This Nov. 8, American voters will decide what is arguably the most consequential presidential election in decades. Maybe ever. Two major party candidates are being offered to voters. Two distinct visions are being cast. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association talked to leading Christian in ministry and politics to find out what’s at stake.
One vision includes a nation where free speech and religious liberty are constitutionally protected, bedrock principles. The other continues along a path where such principles are quickly jettisoned with the latest turn of the sexual revolution.
One vision aspires, as a first priority, to use our nation’s military as a fighting force to keep America and the world safe from bad actors. The other would continue using the armed forces as a social experimentation lab, where the LGBT agenda takes precedence over troop readiness and morale, and where placing women in ground combat roles supersedes obvious gender differences.
One vision would seek to build a federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court, that interprets the Constitution as an enduring document for the nation, with timeless guiding principles for civil government. The other would appoint liberal-progressive judges to federal courts who believe the Constitution is a “living, breathing document” that bends with the times and with evolving moral standards.
With an aging Supreme Court—already absent one justice after the unexpected death last year of conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia—perhaps four new Supreme Court justices will be appointed.
The next president will be either Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump, and he or she will nominate those vital Supreme Court justices. Those judges will serve decades and make their judicial decisions felt for generations.
In an age in which the Supreme Court and the federal bench have trended toward an activist, lawmaking role instead of their intended task—to act as umpires of the Constitution—the stakes for religious freedom and limited government are monumental.
In fact, says Tony Perkins, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, the very survival of our democratic republic may hinge on the fundamental beliefs of the next chief executive.
Perkins told Decision: “America is not going to cease to exist as the land mass that it is. What is at stake is the republic as we know it, freedoms that we have enjoyed.”
Christians in the Crosshairs
Chief among those freedoms is religious liberty, Perkins says, and it has taken direct hits in the last eight years.
“It’s been open. It’s been frontal. It’s been unrelenting. … The weight of the government is being used to quarantine faith within the four walls of the church, and that is not religious freedom,” Perkins said.
The ongoing sexual revolution, which has accelerated at mind-numbing speed, has placed more pressure on those with a Biblical worldview.
Same-sex marriage is legal nationwide via the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision in June 2015, creating a collision of religious freedom with the law’s conception of sexual freedom. Last spring, the federal government directed public schools to allow transgender use of gender-specific restrooms and locker rooms, a direct affront to North Carolina, which had passed a bathroom protection law that still stands.
Despite some gains in the percentage of people who believe abortion is immoral, the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision making abortion legal nationally remains, with the country approaching 60 million aborted babies.
The nation hasn’t merely been “slouching toward Gomorrah,” as the late judge Robert Bork wrote, it has nearly slid past it.
James Dobson, the best-selling author and psychologist who has championed the traditional family and Christian values for more than four decades, told Decision: “The sexual revolution weakened the exclusivity and commitment required for lifelong marriage. Spiritual apathy and apostasy have also been major contributors. America no longer lives by an eternal moral code given to us by the Word of God.”
“Also,” Dobson added, “the radical feminist movement, based on hostility toward men, weakened the marital bond. Related to it was, and is, the legalization of abortion through nine months of pregnancy. Raising children is what this ancient institution is all about. And, finally, the judiciary has created politically correct interpretations of the law that are destroying the traditional family unit. Uppermost among them is same-sex ‘marriage’—imposed by five members of the Supreme Court on 50 million people who voted against it.”
As Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, puts it, “We live in a time when we have gone from living in a post-Christian nation to living in an anti-Christian nation. That is completely contrary to the founding principles of our country.”
The cultural slide has meant that more people are sharply opposed to the Biblical worldview than in decades past. English common law, which helped inform American law, was rooted in Judeo-Christian understandings of right and wrong. Those sturdy tethers have unraveled quickly.
Instead, left-wing activists, smelling blood in the water, are seeking to take as much ground on the moral and legal front as forcefully and as quickly as possible.
That pressure is evident when states such as Washington and Oregon punish bakers and pharmacists when their Christian beliefs collide with the secular-progressive worldview.
Veteran conservative columnist Cal Thomas, not one to put significant hope in political efforts to right the culture, says the next election will set the tone for the Supreme Court “for 30 or 40 years” and could lead to “the possible disintegration of this country.”
He says the culprit is a generation that has forgotten God, and it is reflected in our government.
“We are sacrificing our children, nearly 60 million now, on the modern-day equivalent of the altar of Molech, which God called detestable on more than one occasion,” Thomas said.
“We are mainstreaming same-sex marriage, transgender toilets. It just seems that the sewer cover has been removed and everything is now up in the streets.”
David Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church near San Diego, Calif., sees a crucial election that may determine whether or not Christians can exercise their faith freely—at church and outside the church—or under an oppressive government.
But he says the specter of the next president appointing a new slate of Supreme Court nominees should motivate believers to cast an informed vote.
“The next president will select between two and four justices who will reign over the cultural issues of our nation for the next 30 years.
The average Supreme Court judge serves 26 years. In the next 30 years, what happens in this election is going to have an incredible impact on my children and grandchildren. And the impact will be most likely felt more because of what happens in the Supreme Court than anything else that happens in the government.”
Beyond the issues of religious liberty and morality, the spread of radical Islamic jihad globally and at home has set the world on edge. Every week seems to bring a mass slaughter, such as those in Bangladesh or France, San Bernardino or Orlando.
In the last eight years, America has sent conflicting signals about its commitment to seriously confront radical Islam. Unwillingness by federal officials to call the scourge what it is—jihad carried out in the name of Allah by Muslim fundamentalists—and a lack of clear commitment to eradicate it has diminished America’s role as a world leader. ISIS has not only burst on the scene but has become a global menace.
Former U.S. senator Jim DeMint, president of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, says to successfully wage war on radical Islamic terrorism and counter other evil regimes around the globe, defense spending must be non-negotiable, and defense policy must center on military readiness, not pushing the latest social trends.
“There’s a lot of turmoil and instability in the world,” DeMint said, “and the way the current administration has dealt with Islamic terrorism by trying to ignore it and treat it as if it’s something that it’s not, has opened us up and threatened our security as a country.”
Voters must decide: Which candidate, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, will strengthen national security and fight tenaciously against radical Islamic terrorism?
Jeremiah and Perkins agree that whomever voters choose, they must demand that the “first freedom”—religious liberty—from which all other freedoms flow, is left intact.
Perkins said that as the moral fabric of the culture unravels, “the leaders we elect can either accelerate that deterioration or they can stay it by giving the church the space it needs to do the fundamental work that only the church can do.
“It is the church— armed with the Gospel—that can fix hearts. It is the Gospel that transforms lives. It is the church through the witness of the Holy Spirit that can preserve a culture. But without the space to do that openly in public, it’s difficult. And elections in our country determine that.”
©2016 BGEA. Used with permission.