Faith

How Can Young Conservative Christians Oppose Trump?

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds his bible while speaking at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, September 19, 2015. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank

Traditional Christians rightly terrified of Hillary Clinton often puzzle over why so many of their younger brothers and sisters are hesitant to back the Republican nominee against her. There are those like Jerry Falwell Jr. who insist America isn’t electing a “pastor-in-chief,” and that Donald Trump is better than the alternative. PJ Media’s own Mark Ellis wrote a prayer, “Please God, Help Trump Win.”

But conservative Christian millennials aren’t buying it. Donald Trump only took 43 percent of the vote in a general election poll at the conservative Hillsdale College, my alma mater. The other 57 percent didn’t exactly support Hillary Clinton (she only took 6 percent). Libertarian Gary Johnson took a whopping 20 percent, and independent Evan McMullin, who has been in the race for only four months, claimed 11 percent.

A recent anti-Trump declaration letter by students at Liberty University, another bastion of conservative evangelicals, noted that the nominee only won 90 votes from that particular institution in the primary. A member of the group behind the declaration, Dustin Wahl, told CNN that mere hours after publishing, the letter had received more than 200 signatures.

David French wrote about “Donald Trump’s Evangelical Age Gap,” saying, “I can almost guess the viewpoint of the Evangelical by his age. Older Christians challenge me to support Trump, often with genuine anger. Younger Christians tend to be far more bewildered and distressed. ‘Aren’t we supposed to care about character?’ they’ll ask me. ‘Are we this desperate for political relevance?'”

This is not to say that all young right-leaning believers oppose Trump, but there are many who do. Eleven millennial conservative Christians leaning against the Republican nominee explained their reasoning to PJ Media. Here are their responses.

1. The GOP was not anti-woman, until Trump.

“As a female millennial Republican, I have been fighting for the GOP and conservatism since before I could vote,” Liz Anderson, a 26-year-old Christian marketing professional and graduate of The Master’s University who lives in Reston, VA, told PJ Media. “People would tell me my political party is bigoted, and uses women as props, and I would always tell them they were wrong and point to people like Nikki Haley as reasons why the GOP is not bigoted and anti-women.”

“Then Trump happened,” Anderson noted. “Not only has he proved every negative stereotype about Republicans I have spent years refuting to be true, but he has made the GOP as a whole hard for people like me to swallow. I’m not a feminist, but I can’t stomach being lumped in with people who justify Trump’s past comments as taking place ‘a long time ago’ and just ‘locker room speech’ while they continue to demean Hillary Clinton for things her husband did even longer ago than Trump’s pussy comments.”

Anderson did not support Clinton, and even convinced one of her liberal co-workers who hates Clinton into voting third party, as she did. “I think more people should vote their conscience. If you can’t stomach Trump or Hillary, your party shouldn’t force you to get in line.”

She also criticized people who “treat Trump like he is the savior of America and Christianity.” These Republicans “made fun of the cult of Obama in ’08 and now have bought into Trump 100%.” Anderson bemoaned the hypocrisy of people who “couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Romney because he was a Mormon…… but at least Romney had freakin’ character!”

Next Page: “A despicable human being” who “isn’t pro-life.”

2. “A despicable human being.”

Stephen Henreckson, a 26-year-old Christian who lives in Hill Point, WI, said he cannot support Trump “mainly because I think he is a despicable human being.” He told PJ Media, “I don’t want to accept that … we have to pick between two parties if the candidates are this bad.”

3. Trump isn’t pro-life.

“With his comment about wanting to ‘take out’ the family members of terrorists, he forfeited any pro-life credibility,” Caleb Evans, a 28-year-old minister in Syracuse, NY, told PJ Media. “Potentially killing innocent children isn’t pro-life.”

Evans attacked Trump’s bragging “about sexually assaulting women,” and explained the reasons behind the comparisons between Trump and fascism. “His inciting of violence at his rallies, along with his claims that only he can fix things, seems alarmingly fascistic.”

Finally, he mentioned Trump’s “treatment of questions of race,” calling it “extremely troubling.”

4. “No one knows what Trump actually believes.”

“No one knows what Trump actually believes,” Sam Pauken, a 27-year-old seminary student from Vienna, VA, told PJ Media. “He has had absolutely no consistency throughout his campaign, so we have no idea what we’re going to get with him. His new-found conservative beliefs are dubious at best.” Furthermore, “he has absolutely no political experience. Trump only knows how to buy friends, but has no idea how the process works.”

Pauken responded to claims that presidents mostly just delegate power, and that his record of choosing strong conservatives like Mike Pence should put the right at ease. “If it’s that easy, we should just get rid of the Presidency.”

The seminary student attacked Trump on character issues, mentioning his two broken marriages. “If he’ll break his commitment to his wives, he’ll break his promises to the American people and will strike any deal in order to get the job done.” As an example of this, Pauken added, “He’s stated that we can ignore the Constitution if convenient.” While Trump has not explicitly said this, he has (like Clinton) advocated policies which, liberals, conservatives, and libertarians allege, flatly contradict the Constitution.

