Pastor Robert Jeffress of the 11,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas has said that Christians do not have the option of refusing to vote in the upcoming elections on November 8, and compared voting for Republican nominee Donald Trump to voting for other "imperfect" nominees in the past.
Jeffress, an early Trump supporter, said in an op-ed for Fox News that he understands the appeal of staying at home on November 8.
"Not voting allows Christians to avoid both having to make a difficult choice or defending an unpopular choice to disapproving friends or family members. And let's face it, playing the 'conscience card' allows someone to feel holier than other Christians who sully themselves by getting involved in the political process," he suggested.
The megachurch pastor argued that voting is a "God-given privilege and responsibility," however, and said that God expects believers to choose their own leaders.
"Every time we go into the voting booth we are choosing the moral and spiritual direction of our nation. That is a privilege and responsibility that should not be abdicated," he wrote.
The pastor stood by his defense of Trump, by pointing out that unlike Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the GOP choice has vowed to nominate Supreme Court justices who will fight against abortion.
Jeffress suggested that religious freedom is also at stake in America's choice, and highlighted the trials of conservative business owners who have faced punishments for refusing to use their skills to support messages they disagree with, such as the acceptance of gay marriage.
"This war against religious liberty will only escalate under Hillary Clinton who is resolved to nominate Supreme Court justices, as well as dozens of federal judges with lifetime appointments, who embrace an expansionist view of the Constitution and will force the secular progressive agenda down the throats of Americans," he wrote.
Finally, the First Baptist Church pastor argued that whatever problems Christians have with Trump's personality, they are not new.
"Ronald Reagan was a known womanizer during his days in Hollywood and would be the first divorced president in history. Yet, in 1980 evangelicals overwhelming supported Reagan over a Baptist Sunday school teacher named Jimmy Carter who was faithfully married to one woman," Jeffress wrote.
He argued that evangelicals at the time were not supporting Reagan's womanizing, however, but were backing his policies.
"I've been amazed at the number of conservative Christians who have developed a case of selective amnesia when it comes to their support of previous candidates with imperfect pasts, whether it be Reagan, McCain, Bush, Gingrich, or a host of others," he continued.
"There are no perfect politicians — just as there are no perfect pastors or voters. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. But the fallibility of both candidates in this election — as in every election — is no excuse for not voting."
Jeffress has said on a number of occasions that when it comes to stopping Clinton from becoming president, Christians would be "fools" to turn down Trump.
"I believe any Christian who would sit at home and not vote for the Republican nominee … that person is being motivated by pride rather than principle and I think it would be a shame for people to allow Hillary Clinton four or eight years in the White House," he said in March.
Other prominent evangelicals, such as Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, have said that neither Clinton nor Trump offer a good option for Christians, however.
Moore said earlier this year that the two nominees represent "an embrace of the very kind of moral and cultural decadence that conservatives have been saying for a long time is the problem." He also warned that backing either option would lead to a "sexual revolutionary party that is hostile to everything that we [evangelicals] believe in."