#NeverTrump,  Christianity,  Politics

Why social conservatives should support #NeverTrump

Conservative opposition to Donald Trump’s candidacy for president divides into two groups. The first group consists of those who may not support Trump in the primaries but who plan to support him if he becomes the GOP nominee (e. g. Hugh Hewitt). The second group consists of those who oppose Trump in the primaries and who will also oppose him in the general should he become the GOP nominee (e.g. Ben Sasse). We might label the former as the “Stop Trump” conservatives and the latter as the “Never Trump” conservatives.

The division presents Christians and social conservatives with a unique dilemma. While many agree that it would be best to stop Trump in the primaries, there is much disagreement about what to do if Trump wins the nomination. What if the alternatives in the Fall are Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton? Isn’t it the case that although Trump has his foibles, Secretary Clinton would do more damage to the causes that social conservatives care about most—sanctity of life, marriage, and religious freedom? Won’t the “Never Trump” position lead to a loss of the Supreme Court for a generation?

After I recently argued for the “Never Trump” position, a reader challenged me on these very grounds:

Denny: I understand your stance against Donald Trump. I don’t want him to be the nominee, either, because I’m tired of voting “against” the other guy, which is what I’ve done except for 1984, and 2000 when I voted FOR the Republican nominee. Yet, I keep coming back to your big issue: abortion. Trump will be campaigning on a pro-life platform (whatever his personal view may be) versus Hillary, who no longer even worries about saying “safe, legal and rare.” The Democrat platform will be abortion for all under all circumstances. Moreover, Trump has indicated he will nominate a Scalia clone versus Hillary who will absolutely not and has even floated out one of the most ominous suggestions I’ve heard in years – Barack Obama as a Supreme Court justice. (SHIVERS UP AND DOWN MY SPINE). How does voting third party or not voting justify allowing abortion to continue unabated for at least another generation and perhaps longer? Dr. Moore’s quote from Romans cuts both ways: The Bible tells us we will be held accountable not only for the evil deeds we do but also when we “give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32). How are we not “giving approval” to Hillary when we stand back and allow her to be elected, knowing it was potentially within our power to stop her? Do we really soothe ourselves with “I didn’t vote FOR her, so it’s not my fault?”

The argument that this reader makes was very compelling to me for a long time. We are not responsible for the alternatives before us. Therefore, we must choose the best we can between the available options—even if both options are less than ideal. For me, however, the argument breaks down in Donald Trump’s case. Here is why I think it breaks down and why social conservatives would do well to give the “Never Trump” position another look:

1. It is not at all clear what kind of justices Trump would appoint. Recently, he has named some conservative justices that would pass muster. But he’s also named his own sister as someone who would be a great Supreme Court justice. Of course he won’t actually appoint his own sister, but what does it say about his judicial philosophy that he thinks a partial-birth abortion supporting judge would be a good fit for the Supreme Court?

2. Trump’s pro-life credentials are suspect. Just last Fall he told CNN that he supports the “health” exception–apparently unaware that the “health” exception of Doe v. Bolton is precisely the reason that we have legal abortion-on-demand today! He has also been a staunch defender of Planned Parenthood. Yes, he wants to defund Planned Parenthood as long as they perform abortions. But just last year he told Sean Hannity that the U.S. should fund Planned Parenthood’s women’s health services while not funding abortion. That’s ostensibly what we have now, but again he seems unaware of that. I’m all for converts to the pro-life cause. But I’m not the only one who suspects his conversion to be a counterfeit in order to win the GOP nomination.

3. Trump is a pathological liar. Even though he promises to appoint conservative justices, how can we trust him? This is why character matters. His trail of falsehoods are an open secret. On what grounds could we possibly trust him to do as president what he promises as a candidate? Even if he intended to keep his promise about judges, how do we know that he even understands what constitutes a sound judicial philosophy and what does not?

