by Taylor S. Brown
I am an orthodox, conservative Protestant. I hold firmly to every word in the Apostles’, Nicene, and Chalcedonian Creeds. I locate myself within the socio-political tradition of Classical Conservatism, alongside such thinkers as Edmund Burke, G. K. Chesterton, and Richard John Neuhaus, among others. I think abortion is one of the worst atrocities in the modern world and I think religious liberty is one of the key safeguards to a free, democratic society. Needless to say, my conservative convictions run fairly deep.
And it is precisely because of these convictions that I will not be giving Donald Trump my vote this November.
I have been firmly against Trump since this election cycle began. The chief reason for this opposition is my Christian faith. Almost everything about Trump — his character, his behavior, the types of ideologies that he attracts, his unabashed racism and misogyny— is antithetical to what I believe and seek to live out as a Christian. And I am not alone in this. Many of my fellow millennial Christians (most of whom fall somewhere on the conservative side of both the theological and political spectrums) are just as opposed to Trump as I am.
While I could delve into the convoluted nature of Trump’s political convictions, other writers have done this better than I could (and even then finding out his actual convictions proves difficult). Instead, I will focus in chiefly on the moral reasons for my opposition. Again, I am not alone here, as many of my fellow conservative Christians share these same convictions. For the sake of space I will confine my discussion to three primary areas of discussion: (1) Trump’s failure to actively address the problems of race relations the country, (2) his sexist and even violent views of women, and (3) his total lack of any real ethical praxis, Christian or otherwise.
Trump’s Problem with Race Relations
One does not have to be a social justice warrior to see that America has a huge problem with race relations. More specifically, America has perpetually had a problem with race relations and the ramifications of this problem are just now coming fully to light. Even the staunchest conservatives can only watch videos of Eric Garner gasping, “I can’t breathe,” and Philando Castile being shot at a routine traffic stop before we start acknowledging the real problem of covert racial injustice in civic systems.
Trump has consistently either ignored the issue of racial injustice or, at best, paid anemic lip service to the issue, saying that stop-and-frisk should be reinstituted (already demeaning in itself). In many ways though it is Trump’s supporters that are just as problematic here. Take almost any major Trump rally over the past year and you will see Trump supporters verbally, and sometimes physically, assaulting protestors, all while Trump eggs them on from the stage. One of the most notable examples is that of Mercutio Southall, who was physically assaulted at a Trump rally in Birmingham last November. What we see with instances like this is an active antagonism toward the very real problems of racial division and injustice in America. Indeed, Trump’s rhetoric seems to be doing nothing but increasing racial animosity, especially among white, working class Americans.
As Christians we firmly believe in the unifying power of the gospel (Gal. 3:28) and the reality that God is a champion of those who are unjustly oppressed (see the whole book of Exodus). Rather than verbally assaulting people who are trying to bring such issues to light, we would do better to listen to them and see how we as Christians can work toward actually healing social wounds.
Trump’s Problem with Misogyny
This is one of Trump’s biggest problems, especially from a Christian perspective. Trump has openly broadcast his sexual exploits for years and in the wake of his recent “locker-room talk” statements, it appears he may very well have committed several counts of sexual assault against women. Even if it turns out that Trump did not sexually assault any women (though I am not holding my breath), his frequent disparaging comments about women are inexcusable from a Christian perspective.
One of the most interesting things about early Christianity when it broke into the world in the first century AD was its radical view on the essential equality of women. As New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado notes in the fifth chapter his recent book, Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Baylor University Press, 2016), in the ancient world it was quite acceptable for men to have sex with women other than their wives, usually prostitutes and professional courtesans. Of course, women were expected to only have sexual relations with their husbands, lest they bring dishonor on them. Indeed, men could readily boast of their extra-marital exploits, while women were shamed for such actions. Trump would have fit right in. In stark contrast, Christianity came along and made the radical statement that women were, in fact, of equal worth and that Christian men were expected to order their sexual behavior solely toward their one wife (a behavior considered “feminine” by pagan society) and respect them as persons created in God’s image.
Trump’s Problem with Ethics in General
So far I have focused on two very specific moral areas in which trump is desperately lacking. I chose the two topics above because they impinge on how Trump views human personhood in general. How a man who is in the most privileged of positions (rich, white, American male) views those in far less privileged positions (racial minorities, women, etc.) directly impinges on how that man will exercise power. Donald Trump exhibits none of the virtues necessary for a competent leader, be it humility, honor, courage, patience, or self-control. As theologian Miroslav Volf notes: “Mr. Trump is an exceedingly poor candidate whose public life has not demonstrated a single one of the moral virtues that are important for a political leader to have. Braggadocio is not the same thing as courage.”
While I disagree with Volf that we should vote for Hillary Clinton, he is spot on in his critique of Trump. Many supporters of Trump seem to think that his policies are all that really matter (half-baked as they are). But policies and governance do not exist in a vacuum. They are orchestrated and carried out by leaders who are either shaped by their virtues or corrupted by their vices. As John Adams noted in a letter to Mercy Otis Warren in April, 1776:
The Form of Government, which you admire, when its Principles are pure, is admirable indeed. It is productive of every Thing, which is great and excellent among Men. But its Principles are as easily destroyed, as human Nature is corrupted. Such a Government is only to be supported by pure Religion, or Austere Morals. Public Virtue cannot exist in a Nation without private, and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics.
Donald Trump has demonstrated none of the behaviors indicative of a virtuous leader, let alone a Christian one. It is for the reasons that I have outlined above that many of my fellow millennial conservatives and I will not be casting our votes for Donald Trump this November. Nor I will be casting it for Hillary Clinton, as her own actions in governance and ethics are in many ways just as odious as Trump’s.
Instead, I will exercise my right to vote by casting it for a third-party candidate or by writing in a name on the ballot. I am under no illusions that a third-party candidate will win this November. Rather, I am exercising my right to vote as an act of protest against a corrupt and broken system that has provided us with either debauchery or corruption to choose between. As a Christian I will use my vote as a witness to the fact that my allegiance to Christ wins out over either the Right or the Left. For, at the end of the day, I am a Christian first and an American second.
I end with the words of writer Gina Dalfonzo, wherein she compares Republicans’ abandonment of their principles for Trump to a key scene from C. S. Lewis’ book, Prince Caspian:
Tired of waiting for Aslan—who may be nearer than we think—we turn elsewhere. It doesn’t matter if our candidate hates, bullies, and exploits other people, the reasoning goes, just as long as he’s good to us and gives us what we want. Hatred is a perfectly acceptable weapon, as long as it’s ‘on our side.’
So said Nikabrik as he prepared to unleash a great evil [the White Witch] on the land of Narnia.
Taylor Brown is currently a Th.M. in Biblical Studies student with plans to pursue doctoral studies in New Testament after graduating from seminary. Taylor’s interests revolve around the intersection of biblical studies, Christian theology, philosophy, and culture. You can follow him on Twitter: @taylorsbrown.