Back in 2012, some 66 million voters went to the polls on Election Day to decide a tight race between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. The same day, 26 million evangelical Christians who were registered to vote stayed home. The president won a second term—though only by 5 million popular votes.
On Nov. 8, voters will decide a similarly tight presidential race—and the stakes are titanic, with Supreme Court appointments and America’s place in the world on the line.
Reflecting on the low voter turnout in 2012, noted evangelical pollster George Barna says plainly: “That’s bad citizenship. But it also defies our calling to have a positive and intentional influence upon our culture for the glory of God. If just half of the born-again Christians who were registered but didn’t vote had cast a ballot, the outcome would have been very different, and our nation would be very different today.”
In his eight years in office, Obama has nominated more than 400 federal judges; 330 of those have taken the bench—including two liberal Supreme Court justices who helped solidify the 5-4 majority that forced the Obergefell gay marriage ruling on the states.
The next president—Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump—will nominate at least two and perhaps as many as four Supreme Court justices as an aging high court changes hands, with the potential to shape the American legal and cultural landscape for a generation or more into the image of European-style liberal-progressivism.
If a liberal-progressive court holds sway in the next four years, more decisions such as Obergefell or the ruling last summer curbing states’ rights to regulate abortion are expected. Conservatives, meanwhile, are banking on hopes that potential Supreme Court nominees would emphasize fidelity to the original intent of the Constitution in the manner of the late Antonin Scalia, whose seat remains vacant.
When it comes to the federal courts, the contrast is sharp in how the two candidates would proceed.
“Remember, too,” Barna said, “that there are 34 Senate seats, all 435 House seats, and many other positions and initiatives up for grabs on Nov. 8. A republic like ours depends upon good people making wise choices on Election Day. Choosing to simply observe the process rather than participate in it has numerous long-term consequences—and none of them are good.”
Longtime Washington, D.C., journalist Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard and a Fox News contributor, says the 2016 election involves more potential danger than any election in his memory except for perhaps 1980, when Ronald Reagan emerged heroic amid Cold War tensions and a miserable economy.
“Besides America’s decline, the two biggest concerns to me are the Supreme Court and the role of the federal government,” Barnes said. “A liberal court … would make Washington more insistent than ever that it knows better about what’s good for us than you or I do.
“Christians and anyone else with sincere religious beliefs are prime targets of progressives, who are eager to complete the secularization of America,” Barnes added. “They would marginalize Christians in every way possible: through the courts, the media, schools and colleges and the shaping of public opinion.”
Frank Turek, president of CrossExamined.org, a Charlotte, N.C.-based Christian apologetics ministry—and who has spoken to church and student groups about the involvement of Christians in the political realm—said the sanctity of human life, marriage and religious freedom are the “weightier matters” that Christians should pay particular attention to in their voting.
“We have leaders now who are telling us which light bulbs we ought to use, which bathrooms we ought to use,” Turek said, “but we’re putting no restrictions on the killing of innocent human beings.”
He said he is particularly concerned that the Obama administration in the last several years has referred to “freedom of worship” rather than the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.
“It’s a way of saying you can believe whatever you want inside the walls of your church, but you can’t actually live it out once you leave the walls of your church,” Turek said.
He tells people the importance of voting wisely has direct bearing on the freedom to preach the Gospel, and it is evident in the trends of the courts and government bureaucrats appointed by elected officials, said Turek. Often, he has to convince devout Christians who claim they “don’t do politics” that Gospel work is greatly aided by a free and open society.
“Laws affect our ability to preach the Gospel around the world,” Turek said.
He’s also convinced that watershed court rulings on marriage (Obergefell) or abortion (Roe) are not beyond overturning if godly people persevere.
“It’s never decided. You keep doing what is right and you leave the results to God,” Turek said. “Look at Wilberforce. Look at Martin Luther King.”
Franklin Graham, during his 50-state Decision America Tour this year, has encouraged believers to pray in repentance for themselves and for their country, and to cast informed votes in the upcoming elections, “because every vote counts.”
One example among several he cites is the 2008 race for the U.S. Senate between incumbent Norm Coleman of Minnesota and his challenger, Al Franken. After several recounts, election officials declared Franken the winner—certified by a mere 225-vote margin. Franken has consistently backed socially liberal causes, drawing a 100 percent favorable rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
“If 225 Christians could have shown up—or 500 or 1,000 … it would have been different,” Franklin told a crowd gathered on the historic Boston Commons in August.
Barna shares that view, noting that in addition to the 26 million evangelicals who sat out the 2012 election, another 12 million evangelicals were not registered to vote.
“We do not put our faith in political leaders,” Barna said. “We trust God alone and know that He remains sovereign, regardless of election outcomes. … But as followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to participate in the process, to vote wisely and to pray for the process and those who are elected. We will someday answer to God for every vote we cast, so we should be well informed and strive to vote in concert with Biblical principles. The future of our society depends on it.” ©2016 BGEA
MAKE YOUR PLAN TO VOTE
Register to vote. In most states, the registration deadline has passed, but several states allow registration on Election Day.
- Find out what ID, if any, you will need.
- Locate your polling place.
- Decide what time of day you will vote.
- If necessary, let your employer know you will need to arrive late or leave early on Election Day.
- Arrange for transportation.
- Arrange for child care, if needed.
- Find out who is running and their stances on the issues.
- Offer to take a neighbor who needs a ride.