4. It is a misunderstanding of single-issue voting to say that abortion is the only issue that is disqualifying for a candidate. I have written on this before and have explained what single-issue voting is and is not. Single-issue voting is not that being right on any one issue qualifies a candidate for office. Nor is it the idea that only one issue can be singularly disqualifying. Single-issue voting is the belief that there are a range of issues that can be singularly disqualifying. Support for abortion is one issue in that category. Support for the reinstitution of slavery would also be in that category. So would advocating war crimes. So would advocating violence at lawful assemblies. Even if Trump’s views on abortion were more certainly pro-life, he has transgressed on a number of other “single issue” grounds, any one of which would be singularly disqualifying–racism, advocating violence against protestors, support for killing children who are suspected of being related to terrorists, etc. The litany documented by The Washington Post is instructive:

Mr. Trump must be stopped because he presents a threat to American democracy. Mr. Trump resembles other strongmen throughout history who have achieved power by manipulating democratic processes. Their playbook includes a casual embrace of violence; a willingness to wield government powers against personal enemies; contempt for a free press; demonization of anyone who is not white and Christian; intimations of dark conspiracies; and the propagation of sweeping, ugly lies. Mr. Trump has championed torture and the murder of innocent relatives of suspected terrorists. He has flirted with the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists. He has libeled and stereotyped wide swaths of humanity, including Mexicans and Muslims. He considers himself exempt from the norms of democratic contests, such as the release of tax returns, policy papers, lists of advisers and other information that voters have a right to expect.

5. There are a host of characteristics that render Trump not merely a flawed candidate but a real threat to our constitutional order. Look at how he orders his supporters to perpetrate violence against protestors. Look at how he promises to direct the U.S. military to commit war crimes if he becomes commander-in-chief. If he is willing to advocate and defend such gross violations publicly, how do you think he will use (or abuse) the powers of his office if he were to become President? Do you think he might use his powers to punish dissent? I think he would. Even if he were solid on the abortion issue, these other items disqualify him. I am not joking or being hyperbolic when I say that he is a Mussolini-in-waiting. He must never be allowed near the Oval Office. Ever.

There are many good people still in the “Stop Trump” camp who oppose his candidacy now but who will support him if he becomes the nominee. I think they hold this point of view in good conscience because they don’t want to lose the Supreme Court for a generation. They believe Trump to be wrong on a range of issues but to be otherwise benign. While I share their concern about the Supreme Court, I think they are sadly mistaken that he is otherwise benign.

I hope I’m wrong about the menace that I think he presents to our country. I really do. But I think there is more than enough evidence that I am exactly right about who this man is and what kinds of things he would do. And the uncertain chance that he might accidentally appoint good justices doesn’t overcome these other disqualifying concerns. That is why I will never support him, and I hope others won’t either.


  • Brian Holland

    Great article Denny! I’ve written my blog entry on why I’m solidly in the #NeverTrump camp. I can’t stand the thought of a president Trump or even R candidate Trump. I understand why some people say that a vote for Trump is like playing Russian Roulette with the future, but that Hillary is like a direct bullet to the head at close range. I respect that point of view, but I can’t be responsible for supporting either outcome that I potrntially foresee.

    What I take issue with (and I hate having to “defend” Trump) is calling him a racist? Where is the evidence of that? I know that he didn’t denounce the support he got from David Duke, but I think that was about him wanting to not alienate that voting block, however fringe they may be. I would also point to the fact that Trump already has support from Medgar Evers brother, and the father of a black high school football player, who was murdered in LA by an illegal immigrant gang member after being released from a Juvenile detention center.

    My wife’s grandmother even expressed enthusiasm for Trump several months ago, and like most black people her age, she’s never considered voting for a Republican. She lives in downtown LA, and is feed up with disastrous effects of illegal immigration.

    Again I can’t stand Trump, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that he’s racist, and in fact has a lot of appeal to blacks (unfortunately). If you’re saying he’s racist against Mexicans or Muslims (who obviously are not a race) then that’s an entirely different issue, but one that I could at least better understand that argument.

    I do think all Christians should care about border security, and having a sane and orderly immigration system. I also think it’s important to point out that those who interrupted the Trump rally were the real fascists, and many were motivated by racism, Mr. Trump’s indefensible, vile rhetoric notwithstanding. I also would not that Larry Elder pointed out that Trump was never asked to condemn Farrakahn, who also praised him, the way that he was with David Duke. So the racial double standards still abound.

    • steve hays

      I doubt Trump is a racist. Rather, he’s a cynical opportunist who plays the race card. I’d say that’s at least as bad as the real thing. It’s just morally atrocious in a different way.

