Roe flip is not a victory lap for religion


As a Christian fundamentalist in charge of knocking on doors for Jesus, I didn’t like interrupting people’s lives with threats of hellfire. But the Great Commission in the book of Matthew – go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature – gave me no wiggle room.

Still. I was an apathetic proselyte. In all my years of door knocking, I’ve only convinced one man (who may have been drunk) to sit down a Open Bible Study – a series of color-coded educational brochures intended to end with baptism by immersion.

Our religion was not the feel-good pablum of televangelists. We were fundamentalists, a tough little body within Christian evangelism. We clung to precepts based on the patriarchal theology of Alexander and Thomas Campbell (to whom, yes, I am related), who exploded onto the American religious scene at the beginning of the last century. Literal interpretation of the scriptures, tent meetings and menacing hymns sung in four-part harmony without musical accompaniment – that was our job.

Yet for all the fervor, our legacy is in tatters. My people supported the prosecutors in the Scopes Monkey trial. In the middle of the century, our numbers increased partly in reaction to the civil rights movement – and we were on the wrong side. We have been called America’s Taliban, but this brand of religiosity is entirely local and has precisely nothing to do with any religion other than Christianity – or some twisted version of it.

We’re the Rule Book People, but in our heyday we didn’t talk about abortion. In fact, in 1968, an influential editor of the influential evangelical magazine, “Christianity Today,” opined that “a woman’s body is not the domain and property of others.” In 1971, the Southern Baptist Convention supported the legalization of abortion under certain fairly broad restrictions.

For my corner of the bench, everything began to change with the fetid influence of the moral majority. The founder, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, who began his career as a segregationist, had a lot to answer when he returned to meet his creator in 2007. Hopefully the first question was “What were you thinking?” start a political movement supposed to be based on the scriptures.

In a pluralistic society, general rules do not work. What about people who do not profess any religious belief? What about the Jewish doctrine that says a fetus is a person only at the first breath? Or the recent joint statement from American Muslim Bar Association and HEART, a reproductive justice organization serving American Muslims? This well-researched document says, in part, that although Muslims do not hold a uniform belief as to when life begins, “By promoting a particular religious viewpoint and denying pregnant women the right to direct their lives Based on their unique lived experiences, religious traditions, and beliefs, we believe that states that enact bans pose a threat to religious freedom in violation of the U.S. Constitution and relevant state constitutions that enshrine the same principle.

Amen.

I no longer knock on doors for Jesus, even though I still believe. And I am not an originalist – for the Constitution or for the sacred text. I refuse to put words in the mouth of God or the Founders, but the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade brought us closer to a theocracy. It was a decision that was not do- Where based on science. Rather, it was a decision based on the interpretation of the sacred text by the Court’s conservative judges.

And, speaking from the trenches, it was also the cornerstone of a decades-long diversion of the religious right’s attention toward abortion, and away from what the Bible calls “pure and undefiled religion.” , which consists in “visiting orphans and widows in their affliction”, and keeping oneself “unspotted from the world”.

It’s James 1:27, if you follow your Bible, and yes, it’s the King James Version, just as Jesus intended.

(If you don’t get this joke, I’m going to judge you a little.)

Right-wing clerics who are still taking a victory lap should understand that this decision only increases their rush to insignificance. Fewer and fewer Americans believe the Bible is the literal word of God, according to a recent Gallup poll. Another one 2020 Gallup Poll says that for the first time there are more people not go to church than the people who go there. The Court’s six curators have awakened a politically active and digitally gifted generation unaccustomed to having their rights taken away, and for whom the rough old cross rests gently – if at all – on their shoulders.

These are dark days, both for people who become pregnant and for religious entities who would withdraw their free will around these pregnancies. I would say I would pray for the church, but I would lie. The church created this mess for itself. Instead, I will pray and ask for grace and blessings for those most affected by this dismal decision, whether they are sitting in my pew, another pew, or no pew at all.

Susan Campbell is the author of “Frog Hollow: Stories from an American Neighborhood”, “Tempest Tossed: The Mind of Isabella Beecher Hooker”, and “Dating Jesus: Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl”. To learn more, visit susancampbell.substack.com.

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