(RNS) Almost daily I receive emails from evangelical Christians asking how to vote in November.
One candidate is disqualified because of full-throated support of abortion on demand. The other candidate embodies values antithetical to Christian teaching. These emailers will not vote for Clinton, but they cannot vote for Trump.
In addition, many worry about the long-term sustainability of our democracy, an issue that’s not unique to evangelicals.
“In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event,” says liberal pundit Andrew Sullivan in a widely shared cover story for New York Magazine.
Because our society has disregarded the ancient wisdom of Plato and Socrates and disassembled the guardrails the Founding Fathers set in place to keep democracy from degenerating into tyranny, Sullivan worries that we are primed for a tyrant to seize the moment. And Trump is the devil that could undo our democracy.
Sullivan calls on all citizens to resist Trump, no matter their political persuasion. He says it’s the duty of patriotic Republicans to unite with the Trump resistance and “be prepared to sacrifice one election in order to save their party and their country.”
Sullivan cringes at the tyrannical tendencies he observes on the right. Evangelicals are just as concerned about the totalitarian impulses and soft despotism of the left.
Sullivan applauds the Founding Fathers for their guardrails intended to keep democracy “from the tyranny of the majority and the passions of the mob.”
Evangelicals have been warning about the disappearance of these guardrails for decades now, most notably in the actions of a Supreme Court that regularly invents rights rather than interprets the Constitution.
The Obergefell ruling Sullivan cheered last June is a shocking example — a redefinition of humanity’s central institution. As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his dissent: “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. … The Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia. … Just who do we think we are?”
Justice Antonin Scalia agreed: “A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”
To his credit, Sullivan recognizes dangers on both sides. He sympathizes with white working-class citizens who are fed up with having “their morals roundly mocked, their religion deemed primitive, and their economic prospects decimated, now find their very gender and race, indeed the very way they talk about reality, described as a kind of problem for the nation to overcome.” He also admits the intolerance of many liberals, including the gay left “for whom the word magnanimity seems unknown.”
But Sullivan’s solution of sacrificing one election for the good of the country is too easy.
Evangelicals are faced with voting for a man whose values are at many points directly opposed to that of Christianity, or voting for a woman who will continue the path of oppressive “progress” that seeks to legally redefine the nature of humanity, gender and marriage and then marginalize and suppress any dissent from the new moral dogmas.
As Nicholas Kristof pointed out in The New York Times, liberal intolerance makes it increasingly difficult for evangelical Christians to exercise their faith in society, and routinely bars them from certain positions or roles.
In the same op-ed, George Yancey, an African-American professor, says his Christianity presents a much bigger hurdle to overcome in the academy than his race does. The groupthink that has seized power in so many halls of the elite and culture-shaping institutions runs roughshod over religious liberty, something so foreign to many in the media that “religious liberty” must have scare quotes, as if it is only a mask for ignorant bigotry.
Andrew Sullivan may be right that our democracy has never been so ripe for tyranny. But evangelicals worry that tyrannical dangers lurk in the corners of both the right and the left.
Choosing a candidate is like picking the kind of poison you want your democracy to die from. And that’s why this November, before spending a few moments in the voting booth, evangelicals may be spending a lot of time in prayer.
(Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project and author of multiple books, including “Clear Winter Nights: A Journey Into Truth, Doubt and What Comes After”)