  • Michael shafran

    Hello Dr. Burk,

    Thank you for your post. First let me say I respect your position. I would like to briefly make my point of why I am in the stop Trump camp and also in the #NeverHIllary camp by noting your points. If it is Trump vs Clinton, I cannot in good conscience elect actively or passively Hillary Clinton.

    1. You said it is not “clear” what kind of judges Trump would nominate. True. However, we KNOW what kind Clinton would. No doubt.
    2. You said Trumps pro-life credentials are “suspect.” Clinton’s are not. She stated that religious teachings will need to be changed in regard to reproductive rights. Did you get that?
    3. Trump is a pathological liar. Let’s be honest, so is Hillary.
    4. Trump and single voter mentality. Let’s take one – You claim he is racist – Barring Muslims temporarily is not racist. Islam is an ideology not a race. Mexicans are rapists. He said the bad people come over are drug dealers and rapists. Not all. But some. Now, if you are going to play this, with all due respect, you teach at a college named for a slave owner and seminary begun by “racists.” And in interest of full disclosure, I am a doctoral student at the same seminary. The “racist” label is so overused, it literally has no meaning. If you don’t agree with any position with a liberal, you are called a racist. It’s almost like being called an Evangelical. For example, the term “American Exceptionalism” is now deemed – Racist.
    5. Trump has all sorts of character flaws. True. So does Clinton. Benghazi and emails. 4 dead Americas and fast and loose with national security.

    My main point being all the things you mentioned regarding Trump were dealt with uncertainty. You didn’t know or were not clear or were suspect. However, with Clinton we know for certain, we are clear and we are not suspect of her.

    She has stated in no uncertain terms that she will seek to make Title IX for homosexuals federally protected. Do you really understand what that will do to SBTS and Boyce especially in terms of accreditation? She said it would be her #1 priority at her speech at the Human Rights Campaign. She makes no bones about tearing away your and my (I’m a pastor) religious freedom.

    If you and the #NeverTrump folks continue and Clinton is elected, you know what you are getting and will be responsible to a degree. At least with Trump it’s a gamble. Forgive the illustration but if you are forced to play Russian Roulette – You want to play with a single shot shot gun (clinton) or a 6 shooter (Trump)?

    With all the speaking about “conscience,” I cannot allow the fact that I elected Hillary Clinton to be elected on my conscience. I am stop Trump but #NeverClinton.

    May the Lord grant us all wisdom.

    Michael Shafran

    • Denny Burk

      Just because someone has a certain view of immigration doesn’t make them a racist. I use the term racist mainly because of his unwillingness to condemn the KKK.

      I agree that Clinton would be a disaster as well. No question. And I would never support her either. But just as a matter of realpolitik, it must be acknowledged that if Trump becomes the nominee, he would never be able to beat her anyway.

      No one’s white-washing our nation’s original sin. We all know the grave evil so many of our forbears were involved in, but I don’t see what relevance that is to this conversation. Are you suggesting that because some 19th century southern baptists we’re slave owners that 2016 southern baptists should overlook Trump’s racial transgressions? That is a non sequitur.

      The main different between us is that you don’t view Trump as a threat to our constitutional order in the way I do. We’ll have to agree to disagree about that.

      • Michael shafran

        I wasn’t saying anyone should overlook true “racial transgression” for any reason. I was saying how people are labeled racists today is absurd. Trump is labeled a racist because he didn’t distance himself FAST enough (though he did) from Duke’s supposed endorsement in an interview — That’s a racial transgression?

        To illustrate the absurdity of the racist labeling these days I brought up the naming of schools after former “racists.” This has been in the news a lot recently and is a racial transgression these days. Consider what is playing out at Princeton with Woodrow Wilson to name just one. If you don’t change the names and order racial sensitivity for fac / staff, you as an institution are racist. That’s the world today.

        The how and why people are labeled “racist” today is ludicrous and the term now almost rings hollow. As Christians, we should be careful about how we label people, speaking truth. Your labeling of Trump a racist is an ad hominem rather than a substantive charge.

