Readings: Evangelicals, racism and abortion

800px-governor_ralph_northam_gives_inaugural_address_283934861258429_28cropped29
Ralph Northam, in his natural state.

Funny thing about the blackface scandals that have been erupting in Virginia lately: Gov. Ralph Northam had come under fire from conservatives just days earlier for his support of a bill that removes abortion restrictions in his state.  Once it was revealed that Northam had appeared in blackface during the 1980s, though, many conservatives spoke more sympathetically, about the need to forgive those kinds of mistakes.

And I wondered: Is it the case that conservatives will defend racism more than they hate abortion?

Coincidentally, then, this story appeared on my radar:

In 1971, two years before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, the biggest white evangelical group in America, the Southern Baptist Convention, supported its legalization. The group continued that support through much of the 1970s. And the late Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, did not give his first antiabortion speech until 1978, five years after Roe.

Though opposition to abortion is what many think fueled the powerful conservative white evangelical right, 81 percent of whom voted for Donald Trump, it was really school integration, according to Randall Balmer, chairman of the religion department at Dartmouth.

The late Paul Weyrich, whom Balmer called the organizational genius behind the religious right, had long tried to mobilize evangelical voters around some hot-button issue: feminism, school prayer, pornography, abortion. But nothing lit a fire like the federal government’s threat to all-white schools. Only in 1979, a full six years after Roe, did Weyrich urge evangelical leaders to also crusade against abortion, Balmer said in an interview. That was, after all, a far more palatable, acceptable crusade, one with a seeming high moral purpose, unlike a race-based crusade against black children.

It is worth reading the whole thing.

I don’t want to suggest that anti-abortion crusaders are secret racists. I know many people who genuinely believe abortion is murder. But the history of the issue is interesting, to say the least.

Author: joeldermole

Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife and son. He spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His honors include awards for best online commentary from the Online News Association and (twice) from the City and Regional Magazine Association.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s