Amy Coney Barrett, the pick to fill the Supreme Court justice seat left vacant by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, is a distressingly familiar figure for a number of Americans who have been bruised by fundamentalist iterations of American Christianity. Barrett’s affiliation with deeply patriarchal Christian community and history of limiting access to abortion serve as dire hints as to what sort of action she would be enabled to take as a Supreme Court justice.
Barrett’s narrative is further complicated by the number of pundits and bad-faith faith leaders who have hijacked the conversation on both reproductive freedom and faith practice by conflating a staunch anti-abortion stance with Christian identity -- a framing that falsely recasts any criticism or concern about theology and political practice like Barrett’s as an attack against religious freedom.
But this simplified narrative conflating a single stance on abortion access with Christian identity is not actually the end-all, be-all definition of Christian identity. Quite the contrary, there are a number of honest and ethical Christians with a much more holistic ethic of life. Christians who understand that reproductive freedom preserves autonomy, opportunity, and the ability for women and families to not only survive, but thrive.
Christians who recognize abortion as necessary health care that preserves the health and dignity of mothers and families. Christians who understand our bodies as being made in God’s image and thus worth of celebration, protection, and tangible care. Barrett’s limiting iteration of the Christian ethic may loom largely over our cultural imagining of religious life, but it does not define the narrative.
Additionally, just as theology like Barrett’s is not the final word on Christian identity, it’s also most certainly not the final word on faith practice in the United States. Religious and theological diversity is a cornerstone of American identity and practice. The Supreme Court itself is a testament to that, with five Catholics, one Episcopal, and two Jewish judges currently serving. A holistic theology means being able to hold ecumenical and interfaith conversations, welcoming and even celebrating a wide array of voices into our national exploration on faith practice.
It is not an attack on religious freedom to advocate for a more holistic Christian ethic in which bodily autonomy is honored and the ability to choose one’s health care needs is protected. And it is not an attack on religious freedom to welcome a wider array of voices in our government systems. Quite the contrary, it is a practical way to live into the Christian call to care for and be in community with our neighbors.
Barrett’s limited ethic of life need not be the end of the conversation regarding faith identity and practice. Continuing and expanding that conversation, however, means that people of faith with a more holistic ethic of life to share need to engage. We need to enter into conversations with our faith traditions, acknowledging the nuances and needs of real people in our identity and practice. We need to research our own cultural history, admitting the ways in which we have weaponized the ideology around reproductive freedom to preserve rather than share power. And we need to cast our vote for representatives in the executive and legislative branches who will fight to protect religious and reproductive freedom.
Barrett’s pending confirmation may leave us shaken, but it does not leave us voiceless. There is another narrative of faith out there -- and it’s time we share it.
KRCRC Outreach Worker
To share your narrative with your local and federal representatives, visit https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials.
To put your narrative into action by joining KRCRC’s grassroot network, visit https://krcrc.weebly.com/sign-up.html.
To research candidates and measures that promote a holistic ethic of life on your ballot in Kentucky, visit app.KYVotes.CivicEngine.com.
To find your location for early or in-person voting in Kentucky, visit GoVoteKy.com.