by John Ellis
A little over a month ago, a good friend posed a scenario to me: “If a family member or friend asks why you won’t be voting for Trump, how will you succinctly answer them?”
Oddly enough, I had begun thinking about that very scenario a few weeks before our conversation and had already begun to formulate an answer. And it’s a tough question. How can I distill my reasons for not voting for Donald Trump for President of the United States into a concise yet cogent answer that also carries a powerful emotional punch? That’s not easy to do; the man’s faults and moral failings are many, his incompetence staggering, and my ethical line-in-the sand preventing me from voting for him in good conscience is best described as a thick wall. And none of that is hyperbole.
In the past, I’ve written article after article detailing why I believe Christians should not vote for Donald Trump. Without looking it up, I estimate north of thirty such articles. While not a complete list, here are three things I’ve learned from writing those articles: 1. Trump is exactly who I, and other #NeverTrump writers, said and say he is. 2. While neither Trump nor I have changed, the number of once #NeverTrumpers who used to agree with me and who have done a complete 180 and now sing the President’s praises has grown at an astonishing, discouraging rate. Again, keep in mind, neither Trump nor I have changed. 3. It truly doesn’t matter what evidence is presented nor what biblically informed ethical arguments are made; the hero worship of Donald Trump among white evangelicals is almost unassailable at this point. So, why even try? In some ways, that’s a harder question for me to answer at this point than my friend’s posed scenario.
Why am I trying?
Because truth matters. Ethics matter. Moral consistency matters. Our individual and corporate witness as followers of Jesus matters. Combatting idols in our own heart matters. Calling fellow Believers to repent and turn from their own idols matters. And so, below is the concise and cogent (I hope) answer that I gave my friend. It’s not a complete answer in so far as it doesn’t systematize my reasons for not supporting Trump, nor is it chock full of data, quotes, and other evidence demonstrating his unfitness for office. But it’s complete, I believe, in that it gets to the heart of the matter in a form that’s easier for our story-loving human nature to digest.
When I was kid, really young, around the age of five, I pulled a book about the Presidents of the United States off my parent’s bookshelf and read it with curiusity. If I remember correctly, it had been published in conjunction with the Bicentennial celebrations that had taken place the year after I was born. Pithy and filled with political cartoons, much of it was above my five-year-old head but a lot of it wasn’t. I can still see the caricature of Teddy Roosevelt in the Oval Office lugging a huge club. The caption, as you can undoubtedly guess, read, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” While not appreciating all the nuances of that platitude, I understood the overall point. However, the political cartoon featuring Harry Truman puzzled me.
“Daddy?” I asked. “What does ‘the buck stops here’ mean?”
Seizing the opportunity, my dad stopped what he was doing and took the time to explain to me what it means to take responsibility. “Owning and accepting the consequences for our words and actions is important for all of us,” he said. “The Bible teaches us that.”
Continuing, he talked about what it means to have authority and be in a position of leadership.
“Being in charge is a great responsibility. Being a parent or a teacher or pastor means that you answer to God for what happens in your family or classroom or church. The same is true for the President. Even though he may not be the one that actually does the wrong thing, the President is responsible for what happens. The buck stops with him.”
Fast forward back to our current President, and Donald Trump’s consistent refusal to take responsibility for anything is obvious; I mean, he seemingly takes great pains to point it out. Even going so far, when asked to explain an earlier comment in which he said that he hasn’t/doesn’t ask God to forgive him, to declare, “Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness if I am not making mistakes? I work hard, I’m an honorable person.”
Add that to his bankruptcies (actions that demonstrate his refusal to take responsibilty) and his constant refusal to accept that “the buck stops here” whenever anything goes wrong in this country, and Donald Trump is so far removed from what I was always taught were necessary qualities, character traits, and ethics of a leader that I can’t, in good conscience, vote for him.