taking the words of Jesus seriously

Last week a rising chorus of leading evangelical women called America to stop the Senate from rushing to confirm a replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. They called fellow evangelicals to “Hit Pause on the Culture Wars.” This week, a strong core of leading evangelical men join the women’s call.

Launched decades ago, the evangelical culture wars have effectively brought the nation to a turning point. The balance of the Supreme Court is poised to tip in favor of a conservative agenda for generations. Powered by a political strategy crafted in the 1980s by the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition, conservative evangelicals have eyed the Supreme Court as a prime target of its war to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Now, on the brink of the political win that culture warriors have dreamt about for more than three decades, evangelical women and men of color and their white evangelical allies are voicing dissent. The only growing segment of the evangelical church, people of color warn: The conservative evangelical strategy to dominate the Supreme Court will result in increased abortion rates — particularly in poor communities and communities of color. What’s more, a conservative majority Supreme Court poses an existential threat to the civil rights and protections gained through the civil rights movement. Hard data proves it, and evangelicals are saying no.

Abortion rates for American women have hit an all-time low, but they’ve increased among poor women because economic hardship is the primary driver of abortion. The way to reduce abortion is not through escalating culture wars but by reducing poverty. Instead, the conservative court will continue to unravel hard won rights and freedoms that add to poverty. Rulings have already whittled away voting rights and desegregation, adding to divisiveness across the country — even within our church pews.

Initiated by my organization Freedom Road, LLC, this Call to Pause has garnered strong public statements from a political spectrum of 17 leading evangelical men across the nation to join the 18 statements issued by evangelical women last week.

The group is calling on all Evangelicals to Pause the Culture War:

1) FAST for God’s discernment after 35 years of a culture war mindset. We recognize that three things happen in war:

  • There are only allies and enemies, no human beings.
  • You cannot be wrong in war. You are always right. The other is always wrong.
  • There is always collateral damage in war.

2) LISTEN to the stories and testimonies of the people of color in the pew right next to us.

3) ACT on our prayerful, informed discernment by calling our Senators to demand they replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy with a moderate independent Justice. Senate switchboard:
(202) 224-3121

Below are a selection of 15 statements from evangelical women and men engaged in the Call to Pause. To review all 35 statements, visit Freedom Road’s full summary here and here.


Lisa Sharon Harper (President and Founder of Freedom Road LLC, Auburn Senior Fellow, Author)

“On the day that Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, I fell to my knees in prayer. Tears fell as I prayed for the unborn…and my nieces and nephews and their children. What kind of world are we making for them? 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. They’ve harmed the cause of decreasing abortion.

It is time our actions reset our hearts and minds, our evangelical faith, and the direction of our divided nation.”

Shane Claiborne (Author, Activist, Co-Founder of Red Letter Christians)

“I am pro-life. Being FOR life includes wanting to see the number of abortions continue to drop. I don’t think the Left or the Right has a magic formula for that.

In the end, being pro-life is not just about eradicating abortion. It also means welcoming immigrants, ending gun violence, affirming the dignity and rights of sexual minorities, opposing war, caring for creation, supporting Black lives, and abolishing the death penalty. That is why I support my sisters in hitting pause on the culture wars. We need leaders, including Supreme Court justices, who are concerned about life consistently and holistically, from womb to tomb. I am deeply concerned about having a court that is pro-life on one issue but anti-life on so many others.

On a side note, it is mind-boggling that since 1790, there have been 113 Supreme Court justices but only 4 of them have been women and only 3 of them have been people of color. In 228 years, all but 6 of the justices have been white men. If we are going to make America great, we must allow women and people of color to lead the way. Please join us as we hit pause on the culture wars, as we pray together for our country, and as we put our prayers into action.”

Kathy Khang (Author of Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up)

“An ideologically independent SCOTUS nominee is imperative if Evangelicals in the U.S. are truly pro-life and not merely anti-abortion. Overturning Roe v. Wade will not reduce abortions but become a contributing factor in increasing poverty, dismantling civil rights, and literally moving the country back decades in terms of rights for people of color and specifically women of color. Criminalizing abortion has become the culture war’s rallying cry but the core of the culture war has always been about white supremacy, for example protecting segregation as a matter of religious freedom. I hope my fellow evangelicals will call on our senators to support a more centrist nominee.”

Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber (Co-Founder of The Voices Project and Congregational Developer of the Greater NW United Methodist Church)

“In the most politically divided and racially polarized landscape in recent American history, our nation stands on the brink of confirming a partisan Supreme Court in the name of religious freedom and overturning Roe v. Wade. But the 35 year culture war that brought us to this brink may actually result in rulings that restrict and dismantle civil rights and voting rights for people of color, women, and other minorities. For this reason, I join the Call to ​Hit ​​P​ause ​on the ​Culture War. ​The rhetoric​ of war​ is damaging our ability to see each other as human beings. ​A​n unbalanced Supreme Court ​committed to interpreting ​our ​Constitution “as written”​ mistakenly assigns divine authorship and the assumption of just intent and outcome to a document written by European men, many of whom owned slaves, stole land from Native Americans, and saw no place for women in the leadership of public life. ​People of color have reason to fear any Court that views the U.S. Constitution as a static, inerrant document. ​Our nation needs a balanced Supreme Court. Judge ​Brett ​Kavanaugh ​will not offer that balance. ​I stand with the women and men who are calling our nation to Hit Pause on the Culture War. We must call our Senators this week and tell them to confirm a truly moderate and independent Justice to the court. We must fast and we must listen to the stories of those who will be most impacted by the next court.​ Our future depends on it.”

