Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is a gift to evangelical Christians. It was their ardent hope the president would pick a justice friendly to their cause that drove many evangelicals to vote for Trump in the first place. As Ed Stetzer, writing in Christianity Today, put it: “It’s the Supreme Court, stupid.” Stetzer’s piece was published in early 2017 after Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the position Republicans had blockedPresident Barack Obama from filling with his own nominee. Stetzer wrote, “Simply put, the Supreme Court is the reason that many Evangelicals voted for Trump.” By swallowing their moral standards and voting for a president who violates so many evangelical sensibilities, religious conservatives may achieve—if Kavanaugh is confirmed—a 5-4 hard-right majority on the court for decades.
Evangelical leader Franklin Graham (Billy Graham’s son) posted to his Facebook page a month before the 2016 election: “The most important issue of this election is the Supreme Court. That impacts everything.” Appearing critical of both major party presidential nominees, he added, “There’s no question, Trump and [Hillary] Clinton scandals might be news for the moment, but who they appoint to the Supreme Court will remake the fabric of our society for our children and our grandchildren, for generations to come.”
In an interview on NPR, another evangelical American, Karen Swallow Prior of Liberty University, concurred with Graham as she explained how easy it was for Christian conservatives to become Trump’s bedfellows in order to make long-term gains on the Supreme Court. Even though she hopes for “better candidates” than Trump in the future, she was confident Kavanaugh “would uphold the dignity of human life—of all human life.” And that apparently has made tolerating the Trump presidency worth it.
Trump won 81 percent of the white evangelical vote in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. This was a higher percentage than the last three Republican presidential nominees—Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush—despite the fact Trump was the least likely to embody the actual values this demographic claims to uphold. But knowing their political support would be crucial to his election, Trump courted evangelicals ahead of the election, emphasizing he would have the power as president to appoint at least one Supreme Court justice. With the ill-timed retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, evangelicals who backed Trump are being granted a two-for-one deal. Their compromise with the devil is paying off.