In the evangelical culture wars in 2016 a lot of evangelicals rallied around candidate Donald Trump for the Supreme Court. Christian nationalists made the Supreme Court essential. This former evangelical saw people buy into that narrative. But what does that mean today? When you make a Faustian Bargain and then a major Supreme Court decision rules against what you hope what do you do? Monday’s major decision on Bostock vs. Clayton County, Georgia revealed quite a bit about evangelicals and their culture wars.
“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”
Fathers,[a] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 4:6 NIV
Being an evangelical at times takes lots of Kool Aid. Drink up and greedily reach for more!
In 2016 I was seeing something that troubled me. I noticed on Facebook a number of evangelicals that I knew who were lining behind then candidate Donald Trump. The rallying cry I was seeing in a few Facebook posts is that the Supreme Court had to be saved. They brought up issues like abortion or gay rights. As such I was seeing people I knew start to make the case that you ignored the immorality and ethics issues of President Trump, for the Supreme Court pick. It was puzzling to see and bizarre. Rational thinking went out the window. But it also happened with others as well. I used to have a friend, someone who is an Anglican Priest who teaches in Pewaukee, Wisconsin who said, “what are we supposed to do?” Like others he thought in black and white and went all in for Trump as well.
I didn’t think like that at all, and this was when I was trying to go to church. I have told you as to how I have pushed back. I tried to rationalize their thinking and could not go down that path. In my view I would have to throw away my integrity to do so. The only way I could describe people I knew who went down this path is that they engaged in a Faustain Bargain. What they did was made a deal with the devil. In the process they compromised their character, integrity and all that they stood for. But at some point it backfires. At some point after the transaction the deal is revealed for what it is; and all you have is a legacy of ashes in my view. That happened yesterday with a major Supreme Court decision that enraged man evangelicals.
Bostock vs. Clayton County, Georgia
The case originated out of Clayton County, Georgia when an employee expressed interest in joining a gay softball league. He was later fired from his job. Gerald Bostock then sought legal recourse for workplace discrimination. The county in response eventually claimed that the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s Title VII does not include protection against discrimination towards sexual orientation. The issue eventually made its way to the Supreme Court where it was decided on June 15, 2020. In a 6 to 3 decision the Court ruled that the 1864 Civil Rights Act protects gay and trans-gendered people from workplace discrimination. In the decision the there were two surprises Chief Justice John Roberts and recent Supreme Court appointee Neil Gorsuch. Justice Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion for the court. Below is some of what was said, which I am using from the New York Times.
The decision was both symbolic and consequential, and it followed in the tradition of landmark rulings on discrimination. Unlike Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 decision that said racially segregated public schools violated the Constitution; Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 decision that struck down bans on interracial marriage; and Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that struck down state bans on same-sex marriage, the new decision did not involve constitutional rights.
Instead, the question for the justices was the meaning of a statute, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex. They had to decide whether that last prohibition — discrimination “because of sex” — applies to many millions of gay and transgender workers.
Justice Gorsuch wrote that it did.
“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” he wrote.
“It is impossible,” Justice Gorsuch wrote, “to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”
The decision will allow people who say they were discriminated against in the workplace based on their sexual orientation or gender identity to file lawsuits, just as people claiming race and sex discrimination may. The plaintiffs will have to offer evidence, of course, and employers may respond that they had reasons unrelated to discrimination for their decisions.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., in a dissent joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote that the majority had abandoned its judicial role.
“There is only one word for what the court has done today: legislation,” Justice Alito wrote. “The document that the court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive.”
“A more brazen abuse of our authority to interpret statutes is hard to recall,” he wrote. “The court tries to convince readers that it is merely enforcing the terms of the statute, but that is preposterous.”
The common understanding of sex discrimination in 1964, Justice Alito wrote, was bias against women or men and did not encompass discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. If Congress wanted to protect gay and transgender workers, he wrote, it could pass a new law.
“Discrimination ‘because of sex’ was not understood as having anything to do with discrimination because of sexual orientation or transgender status” in 1964, he wrote. “Any such notion would have clashed in spectacular fashion with the societal norms of the day.”
Justice Alito added that the majority’s decision would have pernicious consequences.
He said the majority left open, for instance, questions about access to restrooms and locker rooms. “For women who have been victimized by sexual assault or abuse,” he wrote, “the experience of seeing an unclothed person with the anatomy of a male in a confined and sensitive location such as a bathroom or locker room can cause serious psychological harm.”
Nor did the majority address, he said, how its ruling would affect sports, college housing, religious employers, health care or free speech.
“After today’s decision,” Justice Alito wrote, “plaintiffs may claim that the failure to use their preferred pronoun violates one of the federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination.”
“Although the court does not want to think about the consequences of its decision, we will not be able to avoid those issues for long,” he wrote. “The entire federal judiciary will be mired for years in disputes about the reach of the court’s reasoning.”
Justice Gorsuch responded that the court’s ruling was narrow. “We do not purport to address bathrooms, locker rooms or anything else of the kind,” he wrote. “Whether other policies and practices might or might not qualify as unlawful discrimination or find justifications under other provisions of Title VII are questions for future cases, not these.”
He added that Title VII itself included protections for religious employers and that a separate federal law and the First Amendment also allow religious groups latitude in their employment decisions.