The seminary student cast doubts on Trump’s adherence to Christianity. “He says he believes in God, but says he never asks God for forgiveness. Need I say more?”

Next Page: A moral president shouldn’t be too much to ask for.

5. A moral president shouldn’t be too much to ask for.

“I don’t want to believe that a Moral President [sic] is too much to ask for,” Kyle Don, a 26-year-old graduate of Biola University who lives in Silverdale, WA, told PJ Media.

“We grew up learning about presidents that had tremendous moral stamina and conviction,” Don explained. “When children said, ‘I want to be President of the United States when I grow up,’ it carried implications of goodness, justice, and resolve. These are qualities Donald Trump will tell you he has, but will succeed in undermining his own words with contradictory actions perhaps minutes later.”

Chillingly, this millennial Christian asked, “How can you trust a man who doesn’t know his own brokenness?”

6. Only God can solve our problems.

“I’m not voting for Trump because after years of thinking the Republican Party could solve our problems, I realized they can’t,” said Faith Doyal, a 27-year-old messianic Jew who lives in Fairfax, VA. “Only God can do that. If I vote for Trump, I feel like I would be putting my faith in an undeserving man [rather] than in a deserving God.”

7. Trump will do damage to conservatism.

“I care about the conservative movement looking forward, and I think that Trump will do substantial damage to that movement, by associating conservatism with misogyny, racial prejudice, fear of immigrants in general, and economic protectionism,” Josiah Kollmeyer, a 25-year-old Hillsdale College graduate and student at Harvard Law, told PJ Media.

“Conservatism, properly understood, embraces none of these things,” the law student said. “I do not want to see the United States embrace a European-style politics with two big-government parties (one nationalist, one socialist) as the main alternatives.”

Kollmeyer also attacked Trump’s moral character as “revolting,” especially regarding his treatment of women. “I disagree with, but can respect, those who vote for him purely pragmatically, based on a calculation that Hillary will do *more* harm. I cannot respect those who have attempted to downplay his behavior as ‘not a big deal.’ It is a big deal.”

The law student declared that he will vote third-party this year. “I want to send a message to the Republican Party (and the Democrats too, why not) that they need to nominate individuals of upstanding character if they want my vote. Fear of the other side will not drive me into the arms of a bad candidate.”

Kollmeyer also attacked Trump for appealing to racist supporters, whether or not he himself is actually racist.

A life-long Christian, the law student also noted that “Trump’s comment that he sees ‘nothing in his life for which he should ask God’s forgiveness’ as a major point against him.” Kollmeyer noted that even the greatest Christians would not make such declarations. “Even the greatest saints would be wrong to say that, and Trump is no saint.”

Next Page: “I see no faith whatsoever” in Donald Trump.

8. In Trump, “I see no faith whatsoever.”

“I would say that Trump is not Christian in any way, and if he actually believes that he is, he has a view of the faith that is so fundamentally warped and contrary to Christian orthodoxy that he simply cannot actually be mistaken for a real Christian,” Paul Vollmer, a 27-year-old prosecutor in Phoenix, AZ, told PJ Media.

“In Trump’s case, I see no faith whatsoever,” Vollmer added. “And even worse, I see a bastardization of a perception of Christianity which indicates that the man not only doesn’t actually believe in Christ or any of His teachings, but only seeks to use them as a facade to attract support while still allowing his true vile nature to continuously come up for air without any sense of shame.”

The prosecutor, who described becoming born again shortly before his 18th birthday, argued that Trump “provides nothing to indicate that he actually has a personal relationship with God, or that he even believes that a close, personal connection with God is necessary or desirable.” Indeed, when asked about asking for God’s forgiveness, Trump said, “I don’t bring God into that picture.”

A lack of interest in a personal relationship with God is “truly the biggest indictment of Trump as he claims to be a Christian,” Vollmer argued. “Through this failure, he misses the entire point and purpose of Christianity. To see so many pastors and Evangelical [sic] leaders try to make excuses for him by stating that he’s young in faith or a baby Christian is not only insulting to the faith, but is also personally insulting as well.”

Trump lacks faith when it comes to conservatism as well, according to this Phoenix prosecutor. Vollmer attacked the comparisons between Trump and Ronald Reagan. “The comparison breaks down not simply because Reagan converted so many years before he became President, but more so because Reagan’s political evolution was organic and never truly strayed from his core principles.”

For Trump, the opposite seems true, the Phoenix prosecutor argued. “He’s changed parties multiple times in the past but had always maintained a fairly liberal set of policy beliefs for the longest time,” Vollmer said. “His current ‘transformation’ isn’t merely conveniently lined up with his sense of a political opportunity to capture the Republican nomination; it’s entirely predicated on it.”

“Trump is not, nor ever has been, conservative or even truly right wing until just recently,” the prosecutor declared. “The man’s history is replete with numerous liberal positions, from supporting abortion, gun control, higher taxes, universal healthcare, and economic protectionism, just to name a few. He’s openly supported Democrats in the past, both through endorsements and campaign funding.”

