I am a Christian.
My faith is very important to me, and it has been since I was a child. I believe in God. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe every major tenet of Christian doctrine and I have never felt inclined to hide this fact.
I am also a conservative. I am politically right-leaning, as well as socially conservative on a number of issues. I am a firm believer in the Constitution and a supporter of said Constitution serving as the Supreme Law of the Land and being interpreted as close to it’s intrinsic meaning as possible. I have always fiercely defended the 1st and 2nd Amendment as I believe they are invaluable to our existence as a nation.
During what may grow to be known as the most tumultuous election season in American history, I have come to the conclusion that as a Christian conservative I absolutely cannot, and will not, under any circumstances, vote for Donald Trump.
This decision has been very plain to me since early in the election circuit. I never for a moment considered voting for Trump and I suppose I, like many, assumed his campaign would never get this far anyway. But even now that it has, my decision is as plain to me as ever. Which is why I was surprised, disheartened, and, quite frankly, furious when I came across an article written by well-known evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem, asserting that voting for Trump was not only an acceptable choice, but a morally necessary choice for Christian voters.
I was appalled when I read that headline, and appalled even further when I opened the article to see Dr. Grudem referring to Donald Trump as merely a “flawed” candidate. Grudem actually goes so far as to say that Trump is “a good candidate with flaws”.
That’s right, Evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem believes that the man who has been openly unfaithful in his marriages while also claiming that he does not feel he needs forgiveness is a good candidate. He believes that a man who faltered when asked to denounce the KKK and made deplorable racist comments about a Latino judge that even many of his fellow Republicans condemned is a good candidate. He feels that a man who has gleefully pledged to extend the reach of libel laws and spit in the very face of the First Amendment merely to punish those who dare speak ill of him is a good candidate.
Nearly all of Dr. Grudem’s logic leading him to this spurious conclusion boils down to one basic idea: Donald Trump is not Hillary Clinton. While this is certainly true, it is the beginning and the end of any desirable quality Trump may have, and even then the differences between Clinton and Trump are not nearly as plentiful or shining in Trump’s favor as Dr. Grudem seems to think.
Let’s examine some of Grudem’s points. First, he asserts that keeping Clinton out of the White house is paramount because she is likely to appoint liberal Supreme Court justices who will usher in an age of unprecedented government control and limits on religious freedom. He states:
The nation would no longer be ruled by the people and their elected representatives, but by unelected, unaccountable, activist judges who would dictate from the bench about whatever they were pleased to decree. And there would be nothing in our system of government that anyone could do to stop them.
While this may well be true, it could easily be true of any president’s appointees in the sense that they would be “unelected” regardless. And there is little indication that a Trump Administration would do better on this front. When first speaking of selecting justices, Trump promised to select people “everyone will like”. Being someone that everyone likes does not smack of being a principled Conservative to me. Now that Trump has actually released a list of people he is considering appointing, some Conservatives take this to mean that he will usher in a new age of conservatism to the SCOTUS, but not all are convinced. Notably Ed Whelan, a conservative legal commentator and former clerk to revered conservative Justice Scalia whose chair Trump hopes to fill says of the list:
It’s a good list of some of the outstanding judges who give ample sign of being faithful to the Constitution…. Whether a President Trump could actually be counted on to pick folks like this is a different question.
Conservative blogger Erick Erickson has even stronger words for the list:
Like every clause of every sentence uttered in every breath Donald Trump takes, this is all subject to change….He will waffle, he will backtrack, and he simply cannot be believed.
Grudem’s counter to those who would echo the sentiment that Trump cannot be trusted to do what he claims he will is that one must base their decision on “the most likely result” and that in this case “the most likely result is that Trump will do most or all of what he has said.”
I am, to put it mildly, completely baffled at how Dr. Grudem could come to the conclusion Trump is “likely” do stick to what he said he would do. Where in the history of the Trump campaign have we seen any consistency in his convictions? Grudem brings up abortion, a major issue for the religious Right. Trump said just months ago that he would “absolutely” change the GOP platform on abortion. Trump has also notably waffled in his stance on Planned Parenthood throughout his campaign, often failing to give a straight or clear answer on the topic. And this is on top of his original complete about face on the topic of abortion that had both Democrats and Republicans raising giving him the side eye. Yet this is the man Grudem trusts to appoint solidly pro-life judges? Regarding perhaps the biggest talking point of his campaign, immigration, Trump has already backtracked on his supposedly stern, hard-hitting stances by assuring people that “everything is negotiable”. His claims of wild business success are also spurious at best, and conveniently fail to mention his failures that left many less fortunate workers to suffer while he enjoyed a life free of “personal bankruptcy”.
