As Judge Amy Coney Barrett prepares for Senate confirmation hearings scheduled to begin on Monday, conservatives are warning that “the Brett Kavanaugh sleaze machine is back.” As an example, they are citing a Washington Post article titled, “Amy Coney Barrett served as a ‘handmaid’ in Christian group People of Praise.”
The group changed the title of “handmaid” to “women leaders” three years ago in light of the dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Nonetheless, the Post used that misleading title in its headline and waited until the article’s tenth paragraph to note that “handmaid” was originally adopted by the group “in reference to the biblical description of Mary as ‘the handmaid of the Lord.’”
Christopher Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, tweeted: “It’s no coincidence that people who don’t like originalism are basing their understanding of the word ‘handmaid’ on a novel from the 1980s.” The organization Catholic Vote condemned the story as well: “The Washington Post is suggesting that Judge Barrett’s religious faith should be on trial during her confirmation. Democrats [are] playing with fire.”
Judge Barrett’s upcoming hearings are already so divisive in large part because her influence, if confirmed to the Supreme Court, will be so significant.
Mike Pence’s father ran gas stations
Whatever our position on Judge Barrett’s nomination, it is worth noting that across most of human history, a person with her background would have had few opportunities to achieve such stature.
Barrett grew up in a suburb of New Orleans, the oldest of seven children. Her father worked as an attorney for Shell Oil and her mother was a high school French teacher and homemaker. Her story is like that of so many Americans: hard work and a passion for excellence propelled her to the remarkable success she has experienced.
Mike Pence’s father ran a group of gas stations in Columbus, Indiana. His paternal grandfather worked in the Chicago stockyards; his maternal grandfather emigrated from Ireland to the US through Ellis Island and became a bus driver in Chicago. Pence served in the House of Representatives for twelve years and as governor of Indiana before being elected vice president of the United States in 2016.
Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, California. Her mother arrived in the US from India in 1958; her father came to our country from British Jamaica in 1961. When Harris began kindergarten, she was bused to a public school in another community as part of a desegregation program. The US senator and former attorney general of California is now the first African American and Asian American woman to run on a major party ticket.
British writer G. K. Chesterton noted that “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.” The creed to which he referred is the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that “all men are created equal.”
Whatever our problems—and we are facing many problems—our history proves that one person can change the world.
Why Oskar Schindler still matters
Oskar Schindler, the German businessman memorialized in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, died on this day in 1974 at the age of sixty-six. During World War II, at great risk to himself, he bribed German officials into allowing him to move Jewish factory workers he employed in Poland to a factory in a safer location in Czechoslovakia.
Schindler was penniless by the war’s end, but he is credited with saving 1,200 Jews from the Holocaust. Each time I visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, I make time to stop at the display that tells his courageous story.
Also on this day in 1635, religious dissenter Roger Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony by the General Court of Massachusetts. He then established a settlement in present-day Rhode Island, naming it “Providence.”
Williams declared his new community open to everyone seeking freedom of conscience and the separation of the church from civil matters. On these principles, he then founded the first Baptist church in America. When my wife and I visited this historic church a few years ago, I was reminded of the difference one person can make in championing freedom and hope in Christ.
A candle or a fire?
The World Food Program, an agency of the United Nations, received the Nobel Peace Prize this morning, but it is led and operated by individuals. All nations and institutions are led and populated by individuals. Natural diseases and disasters such as Hurricane Delta, expected to make landfall later today, are made more or less devastating by the way individuals respond to them.
God made individuals in his image (Genesis 1:27), not programs or institutions. Jesus died for individuals (Romans 5:8), not nations or governments. We will stand before God one day as individuals (2 Corinthians 5:10), not families or churches.
When courageous individuals seek to shape their culture for God in the power of his Spirit (Zechariah 4:6), our Lord uses them in ways that resonate forever.
In The Coddling of the American Mind, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff lament the fact that so many in our culture are unwilling to engage with challenging or disagreeable ideas. College students complain that they are “triggered” by speech they find distressing. “Safetyism” encourages us to seek protection from the “very experiences embedded in daily life that [we] need in order to become strong and healthy.”
Haidt and Lukianoff note this powerful truth: wind extinguishes a candle but energizes a fire.
Which will you be today?