Amy Coney Barrett Proves It: Freedom Is Weird
Who would be the best Supreme Court choice to replace the amorphous moral blob we call (for convenience’s sake) “Anthony Kennedy”? Honestly, I dunno. Given the makeup of the court at the moment? I’d like to make it more representative by appointing an Evangelical Christian. Ideally, I’d like to troll America’s intolerant secular Left by picking someone who gets slain in the spirit by Benny Hinn. But we live in an imperfect world.
All kidding aside. A country with a Protestant majority should have a few faithful low-church Protestants on the court. You know, alongside the secular liberals, burnt out ex-Catholics, and varying shades of Thomists. I’d love to see an orthodox Jew appointed, too — talk about mastery of the Law!
When I met my first Protestant at Yale, I almost asked him, “How do you like our country?”
I’m not sure if any of the candidates on Trump’s short list belongs to an Evangelical church. But given their share of the U.S. population, their historic role in building up our country, and their outsized importance to Trump’s coalition, I think at least one voice on SCOTUS should have that background. Maybe next time. (More visible Evangelicals would help poor kids like me, who grew up in provincial Queens thinking everyone was either Irish, Italian, or Greek. When I met my first Protestant at Yale, I almost asked him, “How do you like our country?” Of course, it was his country!)
The Handmaid’s Tale That Wags the Dog
One of the leading candidates, who’s attracting a lot of support, is Amy Coney Barrett. She’s not an Evangelical, but she is a Catholic who belongs to an ecumenical, charismatic group that includes Catholics and Evangelicals.
The People of Praise is a small, voluntary group of adult Christians who work together for spiritual betterment. It doesn’t have compounds. Or hoard guns. Or abuse children. Or keep anyone against her will. But like most intense organizations, to outsiders it looks a little … weird.
All These Voluntary Groups … It’s Creepy
Not as weird as the Freemasons. They have secret rituals that entail taking oaths of silence supposedly punishable by death. Yet they provided many of our nation’s Founders and presidents. The Washington Monument? A Masonic obelisk. The lidless Masonic eye watches us from our money.
Not nearly as weird as Skull and Bones, an elitist Yale secret society that conducts adolescent skeleton rituals in a tomb-like building on campus. That group gave us both Bushes, John Kerry, and also William F. Buckley. Make of that what you will.
Nor as weird as the Mormons, whose belief in spiritual polygamy, personal planets in the afterlife, and ritual underwear, combined to produce a figure as exotic as Willard Mitt Romney.
Clutching Pearls of Wisdom
But People of Praise is offbeat enough that a snotty reporter like Laurie Goodstein can manage a pearl-clutching hit piece in the New York Times. She wrote (if you can hear her over all the liberal dog-whistles):
Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a “head” for men and a “handmaid” for women. The group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.
Current and former members say that the heads and handmaids give direction on important decisions, including whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home, and how to raise children.
Free Association: A Menace
Over at Slate, Ruth Graham does a much more responsible job of reporting on People of Praise. She explains:
Group members often make an effort to live near each other in certain neighborhoods. Single people sometimes live with families, and there are some households of single men or single women living together. Members pledge to donate 5 percent of their gross income, and many give more, with the idea of supporting fellow members.
After about six years of participation, members can opt to commit to living in the community permanently, a ceremony that consists of pledging to attend weekly meetings and, as Lent paraphrased it, “to care for each other physically, financially, materially, and spiritually.” The term handmaiden was chosen in 1971, 14 years before Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, to evoke the Biblical Mary’s description of herself as a “handmaid of the Lord,” or a woman who has an important relationship with God. “It has acquired worse resonances, and all we were looking for was a neutral term,” Lent said, explaining the recent change to “woman leader.”
Shocking stuff. Shades of Jim Jones and the Bronies.
In fact, People of Praise is one of those “small battalions” of independent organizations that make up civil society. Alexis De Tocqueville observed in the 19th century that groups like this were what kept American liberty ordered. Unless you want the State to step in and micromanage every aspect of life, you need citizens who’ll control themselves. And hold each other accountable. Criticize each other, using social opprobrium to blunt the edges of human sin and conflict — instead of incessant lawsuits, and the guns and jails of the State.
The Left Wants Neither Liberty Nor Order
The only alternative to a society full of distinctive little groups like People of Praise is a full-on nanny state, like the ones in Western Europe. There you can go to prison for making fun of Muslims, or making a stupid video on YouTube where your dog does a Nazi salute. Because no society can serve without mores and morals.
The left prefers a single, monolithic set of values that the State imposes by force. That’s why liberals are so offended by groups like People of Praise. It’s bad enough that they’re orthodox Christian in their teachings. But much, much worse is the prospect that someone other than the government is telling people how to live, and they’re just doing it willingly. Bullying, busybody statists resent such blatantly unfair competition.
That’s why wherever socialism takes over, religious schools and churches either dry up or simply get seized. Private charity shrivels. Private clubs and civic organizations fall under suspicion, and fold their tents. In fact, the only thing that doesn’t wither away is the State. Which is pretty much the opposite of what socialism’s founder, Karl Marx, predicted.
Words Have Meaning
Beyond the crass violation of the State’s monopoly on ordering people’s lives, what really gets the left about Barrett is her careful Constitutionalism, her deference to actual texts of laws. And her respect for the meaning of words and phrases in the context that they were written. She would never, I suspect, look into the Civil Rights Act, and find between the lines that the lawmakers in 1964 meant to make homosexuals a protected class. Not given the context, which was that sodomy was then illegal in 49 of 50 states.
The fight right now comes down, in the end, to abortion. That’s the Moloch who gave us the covenant called the Sexual Revolution. Cut off the ritual sacrifice, and he stops the flow of cheap, bad, litigious sex. The non-Christian natives of Pentecost Island have long understood such causal relationships. If they didn’t go bungee-jumping, the gods would stop sending them yams.
Would Barrett vote to give the life issue back to the grubby, deplorable voters? Or would she bow before the strange god that is Precedent, which once guarded segregation and anti-miscegenation laws? We don’t know, which unsettles me a bit.
The Democrats Will Immolate Themselves
But we do know that if Barrett gets nominated, the attacks will focus on her religion and her family. You see, she bore five children, and adopted two. That shows an unhealthy tolerance for living, intact children. Along with her membership in People of Praise, it proves that the “dogma lives loudly” in Barrett. And that dogma isn’t Moloch’s.
The Democrats won’t be able to keep their pants on. They will spend the run-up to the November elections sliming a brilliant, appealing woman for having kids and going to church. Both of which, last time I checked, are common practices, even in blue states.
Maybe President Trump ought to throw us into that there briar patch.