Donald Trump is not merely someone whose politics evolved gradually over time to more and more conservative stances as Grudem suggests, Donald Trump is a liar. A man with absolutely no misgivings about radically changing his stated stances to please the audience at hand. He has lied again, and again, and again, and there is absolutely no indication that he intends to stop anytime soon. If I may be so bold, I would say that Grudem’s failure to recognize this stops just shy of willful ignorance.
On taxes and general economy matters, Donald Trump proves not to be much of an improvement on Clinton or even self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders. He has introduced policies that support higher taxes and raises in minimum wage, as well as policies that would make inflation worse, increase the national debt, and sabotage global trade. He also seems to at the very least misunderstand the failings of socialist healthcare and is unable to get his story straight on a feasible or coherent tax plan.
Despite what Grudem and people like him may hope, Donald Trump has made it abundantly clear that he is not a constitutional conservative by any stretch of the imagination. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his treatment of the first amendment. Grudem lists the violation of American freedom as one major reason a Clinton presidency scares him. On this, Trump has expressed views that are at least as appalling as Clinton’s.
As I mentioned earlier, Trump wishes to broaden the scope of liability laws to make it more difficult for journalists to publish negative things about him. In her article “6 ways Donald Trump wants to trample the Constitution“, columnist Shikha Dalmia states:
He says he’d not only loosen libel laws to allow public officials to sue the press more easily, but also look for other ways to discipline critics. For example, he has threatened to go after Washington Post publisher Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon, on anti-trust grounds for publishing “wrong” stories about him. But anti-trust laws were meant to thwart monopolies. If he can use this law to silence critics, it is beyond horrifying to imagine what havoc he’ll wreak when he has the entire federal apparatus — the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department, the FCC — at his disposal.
Trump has also expressed a desire to punish judges for not complying with his wishes, most notably in his clash with Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Regarding the First Amendment Trump has echoed Obama and Hillary in their dismissiveness of it when it comes to shutting down parts of the internet to fight terrorism. He is also not above government surveillance of American citizens in a place of worship, the registration of American citizens based on their religion, and a ban on Muslim immigration that, in order to be effective, would have to be reduced to racial and cultural profiling as anyone can simply lie about their religion on an immigration application. These are not the ideas of a fair and constitutional leader; these are the ideas of a fascist. It would be exceedingly naïve not the think that these kind of draconian measures could not possibly be extended to Christians and Christian groups who opposed or otherwise created issues for Trump.
I deeply resent Dr. Grudem’s attempts to guilt me and other Christian critics of Trump into voting for him by holding us responsible for the deaths of unborn, especially while almost in the same breath treating Trump’s desire to kill the innocent families of terrorists as a mere blip on the radar that still qualifies Trump as a “good candidate” who is merely “flawed”. This is hardly a pro-life stance, and Dr. Grudem should very well know it. In fact, Trump’s warmongering and quickness to condemn entire groups to unconstitutional treatment is not indicative of any Christian value that I am aware of. Grudem accuses people like me of “seeking persecution”. I am not seeking persecution; I am merely expecting the worldly government to act worldly. The Bible is fairly clear that increased persecution is inevitable, and while we are certainly allowed to fight for our rights as American citizens, we should not attempt to do this by electing terrible candidates simply out of fear that our lives as Christians may get harder.
It is in no way virtuous to support Trump. Much less is it any kind of moral imperative as Dr. Grudem so boldly suggests. For him to quote James 4:17 while willfully supporting a man who has shown no respect for the Constitution, the Christian faith, or human beings in general is painfully incongruent. No, Dr. Grudem, a man who mocks the disabled, degrades women, encourages racial tensions, and supports the killing of innocent people is guilty of far more than being “flawed” or “not politically correct”. He is guilty of being a deplorable excuse for a presidential candidate, no matter who is running on the other ticket. Clinton’s failings of being an untrustworthy liar are just as present in Trump, and while he has not yet been given the power to do as much damage as Clinton, voting for him in November is only bringing him one step closer. So no, I do not support Clinton, but I will also not be shamed into supporting Trump out of fear for the future of my faith. Perfect love casts out fear, and I am resting in the belief that God is sovereign over whoever and whatever faces us in November.