Despite the Odds, Justice Can Win

Kavanaugh’s nomination may seem inevitable, but justice is possible if we join together. Now is not the time to give up.

The hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court are well underway, with much sound and fury. Two things are true about this process and this person. One is that his confirmation seems inevitable, and the other is that he will surely turn the court away from values that many people of faith and conscience hold dear.

From what we know of him, Kavanaugh poses a threat to women’s rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, worker’s rights, and the rights people of color. If confirmed, he will hear and rule on cases that could decide the future of Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), along with voting rights, affirmative action, LGBTQ nondiscrimination, and so much more.

Let’s be clear. These cases have the power to reshape the future of this country for decades to come and impact the lives and dignity of millions of people. This is a serious threat, and we cannot remain silent about our values. The likelihood that Kavanaugh will not be confirmed may be slim, but we must remember that together, we have prevailed in ways large and small against threats to justice.

I will never forget standing on the steps of the Supreme Court on the day of oral arguments in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case. We came together at the court after months of tireless organizing. Hundreds of faith leaders throughout the country had spoken out for their values against what seemed like impossible odds — restrictive abortion laws, a well-funded opposition, and a long-standing campaign to stigmatize and shame those seeking abortion care. That day at the court, we came together despite the odds. We were Latinx, Black, API, Native American, and white activists. We were people of all genders and sexualities. We were loud and boisterous and unafraid to claim our values and our faith.

That rally was church for me, and, as a faith leader, I don’t say that lightly. What I mean by “church” is not an institution or denomination, it is a body of people who gather because of their faith and values. At its best, church is the place where we rehearse for the world that we want to create. It is a place where we value and celebrate our differences. Together, we live out our values of caring for each other in concrete ways by hearing each other’s joys and concerns, lifting one another in prayer, and providing material help to our community. In church, fabulous and flawed people come together. We sing together and express our emotions before God and each other: joy, despair, rage, and hope. We confess our shortcomings and reconcile with our siblings, trusting that grace abounds from each other and God. Church is my haven from the ugliness and division that is so prevalent outside its doors.

That rally was church for me because it was a glimpse of the beloved community, where we break down barriers and show up for each other’s causes, even if they are not directly our own. We let out our emotions with shouts and songs and cheers, coming together to celebrate all of our communities and all of our uniqueness, united for a cause that matters.

And, in the face of impossible odds, we won! The Supreme Court struck down the restrictions that would have closed nearly every abortion clinic in Texas.

Just last year, we faced more seemingly impossible odds with repeated attempts to repeal the ACA. But, we overcame the odds and won again. We came together to fight for the Affordable Care Act. We rallied. We delivered petitions. We spoke in unabashed terms about our faith and our values: that everyone deserves the right to comprehensive healthcare and that access should not be based on where a person lives, works, or how much money they have. And once again, a political rally was church for me.

At the rally, I spoke about why I as a queer clergyperson would always support the sacred work of Planned Parenthood. Afterward, a young woman in her teens came up to me and asked if we could take a picture together. She told me how excited she was to hear a queer religious leader speak in support of Planned Parenthood. As we chatted, I learned that, at only seventeen years old, this young woman had already been an activist for years! She was as educated on the issues as any of us “grown up” activists who had spoken from the podium, and she knew exactly what she was fighting for. Then I asked if I could get a picture with HER.

Sometimes winning is not just about policy gains or defeating harmful legislation. When we are raising up young people who are smart, prepared, and ready to take leadership on justice issues, we are winning.

No matter the odds, we must remember that justice can win. Justice has prevailed before, but it has never been because of coincidence or because the arc of the moral universe naturally bends toward justice. Justice is only possible when we join together, act boldly, and work tirelessly to bend the arc of the moral universe ourselves, even when the odds are stacked against us and injustice seems impending and inevitable.

Justice is only possible when we join together, act boldly, and work tirelessly to bend the arc of the moral universe ourselves, even when the odds are stacked against us and injustice seems impending and inevitable.

Our sacred stories help us find meaning and direction even when things seem bleak. Many are stories of resilience. As a Christian, I think of the biblical story of Moses and the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. The story tells us that even though Moses didn’t get to the promised land, the people did. They faced trials and tribulations. They doubted Moses and God. They must have wanted to give up. But enough of them, including Moses, believed that a destiny other than slavery was possible, and they were willing to fight for that future.

I also think of the story of the Syrophoenician woman who demanded justice from Jesus. Fighting for her daughter, she refused to take “no” for an answer when she knew Jesus had the power to change her circumstances. She refused to adhere to the rules of what it meant to be a woman and an outsider. She refused to keep quiet or stay in her place. She demanded healing for her daughter as her right, and, thanks to her persistence, she got it.

As we face what seem like an insurmountable obstacles, both in the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and in the daily onslaught on our rights and our communities, let us remember that together, we can make a difference. Let us take heart from the stories that inspire us. Together, we are resilient. Our voices, our witness, our lives, and our bodies matter. We must not give up the struggle for justice. Not now. Not ever.

Rev. Marie Alford-Harkey is the president and CEO of the Religious Institute. She is an ordained Metropolitan Community Church pastor and lives in Milford, Connecticut with her wife April, cats Jane and Memphis, and ministry dog Sandy.

The Religious Institute is a multi-faith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual, gender, and reproductive justice in faith communities and society.

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