Brett Kavanaugh may be a bad choice—even for evangelicals.
For evangelical voters, this week promises to be the biggest in years. Supposedly, choosing a morally-inferior president would be offset by a superior Supreme Court choice. That choice comes to fruition starting September 4.
But plenty of believers are not buying the hype.
In a New York Times opinion piece, a Baptist pastor from North Carolina, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, argues that Kavanaugh is not only a poor political choice, he’s a poor moral choice.
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.
Wilson-Hargrove joins a growing movement of evangelicals, including Lisa Sharon Harper and other believers behind a “call to pause,” who demand larger understandings of life, justice, and moral public action. In short, they are demanding that we think of the common good. “A ‘right to life’ is about more than abortion,” he writes.
As a thinking southerner, the pastor recognizes that race plays a role.
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.
In contrast, the old white guys who run evangelical institutions focus on other issues—often as a smokescreen for their real interests. (For a reminder of the political strategies they put into place, check out this interview with Frank Schaeffer.)
He also recognizes the way those people think.
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.”
Kavanaugh’s contorted interpretations will not serve the common good, the pastor argues. “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,” he predicts.
He concludes with a fundamental, common-good message.
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.
A Justice Kavanaugh may not move us closer to that vision of the common good. On November 6, however, we have the opportunity to change course in that direction.