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Wednesday night the New Orleans Fifth Circuit Appeals Court halted last week’s ideological court ruling by Texas U. S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmary that ban the sale of the abortion drug Mifepristone throughout the country. 

What the court didn’t do was to erase the impact the Kacsmaryk’s ruling showed political evangelicalism is having across America. (By “political evangelicalism” I am referring to mostly white conservative Christians who are using the political power of the Republican Party to impose their moral beliefs on the nation.)

Kacsmaryk’s ruling reads like an evangelical preacher wrote it. Its logic is non-existent, its source references are little more than evangelical propaganda, and its legal reasoning is unmistakably absurd.

He even cites the 1873 Comstock Act, also known as “the chastity act”, that declared contraception “lewd and immoral” and forbid anything related to contraception using the postal service.  

The Comstock Act had essentially been discarded by states as a relic of a past era before it was mostly invalidated by the Supreme Court in 1965. But the law is still on the books and political evangelicals like Kacsmaryk want to revive it not only in regard to abortion rights, but contraception as well. 

Their means to this end is the use of political power through the Republican Party. There is a reason political evangelicals are the party’s most loyal base. It’s a transactional relationship. Loyalty is not free, It demands something in return.

The first “something” political evangelicals wanted was state legislatures that were willing to enact chastity laws in the form of abortion bans, book bans, and voter suppression laws to prevent Democrats from being in the position of blocking their moral agenda.

The second was the packing of the courts with judges and justices sympathetic to, if not enthusiastic for, that agenda.

I discuss all of this in detail in my book, Evangelicalism and the Decline of American Politics  (Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publisher) published six years ago in which I present evidence that the decline of the Republican Party into right-wing extremists has its roots in the establishment of the Moral Majority in 1979 and its subsequent alignment with Republican politicians.

That marked a turning point wherein evangelicals initiated the strategy of infiltrating the Republican Party to such a degree that it could push its leaders to embrace evangelical’s moral agenda for the nation.

For all practical purposes, 1979 was the start of the culture wars that have engulfed the nation ever since around issues like legal abortion, gay marriage, acceptance of transgenderism, sexual promiscuity, the banning of prayer in schools, and others.  

After forty years the Republican Party has finally delivered in spades, especially with the election of Donald Trump who has become a savior figure among political evangelicals. The chaos and division stemming from evangelical culture wars fit in perfectly with his own political chaos and division designed to lead to his ascension as the nation’s autocratic leader.

But to understand why political evangelicals don’t see the damage they are doing, we have to look at their theology. It holds the key to their political mindset.

The core of evangelical theology is salvation in Jesus Christ that determines who is in and who is out in God’s kingdom, who God welcomes into heaven and who God sends to hell.

In order to be the Christian nation evangelicals believe God intended America to be, the nation has to serve as a moral light on a hill, a moral beacon for the world to see, and that in turn requires the nation to be obedient to the laws and commandments of God as evangelicals understand them.

But liberal Democrats, evangelicals believe, have thumbed their nose at godliness by leading the nation into moral bankruptcy with their tolerance for and advocacy of such immoral practices as abortion, gay marriage, transgenderism, and the like.

Faced with a failure to win the nation back to God via persuasion, evangelicals decided in 1979 to enter the dirty business of politics in order to save the nation. They believe morality laws are acts of compassion extended to a nation that will come to ruin if it doesn’t change its ways. 

In other words, political evangelicals see themselves as trying to save the rest of us from ourselves. They believe it is the right thing to do.

This is the state of our politics today because it is the state of the Republican Party that has reached the point where being evangelical and being a Republican are becoming virtually synonymous (see political science professor Ryan Burge’s NY Times article, “Why ‘Evangelical’ Is Becoming Another Word for ‘Republican’” – https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/26/opinion/evangelical-republican.html.)

With the Kacsmaryk ruling, even Republicans who do not consider themselves evangelical have to acknowledge that political evangelicals, primarily white and male, now run the party.

If turning the U. S. into a theocracy once sounded far-fetched, it no longer should. Republican political evangelicals see doors opening to them that were once closed and they are barging through.

After the Supreme Court struck down Roe. v. Wade and left it up to states to decide women’s rights rather than the Constitution, alarm about contraception being next sounded exaggerated to me.

Not anymore. Short of Congress passing a law ensuring freedom of choice in all matters of personal health and child bearing, nothing is now safe. Such a law being passed, though, is more far-fetched than anything political evangelicals have wanted.

In truth the alliance between political evangelicals and Republicans remains a minority, yet because of state legislatures and packed courts it is able to wield power over the majority of Americans who do not agree with them on most issues.

This fact proves that since 1979 evangelicals have learned how to use political power that is the key to a moral triumphalism that grows more and more possible with every Republican elected at the state and federal levels by voters who either don’t know the agenda their votes are supporting or don’t care.

Thus, for the foreseeable future every election will be either one more step taken in the direction of our government of, by, and for the people remaining the religiously neutral amazing democracy our founders envisioned or in the direction of a tyranny of the minority undermining that neutrality to the point where there is no longer such a thing as freedom from religion.

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