2016: Why Christians Should Pay Attention to the Upcoming Election

Support for Israel among evangelical Christians, especially millennial evangelicals, has been wavering. According to a National Association of Evangelicals survey, 40 percent of U.S. evangelical leaders have changed their position on Israel and Palestine over the past several decades.

Amid the chaos, Americans must recognize that the root of our deepest political issue is a religious one. While terror in the name of Allah runs rampant abroad, here at home we have pulled God out of the equation.

Gagging God

For the first time in our nation's rich history we have collectively rejected the role of Judeo-Christian principles in the public square. As a result, America's brightest freedom is fading fast. What began as a safe haven for Christianity and those fleeing religious persecution now lies on the opposite side of the spectrum. Every day a new contention places God on trial.

In September 2014, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian, subpoenaed the sermons of five pastors who publicly opposed a local pro-gay decree created with the intent to censor traditional Christian teaching and silence the gospel. Thankfully, Parker's efforts failed.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), arguably the largest Christian campus ministry in the nation, is being snuffed out of numerous universities. Because the student-led organization requires its campus leaders to affirm traditional Christian doctrine, InterVarsity chapters were "de-recognized" and stripped of official recognition by Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, Bowdoin College, SUNY Buffalo, Tufts University, Rutgers and all 23 campuses in the California State University system.

(UPDATE: Since the submission of this article, California State University system agreed to allow 23 InterVarsity chapters on 19 CSU campuses. For more information, click here.)

We are losing our religious freedoms fast and with them our reverence for the Creator, from whom all freedoms flow.

A Spiritual Referendum

The problem with American faith and politics and the way they are juxtaposed is simply that we no longer know what we believe as a nation. With no singular belief system, we have a hard time choosing leaders who will fight for our national beliefs and values. We are no longer united under the gospel. We have forgotten our foundation as a shining city on a hill, and thus, we are groping around in the dark.

At one point, the kingdom of Israel was in a state of darkness and total decline. Plagued by drought, famine and the deaths of entire dynasties, the nation answered collectively for their leadership's disobedience of God's commandments. Eventually, the prophet Elijah confronted King Ahab and his wife Jezebel for their idolatry. On top of Mount Carmel with 850 prophets of the false gods Baal and Asherah, Elijah asked the nation, "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him" (1 Kin. 18:21).

How frustrating is it to read about the kingdom of Israel's rulers who constantly rejected God? Not learning from their predecessors' mistakes, each new successor lead the nation further away from God in pursuit of power. And each leader's sins ultimately led to their downfall and consequently penalties on the nation.

The parallels between the leadership of ancient Israel and modern America are astounding. God has blessed our land, yet our national leaders and the citizens who elect them continue to deny His very existence.

Like Elijah, America's influential Christian spiritual and political leaders are calling for America to turn back to God. In January, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal organized "The Response," a massive all-day prayer rally for America's spiritual revival. In a heartfelt call to pray, Jindal said, "As many of us survey our country today we are worried about what we see. We see a weak economy. Many of us worry about whether our children will inherit the same opportunities. … Too many think that if we just elect the right politician, pass the right law, pass the right policy, that it will fix all that ails America. But what we really need in these United States of America is a spiritual revival."

In November 2014, pastors gathered at Grace Community church in Houston, Texas, for "I Stand Sunday." Here, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told the audience and the American church, "It is time for us to wake up from our slumber. Our greatest problem is not in the White House, nor is it in the statehouse, but it is in the church house of Jesus Christ. We must get our lives right with the Lord."

There is only one solution capable of transforming the hearts and minds of mankind, and His name isn't found in the voting stations. However, His truth is written on the heart of every American, even those who choose not to serve Him.

In the coming 2016 election, it is vital that we as citizens elect a presidential candidate willing to acknowledge the limited nature of humanity. Our next leader must be humble enough to admit he does not have all the answers, and bold enough to put their trust in the One who does.

Kneel Before We Stand

Many Americans are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s most famous writing, his letter from the Birmingham jail. But many Americans are unaware of the recipients of King's letter. Dr. King penned the letter to local religious leaders, who, in the face of vocal racial discrimination, chose to remain silent. Some local pastors and rabbis even urged Dr. King and his supporters to remain silent as well.

In his letter, a disappointed Dr. King expressed, "If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club."

Much like the church of Laodicea in the book of Revelation, the current American church is lukewarm when it comes to government and culture. And like those Dr. King addressed, the church is at risk of becoming an irrelevant social club. The American church has gone from being "the salt of the earth" to being flavorless; something Jesus admonished His disciples not to do in Matthew 5:13-16.

Over and over again I've heard Christians I know personally exclaim, "I'll stay out of the government's business if the government stays out of my business." Sadly, it's too late. The government's invasiveness has reached our doorstep. Now what?

Not every Christian must pack up and move to Washington, D.C., to help turn this country back toward God. But we do have to act. We have to pay attention to candidates' actions, not just their words. We have to vote in matters of local, state and federal policy. We need to know what public education is teaching children in their history and civics classes. We need to talk about the consequences of sin and the difficult reality of hell in our churches and small groups. We must understand the urgent need to share biblical truths with our lost neighbors craving His hope. Most importantly, we have to pray.

"Before we take a stand, we must begin on our knees. Even as we march, we walk in a spirit of prayer crying out for God to move, to intervene," said Metro D.C.-area Pastor Garett Kell to the Institute on Religion and Democracy. "Because unless He shows up, nothing happens. At least not lasting change."

Rejoice in knowing there are already Christians—young and old—actively working to spread the gospel throughout politics. But there is still much work to do, and it must begin now. And we are not alone in this task. The Holy Spirit is at our side.

In 2016, the victory of one political party over the other is not going to solve our problems. Our only answer as a country is to fall to our knees before the God whose face we sought at the birth of our nation and elect a president who reflects that humility.

"As a nation, a storm is coming, … but the church has got a chance," Graham says. "I don't know how much we've got, but we have a little time so let's speak up.

"Let's not be afraid. I can tell you one thing. I'm not going to back off. I'm not going to run. The Bible says He's coming back. Jesus Christ is coming back for his church. He's coming back so let's be about His work. Let's be faithful to His Word. Let's be faithful to Him in everything we do and everything we say."

Chelsen Vicari serves as the Evangelical Program Director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy. She earned her Masters of Arts in Government from Regent University and frequently contributes to conservative outlets. Follow her on twitter @ChelsenVicari.