that climate change is a serious problem and the most resistant to lax border policies and gun control. In other words, evangelical views are almost impossible to reconcile with the modern Democrat party. But many conservatives feel that’s exactly what Christianity Today is attempting to do.
“I would like to know if Christianity Today is pleased with the policies of the Biden Administration, [like] advocating for birth-day abortions, erasing women, silence on Israel, and using his Department of Justice to target concerned parents, pro-life dads, and Latin Catholic Churches,” says Ashley Hayek, national coalition director for Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns.
To Hayek’s point, recent years have seen numerous Christianity Today essays promoting Left-wing policies with pointed titles like, “White Churches, It’s Time to Go Pro-Life on Gun Control.” At the same time, the outlet has offered no direct coverage of dozens of bills banning transgender surgeries and treatments on minors or states outlawing drag queen performances in front of children or requiring schools to keep gender indoctrination out of the classroom. Yet evangelicals have made it clear these issues are highly important to them.
It’s for this reason that many evangelicals now say their ostensible flagship magazine doesn’t represent them.
“Bible-believing Christians have long thought that Christianity Today is going woke,” says former Trump attorney and evangelical radio host, Jenna Ellis. “While individuals are free to donate however they choose to political candidates, [these contributions] simply confirm the worldview priorities for many CT staff, which necessarily must be consistent with their values…Readers should be aware of this bias.”