CLEVELAND – The 20th-century Welsh writer and poet Dylan Thomas wrote these words about facing up to the eventuality of death: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Old age should burn and rave at the close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Rather than reflect on how people should keep living to the fullest despite the steady approach of death, there is something else against which I want to rage. There is something else dying, and I will not go gently while it occurs. The 2024 presidential election is not simply about who will be the next president of the United States. This election will determine whether the United States will live or die as a secular, democratic society that is governed by the rule of law. Or will we begin a downward spiral into authoritarianism in the government and Christian Nationalism in the pulpits and pews?

There is already talk about mass deportations of immigrants and asylum-seekers. There is talk about an America First policy, not unlike the rhetoric of the 1930s, when political isolationism was on the rise. Will the United States falter in its decadeslong role of maintaining global peace and security as dictators like Vladimir Putin of Rusia, Xi Jinping of China, Viktor Orbán of Hungary, and other autocrats around the world seek to expand their territory, in the case of Russia, their ideology and their will upon neighboring nations?

We are already on that slippery slope. Mike Johnson, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, seems unwilling or unable to allow a vote on military aid for Ukraine or border security in this country without first getting consent from Donald Trump. The Republican members of the U.S. Senate recently walked away from a bipartisan immigration bill they had supported just the day before because Trump would rather campaign on immigration and against certain immigrants than actually solve the problem. The U.S. Supreme Court seems determined to delay, and maybe even completely derail, any accountability for Donald Trump as he faces a myriad of federal felony indictments.

Voting rights remain under assault in an attempt to impact the 2024 election. Women’s half-century-long right of reproductive choice has been stripped away with little regard for the impact that U.S. Supreme Court ruling would have on families and on American society as a whole. Not content with ending the right to an abortion and other forms of reproductive health care, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court sounded more like a fundamentalist preacher than an impartial servant of the court when he wrote that frozen embryos should receive all the protections provided to children that have already been born into the world. The concern is that other states may follow suit. And while the clinics in Alabama providing in vitro fertilization for couples who want to have children that ceased operation for fear of finding themselves outside this ruling are resuming operations after a state law was passed, the uncertainty remains. Couples that have already begun the process of IVF may find themselves in medical, legal, and financial limbo while this court ruling works itself out across the country.

There is even some concern that courts or state legislatures may try to criminalize various forms of contraception as tools of family planning. Similar concerns exist over the future of same-sex marriage. One is left to wonder if some legislative or judicial body will once again seek to outlaw interracial marriage that was illegal in many states until the 1960s.

The Rev. Marvin A. McMickle, interim senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland in Shaker Heights, in an undated photo.

What is our responsibility as citizens when we see judges, politicians, and many members of the clergy using their power and influence to shape American society after their own theological and ideological views? What do we say or do when sycophants rather than statesmen and women advise the occupant of the Oval Office?

My voice and my vote are my answer. I will rage against the impending death of American democracy. I will not go gently into that nightmare.

The Rev. Marvin A. McMickle recently began serving as interim senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland in Shaker Heights. He is the retired president of the Colgate Rochester (N.Y.) Crozer Divinity School and pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland.

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