Rachel Held Evans (Bestselling Author)

“For too long, the national conversation around abortion and reproductive rights has been framed by the most extreme voices on either side. As a result, we are now facing the appointment of a judge to the Supreme Court who has been vetted not by the American Bar Association but by far-right organizations like the Federalists Society and The Heritage Foundation. The appointment of such a judge threatens to dismantle decades of protections won by the Civil Rights Movement, and ironically, could undo significant gains in poverty reduction and health care that have resulted in the lowest abortion rate since the 1970s. This is why I join my fellow Christians in calling for a pause in the culture war. The lives and freedoms of religious minorities, people of color, LGBT citizens, and the poor are not acceptable collateral damage in an ideological struggle that has lost any connection to the real women and real children caught in its crossfire. We need to stop, think, and pray about the long-term effects a right-wing judge in a lifetime appointment would have on our neighbors for the next 10, 20, or 40 years.”

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Director of the School for Conversion)

“The affirmation of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination by many who claim to speak for evangelicals has exposed the degree to which morality in America’s public square has been narrowly defined by corporate interests rather than the concerns of Scripture. Anyone who is concerned about poor children, women, immigrants, and minorities must examine Kavanaugh’s record on voting rights, healthcare access, and equal protection under the law. Whatever your position on Roe v. Wade, these are the “life” issues before the Supreme Court today – and Kavanaugh has been consistently anti-life on these issues. I’m grateful for evangelical women who’ve led the call to Hit Pause on the Culture War by opposing Kavanaugh’s nominations and demanding a moderate, independent justice. And I’m glad to join them in calling our fellow evangelicals to take this message to our Senators, fast and pray for our nation, and listen to our black and brown sisters and brothers who know in their bodies how far we have to go toward the “more perfect union” the Constitution names as our goal.”

Maria Jose-Soerens (Founder of Puentes Advocacy)

“As an Evangelical woman committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe that protecting life and protecting the vulnerable means to work towards a moral society that takes care of all people from conception until the end of their lives. The pro-life agenda, narrowly focused on protecting babies only while in the womb, has promoted policies that hurt women, children, and men, stripping away our civil liberties and access to opportunity. It is our moral duty as Christians to promote care for each other and opportunities for people of all races and genders to thrive. As an evangelical woman, I will not support government policies that sacrifice the common good on behalf of a narrow ideology. Furthermore, we will continue to fight those who seek to co-opt the gospel for political gain. Jesus was clear: Protect the vulnerable, “welcome the stranger, love thy neighbor.”

Propaganda (Hip Hop Artist and Podcaster)

“First, it’s important to acknowledge in all our rhetoric that I nor any other man in office has ever nor will ever be pregnant. We can only understand by proxy. We must defer to the queens of our culture. I suggest for the men, that we hit pause twice. Maybe for once let’s let the ladies be the experts in something that they are already experts in. Secondly, culture war, for the Christian should be a misnomer. The culture is not some monster that comes from the mountains. It’s us, all of us, we are the culture. And our God loves the culture. How could I be at war with what I’m called to love? Maybe let’s not think of things in terms of power grabs and tit for tats, but as members of a society that flourishes when we do what we are called to. May we be pro-life by general principle, womb to tomb, and not just in talking points. Sure, fire would rid a house of rodents, but it would also burn the house down. Wars burn down houses. Slow down.”

Rev. Alexia Salvatierra (Co-author of Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World)

“’Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court.’ (Proverbs 22:22) Too often, evangelicals have been identified with only two political concerns instead of representing the full heart of God. We need judges with a demonstrated commitment to justice for the poor, for those who are on the margins of our society but at the center of God’s concern. As our legislative leaders consider our president’s recommendation for the Supreme Court, we pray that they will ask the hard questions and not be content with unacceptable answers.”

Rev. Adam Taylor (Executive Director of Sojourners)

“The Call to Pause serves as a much needed balm and bridge in the midst of our nation’s culture war. These courageous statements from evangelical women are an important reminder that as followers of Jesus we must embrace and apply the most important matters of the law — of justice, mercy, and faithfulness — to our politics, including the critical decision around who will replace Supreme Court Justice Kennedy. The abortion debate has become so polarized and politicized that it has often prevented people of faith and conscience from coming together around common ground solutions that have already been shown to dramatically reduce the number of abortions, including by increasing access to health care, child care, and birth control. I’m grateful that this initiative is promoting a much broader understanding of what it means to be pro-life, one that calls us to address everything that threatens life and assaults human dignity from birth through death — from racism and sexism to poverty and sexual violence.”

