Doug Pagitt, Opinion contributor Published 12:21 p.m. ET Oct. 21, 2018
White evangelicals are trading their moral core for anti-abortion gains. Time to rethink support for Trump, Republicans and policies that are inhumane.
Religious leaders have given up moral ground at every renewed show of support for this administration and Congress. They stood by as families were torn apart at our border, the children shipped off to remote detention camps in the middle of the night. They cheered as health care was stripped away from the poor and the sick. And they fell in line to support the newly confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was credibly accused of harming multiple women. These are not positions informed by the teachings of Jesus Christ — to the contrary, they are antithetical to what Jesus preached.
So why areso many white evangelicals dead-set on supporting the Trump administration and current Republican Congress? Their insistence on walking in lockstep with the Republican Party often is primarily motivated by a single issue: abortion.
Many of us are taught from a young age that abortion is the issue on which our vote should always hinge. The hope among many evangelicals is to make abortion illegal. Evidence, however, suggests that criminalization does not reduce abortions. In fact, studies show that criminalizing abortion does nothing to protect babies, but instead endangers mothers.
Fight against abortion blinds conservatives
The Republican Party has used the issue of abortion as a tool to manipulate religious leaders across the country. These leaders’ highest concern is self-preservation. They fear God’s wrath and want impunity. But in their fear, they have become blinded and desensitized to all other injustices and inhumanities: children separated from parents, refugees refused safety, women denigrated and abused, and health care denied to the vulnerable.
These conservative leaders are willing, at all costs, to make a moral trade — anti-abortion laws and court decisions in exchange for basic human dignity.
This impulse for self-preservation allows them to champion an administration that runs afoul of America’s commitment to be a place of protection, that violates the call of the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which Jesus calls his followers to let go of our religious agendas to care for the harmed stranger.
Like the religious leaders from the story of the Good Samaritan, who protected their interests and purity by ignoring a man who had been beaten and left to die, too many of our faith leaders endorse the Trump agenda at the expense of those who suffer.
Franklin Graham, who uses the imagery of the Good Samaritan in his organizational name, mocks it by turning a blind eye to the women who raised accusations against Kavanaugh. In doing so, he is complicit in this administration’s war on the vulnerable.
But other religious leaders and people throughout this country know that faith calls us out of blind self-preservation. We know that the pursuit of the common good means taking time to stand with women, people of color, immigrants, refugees, the poor and the sick. Our call is to concern ourselves with those who have been ignored and harmed by governments and powers.
Many of us are shocked by Republicans’ unwillingness to challenge this bullying administration. We are shocked to find ourselves aligned with a party that supports abusers. Some of us have voted Republican most of our lives and find ourselves unable to continue.
Faith is not partisan
So often in our country Christian faith implies Republicanism, but I want to challenge the idea that faith is partisan. My faith does not call me to be Republican or Democrat. My faith calls me to love God and love my neighbor as I love myself. I am called to vote for the common good, for justice and humanity.
With the midterms just a couple of weeks away, we face a critical juncture in our country: restore some power to those who would govern with compassion, or continue ceding moral ground for the sake of abortion. Will we continue to vote out of fear of God’s wrath, or will we turn a corner and vote to spread God’s love for all people?
In such a time as this, evangelicals are called to dislodge control of Congress from Republicans who have abandoned our values. The Good News of God compels us to use our vote as a tool for the common good of all people, for if good is not accessible and common to all, it is not good; it is privilege.
Doug Pagitt is a Minneapolis-based pastor and the executive director of Vote Common Good. Follow him on Twitter: @pagitt
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