People come to the #NeverTrump movement for a lot of different reasons. From what I can tell, it is not a monolithic group. Once anyone who has trended Republican declares that he or she will not be voting for the Donald, that person is going to face a lot of questions, some of which reveal the agonizing choice that #NeverTrump represents.
What's going to happen to the country if I vote against Donald Trump? Nobody knows where the polling will stand as we approach November. I think Donald Trump will by then be so far behind Hillary Clinton that it will not much matter how I vote, but I'm prepared to stick by my determination not to vote for Donald Trump even if my one vote were to decide the presidency.
And yet, I realize that a Clinton presidency would be an unmitigated disaster for the nation. Clinton would immediately appoint an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court, and make no mistake, when we see whom she nominates, we'll then long for the opportunity to confirm Merrick Garland. With her nominee, the Court will trample on religious liberty, will let everything into your daughter's bathroom, will nullify the Second Amendment, will use cases like some Citizens-United-redux to tip the playing field of elections toward Democrats, and will shoot down any restrictions whatsoever against abortion-on-demand at any stage of development.
Would a Clinton presidency be good for America? No. A Clinton presidency would be bad for America. And if this is the most important question to you, you'll probably wind up voting for Donald Trump.
I say this in spite of the fact that all of the available evidence strongly indicates that Trump is not pro-life, is not pro-family, is not pro-real-marriage, is not pro-common-sense-bathrooms, not-pro-religious-liberty, not-pro-Israel. Donald Trump has given no reason to anyone for confidence that his government would be better for America than Clinton's would be, but he contradicts himself frequently enough to leave some hope that he might accidentally land on a good policy or two, whereas Hillary Clinton would be consistently bad.
I'll admit it: There is a chance that my refusal to vote for Trump might make the difference between President Trump and President Hillary, and there's a chance that the nation could turn out for the worse because of that. If I were asking that question first and foremost (as folks like Mike Huckabee seem to be doing), perhaps I could wind up voting for Trump. And on Facebook, in blog posts, in personal conversations, on the phone, and even standing in line at Wal-Mart, people are asking this question, and pressing it hard.
But that's not the question I'm asking.
What's going to happen to the Republican Party if I vote against Donald Trump? I don't have to go into lengthy detail here, because I've just written a blog post speculating about the aftermath of a supposed implosion of the GOP. The Republican Party is under strains that it has never seen in my lifetime. People like me who refuse to fall in line behind Donald Trump are the proximate cause of those strains. This situation could lead to the removal of the Convention Chairman. It could lead to an open and ugly break between every living GOP former-President and the new GOP under Donald Trump.
I think it is far from a foregone conclusion that the GOP is in mortal danger from the conflict of Trump-vs-NeverTrump, but I'm willing to concede that my kind of hardline stand could, if shared by a lot of people, spell the end of the Party of Lincoln. If I were asking that question (as people like Reince Priebus seem to be doing), perhaps I could wind up voting for Trump. And I hear a lot of people asking this question, wondering what will become of the GOP after this year.
But that's not the question I'm asking.
What's going to happen to my testimony for Christ if I vote FOR Donald Trump?
That's the question I'm asking. How does it affect the church? How does it affect my testimony? How does it make what I preach more or less credible to a listening world?
I think that we face precisely the same sort of moment that Billy Graham faced when he became publicly associated with Richard Nixon (here's how that turned out), that W. A. Criswell faced when in 1956 he addressed the South Carolina legislature against racial integration (Criswell later regretted and turned from that mistake), that Richard Furman faced when he tried to justify racism-motivated slavery from the Bible. There are moments that offer us momentary adulation and support from the culture at the cost of our morality, but the other shoe always eventually drops, and then that hideous thing that you once-upon-a-time did becomes the reason why people don't listen to you.
But it reaches beyond you. Billy Graham is still respected. W. A. Criswell died a hero of the church. But the very thing thrown up into the face of the church by antagonists every time we declare the gospel these days is the way that Christians compromised their consciences during the Civil Rights movement in order to go along with the culture. It somehow affected every other church and every other preacher as much or more than it affected them personally. Robert Jeffress's and Jerry Falwell Jr's careers will probably be fine after this all is over, but I fear that the impression that Evangelicals lined up behind such a hateful thing as the Trump campaign will inflict lingering damage upon all of our efforts.
So, this is the entire rationale behind my decision not to vote for Trump. I think it hurts the credibility of my testimony for me to be a vocal supporter of a demonstrably evil man whose campaign platform consists mainly of his evilness. It's just really hard for me to see any possible way that supporting Donald Trump furthers the cause of the gospel.
And because Southern Baptists have generally voted Republican since the days of Ronald Reagan, if we're not vocally opposed to Donald Trump, we'll be counted as Trump supporters by default. For evangelicals to make it unavoidably clear that we are not supporting Donald Trump is something that, in my estimation, will make us more credible henceforth as we tell people about Jesus.
I'm not saying that nobody else could add it all up differently and come to a different conclusion about the effect upon our testimonies. I'm trying to follow my conscience as best as I can. I guess I'm just trying to explain why appeals to the good of the nation or the good of the party do not persuade me.
I've been asked more times than I can count how #NeverTrump will affect the country. I've been asked more times than I can count how #NeverTrump will affect the GOP. I'm still waiting to be asked how it will affect the churches and my testimony. Apparently, that's not so much at the front of everyone's mind right now.
But shouldn't it be?