If you would like to read more about this you can do so in the following articles:
- New York Times, “Civil Rights Law Protects Gay and Transgender Workers, Supreme Court Rules.”
- Washington Post, “The Supreme Court closed the door on LGBTQ employment discrimination. But it opened a window.”
- CNBC, “Supreme Court rules workers can’t be fired for being gay or transgender.”
- Vox, “The Supreme Court’s landmark LGBTQ rights decision, explained in 5 simple sentences.“
- NPR, “Sex Discrimination Case Plaintiff Comments On The Supreme Court’s Decision.”
The Court Evangelical Response to Making Discrimination of Gays Illegal
There are a number of people who responded to the Supreme Court decision. A number of court evangelicals or even a someone like Russell Moore responded. But in this post I want to focus on Franklin Graham. Franklin viewed it as a setback for the evangelical church. He also claimed that his religious rights are being threatened. For Franklin it appears and other evangelicals they supported Trump because of the Supreme Court issue. Neil Gorsuch was supposed to deliver to the evangelicals, but something went very wrong for them. In the statement below that I lifted off Facebook Graham portrays himself and evangelicals almost as the victims. Read what Franklin Graham says.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court enacted a new law that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the 1964 Civil Rights Act as “protected classes.” As Justice Alito has pointed out, the majority went too far—he called it a “brazen abuse of our authority.” The Supreme Court exists to interpret the law, not to make new laws—making laws is the job of our Representatives in Congress, elected by the people.
I believe this decision erodes religious freedoms across this country. People of sincere faith who stand on God’s Word as their foundation for life should never be forced by the government to compromise their religious beliefs. Christian organizations should never be forced to hire people who do not align with their biblical beliefs and should not be prevented from terminating a person whose lifestyle and beliefs undermine the ministry’s purpose and goals.
As a Bible-believing follower of Jesus Christ, my rights should be protected. Even if my sincerely held religious beliefs might be the minority, I still have a right to hold them. The same holds true for a Christian organization. These are the freedoms our nation was founded on.
The Supreme Court does not override and will never overturn the Word of God. One day we will all have to stand before God, the Righteous Judge, whose decisions are not based on politics or the whims of culture. His laws are true and are the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Religious Freedom is the Right to Discriminate
Franklin Graham talks about religious freedom often in that Facebook post. Here is what Franklin is actually talking about. Religious freedom is about the right to discriminate. To be an evangelical in this crowd means that you can practice discrimination any day and every door. Jesus was wrong when he said love your neighbor. And even if you disagree on someone being gay there are a lot of graceful ways to respond. But for Franklin Graham and others like him that is impossible. This crowd can only think in black and white and they have transformed the Gospel into a political movement. Its not spiritual at all. As I look back on Franklin and I consider some of the people I once worshiped with there is one thing that stands out in my mind. Many of these people feared gays. Their actions and how they responded were dictated and out of fear. Whereas Jesus said to not be afraid, it appears that is all an evangelical can do. They have to live in fear. What is twisted is that many evangelicals then manipulate fear and use it in a disturbing way. I will try and expand upon that below.
Franklin Graham and Other Court Evangelicals Are Lost
Franklin’s comments show me how spiritually lost he is. Why are the Southern Baptists sending evangelical missionaries to Africa, Asia and South America? Why don’t they send them over to Graham’s outfit at Samaritan’s Purse? There is something intrinsically wrong when your faith is about hate, fighting and the endless culture war. People like Franklin have stepped it up over the last few years. And in the process they have doubled down and revealed quite a bit. I honestly didn’t know how lost someone like Franklin Graham is. I used to have a lot of respect for him but that has gone by the wayside. The Gospel according to Franklin Graham is not to be born again and to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. He may say that but what do his actions say? His actions state that faith is to be lived in fear and to play that card. Whatever the issue or the situation the way to respond is to live in fear and respond in fear. Its like pouring chum into the water and getting a shark excited. Franklin and other evangelicals into Christian nationalism play the fear card. Its the only card they can play.
Tony Perkins on Neil Gorsuch being nominated as discussed on Fox News.
Their Faustain Bargain Imploded and Revealed Evangelicals for Who They Are
In 2016 many evangelicals made a Faustain Bargain. The bargain was made for the Supreme Court. In selling their soul and cashing out what little faith they had, they got two justices on the Supreme Court. They got Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. And what happened? They placed their faith in a Supreme Court nominee, battled for him and what happened? They showed how their faith is weak and easily manipulated. They sold it all and for what? What do they have to show? Anger, bitterness and feelings of betrayal? Maybe if they didn’t have their faith so married to politics and the the Supreme Court things would be different. If they lived apart from that it could be very different.
Here is the thing that sticks with me though. I heard over the years what faith is about. What it means to be a born again and have a personal relationship with Jesus. Then I watched a lot of people throw their faith away and make it all about the Supreme Court. Jesus, didn’t die for the sins of the world, he died for a Supreme Court seat in my backyard of Washington, D.C. This branch of Christianity, if you can call it that, is about political power. So what did I learn in watching all this? I learned that I and others who didn’t buy into that narrative of Christian nationalism were also lied to. How sad is that? I could write a few things about karma but this post won’t go down that path. To watch this decision and to observe evangelicals react leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Its sad that in the end those who practice Christian nationalism are basically frauds. That is all I can say in this regard.