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Overturning Roe v. Wade isn’t worth compromising with Trump, my fellow evangelicals

The Supreme Court, shown on Wednesday, the day that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced that he will retire. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

We are going to give an account to God for our complicit silence before the immoral policies and actions of the Trump administration. By “we,” I mean the entire country, but I have a particular concern for pro-life evangelical Christians, because I am one.

During the general election and the early days of the Trump presidency, when hand-wringing was still viewed as public penance for having used that hand to vote for then-candidate Donald Trump, many evangelical Christians explained that their vote was not a vote for Trump as such but was the best option they had in light of the potential for appointing pro-life Supreme Court justices in the hope of overturning Roe v. Wade. If one cares about protecting the lives of unborn children aborted by the hundreds of thousands each year, one can understand the logic. Clearly a President Hillary Clinton would have done nothing to curtail abortion and would very likely have done a great deal to expand policies protecting the practice. But at the time, that was the political calculus, a partisan hope not yet realized.

With news Wednesday of the summer retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, now 81, those Christian voters who opted for Trump with the hope of conservative Supreme Court appointments seem vindicated by their vote. At least that’s how some Christians who once pronounced the 2016 election “God’s judgment on America” seem to read providence now. Their “compromise” in voting for Trump appears to bring Christian America one step closer to a country without Roe.

But it does not bring us a step closer to a country without woe.

The day before the announcement of Kennedy’s retirement, I met with a small group of evangelical pastors wanting to know how they can ally with Christians of color in matters affecting their communities. I arrived at the meeting a few minutes early to find one pastor already seated and waiting. He looked up from his phone and greeted me with a wide smile. After a few pleasantries, he returned for a moment to the news feed on his phone. Then he asked, “Have you heard the news?” The Supreme Court had just delivered a decision upholding the Trump immigration ban on countries that included Venezuela. My pastor friend, a Venezuelan, leaned back in his chair, flashing worry and sorrow. His life just changed, as had the lives of many in his congregation.

Of course, the travel ban’s core aim is to exclude potential visitors and immigrants from majority-Muslim countries, an intent at odds with Christian views of religious freedom.

Meanwhile, “dreamers” continue to wait in fear as President Trump and Congress stall on a permanent solution for this class of immigrants.

All of this roughly one year after Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to seek the maximum penalty in drug cases they prosecute. That memo reverses an Obama-era policy that sought to ameliorate the effect of mandatory minimum sentences, especially in nonviolent minor drug crimes. Sessions’s memo takes us back toward the policies that gave us the mass incarceration of black and brown citizens. In the documentary “The Thirteenth,” policymakers as diverse as Newt Gingrich and Charles B. Rangel who gave us “tough on crime” approaches that accelerated mass incarceration acknowledged the policies as failures that disproportionately affected black and brown communities. Sessions’s tone-deaf approach will further devastate families in those communities.

And how do we calculate the moral damage and accountability of the harm done to the legitimacy of the presidency itself nearly every day on Twitter and as a Russian collusion investigation continues?

In sheer numbers, more lives are ended by legalized abortion. Christians are correct to focus energy and concern on ending the practice. But in quieter, sometimes less observable ways, the carnage mounts in racial injustice and discrimination.

The potential nomination of a potential pro-life judge does not, in my opinion, alleviate the concerns I have about the racial injustices this same administration seems to multiply each day. What many evangelicals don’t seem to understand is they’re turning blind eyes to their brethren suffering at the hands of this administration for the long-held hope of overturning Roe. I’m for overturning Roe, but I’m also for protecting black and brown lives from racism and the kind of criminalization that swells our prisons and devastates communities or separates families at the borders.

Some Christians appear to have made a Faustian bargain for the mere price of a Supreme Court nominee. The Devil gets the better end of that deal!

Judgment begins at the household of God; that is, judgment begins with Christians. Most evangelical Christians worry about God’s judgment of people who are not Christians. But the Bible calls us to first judge ourselves in light of God’s expectations for Christians. Indifference to other moral issues and forms of suffering call into question one’s understanding of the faith and one’s claim to be a Christian. I can’t tell the difference between true and false Christians, but God surely can. He knows who belongs to Him and who will inherit the kingdom of God. They are the righteous ones whose faith leads them to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and visit those in prison (Matthew 25:35-36).

Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor and author in Washington, D.C., and blogs regularly at Pure Church and The Front Porch.