        I would argue that Sec. Clinton has far worse and actual “racial transgressions” over her support of Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood, especially with its original racist, bloody mission and in the low income, minority neighborhoods where “reproductive rights” are being carried out.

        But we shall agree to disagree.

        • Johnny Mason

          Trump was clearly pandering to the KKK crowd by claiming to not know who David Duke was. He knows exactly who David Duke is. He has disavowed him in the past and called him out for being a racist when he was a member of the Reform party. What Trump said on that Sunday show was intentional. He did it for a reason. I don’t think he is racist, but he was pandering to a racist wing of his supporters.

      • Frank Franklin

        Denny if Clinton runs against Trump she will lose. The reason being is that most republicans will ultimately vote for Trump and all those Bernie voters will never vote establishment which means some might actually vote for Trump but they won’t vote for Hillary.

        All that being true unless this never trump movement is wildly successful and convinces enough people to not vote or vote a third GOP candidate. In that case Clinton wins and we can be sure abortion will be unfettered and religious freedom will be repressed.

        So stand up for what you think is right now but do the right thing in November.

  • Tim Dukeman

    I freely admit that Trump is a true threat to our constitutional order, But I urge you to consider:

    1. Barack Obama has ALREADY done most of the terrible things you think Trump might do (using government to punish dissent, acting as a king, etc)
    2. Hillary Clinton promises to be EVEN WORSE than Trump on every single item you listed.

    …and one of them will inexorably be President. Hillary is a worse fascist than Trump, and she will actively hunt down and punish Christians at every available opportunity.

    Let’s set aside the Supreme Court for a moment: Hillary will:

    1. Force schoolgirls to shower with boys
    2. Deny student loans, grants, and scholarships to Christian universities
    3. Remove tax-exempt status from Christian organizations
    4. Encourage the lynching culture that got Brendan Eich

    Those are the short term issues. In the long term?

    She’ll pack Supreme Court to the point that elections don’t matter anymore.

  • Ray DeFreese

    To what sort of standards of conduct should we hold our leaders? As I get older, it seems that standard is slipping, to the point that some conservative Christians are actually trying to make the case that a pathological liar, a vulgarian, a mocker, someone with no discernible core beliefs, is actually deserving of their vote. Is Trump better than the alternative? I’m not convinced.


  • Ian Shaw

    Not to give GWB too much credit, but…

    “I understand that Americans are angry and frustrated, but we do not need someone in the Oval Office who mirrors and inflames our anger and frustration.”

    We should be standing and applauding at that.

  • Ben Carmack


    You make a lot of good points here, but I think your concerns about Trump are overwrought. Per Victor Davis Hanson, don’t you think it’s closer to the mark to say Trump is like Bill Clinton, Silvio Berlusconi or John F. Kennedy (in terms of morality), and not Mussolini and other fascists?


    • Ike Lentz

      Ben, that’s two separate issues. Trump’s morality might be similar to other politicians who have cheated or had multiple marriages, but his fascist style of leadership is clearly of the Mussolini variety.

  • Frank Lupu

    Mr. Burk

    I have been praying for months now as Trump keeps winning that it will never have to get to a lessor of two evils vote of Trump v Hillary (although the debates between those two would be fantastically entertaining). As a Christian, I am trusting God and His providence in these government matters and that is the only peace I have about this matter.

    I am also fed up with having to vote for the lessor of two evils every four years.

    I agree with a lot of what you are saying about Trump. And I am in no way, shape, or form going to defend what Trump says and does, however, in this dominate liberal media world we live in with a major agenda, I find it difficult to “label” Trump a racist or a bigot, because he wants to build a wall, deport illegals, defeat muslim terrorism, etc.

    My point however is not to defend Trump. My point is that I feel that your article and my conversations with other believers regarding this matter, does not convince me to move over to the #nevertrump side.

    As Michael stated above, it is not clear what Trump will do and Trump is a liar and a flip flopper (like most every politician). But the point is that it would be crystal clear what any candidate from the left wants to do and will do if President.

    My stance is this and will continue to be as follows, unless someone can Biblically convince me otherwise:

    1. A vote for not Trump (not to vote in the general) IS a vote for Hillary Clinton. To take a vote away from Trump to help you sleep better a night, is to take away a vote against Hillary.