D.L. Mayfield (Evangelical Activist and Author)

“Evangelical women have been co-opted by a push to become one-issue voters, and I believe this can and will have long-term consequences for a variety of marginalized and oppressed communities. I want to affirm the power of the God-given desire to uphold life while also saying that I believe this desire has been used for political purposes by one party to gain power. Now is the time to stop being a one-issue voter, and to think carefully about what the long-term consequences of a conservative Supreme Court would be. I, along with many other evangelical women, long to see a world where human beings are treated as being made in the image of God. This includes upholding civil rights, religious liberty for all (not just Christians), having compassionate policies towards refugees and immigrants and having a consistent ethic which values life from the womb to the tomb.

I am urging my fellow evangelical women to pause, fast, discern — and to call your Senators and ask that they appoint a moderate, independent Supreme Court Justice to uphold the balance of the court. I am asking us all to consider the importance of pausing the culture war in order to see entire communities flourish.”

Jon Huckins (Pastor and Co-Founding Director of Global Immersion and Author of Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World)

“For many of us who sit in seats of privilege, political decisions ranging from policy overhauls to SCOTUS picks don’t impact our everyday reality. Our insulation allows us to take sides, propagate culture wars, and debate on social media while society’s most vulnerable are crushed under the weight of our abstract ideology. We have to go on a journey toward understanding the human implications of our ideology and allow the Spirit to guide us toward justice.

As white, male Christian leaders, there are times we need to lay down our privilege and other times we need to leverage it. Now is the time for the latter. It is the necessary posture and practice to promote the flourishing of those on the underside of power. Those whom Jesus often described as first in his kingdom. Let’s follow their lead by giving ourselves away…even if it costs everything.”

Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil (Founder & President of Salter McNeil & Associates, LLC)

“’EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW’ These are the words written above the main entrance to the Supreme Court Building. Based upon this declaration, I hoped that the Supreme Court was comprised of the best legal minds in our country, who made impartial legal decisions that ensured all people in America received the promise of equal justice under the law. Unfortunately, I no longer believe this to be true. Instead, the Supreme Court of the United States has become a political entity that is currently being stacked with ideologues, who are uncompromising and dogmatic in their goal to use the court to support their personal and political agendas. This has eroded the very fabric of our democracy and the core of what has made the United States a great Nation. Lord, have mercy!

Although the current “Culture War” in our country seems to be for religious liberty, with abortion being at the center of this debate, the truth is we are actually fighting for the soul of our nation and the promise of “liberty and justice for all.” History proves that the net effect of the “Culture War” results in the dismantling of protections won by the Civil Rights Movement, aided by a conservative Supreme Court. The historical data shows that the way to actually reduce abortions is to reduce poverty, not to reduce the liberties of poor people and people of color. Therefore, as a Christian leader, who is committed to the ministry of reconciliation, I urge all followers of Jesus to speak out against the collateral damage of the “Culture War” that undercuts the credibility of the gospel in a world that so desperately needs the healing and wholeness that only our God can bring.”

Mark Labberton (President of Fuller Theological Seminary)

“Any selection of a Supreme Court justice matters, and matters for years to come. All justices are interpreters of the law and influence lives in every part of society. Neutral judges don’t exist but centrist judges do.

This current nominee has impressive credentials and experience, but his nomination appears to be motivated by exceptionally ideological intentions as a redress of past and present culture wars. To serve the legal interests of all citizens, and especially women and people of color, we need a more ideologically centrist court, not one controlled by the right or by the left. To some, this nominee is a corrective to the left-leaning court of recent history. But surely the answer that serves all people will not be a corresponding swing to a right-leaning court. Neither direction serves the long-term interest of our nation but rather extends and perpetuates the very abuses of power which the Supreme Court is meant to redress in its commitment to justice.”

Jen Hatmaker (New York Times Bestselling Author, Pastor, Speaker, and Podcast Host)

“As we consider the next 20-30 years of SCOTUS rulings, charting the landscape for vulnerable populations in our children’s and grandchildren’s generations, evangelical women can no longer be silent. It’s a luxury to think whatever is going on doesn’t affect us: It’s not going to harm our family, it’s not going to harm our marriage, it’s not going to harm our position or our place in society. It’s actually a luxury of the privileged to stay silent and say, ‘I don’t have to care about it, and you shouldn’t either because that would make us feel uncomfortable.’ We can no longer elevate comfort over justice. The truth is, those days are behind us. At the core of our work, we are leading women spiritually. If we are unwilling to stand by our friends on the margins, then we have no business being leaders.”

 

About The Author

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Lisa Sharon Harper is the founder and president of Freedom Road, LLC, and the author of several books, including the critically acclaimed, "The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right." Asked why she does what she does, Lisa's answer is clear: “So that the church might be worthy of the moniker ‘Bride of Christ.'" Through preaching, writing, training, network development, and public witness, Lisa engages the church in the work of justice and peacemaking. She was named “#5 of the Top 13 Women to Watch in 2012” by the Center for American Progress and was awarded the 2013 Faith and Justice Leadership Award by the National Black Women’s Round Table. She formerly served as the Chief Church Engagement Officer at Sojourners.

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