Vollmer argued that Trump represents a threat to a rich conservative tradition which emphasizes Judeo-Christian values and Enlightenment thought, promoting free markets and casting doubt on government “engineering.”

“Trump is not part of that tradition; he’s not even a good imposter,” Vollmer said. “To place him in the driver’s seat of the party is to see him steer it away from the path of conservatism and into a grotesque amalgamation of indignant populism, xenophobia, economic resentment, and uncivil laziness.”

Next Page: “There’s nothing remotely conservative about him.”

9. “There’s nothing remotely conservative about him.”

“There’s nothing remotely conservative about” Donald Trump, declared Blake Faulkner, a 26-year-old conservative former minister who is currently a student and teaching assistant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Faulkner cited the scholars Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk as a shorthand definition of conservatism, and argued that Trump represents a full repudiation of their ideas.

Faulkner called Trump a “nationalist” and a “demagogue.” The Republican nominee “breeds a mentality that the US matters more than everyone else, and by extension he and his interests matter more than everyone else. There is a reason much of the world hates our foreign policy.”

As for demagoguery, Trump “makes appeals through emotion and mob mentality rather than through argument and policy,” Faulkner argued. “That’s a bad thing regardless of the party he’s in, but nationalism mixed with demagoguery really should be ringing some historical bells.” (See here how Trump is inspired by the same ideas as Hitler was.)

The UNC student also attacked the Republican nominee’s weaknesses on rhetoric. “He’s about as good at public speaking as a 30 second used car commercial,” Faulkner argued. “This may seem trivial, but if you actually look it up, much of the president’s job is to be the public face of the nation through speaking. He cannot control his mouth, and that has material consequences when you are the most powerful person in the world.”

Furthermore, Trump’s “encouragement of violence, jeers, and lewd barbs make him unsuitable to speak for the nation on a weekly basis.”

The former minister also attacked the idea that Trump’s business experience qualifies him for the presidency. “Trump not only has no political experience but he’s applying for a job with the wrong resume.” After all, “we would not hire a CEO to be a doctor, nor a CEO to be a plumber, nor a CEO to be a military general, so why are we doing that for the most powerful person in the world? It baffles me.”

Rather, Faulkner argued that Trump is running for president “under the same stupid idea that Obama ran under only with a different name: change.” The former minister noted that many people excuse the Republican’s faults because he will change the status quo because he’s not a politician, but “that is an unimaginably idiotic reason to vote for anyone at any time for any purpose.”

“Everyone seems to have the memory of a goldfish and forgets that ‘change’ is not inherently good, and is just as likely to be worse as it is better,” the UNC student explained.

Finally, Faulkner insisted that Clinton’s weaknesses do not make her competition a good candidate. “Nothing about Hillary’s craptastic platform makes any of Trump’s problems go away or seem any better.” Rather, “they are both running on a ‘Trust me, I know what I’m doing’ campaign, and I’m sorry, they’ve both demonstrated the opposite.”

Next Page: How pressure to vote Trump pushes some Christians away.

10. “Voting for him would be a roll of the dice.”

“His positions and policies seem so all over the map, and the ones he is actually clearest on are some of the ones that matter the least to me or that I actually disagree with (immigration etc),” 26-year-old college graduate and stay-at-home mom Jessie McDiffett from Tehachapi, CA, told PJ Media. “I get the feeling at times that voting for him would be a roll of the dice, and that he’s just as likely to be conning his voters as actually caring.”

McDiffett added that she expect the future president to be “the face and personality that other countries see of us, and the pride I have always had in my country doesn’t allow me to see Trump as representing it.”

11. Excessive pressure to vote for Trump.

“I usually vote Republican because Republican candidates are usually more aligned with what I believe in. I will be making an eleventh-hour decision about who I vote for,” Mary Tillotson, a Roman Catholic in her late 20s in Ann Arbor, MI, told PJ Media. One of the largest reasons she’s hesitant to back Trump, Tillotson said, is “the desperate pressure-logic I’m being bombarded with.”

Tillotson summarized this pressure in the following way:

Wow, we have two awful candidates. Just horrible, Both unfit to be president, and both an embarrassment. Hillary is worse. SO IF YOU DON’T VOTE FOR TRUMP YOU ARE EFFECTIVELY VOTING FOR HILLARY AND THAT’S UNFORGIVABLE. THE BLOOD OF MILLIONS OF CHILDREN IS ON YOUR HANDS. CAUSA FINITA EST. DON’T QUESTION.

“If these people recognized that there were different ways of looking at the issue and didn’t try to co-opt me into their way of thinking, I’d be more inclined to listen to them,” Tillotson explained.

She also presented a terrifying analogy: that conservatives should vote Trump “like animals caught in traps should chew off their legs.”

“Maybe it is necessary, but if it is, it’s horrific,” she added. “To extend the analogy — a lot of people I respect are saying hey, maybe there’s a way we can dismantle the trap. And the ‘reluctant’ Trump voters are yelling, ‘No! No! That’s a lie! The trap can’t be dismantled! This is your only option! If you attempt to dismantle the trap, the hunter WILL eat us and YOU are culpable! Chew! Chew! Chew!”