    2. As horrific as a Trump presidency “could be,” a socialist regime of Hillary in the White House with first lady, Bill Clinton would be a “disaster.”

    3. As a Christian, we are not called to elect the best Christian Pastor as President. But my opinion is that I want to help elect the best person or person “most likely” to pass laws, and push agendas that most closely align with scripture. Which means, which candidate (Hillary or Trump) is more likely to oppose abortion, oppose gay marriage, oppose the intolerance of Christians in our country and schools, oppose liberal indoctrination in our schools, etc?

    4. Which candidate is more likely to appoint liberal judges to the Supreme Court and positions of power?

    5. Which candidate is more likely to work with and agree with the agenda of a Republican House and Senate? While the Republican party has lost its identity and a lot of its conservative values, it is still the more conservative party, with some very strong Christian conservatives in power. But nothing would be worse for this country than to have Hillary as President, and then to have the Democrats take over the house and senate in the mid-term elections, and have full liberal, socialist, power.

    And, don’t dismiss the idea of Trump beating Hillary in a general election. He most certainly can.

  • Ian Shaw

    One thing we can all agree upon, if the candidates are Hillary and Trump, the cost of ammunition and firearms is going to skyrocket…..

  • John Gresh

    The issue of abortion & Planned Parenthood are The Single Disqualifying Issue for me.

    “There is no question that abortion-on-demand is the greatest human rights crisis of our time in our country. That is why we have to have the singular focus of ending that immoral regime. For me, this issue transcends every other contentious issue in public life. And it’s why I believe Christians should be single-issue voters when it comes to the sanctity of human life.”
    Denny Burk 2/10/2016

    Therefore, Clinton has disqualified herself but Trump at this point has not on the issue of abortion.Trump is a very flawed candidate. Likewise with Clinton.

    However, Trump is still an unknown quantity for the future- past actions vs future decisions- whereas Clinton has publicly declared her future intentions as being inline with her past.

    Unless there is another nominee from the GOP, the emphasis should be Trump over Clinton. There has not been given a single viable reason that not supporting Trump is not giving Tacit Consent to continue the unabated slaughter of millions of human lives.

    As of now, even though I was an active Ben Carson supporter, I do not agree with him on the Trump endorsement. Will support Ted Cruz or another nominee unless the choice is between Trump vs Clinton at which time I will support any attempt to block Abortion/Planned Parenthood.

  • buddyglass

    I’m not a fan of Trump or Hillary. Or Cruz, for that matter. If I had my way it’d be Kasich. That said, some random thoughts on #nevertrump:

    1. Clinton lies. Trump lies. Clinton’s lies, however, are at least plausible. Trump’s are bald-faced. So while she may be scheming, he’s totally unhinged.

    2. Trump’s claims w.r.t. his strong Christian faith, when juxtaposed against everything he’s said when asked about that faith, lead me to believe he holds believers in particularly low regard. He apparently considers them/us as so gullible that he doesn’t even need to put forth a reasonable facsimile of orthodox Christian belief.

    3. Trump has advocated war crimes. To my knowledge, Clinton hasn’t.

    4. Given Trump’s willingness to encourage violence, his puerile presence on social media, his supreme belief in his own authority (“soldiers will obey me because I’ll make them”), etc. I’d much rather have Clinton with her finger on “the button” than Trump. By a long shot.

    5. I’m not a huge partisan, but if I were, the prospect of Trump on the ticket would strike fear into my heart w.r.t. down-ballot races. All the arguments being made for why Christians and/or conservatives should support Trump against Clinton work *in reverse* when one considers the effect Trump-as-nominee could have on those contests.

    6. If the Republican party ends up with the opportunity to deny Trump the nomination *but chooses not to* then it becomes the party of Trump and Trump’s supporters. Putting myself in the position of a strong Republican partisan (which I’m not) I might prefer the party divest itself of Trump *and* his supporters but retain the moral high ground, even if it means a temporarily diminished status on the national stage. The party should stand for something.

    7. As others have pointed out there’s a reasonable chance that whomever Trump would nominate to the court wouldn’t be much better than Clinton’s nominee when it comes to abortion. Now if money were on the line I’d say Trump’s pick is more likely to be pro-life, but it’s far from a slam dunk. Given that, plus all of Trump’s other flaws, I can see the argument for preferring Clinton. Or, if not preferring Clinton, I can see the case for casting a symbolic vote for a candidate one actually respects and supports.

