The Case For Why Evangelicals Should Not Support Brett Kavanaugh

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

The White Evangelical Christians are close to achieving a milestone in the making after years of hard work and diligence by voting for Republican Party candidates who backed their goal of ending women’s access to legal abortions. If the current US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, he will be in a position to help them attain their dream.

But what they don’t get is that the upending of the US Supreme Court precedent for its Roe v. Wade ruling which allows for this access, will not end the practice of women having abortions. This medical option will be available at varying levels in different states. All this effort to accomplish a goal which may very well have peoples moving to states where their rights are not impinged could have been better attained if Evangelicals had focused on providing a safety net for poor women along with a focus on sex education which includes contraceptive use to prevent unwanted pregnancies. However, both these options appear to be abhorrent to the same folks who are pushing for ending women’s ability to have an abortion.

In addition, by providing a safety net for poor women, there would be the added benefit of reducing the infant mortality rate in the US which has the highest rates by far of all the developed countries. This would be true if those who keep pushing to make abortions illegal,  truly valued the gift of life.

I have come to look upon their advocacy for ending the legality for abortions in the USA as another culture war weapon which binds the Evangelical Christian to the Republican Party, and never mind, if what they are doing is an exercise in futility, especially when there are other less decisive ways to accomplish the goal of having abortions become a rare event.

Another Evangelical pastor is making a similar argument…

On September 3, 2018, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Baptist Minister in Durham, N.C., and the author of “Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom From Slaveholder Religion,” for the New York Times penned the following opinion piece, “The Evangelical Case Against Judge Kavanaugh” (My faith compels me to challenge the way reactionary conservatives have hijacked our faith to serve their narrow interests.”)

Here’s the rest of story…

“Conservative evangelicals were at the White House last week for an event the Rev. Robert Jeffress described as “a half state dinner and a half campaign rally.” Evangelicals like Mr. Jeffress are ebullient as the Senate prepares to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh next week, praising President Trump as “the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-conservative judiciary president of any president in history.”

“While Senate Democrats and an array of advocacy groups continue to sound the alarm about the threat Judge Kavanaugh poses to women’s rights, organized labor, civil rights, gun reform and voting rights, evangelicals who toe the line that the religious right has laid out for decades lift their hands in prayer to thank God for a conservative majority on the Supreme Court that now seems just weeks away.”

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“As an evangelical who cut my teeth in politics during the heyday of the Moral Majority movement in the 1980s, I know the enthusiasm many conservatives feel at the prospect of culture war victories at the Supreme Court. But I join many other faith leaders to oppose Judge Kavanaugh not in spite of our faith commitments, but because of them. As we read the Bible alongside Judge Kavanaugh’s record, we find his nomination a threat to the Christian ethic we are called to preach and pursue in public life.”

“Leading the evangelical challenge to an extreme conservative majority on the Supreme Court, a group of evangelical women has issued a “call to pause,” asking fellow believers to step back from the rhetoric of “life” to examine how decisions before the court would impact the vulnerable people we claim to care about, even the unborn. “The way to reduce abortion is not through escalating culture wars but by reducing poverty,” they argue, noting studies that show abortion rates at an all-time low, though they remain highest among poor women who lack access to health care.”

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“Lisa Sharon Harper, an African-American evangelical who has been a principal organizer of the “call to pause,” notes that a “right to life” is about more than abortion. “Majority conservative rulings have already whittled back civil rights protections, leaving this generation’s children as vulnerable to a new Jim Crow as my great-grandparents, who fled for their lives from the terror of the Jim Crow South.”

“For many nonwhite evangelicals, the life issues that matter most are voting rights, living wages, environmental protection, access to health care and public education. The experience of many of those evangelicals illuminates how life issues have been narrowly defined by conservative evangelicals over the last 40 years.”

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“Following the civil rights movement in the South, many white evangelicals felt threatened by political and cultural changes that challenged their assumptions about the natural order of the world. Leaning on the logic of slaveholder religion — which, as the historian H. Shelton Smith showed, justified human bondage by arguing that white control of society was in keeping with God’s design — religious conservatives rallied the faithful for moral resistance to the “unnatural” expansion of 14th Amendment protections to women and minorities. Since the Brown v. Board of Educationdecision overturned the doctrine of “separate but equal” in 1954, Southern preachers like Jerry Falwell had preached against liberal “activist judges.” But the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wadedecision offered Mr. Falwell’s Moral Majority a rallying cry that appeared selfless: defense of the unborn.”

“Despite an incredible investment in outreach to them, a vast majority of African-American evangelicals never got on board with the conservative rhetoric of the culture wars. Many black evangelicals understood that a reactionary movement against “activist judges” wasn’t rooted in godly concern for unborn children but in a fear of change, even if they, too, valued every child as a person created in God’s image. Across the Sunbelt and the Rust Belt, African-American evangelicals — who represent as much as three-fourths of the black population — leaned Democratic.”

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“The enthusiasm of older white men who still control mainly white evangelical organizations like the Family Research Council and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association that thrived on the culture wars should give all Americans pause, especially as we pay attention to what Judge Kavanaugh himself has said. In a lecture to the American Enterprise Institute last year, he celebrated the legacy of Chief Justice William Rehnquist by noting how Chief Justice Rehnquist had led the Supreme Court’s turn “away from its 1960s Warren court approach, where the court in some cases had seemed to be simply enshrining its policy views into the Constitution, or so the critics charged.”

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“Whether we have any experience in reading the law, evangelicals are familiar with Judge Kavanaugh’s way of reading authoritative texts. This is precisely how fundamentalists read Scripture in the early 20th century, when evolutionary science challenged their reading of Genesis and social science confronted narrow corporate interests during the Gilded Age. Fundamentalism taught reactionary religious voices to dig in their heels and claim final authority about what the text “actually says.” But evangelicals should know better: Our movement in America was founded in an attempt to maintain a commitment to Jesus and the Bible while rejecting reactionary extremism.”

“As proponents of “Christian nationalism” continue to be the most consistent base of support for President Trump, my evangelical faith compels me to challenge the way reactionary conservatives have hijacked our faith to serve their narrow interests. With Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, their 40-year effort to overturn expansions of 14th Amendment protections by the Warren court may be in reach. This will not necessarily save unborn children, but it will make life more difficult for minorities, workers, poor people and the L.G.B.T.Q. community.”

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“When Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly” in John 10:10, he wasn’t thinking about a victory for those who have used religion to fight back against the gains of the civil rights movement. Jesus was inviting all of us to work together for the vision at the heart of that movement — a beloved community where all people created in God’s image can thrive.”

2 comments

  1. The Catholic Church in the USA had a similar ‘moment’ when it thought it could make common cause with the Anti-Abortion wing of the Evangelic Movement; then found out the said movement did not really care about the welfare of the unborn, nor the mother; they just wanted the whole business to stop. There was a parting of the ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Roger,

    The Catholic Church in the USA still has a percentage of conservatives who want to impose their will on others outside the church which includes restrictions to contraceptives but they are countered by a lot of Catholics who get that this tactic is not effective in preventing abortions.

    Again, I perceive that this issue has been used as a political weapon which forgets the goal, of placing value on the gift of life.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

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