Even before President Trump formally announced Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, she was already taking fire on religious grounds. Virtually every description of her starts with the fact that she is a “devout Catholic.” Even worse, it seems she has been part of a group called People of Praise. Since they can’t imagine joining a group called that, they have no choice but to conclude its dangerous and scary. So obviously she’s unqualified to be on the Supreme Court.
Curiously, however, that same skepticism of religious affiliation does not extend to Joe Biden, who also describes himself as Catholic, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Judaism. The reasons are obvious but still worth stating.
Mrs. Barrett’s faith will be described as dangerous because it does not allow her to worship other gods. Joe Biden’s faith is noble because it does. Though lots of things about 2020 are unique, this is not one of them.
The Christian church was birthed in a polytheistic culture in which thousands of gods were worshipped. The Roman rules did not care what gods people worshipped so long as they also worshipped Caesar. This is how they guaranteed fidelity to the government. The problem with Christians was not that they worshipped Jesus, it was that they refused to worship Caesar too. For this offense, they were tortured, fed to lions, and turned into human candles.
Six centuries earlier, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were Jews living in Babylon. Their Judaism was tolerated up until the point they refused to worship a golden image that Nebuchadnezzar created. Their Judaism was not the problem, their refusal to worship an idol was. Though the story ended well, they were thrown into a furnace for their insubordination.
Today, the situation isn’t functionally different. Where Nebuchadnezzar had his subjects bow to a golden image, today all we’re told to say, ”Love is love” or “I personally oppose abortion, but I don’t want to force my religion on anyone else.” These observances will allow you to avoid the Twittery, fiery furnace. And make no mistake, it’s hot in there.
The handwringing over Mrs. Barrett’s faith will be described as a tension between secularism and religious fanaticism. The truth is that it’s more just a good old-fashion religious difference of opinion. Progressivism is, in every practical way, its own religion. It has a statement of faith (My body, my choice), a moral code (don’t discriminate, be tolerant, reduce your carbon footprint), a transcendent purpose (utopia through revolution), a sacrament (abortion), saints (Margaret Sanger and Ruth Bader Ginsburg), and somewhere to turn in times of trouble (government). They give money to their priests (politicians and political group) and even sing religious songs together, though “Imagine” will always be a poor substitute for “How Great Thou Art.” Their inner-city street ministry, Antifa, is one of the most aggressive evangelistic efforts in America. Maybe the world.
Amy Coney Barrett is not opposed because she is serious about her religion, she is opposed because she is not serious about their religion. Joe Biden is not opposed because he has observed their commands and walked in their ways all the days of his life. They couldn’t care less what he does on Sunday.
So when you hear all the chatter about the religion of the nominee, don’t take the bait. Hear what they say, but also hear what they won’t say. They aren’t actually concerned about a theocracy; they’re concerned about losing power. They aren’t concerned about someone legislating morality; they’re concerned they’ll lose the ability to legislate their morality from the Supreme Court. They aren’t concerned that people with religious devotion will be part of the Supreme Court, they’re concerned that someone who was part of their church is about to be replaced by someone who isn’t.
Joseph Backholm is Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement at Family Research Council.