The Dogma Lives Loudly in Everyone, Including Democrats
Now that Amy Coney Barrett stands at the threshold of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, a second round of Democrat Senate Judiciary Committee members posing as an inquisition seems inevitable. How dare this woman live as a committed Catholic right in our faces? Is she not aware that religion generally and Christianity in particular are on the wane among Millennials, Gen Z, and costal elites and that restoration of "God" to the Democrat party platform stirred more than a little controversy just four short years ago?
And since it is the Constitution of the United States, not the manifesto of Black Lives Matter, that explicitly prohibits the application of a religious test to court nominees, the Democrats' insistence upon imposing one anyway is also inevitable, because of the dogma that lives loudly inside them.
Why was the dogma Dianne Feinstein found "living loudly inside" Barrett of such concern? Because, insisted Feinstein, unwittingly promulgating a dogma of her own — "the law is completely different" from Catholic dogma. Hmm. Not sure how many credible historians have replicated Feinstein's finding that the Judeo-Christian inheritance at the heart of Western civilization is "completely different" from American jurisprudence, but never mind. Feinstein's linkage between Barrett's Catholic dogma and the Dem committee members' concerns bears pondering — because in fact dogma that "lives loudly inside" the minds and hearts of people inevitably bears fruit in their public lives.
All God's Children Got Dogma Living inside Them
Technically, "dogma" refers to Christian doctrines, usually core beliefs, non-negotiable tenets of the Faith. But Feinstein's statement that "whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma" is not wrong. In fact, the employment of "dogma" in this sense of "doctrines" or "beliefs" extends not only beyond Christianity to other religions, but also to social and political ideologies such as the Marxism founders of Black Lives Matter (BLM) boast that they are trained in. That's the same BLM that Democrats are loath to denounce or even so much as critique, going so far as to repeatedly praise and even platform the organization at their convention. The 1619 Project the Democrats are so enamored with vibrates with loud-living dogma as well.
Let's review a sampling of these loud-living Black Lives Matter/1619 Project dogmas: opposition to the nuclear family, to "cisgender privilege," to Western heteronormativity, to the use of reason and logic; support for transsexuality and critical race theory; and insistence that the United States was founded in 1619 on racism and slavery. What fruit might such loud-living dogmas produce? It's concerning, no?
So Feinstein's real concern is not so much that Barrett's life reflects dogmas that live loudly in her, but about what she knows the dogmas to be — moral convictions shaped by her Catholic faith and a judicial philosophy shaped by her mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia. To swap out Ginsburg for Barrett smacks of heresy and blasphemy to Feinstein, given the clash of loudly living internal dogmas that exchange effects.
Dogmas live in all of us. Those that live inside government executives, policymakers, and judges should concern us. What dogma lived loudly inside Justice Harry Blackmun in 1973, when he claimed to find a "right of privacy" in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution justifying the legalization of abortion? I say dogma living inside Blackmun because no such right lives at all, loudly or softly, within the Fourteenth Amendment any more than did Dred Scott's exclusion from the privileges of citizenship owing to the color of his skin live anywhere in the Constitution notwithstanding Chief Justice Roger B. Tanney's 1857 assertion that it did. Neither Barrett nor any other comprehender of the Constitution requires aid from Catholic or any other religious or judicial dogma to recognize these things.
Jesus's Dogma-Fruit Test to the Rescue
Helpfully, Jesus, who was known to put out a dogma or two in his day, offered guidance for discernment between false and true prophets that might help us gauge how much the dogmas living loudly in ACB should concern us — "ye shall know them by their fruits."
Both the Catholic and Scalia dogmas living loudly in Amy Coney Barrett have produced plenteous publicly examinable fruit. Unfortunately for the Democrat committee members, it is impeccable, beautiful fruit — so beautiful that it might render whoever attempts to besmirch it for political purpose ugly in the eyes of fair-minded folk. Even liberals who have worked with Barrett praise her as a judge and as a person. Those closest to her from childhood and throughout her life gush at what a conscientious, decent, gentle, loving, caring, soul she is. Can woke feminist attacks succeed against this highly accomplished professional woman raising seven children, including two "persons of color" and a special needs child?
The dogmas articulated by the People of Praise community to which Barrett belongs center on concern for the poor, ecumenical encouragement and fellowship across denominational lines, and the quest to treat all people with kindness. But there is that charismatic affirmation of "spiritual gifts," which signals openness to the practice of "speaking in tongues." That one sentence must look particularly attractive to the Dems as a vulnerable spot to exploit in an attempt to cast her as some sort of kook. Newsweek magazine had to retract its false report that the People of Praise were the inspiration for the dystopian and patriarchal-extremist Handmaid's Tale. As usual, the temptation on the left to snatch and hurl every stone within reach at any Republican nominee proves irresistible. Once more, a little heeding of Jesus's dogma might serve even the God-wary party well by prompting a bit of hesitation where Barrett is concerned — "let him who is without sin cast the first stone."
The potential for aggressive tactics against this candidate to backfire seems pretty high. Does she not exude intelligence and love and project involuntarily an almost saintly aura? As far as the spiritual gifts and the tongues-kook temptation, lots of ordinary blacks and whites and women of all political persuasions attend Pentecostal churches across America, where this spiritual gifts dogma is held as a matter of course, and they are already responding to Democrat criticism of Barrett for her faith as an attack on one of their own.
So how will the hearings play out? The history and the stakes suggest that the Dems will attack and attack hard. Will all the training for this moment gained from the character assassinations of Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh go undeployed with Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat up for refilling? This could play out like a boxing match, with the Dems as a slightly shrunken bomb-throwing Mike Tyson in his prime squared off against Barrett as the most fist-evading boxer in history, Floyd Mayweather. The Democrat punches thrown may come fast and furious with the threat of a knockout always in play — but with this particular opponent, the punches just don't land, and the ones throwing them embarrass themselves in the spectacle.
Mark DeVine teaches at the Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama and is the author of Bonhoeffer Speaks Today and Shalom Yesterday, Today, and Forever.