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American Democracy Is in Trouble. No, Not Like That.


Ill-defined talk about Christian nationalism misses a more serious threat: Christian leaders neglecting the real concerns of the laity.

The GOP’s presidential primary is functionally finished, even before Super Tuesday arrives this week, and the 2024 general election is all but underway. Christian voters are once again faced with a pressing question of how to “vote our values” in an increasingly secular and hostile public square.

Unfortunately, many prominent Christian voices offer little help. Their focus tends to be an ill-defined Christian nationalism and/or narrow policy issues. They sound uncertain, if not obtuse, about what Christian political action in America should look like. Sometimes they even seem to suggest—maybe inadvertently—that Christian political engagement itself, not just Christian nationalism, is a threat to our country, or that there’s no necessary relationship between Christianity and democracy.

These pundits and public intellectuals may have good intentions. But their advice doesn’t answer the questions of people in the pews who are viscerally experiencing a decline of Christian influence in America. Rather, the overarching message to evangelical voters is that they’re wrong about their political theology and there’s little to nothing to worry about in American democracy—or, at least, nothing Christian engagement with politics could improve.

We are evangelical political scientists at Biola University, and we believe such misguided thinking insults lay evangelicals’ intelligence and fails to address their real and important concerns. In fact, the average evangelical voter’s intuition is correct: American democracy is in trouble; it does need an engaged Christian church to correct course; and there is ample evidence to support that claim.

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