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The Confused Logic of Christianity Today's Pro-Impeachment Editorial

3 ¼ min

Christianity Today's recent editorial calling for Trump's impeachment has caused quite a buzz in the national news. But the editorial, which takes on Trump on the grounds that he is "morally confused," is itself morally – and logically – confused.


There are two separate issues in the prominent evangelical magazine's editorial which the editors hopelessly confound, and about which, as a consequence, they seriously confuse themselves. 


Here is the key passage in the editorial, and it is where everything starts going seriously wrong:

The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

Note the two completely separate issues touched on here: the legality (and impeachability) of coercion and the morality of it. After this one mention of the actual possibly impeachable offence and its lack of morality, the rest of the editorial goes on to focus on Trump's personal immorality, as if that had some direct relevance to his impeachment, which, of course, it doesn't.


The argument for impeachment on the basis of coercion as stated in the editorial is as follows: 


MAJOR PREMISE: Any president who uses his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of his political opponents should be impeached.

MINOR PREMISE: Donald Trump used his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of his political opponents.

CONCLUSION: Therefore, Donald Trump should be impeached.


The argument is perfectly valid as far as it goes, but the major premise is subject to debate and, in fact, is exactly what is being debated. But to this argument and about the major premise the Christianity Today editors seem to have nothing to add. And there's no reason to think that they would have anything to add, since, after all, it is not an assertion about which they have any relevant expertise, being primarily a religious periodical.


So instead of addressing the charge relevant to impeachment, they launch off into a diagnosis of Trump's morality, which, as degraded as many of us think it is, has nothing to do with impeachable offenses. But, having mentioned these two very different things in the same paragraph, we're somehow supposed to think they have something to do with each other. 


The rest of the piece seems to be summed up in this argument:


MAJOR PREMISE: Any president who is immoral should be impeached.

MINOR PREMISE: Donald Trump is immoral.

CONCLUSION: Therefore, Donald Trump should be impeached.


In this case we have a clearly false major premise, since being immoral, as bad as that is, is not impeachable. 


It is true that many evangelicals have looked the other way when it comes to Trump's numerous ethical lapses, and the morality of his actions should be a factor in how evangelicals vote. But it has little to do with whether he should be impeached. And to confuse the two issues does a disservice to evangelical voters. Christian voters need clarification, not confusion.




[Image Credit: Flickr-Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0]

Martin Cothran

Martin Cothran

Martin Cothran is the editor of Classical Teacher magazine, published by Memoria Press, and the director of the Classical Latin School Association.

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