    8. This discussion is mostly academic except for those of us who live in states that are plausibly “purple”. The Republican, Trump or not, will win the red states and Clinton will win the blue states. Doesn’t matter who you vote for in the general if you live in a red or a blue.

    • Ike Lentz

      Your response to #4 is right on. Ideology might seem paramount in an election year, but competence and rationality are much more important for a president on a daily basis. If Trump is on the ballot, you can put me firmly in the pro-Clinton camp, regardless of my pro-life stance.

      • Christiane Smith

        I know Clinton is not the choice of many conservative Christian people, hardly any, but I think she is at least a rational person. To have doubts about Donald Trump’s emotional state seems appropriate given his peculiar outbursts of ‘I, Me, My’ hubris . . . I’m not sure he could handle the responsibility of the nuclear codes, as he refuses to take responsibility for the many statements encouraging violence that he has released and set in motion among his followers.

        I don’t he is stable enough to be commander-in-chief, based on HIS own words spoken in public, no.

  • Barbara

    I am #NeverTrump regardless of who runs, simply because I know what he is, and what he is frightens me. I cannot in good conscience cast my lot with a man who demonstrates that he is what he is, because I am convinced that if I do so, then I am party to the havoc he wreaks on innocent people. The same goes for Hillary Clinton. I can’t, I just CAN’T be a pragmatist in this. Either way, knowing what I know about them, I would partake of their sins and have blood on my hands. Just no. It may not be worldly-wise, but a third party candidate would be perhaps a godsend. And who knows – maybe our Lord wlll graciously answer our prayers to raise up a man who fears Him to lead us, polls be damned. Maybe our Lord will graciously answer prayers to pour out His spirit on us as He did on Nineveh and see our land filled with people repenting in dust and ashes. Maybe He won’t. Maybe He is bringing our nation to the inevitable way that all earthly kingdoms will go. Maybe He intends to winnow us out of cultural Christianity. Maybe He will demonstrate the growth of His Kingdom under ungodly rulers as He has done so many times before, in first century Rome, or currently underground in China and in some African nations. But my first lot has to be cast with the God who judged HIs covenant people for being earthly minded and seeking to ally themselves with ungodly kingdoms and rulers because they didn’t trust Him to provide what they needed. God help us.

  • Brandon

    Excellent post. I recently joined the never Trump camp. I have been struggling with the two party dilemma, but landed on write-in. My line of reasoning is: 1) We are in some part morally responsible for the actions of the candidates we vote into power (the more egregious the platform, and the more direct our foreknowledge of the risk of evil, the more we are culpable). 2) Trump, through his own admission and campaign promises, plans to act in an evil way as President (e.g. murder of innocent children through association with their terrorist parents). 3) it is therefore immoral to put Trump in power. 4) We should never act immorally to produce good in the future. 5) Therefore I cannot vote for Trump in the hope he will make better moral choices than Hiliary. The means in this case do not justify the ends in this case.

  • Curt Parton

    Thanks for posting this, Denny. I completely agree with your concerns and your reasoning. I understand there’s a place for pragmatism when Christians vote. The nature of politics necessarily involves compromise. But there is a limit to pragmatism. There’s a point at which we can no longer attempt to choose the lesser of two evils. If our choice were between Hitler and Stalin, would we try to determine which candidate was less evil? There comes a time when we must determine we cannot support, in any way, a particular candidate. I would challenge my fellow believers that the time has come when we must not offer any support to either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. The absolute, uncompromising stance against Donald Trump’s candidacy is not a political stance; it is a matter of conscience.

  • steve hays

    One concern is that, if he won, a Trump candidacy would destroy the GOP as a conservative alternative to the Democrat party. In terms of social values, we’d become a one-party country.

    In a country the size of the US, it’s hard to cobble together a party that can win national elections.

    It’s not that the GOP is consistently conservative. Far from it. But the Democrat party is pathologically intolerant of social conservatives and Constitutionalists. At the moment the GOP is our best vehicle. Trump would destroy that from within.

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